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COVID-19: E-commerce services resume but Amazon, Flipkart to deliver only essential goods

The lit company logo is seen at India's giant online retailer Flipkart's headquarters in Bangalore. (Photo | AP)

NEW DELHI: After a temporary disruption in delivery services, e-commerce firms resumed their operations with the various state police authorities assuring security measures for their ground staff as well as reopening of their warehouses.

Flipkart which announced the suspension of its operations earlier on Wednesday following reports of the manhandling of its delivery staff by police said that it will resume its grocery and essential supply delivery service later in the day.

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“We are very grateful for the clarification provided by the government and local state authorities on the functioning of e-commerce as ‘essential service’ during the lockdown, and of them taking cognizance of the role we can play to ensure that people's needs are met during this time, as India fights this unprecedented challenge. We have been assured of the safe and smooth passage of our supply chain and delivery executives by local law enforcement authorities and are resuming our grocery & essentials services later today,” Flipkart CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy told TNIE in an emailed response.

Amazon and Flipkart had suspended their operations following reports of their delivery partners being allegedly manhandled by the police. E-grocery platforms like Big Basket, Grofers reported cancellation of lakhs of orders on Tuesday as the police had not allowed the movement of their transport and ordered the closure of their warehouses across various cities despite the Ministry of Home Affairs advisory that exempted all e-commerce operations from the prohibitions.

Amazon said that it is currently taking orders for only essential goods and will refund the ones that are for non-essential supplies. An Amazon India spokesperson told The New Indian Express that the firm is stockpiling essential commodities like household staples, health and hygiene products, sanitizers, baby products and medical supplies and is also working with the local authorities to enable them deliver these products.

Grofers CEO Albinder Dhindsa said that the company has been able to reopen its Faridabad warehouse and will resume essential supplies within 24 hours. “We will start accepting orders and delivering your essential groceries at the earliest. Local authorities are helping us in restarting our operations,” Grofers said in a statement.

Big Basket said that its supply chain is working fine but due to unprecedented demand, there could be delay in delivery of supplies and customers are being asked to try placing orders later.

The central government had earlier written to all the state chief secretaries to ensure round the clock supply of essential goods including food and medicines so that people don’t resort to panic buying.

After reports of manhandling of delivery and transport staff of several e-commerce companies across states, police in Maharashtra, Telangana, Delhi and Karnataka met with the representatives of the e-commerce firms promising them cooperation in resuming the services.