Coronavirus lockdown 3.0 | E-commerce startups cheer as government eases restrictions

By Pratik Bhakta

This move will allow many professionals, who are working remotely, get access to products needed for 'work from home'.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has opened up multiple services in areas which have been designated as green and orange zones, thereby opening ecommerce companies to operate non essential deliveries in such regions of the country.

It has specifically stated that e-commerce deliveries will be allowed only for essential items in the red zones, in a note released today. This means that in green and orange zones, such restrictions will not apply. In order to classify red green and orange zones, the government will primarily rely on whether COVID-19 positive cases have sprung up in that area or not.

Also Read | Amazon, Flipkart allowed non-essential deliveries in orange, green zones

E-commerce players have welcomed the move enthusiastically. After the dilly dally of the government last time over allowing ecommerce activities to resume, today's order has brought some good news for the businesses. It has also brought hopes for multiple small sellers who can restart their business by selling products online.

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"We welcome the Government’s decision to allow ecommerce in orange and green zones to serve people safely with products that they need and have not been able to access due to the lockdown. Millions of small and medium businesses and traders will now be able to jumpstart their businesses and livelihoods across their workforce," said a spokesperson of Amazon India.

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This move will allow many professionals, who are working remotely, get access to products needed for 'work from home'. From books to stationery to electronic items, e-commerce players are hoping to deliver all these products in areas it is allowed to operate.

"India has been working, studying, and staying indoors for quite long now…running low on supplies of several items including laptops, mobile phones as well as accessories and even basic summer wear… (many were) waiting for some relief in lockdown guidelines to buy air conditioners, refrigerators to beat the growing heat," said Srinivas Mothey, Senior Vice-President, Paytm Mall.

Snapdeal also said this move will help start a gradual process of economic recovery by enabling lakhs of sellers and MSMEs to cater to the demand of users through online and offline channels.

While opening up of business will help jumpstart the economy which has been suffering a massive slowdown, the concerns around the virus remain. India currently has more than 35,000 cases of Covid19. Ecommerce players have committed to ensuring social distancing while restarting operations to keep their staff and consumers safe.

"Our foremost priority is to ensure the safety of our customers, employees and partners and we will continue to join efforts to fight against the pandemic by serving people in the safety of their homes with products they need and help in social distancing efforts," the Amazon India spokesperson said.

Despite the relaxations being offered by the central government, e-commerce deliveries will continue to be restricted to essential items in red zones. Incidentally all the major metropolitan cities are within the red zone. While small towns and cities are important business centres for these platforms, a bulk of the business still comes from cities like Bengaluru, Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and others, where they can deliver only essential items.

Industry insiders also pointed out that even if e-commerce platforms open for business, how much of sales will happen remains a question. Consumption of non-essential items has taken a massive beating because of the overall economic downturn. Pay cuts and job losses have caused anxiety and panic among the middle classes which can be a dampener for these players. Atleast as of now the priority is to restart business, issues around growth and sales can be planned for after that, they said.

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