Ecommerce Retailers Expect Government To Expand Scope of Essentials

Post the announcement last week allowing ecommerce companies to carry out routine business, they were hopeful that it would spur some activity across the board.

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India's Home Ministry on Sunday banned the supply of non-essential goods such as mobile phones and laptops by ecommerce companies during the Coronavirus-enforced lockdown across the country, marking an U-turn from its decision from only days ago.

Last week, the government allowed online retailers to resume full operations, inviting backlash from the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), which has been a long-standing critic of how ecommerce giants such as Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart operate in the country.

Following the change in the government's stance, the traders' body lauded the decision.

"This decision of the government has gone down very well with the entire trading community of India. It has reinforced the belief of Indian traders that Prime Minister Modi and the current government is concerned for the millions of small traders of India and will always ensure their rights above any multinational force," said CAIT national president BC Bhartia and secretary general Praveen Khandelwal, in a joint statement.

Ecommerce Companies React

While Flipkart said it has yet to issue any statement, an Amazon India spokesperson said the decision will come as a disappointment to a large number of individuals and businesses.

"The new guideline will disappoint not only the consumers whose list of essentials had expanded to work from home and study from home products but also the thousands of small businesses, sellers and manufacturers across the country, who had geared up in the last 48 hours to provide millions of people with safe access to products," the spokesperson said.

Srinivas Mothey, senior vice-president at Paytm Mall, said that while the company supported the government's decision in spirit to limiting ecommerce to essentials, the ambit of essential goods needed to be increased.

"India is mostly working from home at the moment but many are finding it difficult as they are running low on certain items necessary to effectively operate under lockdown...if the lockdown continues, lack of proper technical support would hinder the efficiency of employees which in turn would affect a company's operations," said Mothey.

Ecommerce marketplace ShopClues, which recently started delivering essentials to help customers during this crisis, too felt that it was imperative to expand the definition of essential goods.

"While the entire nation is forced indoors and working from home for extended period, it is important that besides food, groceries and medicine, we also ensure supply of other critical items like kitchenware and small kitchen appliances, personal hygiene items, inner wear, work from home essentials like phones, laptops and accessories," said ShopClues chief Sanjay Sethi.

A similar sentiment was shared by the Retailers Association of India (RAI).

"As RAI, we believe that to fulfill consumer needs in these trying times, rules for direct customer delivery need to be broad-based and all types of retailers including neighborhood stores should be allowed to operate," said RAI chief Kumar Rajagopalan.

The government's decision also comes only days after a pizza delivery person in Delhi tested positive for the virus, forcing authorities to quarantine 72 families. Foodtech major Zomato issued a statement, conveying that the orders were made through its platform.

In India, the number of people testing positive for the virus has steadily increased over the last few days, crossing 18,000 on Monday.

Debroop Roy

Entrepreneur Staff


Covering the start-up ecosystem in and around Bangalore for Entrepreneur. Formerly an energy reporter at Reuters. A film, cricket buff who also writes fiction on weekends.

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