Though online grocery platforms like Amazon, Grofers and BigBasket are all set to resume deliveries, Indian consumers may have to bear with empty grocery stores as well as online grocers cancelling their orders for a few more days. The biggest challenge for all these platforms is severe shortage of manpower. With the Government asking people to stay indoors, a lot of the delivery personnel have not reported to work. "Our supply side is actually working fine, but what we are facing is an unprecedented increase in demand, well beyond what we had planned for. Our suppliers have been working closely with us to cater to this. However, meeting this demand requires adding bikes, vans and manpower, and while we are trying, it's difficult to do this in a short period of time. Therefore, what we are trying to do is only accept as many orders as we are able to service while maintaining a high level of service for our customers," says the BigBasket spokesperson.
Similarly, Grofers Founder, Albinder Dhindsa, has tweeted requesting resident associations to partner with them to ensure smooth delivery. He has said in his tweet that Grofers would be delivering round-the-clock from Thursday evening onwards. In an earlier chat with Business Today, Dhindsa of Grofers said that the priority would be to clear the pending orders, hence, it is currently taking only 50 per cent of its order capacity. The online grocer has over two lakh pending orders.
- Online grocers' priority would be to deliver pending orders
- High demand and less manpower are forcing online platforms to decline orders
- FMCG companies are facing huge challenges in transporting essential products
- Though the Government is putting systems in place for essential products to reach consumers, it will take a while for the situation to be streamlined
Several State Governments, according to a senior FMCG specialist, are issuing passes or identity cards to distributors, supply chain companies, warehouses and delivery personnel, which will allow them to ensure that essential items such as food and medicines reach consumers without any hassles. "The identity card will surely make life easier, but it will take at least 3-4 days for all the stakeholders to get them and start functioning normally," points out former Dabur COO (currently, Venture Partner, Fireside Ventures), Kannan Sitaram.
The FMCG companies are also finding it extremely difficult to transport products to warehouses and eventually to the retailers. "The local police have not been able to differentiate between essential services and non-essential services. We are in talks with the local administrators across the country, the problem will be solved but may take a few more days for everything to be streamlined," says R.S. MD & Chairman, Amul. While the supply of milk has been happening without any hurdles, Sodhi says that the company has been facing challenges with its other products.
An ITC spokesperson also confirms that truck movements, both inter-State as well as local are severely impacted. "While the lockdown is indeed a welcome step to contain the spread of the virus, it will be critical during these challenging times to ensure that the production and supply chain for essential items is not disrupted, so that items like food and hygiene products can reach consumers across the country. We are seeking permission from local authorities for the transportation of essential products from the factories, warehouses as well as for distribution of products to the retail outlets," says the spokesperson.
The last couple of days, says a HUL spokesperson, have been significantly difficult in running factories and transportation of goods. "However, with the release of detailed guidelines by the Home Ministry, Government of India, the authorities have assured that essential supplies like groceries and the value chain attached to it will be allowed to function in an uninterrupted manner. We are starting to see these come in place in several parts of the country now and are working closely with Government authorities to enable the distribution of essential goods throughout the nation."
The Government, the manufacturers as well as the online delivery platforms are leaving no stone unturned to ensure that there is an uninterrupted supply of essential goods during the COVID-19 lockdown, but it will take a few more days for everything to be streamlined.