Coronavirus: Ecommerce companies resume ops, say clearing backlog could take a week

Ecommerce companies have been struggling to deliver orders after the government ordered 21-day lockdown to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Ecommerce companies like Amazonand Grofersare gradually resuming services across various cities they operate in, but it will take at least a week or so to clear the pending orders, according to industry executives.

Ecommerce companies have been struggling to deliver orders after the government ordered 21-day lockdown, to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus, came into effect.

Even though the government allowed delivery of essential goods including food, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment through ecommerce, players have complained of their delivery staff being hassled by police.

With local authorities shutting down warehouses and stopping trucks from crossing state borders, ecommerce players have seen their operations getting disrupted.

Paytm Mall said there were over one lakh orders placed by customers, which were yet to be processed by sellers due to the restrictions announced by the government.

The company has now waived off order delay and cancellation penalties (charged at three to seven percent) for merchants until April 22.

"These are unprecedented circumstances and Paytm Mall's merchant support and communication teams are working hard to ensure all seller queries are resolved timely and updated information regarding order processing and fulfilment are shared with them regularly," Paytm Mall Senior Vice President Srinivas Mothey said.

Grofers, in a tweet, said it has a backlog of five lakh orders and it will be a few more days for the company to get back to 100 percent operational capacity.

Another challenge facing the industry is the availability of limited staff for warehouses and logistics.

"Due to the lockdown, our delivery partners had also gone home for a few days. We are now requesting them to come back with us...We are also trying to scale up our operations by working with delivery partners from other companies who have come forward to help us," Grofers said.

The company said it is working with local authorities to get passes for its staff that will allow them to continue operations and make deliveries.

Snapdeal said it continues to accept orders for non-essential items, but they are expected to be delivered only by the end of April as per current estimates.

"Our delivery partners are facing acute shortage of delivery agents. A lot of goods were stuck in transit (trucks, rail etc) and these are now starting to reach warehouses. We expect the warehouses to reach full capacity and overflow soon since a large number of customer orders are undelivered at this point," the company added.

For large players like Amazon India too, it has been a difficult time. The company has resumed deliveries in select cities, and is working on first serving existing orders and for essential products that have been purchased using prepaid methods.

To help ecommerce companies process the spurt in orders, fintech companies like Razorpay are also working overtime to ensure systems are in place.

Harshil Mathur, CEO and Co-founder of Razorpay, said online businesses in the essentials category are struggling to keep up with demand and ensure business continuity.

"We want to do our bit by helping them adapt and be flexible to meet these changing needs. We have now launched same-day settlements for all Razorpay customers who provide essential businesses till April 15, which means businesses will receive funds in just a few hours instead of the usual three to five working days settlement period," he said.

This will help businesses improve their cash flows and manage operational expenses better, Mathur added.

(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)