Workers unload crates of sauce onto shelves at a warehouse of Bigbasket. (Representational Image) | Photographer: Samyukta Lakshmi | Bloomberg
Workers unload crates of sauce onto shelves at a warehouse of Big Basket (Representational Image) | Samyukta Lakshmi | Bloomberg
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New Delhi: The Delhi police has reiterated its assurance to online grocery stores like Big Basket and Grofers over seamless movement of essential services on ground, but some of these e-commerce firms aren’t convinced about resuming delivery services amid a nationwide lockdown to arrest the spread of coronavirus.

On Thursday, Big Basket, which isn’t operational in Delhi and some other cities as of now took to Twitter to express its concerns.

“…we are not operational due to restrictions imposed by local authorities on movement of goods in spite of clear guidelines provided by central authorities to enable essential services,” said the company in a statement on Twitter.

In an emailed statement, a company spokesperson said Big Basket’s delivery partners are facing rising concerns as restrictions on the field continue to get stricter. “They are getting stopped by the police, and some of them have even got beaten up by the police for no fault of theirs.”

For smooth functions of their services, it will “help to have better coordination between the Centre and State, and between the State and local police, to ensure that our delivery vans and bikes don’t get stopped by the police”, said the spokesperson.

While Big Basket is reluctant to resume operations in the national capital, its rival Grofers is resuming services in Delhi and some other cities in the next 24 hours.

“Over the last few days, we faced a few hiccups in our operations which led to a backlog of around 4 lakh orders. However, the local authorities are helping us in resuming our operations. We are closely working with them and with their support, we will soon start accepting orders on our platform,” Albinder Dhindsa, founder-CEO, Grofers, told ThePrint.

The move has come after the Delhi police reiterated its support to these firms, issuing a notice Thursday to the deputy commissioner and Delhi headquarters listing retailers and operators of online delivery services that shall be allowed to operate in Delhi.

The list includes Big Basket, Grofers, Zomato, Flipkart and Amazon, among others. All traffic, picket and beat staff will be briefed accordingly, said the order.


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Panic buying

India has seen panic buying over the past 36 hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a complete lockdown in the country until 14 April in a bid to prevent a slide into the deadly stage 3 of the virus transmission.

While the prime minister clarified on microblogging site Twitter that essential services will remain functional as usual, the country rushed to buy essentials in the fear that the lockdown may prohibit such services. In that environment, people also ordered groceries on online platforms like Big Basket and Grofers, whose operations were subsequently affected by police crackdown.

The list of essential services includes delivery of “all essential goods including food, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment through e-commerce”, according to the Home Ministry.

Moreover, in order to successfully practice social distancing and follow lockdown guidelines, the government has encouraged district authorities to facilitate home delivery.

Operational difficulties

As of 25 March, Big Basket said it was not operational in Chandigarh, Chennai, Delhi, Ludhiana, Pune and Vizag while expressing doubt over the possibility of resumption.

At a time when people are ordering groceries in a panic to deal with the unprecedented lockdown, the addition of bikes, vans, and manpower is required.

“While we are trying, it’s difficult to do this in a short period of time. Therefore, what we are trying to do is to only accept as many orders as we are able to service while maintaining a high level of service for our customers,” the company spokesperson said in the emailed statement.

The company’s services, however, are functional in Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Bhopal, Coimbatore, Indore, Mumbai, Mysore, Noida, Surat and Vadodara.

For those in Ghaziabad, Gurugram, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Nagpur, Patna, and Vijayawada, services are expected to resume in a day or two.

The issue of high demand and low stock is not exclusive to Big Basket.

Grofers is also facing these problems. Pune and Chennai are the two cities where the firm is currently facing difficulties due to shutting down of its warehouses. It will also not be delivering in Chandigarh as authorities have refused e-commerce services during the lockdown period.

However, it has announced that it has begun delivery in Delhi, Gurgaon, Faridabad, Lucknow, Kanpur and Bengaluru after operations were temporarily interrupted.

Those in Mumbai, Kolkata, Noida, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Mohali, Guwahati, Panipat, Durgapur, Vadodara, Asansol, Sonipat, Rohtak, Bhiwadi, Agra, Meerut, Moradabad, Hapur, Modinagar, Prayagraj and Aligarh will be able to access their services in a day or two.


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