Update (20/04/2020): Yesterday, the Indian government issued a circular stating it won’t be allowing ecommerce companies to deliver non-essential goods until May 3.
As noted by the Economic Times, after Wednesday’s notification to allow non-essential deliveries, several retail bodies lobbied for its retraction. After Sunday’s clarification, the commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal tweeted that this decision will create a ‘level-playing field’ for small retailers.
E-Commerce companies to continue to operate for essential goods as has been allowed earlier
States must ensure smooth movement of the entire supply chain of essential goods, including by e-Commerce#IndiaFightsCOVID19
— PIB India #StayHome #StaySafe (@PIB_India) April 19, 2020
Earlier this week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the extension of lockdown until May 3 to curb the coronavirus spread. However, new guidelines published by the government suggest that ecommerce companies can start delivering non-essential goods from April 20.
Last month, when Modi announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown, the government restricted ecommerce firms to deliver only essential goods such as food, groceries, staples, and medical supplies. These new relaxations will let people order other items such as electronics, mobile phones, and clothes from online retailers again.
Walmart-owned Flipkart said in a statement that it’s working with sellers to prepare them for safe packaging and delivery:
As a marketplace e-commerce player, we at Flipkart believe that it is our responsibility to enable sellers and the MSME (Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises) community to bounce back and responsibly facilitate economic activity. Therefore, we are working with lakhs of sellers, small businesses and artisans across India and helping them prepare their business and workforce to make products available for consumers in this time of need as they continue to stay indoors.
Our seller support team is providing constant counsel and on-ground support to sellers on our platform to help them resume operations in a few days.
In a statement, Amazon also said it’s working with sellers to offer their products to customers:
We are now focused on supporting the immediate need of consumers and also participating in the resumption of economic activity post the Ministry of Home Affairs notification. We are working closely with all our partners – brands, manufacturers, sellers, small businesses and local shops – helping them to offer the most needed products to customers. While we will increase selection that customers can safely shop from their homes, we will also continue to ensure safety of our delivery associates and our teams at our facilities.
While you may be able to order these non-essential products, with a backlog of thousands of orders with these companies, you might get a high wait time for your order.
Earlier this month, Flipkart had teamed with Uber for grocery deliveries, it’s not clear at the moment if this partnership will extend to delivery of non-essential items. This new development would also provide much-needed jobs for gig workers who might have had to suffer heavy monetary losses due to the lockdown.