Amazon, Flipkart, Zomato fall under ‘essential services’ but their delivery agents are being stopped by the police

  • Indian e-commerce companies raised concerns about their delivery agents being stopped by the police during lockdown. Some have even been arrested.
  • Under directives issued by the government, e-commerce comes under the essential services umbrella.
  • It means that delivery agents from Amazon, Flipkart, Zomato, Swiggy, Bigbasket, Grofers and others should be able to continue with work.
Since March 22, India has been in a lockdown to contain the spread of Coronavirus. While offices, malls are shut, ‘essential services’ like grocery stores, pharmacies are allowed to stay open. In a relief for the Indian e-commerce sector, online retail too fell under the essential services category.

However, the relief was been short-lived. Delivery agents from Amazon, Flipkart, Zomato, Grofers, Milkbasket and others were stopped by the police on the roads. Some have also been arrested.

On Janata curfew (March 22), Grofers said that its delivery agents were stopped and arrested by the police across the country, leading to a delay of over 60,000 orders.

Another grocery delivery startup Milkbasket said that its staff, vendors and vehicles are being pushed back from the roads by local police, disrupting our operations. “We are being told to shut down our distribution centers. Yesterday we had to cancel thousands of orders. We could only operate at 40% capacity in Gurgaon. Even lower in Noida. We might have to cancel all the orders today, impacting over 150,000 families across 4 cities,” said the company’s official statement. Even their warehouses are being asked to shut down.

But they aren’t alone. E-commerce behemoths Amazon and Flipkart are facing similar issues.

“We are working with the local authorities to enable us to perform these important services providing safety for our delivery associates and allowing them to make sure those priority goods can arrive safely at our customers’ homes without any disruption,” an Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider.

While they intend to move ahead with uninterrupted services during the testing times, they are also working with local authorities to work on the issues.

“There are operational issues on-ground which impact our ability to seamlessly service the communities as they stay indoors. We are working with the central and state government as an industry to solve these challenges,” a Flipkart spokesperson told Business Insider.

A Zomato spokesperson told Business Insider that these are unprecedented times. “The government has provided strong guidance which we are adhering by and trying our best to execute on the ground. Coordinating with multiple local authorities is challenging however, we are hoping to iron this out soon,” said the spokesperson

As people stay at home, they are relying more and more on online deliveries. But if these issues continue to rise, it could lead to the delay and cancellation of thousands of orders from across the country.

Perhaps, having a uniform for delivery agents could be the answer, but one of the e-commerce giants told Business Insider that most of the companies already have an uniform and it hasn’t helped.

All the e-commerce companies are appealing to the government to sort out problems for seamless deliveries of essential supplies.

“A suggestion would be to issue access permits / ID cards to staff engaged in essential services such as grocery delivery, medicines, food delivery, and others,” suggested Milkbasket.

As many states move from lockdown to curfews, the agents will have to be issued curfew passes which is another roadblock that e-commerce companies have to overcome.

See Also:
Grofers says its delivery agents were arrested during Janata curfew, led to a delay of 60,000 orders
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