Coronavirus: Amazon India starts essential deliveries in 4 cities, through Amazon Pantry in 100 cities
Amit Agarwal, Head of Amazon India, is working round-the-clock to get Amazon India to deliver in times of the coronavirus pandemic. He is focussing all his energy to help his team so that they can move faster in getting the operations back on track and to deliver essentials to people on time. He hopes the lockdown does not last long.
Speaking toYour Story from San Francisco, Amit underlined how Amazon India is going to take on this pandemic with the help of several stakeholders.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
YourStory: What is happening on the ground?
Amit Agarwal: Firstly, we need to ensure that everyone is safe in this unprecedented time and we need to stop the spread of the virus. The government has recognised that e-commerce is essential to providing service. They have recognised that it is a safe way to deliver essentials as it allows us to concentrate on the best practices in hygiene and sanitation in a fixed area. I understand that customers are very anxious to know when things will return to normal. They may want us to deliver everything predictably and fast.
However, the first step is to make our employees feel safe and make them aware of the WHO guidelines on hygiene practices. Our fulfilment centres follow social distancing and our associates follow social distancing up to two metres.
YS: How are you working with the government?
AA: Both Central and state administrations are helping us get through this. We needed curfew passes and they helped us in getting them. We have resumed our operations, but, there are some districts and states where there is a lot of work to do. You need to be able to get your associates safely to work. You have to remember that this crisis has affected logistics and it is important that the associates come to work safely.
The compounding effects of clearances, passes, and associated indents, and then prioritising existing orders over new orders will take some time for our operations to get back on track. We have made significant progress and have started delivering from AmazonFresh in four cities and from Amazon Pantry in 100 plus cities.
We have crossed the hurdle of receiving passes. We are serving customers, and our associates are coming back. But we are maintaining social distancing and making significant progress. It will take some time for things to settle down.
The slots are going away fast because capacity is very limited. In the next couple of days, we expect more progress. The Central and state governments are helping us in maintaining consistency and scalability. Safety and delivery of essentials are very important.
YS: What about small brands that sell on Amazon India?
AA: Everything else will have to wait. It’s a lot of new info for many of us to digest. Customers need to put their trust in us and have patience in these stressful times. We are waiving off storage fee. All non-essentials will be safe in our warehouses. At this point in time, non-essentials will not move and rightly so.
The backbone of the Amazon supply chain are thousands of sellers who sell through our market place. It is a time of stress and anxiety for many of them. We need to stay safe and flatten the curve.
All our resources will serve only essentials. We have made that clear to our seller base. It is not an ideal situation for them to be in. We have to mitigate the impact on them. They should not take the cost for non-essential items that are stuck in the supply chain. They should not be penalised for cancellations and they should be in good standing when operations start. We are reviewing this on a daily basis and hopefully, the situation will changes.
YS: What about the economy, are we in trouble?
AA: It is very early for us to make predictions. This is something that I have not seen in my lifetime. First and foremost, we should all be focussed on our priorities. I am optimistic, and we as humans, are resilient. We have to flatten the curve and that can only happen if we stay at home.
It is bigger than countries or companies. I cannot comment on the economy because we are in an uncertain zone. But I do talk to my global team and share the best practices in dealing with the customers. It is on a country by country basis in dealing with this situation. India is very stringent in its lockdown. The global teams are in touch and my team is working round-the-clock. We will meet customer expectations.
With regards to blue-collar workers, there has been a disruption, especially when you want to send a strong message to people that they should stay at home. But the issue is that people make their own arrangements to stay at home and you are now trying to bring them back and you have to bear with that discontinuity.
YS: How are you spending time at home?
AA: Sitting at home and talking to a laptop looks like I am in a sci-fi movie and it feels like a nightmare. I am spending a lot of time with my family. We as humans will come out stronger from this and we will value and appreciate what we have. We will be responsible towards our family and also with consumption. I spend time with my kids and my son plays chess and guitar with me.
(Edited by Javed Gaihlot)