Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation on primetime last night and announced a 21-day lockdown across the country to prevent the spread of Novel CoronaVirus. While this measure was well-received by most, it created a frenzy in the local markets as citizens flocked to stock up on essential household commodities and medicines.
To ensure there is no disruption of the supply of essential commodities during the lockdown, the Indian central government, through the Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA), has issued a notice in which states are directed to set up a standard operating protocol to ensure unhindered movement of essential goods and services.
States and Union Territories have to make sure there is continuity of supply chains, even if it requires inter-state movement during COVID-19 lockdown.
The notice specifically emphasized that consumer-facing e-commerce, wholesalers, third-party delivery or logistics partners fall under the essential goods supply and logistic chain ecosystem and exempted them from any prohibitory orders. It also directed for the provision of vehicular passes/e-passes for better movement of goods across state borders.
States are also required to set up a 24*7 Control Room/Office with helplines at the state/district level and appoint a Nodal Officer to address any grievance or undue problem faced by Goods/Services providers during the 21 days lockdown period, the notification added.
The notice from MHA has come at a time when grocery majors such as BigBasket, Grofers, Milkbasket, SuprDaily, Dunzo, Swiggy Stores along with food delivery apps Zomato and Swiggy have not been able to deliver because of local administration’s high handedness.
At present, Grofers, BigBasket, Amazon, Flipkart among many others aren’t servicing customers in the wake of high traction as people tuned to them for buying essentials for the three-weeks extended lockdown.
A Local Circles survey asserts that the percentage of consumers who were unable to find essential goods via e-commerce has risen from 35% to 79% in the last couple of days. Further, around one-third of the surveyees were unable to find essential items at their local retail stores as well.
The MHA notice provides a clear picture to the local authorities and offers much-needed confidence to the e-commerce industry. The role of online companies is going to be pivotal in successful lockdown across the country.
India could replicate the way China leveraged e-commerce to ensure the supply of grocery, vegetables, medicines, meat, and others during months prolonged lockdown.