E-commerce firms set to resume work after police assurance

Source: Business Standard, Mar 25, 2020

Bengaluru / New Delhi: Walmart-owned Flipkart said on Wednesday it would resume services and Amazon said it was working with the government to enable its deliveries after state governments reached out to the firms, which had temporarily stopped accepting new orders amid reports of police high-handedness.

The Delhi police issued a statement saying they were proactively engaging with e-commerce portals and were issuing passes to ensure agents were able to commute seamlessly and deliver essential goods to residents during the 21-day lockdown. The Bengaluru police, too, came out with guidelines for issuing curfew passes.

Following this, Flipkart Chief Executive Officer Kalyan Krishnamurthy said, “We have been assured of the safe and smooth passage of our supply chain and delivery executives by local law enforcement authorities and are resuming our grocery and essentials services later today (Wednesday).”

Similarly, a note on Amazon India’s Pantry page said, “Dear customers, due to local restrictions, we are not able to deliver. We are working with the government authorities to enable us to deliver essential items. We will communicate through e-mail/SMS when we have an update”. It also offered customers the option of cancelling orders.

These developments came after e-commerce firms sought the support of local governments and police authorities to meet customers’ needs after there were reports of some deliver personnel being beaten up while on duty. Additionally, officials of the Confederation of All India Traders met Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade Secretary Guru Prasad Mohpatra and highlighted the issues faced.

Earlier in the day, Amazon India had said it had temporarily stopped accepting orders and was disabling shipments of lower-priority products. It was prioritising products that customers needed most during the lockdown. A senior industry executive said that the lack of clarity on the rules had made matters worse. “The authorities keep coming up with circulars that are contradictory to the previous ones, and this is creating confusion,” the executive said.

Despite govt clearance, ecomm cos find it difficult to deliver essentials

Source: ETRetail.com, Mar 25, 2020

BENGALURU: Delivery of essential items such as food, groceries and medical supplies, ordered by customers from ecommerce sites, has been disrupted even after state governments exempted ecommerce services from the ongoing widespread lockdowns till March 31, prominent etailers told ET.

“We are not operational due to restrictions imposed by local authorities on the movement of goods in spite of clear guidelines provided by the central authorities to enable essential services,” Bigbasket informed customers through its app on Tuesday.

The country’s largest e-grocer has stopped accepting orders in Gurugram and Mumbai till further notice, while operations at several other regions are at lower than normal capacity. Local authorities are shutting down warehouses and stopping trucks from crossing state borders, hampering the availability of essential goods for a third consecutive day, especially in Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Chennai and Hyderabad, the ecommerce companies claimed. ET could not independently verify these claims.

Amazon removed all non-essential items from its India marketplace to ensure that the most important needs were met first. The company warned customers of increased cancellations and delays in deliveries in some regions. “We continue to make changes to our logistics, transportation, supply chain, purchasing and seller processes to prioritise stocking and delivering priority products like household staples, health and hygiene products, sanitizers, baby formula, and medical supplies,” Amazon said.

The curfew-like situation has cut off first-mile and last-mile logistics for ecommerce firms, effectively choking their businesses. “On March 23, there was a 40% drop in the number of ecommerce deliveries across India and return to origin or RTO orders saw a massive increase by 330%,” said Pranshu Kacholia, vice-president of Business at logistics intelligence platform Clickpost.

India's e-commerce sector comes to halt due to lockdowns

Source: Business Standard, Mar 23, 2020

Bengaluru: The Indian e-commerce sector has come to a halt across the country including the supply of essential commodities due to various lockdowns to prevent the spread of Covid-19, according to the e-commerce industry executives. They said there is a lot of police action on the ground and even the interstate movement has been stopped due to which lot of essential items on platforms such as Flipkart, Amazon, Grofers and Milkbasket are not reaching the people. Even food-delivery firms such as Swiggy and Zomato are facing similar challenges due to various lockdowns, according to the sources.

“There is a lot of ambiguity and uncertainty. The authorities keep coming up with circulars which are contradictory to the previous ones,” said an e-commerce industry executive. “It is more a miscommunication issue due to which there are many challenges that companies such as Flipkart, Amazon, Grofers and Swiggy and Zomato are facing on the ground.”

E-commerce companies are facing challenges in delivering essential items such as rice, wheat, pulses, baby food, dairy and fruits and vegetables. The other important items include hygiene products such as soaps, sanitary pads, sanitisers and masks. As most of the people are working from home, e-commerce industry insiders said that the firms are also finding it a challenge to deliver products such as power banks, laptops, routers, headsets and tables and chairs to the customers, despite a tremendous increase in demand.

The Government of Karnataka on Monday put out an order saying that e-commerce and home delivery come under essential services and shall be excluded from the restrictions imposed by the government to contain the spread of Covid-19. Government of Maharashtra on Monday also put out an order saying that e-commerce services providing essential goods including pharmaceutical and medical equipment, should be excluded from the restrictions.

According to the sources, other than essentials which are witnessing huge demand, the rest of the e-commerce categories are witnessing at least 60 per cent drop in sales. “But the issue the e-commerce companies are facing for essentials is replenishment and last mile-delivery,” said a person.

Milkbasket, a Gurugram-based daily grocery delivery service said the company’s staff, vendors and vehicles are being pushed back from the roads by local police, disrupting the operations. “Yesterday we had to cancel thousands of orders. We could only operate at 40 per cent capacity in Gurgaon. Even lower in Noida. We might have to cancel all the orders today, impacting over 150,000 families across 4 cities,” said the company on Monday. “We are being told to shut down our distribution centers.” The company urged the authorities to look into the matter and support the firm in ensuring smooth service.

Online grocery firm Grofers said as per the directive of the central government, the firm continued to provide essential goods to customers across the country on the day of Janta Curfew. However, due to some confusion regarding the services exempted, many of its delivery riders were stopped and arrested which led to a delay in the delivery of almost 60,000 orders countrywide.

“This does not only affect the morale of the delivery staff who are working selflessly to support people but is also causing inconvenience to many customers who are relying highly on our services,” said Albinder Dhindsa, co-founder and CEO of Grofers, which is backed by SoftBank. Furthermore, in a few states including Maharashtra, it is also facing forced shut down of warehouses in these difficult times. “Our teams are working relentlessly to support people and managing deliveries to avoid any kind of panic among consumers and we request authorities to take measures to ensure that the process of essential items delivery remains smooth,” said Dhindsa.

Saurabh Kumar, another co-founder of Grofers on Monday said on Twitter that despite assurances that grocery is an essential service and Grofers should continue to operate, police and local authorities keep shutting the warehouses. “All the proactive initiatives of (the) government and central authorities (are) going to waste because of overzealous enforcement agencies,” said Kumar. He said for every facility that gets shut the risk is that many households would venture out for grocery buying.

E-commerce firms are requesting State governments to resolve various issues. This includes movement of goods for e-commerce by trucks plying State and Inter-state. There are letters issued by the companies to the truckers, which need to be accepted by the authorities. These letters say that the products are for e-commerce service delivery ensuring families are getting what is essential for them to have at home “during isolation so they don’t have to leave their homes,” said a person who did not wish to be quoted. The firms are also requesting for the opening of multi-products warehouses, distribution and sort centres. Also safe movement of personnel for e-commerce activities after showing the letters given by the online retailers and govt-issued identification documents. “We request for a strong coordinating mechanism between Central and State governments to ensure that these guidances are percolated down to the ground level,” said an e-commerce industry executive.

The companies are also asking to allow the operations of the necessary customer and IT support and movement between home and office for operations and logistic services. In response to a query from Business Standard, Walmart-owned Flipkart said while its teams are working with Center as well as State authorities to ensure that it continues to serve the communities, there are operational issues on-ground. “These impact our ability to seamlessly service the communities as they stay indoors. We are working with the Central and State government as an industry to solve these challenges,” said a Flipkart Spokesperson. “We are confident that together we not only can fight this challenge but also ensure that customers and communities have access to essentials in this battle. At Flipkart we are confident that by leveraging technology and supply chain expertise, we can contribute meaningfully,” said the spokesperson.

Govt to bring amendments to Competition law for greater regulation of etailers: FM

Source: ETRetail.com, Mar 17, 2020

New Delhi: The Centre on Tuesday said that it has proposed certain amendments to the Competition law for greater regulation of e-commerce platforms and ensure that presence of etailers has no severe impact on local jobs.

Responding to a series of queries on this issue during the Question Hour, Corporate Affairs Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in Rajya Sabha that the cabinet has already looked into the amendments.

“The Competition Act Regulation Amendments will now bring in greater regulation….The cabinet has looked into it. Thisis one of the ways we are trying to regulate (e-commerce platforms),” she said in the Upper House. The amendments to the law have been proposed as per the recommendation of the Competition Law Reviewing Committee,under the chairmanship of Corporate Affairs Ministry, she said. On job loss, the Minister said such kind of impacts have been assessed by the committee and “action is being taken through various amendments suggested to the Act so that impact is not as serious.” Prior to setting up of the committee, Sitharaman said anti-trust watchdog Competition Commission of India (CCI) had made efforts to promote self-regulation through advocacy from January this year after looking into a complaint it had received in April last year.

However, a court order from Karnataka stopped the CCI from taking further steps on self-regulation, she said. In its report on the complaint, the CCI had identified several practices which were not true to the ideals of free and fair market practices, she added.

Amazon looks to set up two data centres in Telangana with Rs 11,624-crore investment

Source: Financial Express, Feb 12, 2019

Data Services India proposes to construct two data centers in Telangana with an estimated investment of Rs 11,624 crore. The company has submitted its application to the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) and is awaiting legal and environmental clearances. If the proposals get the EC, it would be the second major investment by Amazon in Hyderabad as it already has the largest fulfillment centre in the city.

According to the application submitted to the State Environment Impact Assessment Council (SEAC), the total cost of the project for two centres is envisaged to be around Rs 5,821 crore and Rs 5,803 crore, respectively. A data centre is a building, dedicated space within a building, or a group of buildings used to house computer systems and associated components, such as telecommunications and storage systems. However, when contacted, the company didn’t give any additional details. Read the rest of this entry »

Indian e-health sector projected to grow by 13x to $16 bn by 2025: Report

Source: Business Standard, Feb 05, 2019

Bengaluru: The Indian e-health sector is expected to become a $16 billion opportunity by FY 2025, growing from $1.2 billion, at a compound annual growth rate of 68 per cent, according to a report by research firm RedSeer Consulting.

This growth will be driven by increasing consumer receptiveness towards eHealth models and rising provider and supplier willingness to partner with eHealth platforms. This is further supported by an increased influx of investments and pro-eHealth regulations.

Anil Kumar, founder and CEO of RedSeer said Indian consumers face a host of challenges in the traditional healthcare system – be it the availability of specialists or medicines at a nearby pharmacy or long waiting times to get diagnostic tests done.

“We believe e-Health platforms have a strong potential in changing the experience of the Indian consumer across the entire spectrum of outpatient services, across doctor consultation, diagnostics and pharmacy,” said Kumar. “Over the next 5 years, we project the e-Health market to exponentially grow to a $16 billion-market touching 57 million households, driven by positive reception from both consumers and providers along with supportive government regulations and investments,” he added.

As per RedSeer, the overall Indian healthcare industry is set to grow at 17 per cent CAGR until FY 2025 to reach $353 billion (7 per cent of the expected nominal gross domestic product). The firm prepared the report based on the insights from over 1200 consumers about their ‘eHealth’ experience. The report said the consumers significantly value the benefits of eHealth over the traditional outpatient care system across pharmacy, consultation and diagnostics categories.

One such e-health company is Medlife which is delivering medicines to over 25,000 pin codes and diagnostics in more than 400 towns across the country.

“Medlife is poised to end this year with a GMV (gross merchandise value) run rate of $220 million. We believe E-health and not just e-pharmacy is the mantra for this sector,” said Ananth Narayanan, CEO and co-founder of e-health company Medlife. “Our lab diagnostic business scale-up, expansion of our private label portfolio and the e-consultation platform will allow us to achieve stellar growth from these additional areas. We target to be over a $2 billion player by 2024,” said Narayanan. He said one of the biggest challenges for the sector are the fringe players who do not follow the laws and rules properly and cause a wrong perception of the industry as a whole. “We are eagerly awaiting the legislation on e-pharmacy to continue scaling the business. We believe that technology is key to provide access and affordability in healthcare. We are committed to making this happen,” said Narayanan.

Cracking the whip: E-comm policy to deal with online counterfeits

Source: The Economic Times, Jan 29, 2019

New Delhi: The upcoming e-commerce policy will make it tougher for sellers to peddle fakes online. The policy, likely to be out in March, will detail a plan of action for consumers and companies to deal with counterfeit products sold online.

The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) is looking at various ways through which fakes sold on e-marketplaces can be curbed. Officials said the department will study the recent steps proposed by the US to curb counterfeit imports through third-party sales on online retailers.

“The e-commerce policy will certainly deal with counterfeits,” said an official in the know of the details.

The official added that the department would examine the American policy which proposes higher oversight of US warehouses and ramped up fines and penalties for violations. The new US strategy is to shift the liability for counterfeit goods from third parties to e-commerce platforms.

The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) wants similar measures for the Indian e-commerce market. India’s draft national e-commerce policy released last year had extensively talked of online counterfeits and called it a “worrisome trend”.
It had prescribed anti-counterfeiting measures such as asking e-commerce entities to publicly share all relevant details of sellers who make their products available on their platforms of. It mandated all sellers/retailers to furnish an undertaking of genuineness of products to the platforms and asked the platforms to make these accessible to consumers.

“Mechanisms to enable trademark owners (and licensees) to be informed about any possible counterfeit product being sold on a platform have been included in the policy,” the department had said in the draft wherein it asked platform to seek authorisation from trademark owners before listing high value goods, cosmetics or goods having impact on public health on their websites.