By Aditi Agrawal and Aroon Deep
Several major e-commerce delivery services were either completely booked out, had put a hold on operations, or were otherwise inaccessible, the morning after the Ministry of Home Affairs exempted delivery of all essential goods through e-commerce from the 21-day curfew. This includes delivery of food, pharmaceuticals, and medical equipment.
MediaNama attempted to use several of these services in Delhi and Chennai. For larger platforms like Amazon and Flipkart, we attempted to order electronics and (arguably) other non-essential items too. Here are the companies we have covered: Amazon, Flipkart, Grofers, BigBasket, Fresh to Home, Dunzo, D-Mart, Nature’s Basket, and Licious.
Update (March 26 2:15 pm): Flipkart website and app are now accepting orders, but only for groceries. All other products are “temporarily unavailable”. Limits have been placed on the quantity of certain staple items (such as pulses and flours) that can be purchased in an order. Also, the earliest delivery slot available in Delhi is for April 2 at the time of publishing.
Earlier: Flipkart has “temporarily” suspended its services on its website and app. It is not accepting any new orders on Supermart, its grocery micro-site, and focussing on fulfilling the existing ones. We have reached out to the company for for information.
Everything — from an external hard disk to laptop to Harry Potter books to biscuits to atta — is listed out of stock. If you click on a product, it says the product is “currently out of stock in this area”. We tried different pincodes (Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore) and got the same result every time.
Update (March 26 11:23 am): Grofers said in a statement on March 25 night that it had resumed operations in Delhi, Kanpur, Lucknow and Bangalore. The company added that it “hope[d]” to be operational in other cities like Mumbai, Hyderabad and Guwahati soon but did not define a date. We could place orders online in Delhi, but cash on delivery was not available. The website instead advised users to use online payment to control the spread of coronavirus.
Earlier: Grofers is not accepting any new orders. The website and the app direct visitors to a SurveyMonkey page where they can enter their phone number and city to be notified of when Grofers will start accepting more orders. The main website itself isn’t working either.
Before Home Ministry’s directions that e-commerce delivery operations were to be exempted from the curfew, Grofers had tweeted that it was facing “operational challenges due to lack of clarity in our listing as an essential service provider”. The company’s warehouse in Faridabad was closed earlier this morning by law law enforcement, the company’s co-founder Albinder Dhindsa tweeted. We have reached out to Dhindsa for an update and more information.
For groceries (under Amazon Fresh), we could add things to our cart and proceed to checkout, but no delivery slots were available.
For books, only Kindle editions are available. We were able to place an order for an HDMI cable, but its delivery date was April 10.
Amazon has also removed the option of Cash on Delivery. Instead, it now allows customers to only pay via UPI on delivery to limit physical contact.
Amazon’s website and app say that it is focussing on delivering “high priority” products because of which “other products are temporarily unavailable for purchase”. According to Amazon’s blog, this includes “Household Staples, Packaged Food, Health Care, Hygiene, Personal safety and other high priority products”. For pending orders on lower-priority products, Amazon is letting customers cancel their orders, and get a refund for prepaid items.
BigBasket is not operational today “due to restrictions imposed by local authorities on movement of goods”. Visitors cannot even enter the website. This message came up around 10:30 am. Earlier, the website had suspended services temporarily owing to “surge in orders”. V.S. Sudhakar, the founder, declined to comment at this stage.
On the iOS app, we kept getting an error, and on Android, we couldn’t check out. The home screen of the Android app warned users that delivery guarantee was not available and due to “unprecedented demand”, users may not find early slots.
In response to a customer, BigBasket tweeted at 10:50 am today that they weren’t operational due to “restrictions imposed by local authorities on the movement of goods in spite of clear guidelines provided by central authorities to enable essential services”.
Fresh to Home
While we could proceed to checkout on the website, no delivery slots were available. On the app, selecting “Checkout” made the app hang up on iOS.
Fresh to Home’s website and app say that their operating slots and delivery windows “may be affected” as local authorities are stopping deliveries “in spite of clear guidance that food deliveries are exempted from the curfew”.
Dunzo has suspended operations in Chennai, Delhi NCR, most of Mumbai and Pune. A Dunzo executive told MediaNama that they were awaiting a clear go-ahead from the government to operate in Chennai, and that they were receiving reports of police assaulting their delivery agents in some cities.
D-Mart delivers only in Mumbai and Pune. Their delivery slots are completely booked, and the company says that though they have enough supplies, their workers cannot handle the bandwidth:
Nature’s Basket was overloaded too, and like D-Mart said that supplies existed but the manpower to deal with demand was low. The company said its stores would be open today, and that it would share further after hearing back from the government.
We couldn’t create a new account on the site when we tried this morning.
Meat delivery service Licious said that because of “unforeseen events on the ground”, they would no longer take any orders until further notice. The company had earlier said that the pandemic would not affect their operations.
We could place an order for a book without any problem and avail cash on delivery. Expected delivery date was between March 30 and March 31.
Snapdeal’s home page only says that it is “experiencing disruption in operations due to movement instructions”. In a statement, it said that it was working “regionwise” on completing existing deliveries of “essential goods” and talking to authorities “to help streamline issues for e-commerce operations”.
***Update (March 26 2:15 pm): Status of Flipkart updated. Headline updated to “Flipkart resumes grocery delivery with restriction on quantities”
***Update (March 26 11:23 am): Statement from Grofers added. Headline updated to “Grofers resumes services in Delhi, Kanpur, Lucknow, Bangalore”
***Update (March 25 5 pm): Article updated with section on Snapdeal. Originally published at 1:33 pm on March 25 with the headline “COVID-19: Several e-commerce companies unable to service customers a day after the curfew”