Walmart-owned Flipkart on Saturday said gradual opening up delivery of non-essential goods through e-commerce will help meet consumer demands, while easing the burden of piled up inventory of micro, small and medium enterprises amid the nationwide lockdown.
The comments came after the government allowed neighbourhood and standalone shops, including those located in residential complexes in urban areas, to open (at 50 percent strength and after taking necessary precautions) during the ongoing lockdown till May 3.
In rural areas, all shops, except those in shopping malls, are allowed to open.
However, opening of shops located in COVID-19 hotspot and containment zones, sale of non-essential items by e-commerce platforms and sale of liquor continue to be prohibited under the late night order on Friday.
A Flipkart Group spokesperson welcomed the government's decision of providing gradual relaxations in retail.
"Consumers have shown great restraint during lockdown, and there is a need to support their requirements. Further, a gradual opening up of delivery of non-essential goods through e-commerce will help meet consumer needs, which include items that will enable them to work from home, stay in touch with others and also address the rising temperature across the country," the spokesperson said.
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The spokesperson added that e-commerce can help meet these requirements in a safe and secure way, while ensuring social distancing and allowing the government in continuing its efforts to contain this situation.
"E-commerce can also support in easing the burden of piled up inventory of MSMEs and help in the delivery of these products to consumers in a safe and secure way while following the robust safety SOPs (standard operating procedures)," the spokesperson said, adding that the company remains committed towards the fight against COVID-19.
An Amazon India spokesperson said online commerce offers the "safest way" for sellers/retailers to serve the needs of citizens while ensuring social distancing.
The company urged the government to enable e-commerce to play its role in the joint fight against the pandemic by allowing the supply of all goods that people need over a prolonged period.
"We, as a company, are committed to serve more than 100 million Indians from the safety of their homes, reduce the number of people who need to step out, while at the same time help hundreds of thousands of small businesses jump start their livelihoods in these difficult times," the spokesperson said.
Under the first phase of the nationwide lockdown between March 24-April 14, the government had only allowed delivery of essential goods through e-commerce platforms.
However, on April 16, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued fresh guidelines for the current lockdown, allowing all e-commerce deliveries and movement of trucks. It later said e-commerce companies would be allowed to deliver only essential items like grocery, healthcare products and medicines.
Industry body Nasscom and Internet and Mobile Association of India, as well as players like ShopClues and Paytm Mall have urged the government to expand the list of essential items to include products like laptops and routers to facilitate people working from home.
Interestingly, after the Friday order, traders have sought more clarity for easier implementation of the order and urged states to issue necessary guidelines, without which shop owners would not be able to resume work.
The Retailers Association of India (RAI) said the government's order to allow reopening of shops is open to interpretation as terms like "market complexes" are not easily understood.
Domestic traders' body, Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) said shop owners are now waiting for necessary guidelines from state governments.Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.