E-commerce could be the key to keeping India’s population indoors during the country’s strict lockdown, which has now been extended to at least May 5, to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Demand for online deliveries, especially of food and other essentials, has soared since the start of the stay-at-home government order. In response, both to meet demand and support smaller businesses, the government is encouraging tie ups such as those between e-commerce companies and tiny kirana stores, the Economic Times reports.

The government is also reviewing its definitions of “essentials” to cover products seen as vital to allow people to work from home, such as routers, chargers and stationery, as well as laptops and tablets as millions of students take online lessons.

Flipkart, the country’s biggest e-commerce brand, says it’s already in discussion with a number of kirana aggregators to begin pilot delivery projects aimed at scaling up doorstep delivery operations in affected areas.

Large bricks-and-mortar retailers, including Future Group, Spencer’s Retail, Metro Cash and Carry and Walmart’s Best Price, are also having to migrate online, and, as the Economic Times explains how they are ramping up efforts to build new channels to deliver goods and groceries to consumers’ homes

Future Group, which previously only offered online groceries from its Easy Day stores in Delhi, has now expanded the service to 250 of its Big Bazaar stores across the country.

“We were able to launch BigBazaar.com within 10 days and since then we’ve scaled it to about 10,000 orders a day,” Bharati Balakrishnan, Senior VP, Digital Commerce, Future Group, told the Times.

The company has its own delivery vehicles but is also working with hyper-local delivery platform Dunzo and logistics firm Shadowfax to meet demand.

“We’re running online wherever we’re allowed to operate stores. Some of the stores are adopting online orders faster than others,” Balakrishnan said.

However, online and phone orders still only make up around 30% of the hypermarket’s sales, it says, with the bulk of sales still coming from customers visiting stores, despite the lockdown.

Other brands are also developing their business models to adapt to the crisis. LiveMint reports that online food ordering and delivery company Zomato has expanded into grocery deliveries in more than 80 cities. The Zomato app now offers delivery of products from local stores in a user’s specific location.

Similarly, Swiggy, the country’s biggest online food ordering platform, now offers delivery of groceries and essentials across all tier-one and tier-two cities and intends to expand the service further. A spokesperson told LiveMint the company was currently in discussion with various national and regional FMCG brands to scale its offering further.


Sourced from Economic Times, LiveMint