As India imposes lockdown across states prompting hundreds of millions of people to stay indoors and effectively shutting down every facility except essential and emergency services to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading, online retailers are facing a tough time fulfilling orders.
As many as 30 Indian states and Union Territories have issued orders for complete or partial shut down. Although e-commerce services for essential goods are exempted from the restrictions, the on-ground reality is different. Local authorities in multiple cities are closing warehouses and stopping executives that are out for delivery in affected areas.
On March 22, amid the national shutdown, e-grocers like Grofers and Bigbasket, and online pharmacies such as 1Mg saw their warehouses being forcefully shut, while their trucks and delivery partners were stopped by the police.
E-commerce giants such as Walmart-owned Flipkart and American e-retailer Amazon have temporarily suspended their in-house logistics services for sellers across affected regions, due to operational constraints.
Local media Economic Times (ET) said Amazon India informed its sellers through emails that it would suspend its shipment services including Easy Ship, Seller Flex, and Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA). Meanwhile, Flipkart also suspended similar services in areas that are under lockdown.
“In light of the development where Section 144 has been imposed in several cities, we will be halting our logistics operations for pick-up in those areas,” a Flipkart spokesperson told ET. According to Indian laws, “Section 144” prohibits assembly of four or more than four people in the open.
Flipkart said the imposition of Section 144 has put pressure on its other hubs “to operate at more than the usual volumes.”
Industry experts believe this would further delay the deliveries for e-tailers. A recent report by logistics intelligence firm ClickPost said the number of stuck shipments between March 10 and March 20 went up by 9% as compared to last month, while the number of orders that are delayed saw a spike of 21%.
Meanwhile, e-tailers have now begun to face a manpower crunch as well. To avoid getting in touch with infected people in the city as well as to avoid getting caught and harassed by local police for delivering products, delivery executives and warehouse employees are also preferring to either stay indoors or go back to their hometowns.
“The frontline staff which includes delivery partners and employees in warehousing do not want to come out and work. They are worried that they may get arrested and harassed by local authorities,” the ET report said citing sources. “This has been amplified in the past 36 hours,” he said.