Source: Mahesh Aravinth // Pexels // CC2.0

Two of India’s biggest ecommerce players are suspending most of their operations in the country, amid a 3 week nationwide lockdown announced by Prime Minister yesterday. While Walmart-owned Flipkart has completely suspended all its operations, Amazon India has said it will only deliver essential items, largely grocery and dairy products.

Amazon will prioritize sale of the bare minimum including household staples, packaged food, healthcare, hygiene and personal safety products. The e-commerce giant suspended its Easy ship, Seller Flex and Fulfilled by Amazon services on Sunday. Both companies have not announced a definite date for the recommencement of normal services. But it is safe to assume that resumption will depend on further government orders.

Amazon observed a major spike in orders for these essential products. In a blog post, the company announced the prioritised sale of these products and has also offered customers the option to cancel their undelivered orders for non-essential products and receive funds. The company has declared non-critical products “temporarily unavailable for purchase”. Similar measures were taken by the ecommerce giant in Italy and France, countries currently the worst-struck by COVID-19.

A message on Flipkart.com’s homepage with respect to service suspension.

Flipkart on the other hand, has decided to completely suspend all operations. The company has reportedly been facing logistical issues due to the restrictions imposed on the movement of delivery staff in various states. The Walmart-owned company had also experienced a lack of manpower due to the pandemic. An online note on the e-tailer’s website reads “These are difficult times. Times like no other. Never before have communities stayed apart to stay safe. Never before has being home meant saving the nation. We urge you to stay home to stay safe. We will get there and we will get through. Together.”

In addition to Amazon and Flipkart, logistical problems have been faced by retailers such as Grofers, BigBasket, Snapdeal etc. amid dwindling strength of delivery employees. The delivery workforce employed by these companies includes 185000 workers across India, most of whom are migrants. And ever since states started announcing lockdowns on individual levels, migrant workers have been scrambling to get back to their home state.

Large number of offline retail shops, which constitute 90% of India’s overall retail segment, have started closing down or limited operations. As a result, consumers have turned to online platforms to procure products of critical need. The 21-day lockdown announced by PM Narendra Modi will increase orders online. Advisory from the central IT ministry has asked state governments to allow the functioning of online retailers delivering essential services, such as food, dairy products and medical items .

India, which has 582 infections so far, has announced some of the toughest measures to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus infections. The entire country, which amounts to 1.3 billion people, has been put under lockdown to prevent further spread. Additionally, the federal government announced a $2 billion immediate investment in healthcare to contain the spread.