Swiggy, one of the two Indian food delivery unicorns, has been having a tough time ever since India went on a lockdown. Despite food and ecommerce both being categorised under ‘essential services’ by the central government, both Swiggy and Zomato have been unable to operate across most Indian cities. As a result, their delivery fleets, which are usually under-staffed, are now sitting idle.
That however, hasn’t stopped company’s management to think of ways of utlising this idle fleet. In a brief chat with ET, Swiggy COO Vivek Sundar said, that the company is ready to deploy all of its idle logistics fleet to delivery essential items such as grocery, if there is a need. Swiggy already operates a grocery delivery service, albeit in very limited cities. In fact, the company had rather recently started a pilot, only to be halted by the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
“This is wartime. We can open in as many cities as needed as it will take 1-2 days,” said Swiggy COO Vivek Sundar. He however did caution, that government needs to step in to provide clearances, a request that has been repeatedly raised by almost all ecommerce companies in unison. Despite multiple directives from the federal government over operation of e-commerce services, most states are continuing to ban operations. In some states, delivery boys for these companies have been seen getting beaten by police, for violating the lock-down.
Of Swiggy’s entire fleet, 80-85% is currently idle right now, according to Sundar, which can be leveraged for grocery delivery. At its peak, Swiggy was doing 1.5 million deliveries a day, just prior to this month’s lockdown.
There however seems to some easing up now. Flipkart CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy recently stated that government has issued clarification and as a result his company will resume services. And they have. Flipkart has already started taking orders for home essentials such as cleaning equipment, cooking utensils etc. It is also taking order for staples.
Swiggy too, is in conversation with the government at various levels, said Sundar. Swiggy has been in discussions with police commissioners, political leadership and bureaucrats in all the cities where they are operational to get deliveries started.
“Our cancellation rates were 10x normal rate as restaurant staff was stuck or the delivery boy was not allowed to move. We are still struggling with beat cops on the ground even in cities like Bengaluru, which is in the best operational state in the country right now,” he said.
Sundar says, that the current ask from both Zomato, Swiggy and other ecommerce companies, is that the state police authorities should allow anyone associated with cooked food — cooks, delivery boys etc. — freely travel in this lockdown. Of course proper precautions, social distancing measures etc. need to be in place. And based on the discussions that the company has had with the government, Sundar is optimistic that deliveries could normalise by the coming weekend.