E-COMMERCE ORGANIZATIONS TO DELIVER ONLY ESSENTIAL ITEMS TILL 3RD MAY
On 19th April, the government clarified that E-Commerce firms will be authorized to deliver only essential items such as medical equipment, pharmaceutical products, and food products until the lockdown ends. The clarification came just days after the MHA had allowed e-commerce firms to deliver non-essential items including refrigerators, televisions, mobile phones, and other consumer durables. Most of the e-commerce firms are in shock after the government cancelled the permission to sell non-essential items until nationwide lockdown is over. Earlier, a statement released by the government read that “Vehicles used by e-commerce operators will be allowed to ply with necessary permissions”, but the confusion is now cleared that the clause was given to e-commerce firms in regions with no coronavirus hotspots. As per the industry estimates, during lockdown; sales of big e-commerce platforms have decreased to 90%. This is due to the fact that a great share of their GMV continues to be focused on apparel, consumer electronics, smartphones, and large appliances. To ensure business continuity, e-commerce companies have been scaling up their online grocery business for the past five weeks which is high in demand these days, but has low value and low margin segments. But, as the cost is increasing rapidly, the low margin grocery sales are not expected to make up the loss incurred. Discussing the decision, Praveen Khandelwal, Secretary-General of CAIT (Confederation of All India Traders) claimed that CAIT has revoked the plan of e-commerce firms to trade in non-essential goods. Accepting the objection CAIT, MHA removed the permission earlier granted and now the e-commerce firms can only trade in essential goods. On 19th April, at the daily joint briefing, Punya Salila Srivastava said that the Coronavirus situation was very dynamic and the government was making decisions on an everyday basis. The government thought of revoking the guidelines after realizing that the list was too long and permitting non-essential goods to sell via e-commerce might influence the proper execution of the lockdown. Piyush Goyal who is the Minister of commerce and industries tweeted that this plan will establish a level-playing field for small businesses. Also, an Amazon India spokesperson stated that the new regulations will let down not only the end customer whose list of essential items have been extended to work from home and study from home items but also the thousands of manufacturers, small enterprises, and sellers across the country, who had all prepped up in the last 48 hours to offer millions of people with secure access to products. Senior vice president of Paytm Mall Srinivas Mothey also said that we were planning to go live in non-essential commodities especially with regards to apparel, utensils and consumer electronics. But, as of now, we need to suspend those plans and double down the provision of essential commodities and work hard in that direction. Until 3rd May, we look to add another 15 to 20 cities for selling the essential goods.
Sources: WHO, CDC, ECDC, NHC of the PRC, JHU CSSE, DXY, QQ, and various international media
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* Cases identified on a cruise ship currently in Japanese territorial waters.