The Indian government has extended the lockdown to May 3 to contain the spread of COVID-19. However, the government also suggested that there would be some relaxations in economic activities after April 20.
According to the fresh guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, E-commerce firms would be allowed to deliver non-essential items as well from April 20. This means that the online businesses which were mostly delivering essential items will return to their normal operations.
E-commerce players like Flipkart and Sanpdeal are likely to accept orders for all items while others such as Amazon have asked for further clarification from the Central government, whether they can sell non-essentials in addition to food and grocery items.
The latest guidelines also state that all goods traffic will be allowed to ply across the country, except the demarcated containment zones – hotspots or red zones – where the spread of the infection is high.
The list of allowed activities includes operations of railways for transportation of goods and parcels, operations at airports, land ports for cargo movement, and movement of trucks and commercial vehicles for pick-up and delivery of goods.
Government facilitating seamless operations for E-commerce firms
More importantly, now the vehicles used for e-commerce operators will also be allowed to ply with necessary permissions. Also, cold storage and warehousing are permitted at ports, airports, railway stations, container deports, individual units and other links in the logistics chain.
Besides, all the Kirana stores and shops selling food and groceries, hygiene items, fruits and vegetables, dairy and milk booths, poultry, and animal feed and fodder are also allowed to operate without any restriction on their timings of opening and closing by ensuring strict social distancing measures.
Movement of trucks with two drivers and one helper is allowed as is the opening of shops for truck repairs and Dhabas on highways with a stipulated minimum distance prescribed by the state/UT authorities.
Although the e-commerce sector assumes that all operations, including for non-essential items, will be allowed now and they would be able to fulfill the customer orders, supply chain and logistics concerns are likely to remain.
According to some media reports, most online delivery companies have been raising the concern of lack of manpower during the lockdown period.
A major chunk of the online delivery workforce have returned to their respective home state. The operation when continues will face a major challenge of shortage of manpower for online delivery.
Some are not ready to return back given their fear of the virus or they can’t return due to blockage of state and district borders.
Also, stringent action against some last-mile delivery workers and shutting down of warehouses during the early days of lockdown added to their worries. The companies are now looking to get more clarity from the government
Nonetheless, E-commerce firms, including Flipkart, Amazon, and Snapdeal, have welcomed the move and all set to go ahead in the line with the guidelines and also in collaboration with all state governments & local authorities.
During the first phase of the lockdown, most e-commerce platforms such as Flipkart, Amazon and Paytm Mall had collaborated with the government authorities and their delivery partners to ensure doorstep delivery of essential items.
Meanwhile, the revised guidelines have also permitted the manufacturing of IT hardware, essential goods including drugs and pharmaceuticals and functioning of food processing industries.