E-commerce marketplaces have been struggling to deliver essential goods due to the COVID-19 lockdown. Due to lack of clarity in the initial days, most of them were forced to shut down warehouses, and by the time they were allowed to operate, there was a huge shortage of manpower. Since the manufacturers themselves were unable to transport goods, the warehouses of most e-commerce companies are stocked out and many are refusing orders.
E-commerce marketplace, Snapdeal, however, has been promising consumers that it would deliver essentials within 6-10 days. Rajnish Wahi, Senior Vice-President (Corporate Affairs and Communications), Snapdeal, says ever since the lockdown was announced, the company started sourcing essential products locally and delivering only within the city. "Goods are moving only intra-city and not inter-city -- that's the reason we can deliver faster," he says.
Snapdeal in the last 10 days has tied up with dealers in local grain markets, FMCG wholesalers (many of them have stock but have been forced to shut down) and medical equipment dealers across cities from whom it's sourcing essentials. "We have asked our business team only to focus on procuring essentials," explains Wahi. He also says the marketplace's business model of having numerous small sellers and smaller warehouses across the country has played to their advantage during this time of crisis.
The Snapdeal warehouses are typically 1,000-2,000 sq ft, compared to the 1 million sq ft warehouses of most other marketplaces. "Large warehouses have more people and hence authorities restrict people movement and traffic. We also had to shut down initially, but were able to bounce back faster," Wahi explains. Will COVID-19 help Snapdeal become a distinct gainer? Wahi says that local sourcing will not enable them to make money. "Pan-India sourcing and deliveries give us margins. We resorted to local sourcing because that was the need of our customers," he adds.
Snapdeal's forte, says Wahi, has been discretionary products such as fashion and lifestyle, and that it focussed on essentials considering the need of the hour. "We have built our capability to source essentials in about 10-days, it would have taken us five-six months for us to set it up under normal circumstances," he added.
A senior Flipkart spokesperson says the e-commerce marketplace is putting its best foot forward to ensure it delivers to consumers. "We are mobilising all possible resources and exploring several collaborations to ensure that in this national fight against coronavirus, we can contribute meaningfully by delivering essential supplies to people who are staying indoors, leveraging our marketplace and technology...we have been ramping-up on-ground support and hiring in addition to offering incentives to supply chain and delivery executive engaged in grocery and essentials to enhance delivery capacity."