COVID 2nd wave: Ecommerce firms step up efforts to protect associates, ensure deliveries

According to senior executives in the industry, demand in categories like grocery, essential items like sanitisers and masks, books, consumer electronics and appliances has gone up in the past few weeks across various parts of the country.
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With night curfews and weekend lockdowns driving bigger orders for ecommerce companies, these online platforms are stepping up efforts to protect their associates, including delivery staff, and ensure safe delivery of orders to customers.

According to senior executives in the industry, demand in categories like grocery, essential items like sanitisers and masks, books, consumer electronics and appliances has gone up in the past few weeks across various parts of the country.

"There has been a 60 percent spike in demand in the markets that are adversely affected by the second wave. The significant surge in demand is in categories such as -- packaged foods i.e. ready to eat and ready to cook -- up to 80 percent, frozen foods - up to 500 percent, and packaged milk, and milk products - 150 percent.

"There has also been an 11 percent increase in the order value in these cities," a spokesperson for online grocery platform Grofers said.

The spokesperson added that with some state governments announcing stricter lockdown norms, the company is ramping up its capacities to serve consumers in a safe and secure manner.

Grofers has also partnered with UNICEF to encourage people across the country to get vaccinated.

A total of 1,61,736 new coronavirus infections have been reported in a day, pushing India's tally of cases to 1,36,89,453, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate dropped further to 89.51 percent, according to Union Health Ministry data.

In Maharashtra, which is logging one of the highest numbers of COVID cases over the last few days, the state government had mandated that delivery partners will have to carry a negative RT-PCR report as it imposed restrictions in movement around night time and weekends.

It has now allowed the non-vaccinated staff from various sectors in the state to take rapid antigen test instead of RT-PCR test.

"Safety of our teams and customers continues to be our top priority. We are providing easy access for testing for all associates in our network in Maharashtra, and covering the cost of all RT-PCR tests to enable deliveries during curfew hours and on weekends in the state," an Amazon spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said the company continues to practice stringent preventive measures for the safety of its associates, such as adherence to social-distancing norms, mandatory use of face covering and daily temperature screenings.

A Snapdeal spokesperson noted that with movement restrictions being introduced in additional parts of the country, buyers are choosing the safety of shopping from home.

While traffic and orders have increased pan-India, this is more pronounced in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi NCR and West Bengal.

"Over the weekend, we have seen elevated demand for summer casuals like T-Shirts, shorts, kids apparel and sandals. Higher demand is also seen for household goods like fridge water bottles, storage containers for food products, rechargeable and portable table-top fans etc.

"With schools being shut, users are also ordering study/hobby-related items like printing paper, colours and art and craft items," the spokesperson said.

Walmart-owned Flipkart pointed out that it continues to strengthen its measures in the fight against the pandemic.

"We continue to follow the highest safety standards and SOPs that we've developed over the past several months. Our learnings have been immense, and we are ensuring that appropriate safety equipment is available to employees, as they follow the right protocols," a spokesperson for Flipkart said.

The spokesperson added that the company is taking definitive steps to meet the growing demand for ecommerce services across the country by hiring more people and ensuring they are tested prior to delivering shipments.

"With some parts of the country currently going into a lockdown, we remain focused on meeting important consumer needs through a safe approach.

"At present, we are witnessing higher demand for books, general merchandise (like children's toys, fitness equipment and grooming products), home appliances, consumer electronics, grocery, and essentials," the spokesperson said.

Edited by Megha Reddy

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