As demand for online essentials rise, firms devise new strategies

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The lockdown due to COVID-19 outbreak has hit life hard in the city and across the country but for online delivery firms, the situation presents a unique opportunity as more and more customers are avoiding public places for buying essential items.

“Across the country, due to the lockdown, there is a demand for essentials and in these extraordinary times, companies need to rise to the occasion,” said a spokesperson for Dunzo, an e-commerce company, which provides delivery partners for all kinds of goods.

The company has reportedly trimmed its catalogue to sell only the ones mandated under the Essential Commodities Act, they added. The company has also been advising its partners on the types of goods they ought to store to meet the demand on the app. These include fruits and vegetables, grains and pulses, hygiene and sanitation products, and other basic necessities, Dunzo said.

It added that users across the platform are primarily looking for essentials and preventive healthcare items like sanitisers while also being extremely judicious about their shopping.

Hard approach

Online grocery company Groffers has also taken a “hard approach to hoarding of essential commodities”. The company said: “To ensure supplies to genuine customers, we are proactively blocking people who are trying to game the system to acquire items. Promotions for essential commodities are being discontinued as well and excessive buying or multiple orders to bypass inventory limits can lead to order cancellations.”

While the company is reportedly facing a warehouse-staff crunch, many are not turning up either due to the fear of contracting the virus or they had returned to their hometowns. Rohith Sharma, head of supply chain at the company, explained: “Currently, 65% of our warehouse staff is operational and we are hiring an additional 2,000 from the industries, which have been deeply impacted by the current crisis such as textile, manufacturing, and services.”

With regard to delivery, the company said it was working with other platforms such as Zomato but were also “encouraging supply chain hiring through referrals by giving bonuses to those who are referring friends and family for work.” Meanwhile, Zomato has started a “Zomato Market” option on its mobile application, which allows users to purchase goods from grocers in the city.

Online grocery delivery company Big Basket said while their supply side was “working fine”, there had been an unprecedented increase in demand — “well beyond what we had planned for”. The company added that suppliers had been working closely to cater to the increased demand, which it expects to continue over the coming weeks. However, to meet the demand, it was also increasing the number of bikes, vans and manpower. The company has also partnered with cab aggregator Uber to deliver everyday essentials to consumers.

Focus on hygiene

The companies have also taken measures to limit the risk of transmission of the virus, with provisions for contactless delivery, temperature checks of delivery agents and other protocols for sanitisation. Groffers, for instance, said their warehouses were being disinfected and sanitised daily, there is mandatory temperature checks for staff, strict protocols on use of sanitisers, regular disinfection of crates and other measures. Big Basket said they were also following similar precautions, equipping personnel with gloves and encouraging digital payments among other measures.

Similarly, Zomato and Swiggy have given detailed instructions regarding various precautions they have been taking on their mobile applications. These include training drivers on safety precautions, ensuring restaurant safety practices, contactless delivery, with recommendations to leave a stool outside your door to allow agents to leave the package.

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