How Grofers, Flipkart, others are ramping up to meet surge in demand for essentials

Online delivery platforms say they are ramping up capacity to avoid a repeat of last year when delivery timelines extended to several days as demand outstripped supply.
Grocery in a basket
Grocery in a basket
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India is seeing an unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases amidst the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. With many states imposing lockdowns, this has led to a spike in demand for e-groceries and essentials. Online delivery platforms are now ramping up capacity to avoid a repeat of last year when delivery timelines extended to several days as demand outstripped supply during the first wave. 

Grofers said it is seeing a consistent increase in demand since mid-Feb, which has surged even higher since the last couple of weeks. “To meet the growing demands on supply, we built deeper collaborations with manufacturing, merchant and brand partners, and are confident they have sufficient stocks. There has been an ~25% increase in average ticket size, which is now Rs ~2000,” said a company spokesperson. 

While so far the deliveries for some items, within some areas, are happening in as fast as 2 hours, most others are happening within 1-2 days, the spokesperson said. Grofers is ramping up, both in terms of the physical capacity of stocks and workforce, to meet the growing demand.

“As the number of COVID-19 cases rise in a particular region, we do tend to experience some constraints when it comes to frontline workers. To minimise those disruptions and retain more frontline workers, we pay our delivery partners higher wages (at times double of normal salaries) and spend on the health and safety requirements for our workers and our customers, to ensure we are able to offer most customers the earliest deliveries of their essentials,” the spokesperson said. 

Given the current situation, Grofers is hiring additional warehouse and delivery staff to address the surge in demand and serve as many households as possible in this time of need. “We have already hired 2000+ people across the cities of our presence, but are seeing some of them wanting to migrate back now and, to build additional capacity, plan to add over 7000+ more people across our supply chain and last-mile operations,” the spokesperson added. 

Grofers co-founder and CEO Albinder Dhindsa tweeted: “We are looking for budding entrepreneurs in 69 cities in India – folks who can help us augment our capacity to serve people better during this pandemic.” 

Flipkart said its top priority is to meet the needs of consumers through a safe and robust supply chain as per the government guidelines. “As consumers across the country take necessary precautions and stay indoors, their reliance on e-commerce to fulfill their needs has increased. Grocery as a category that spans through staples, fruits and vegetables has seen increase in demand. Over the course of the last year, Flipkart has invested in building capacity for this service across the country by expanding its reach to over 50+ cities now - giving consumers in Lucknow, Patna, Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Jaipur, among others, access to high-quality grocery essentials,” said a company spokesperson. 

The company said that it has leveraged its partnership on-ground and is working with its brand partners, sellers and MSMEs to ensure timely availability of essential products for consumers all over India. “We have enabled contactless payments so that consumers can purchase their daily essential needs in the safety of their homes,” the spokesperson added. 

Amazon said that it is working together with lakhs of sellers (including small & medium businesses) and associates across its network, to serve customers while following stringent safety measures and government guidelines. “We continue to work with the government to request them to allow home delivery of all products to safely fulfill customer needs,” an Amazon India spokesperson told TNM. 

K Ganesh, Serial Entrepreneur, Promoter - Bigbasket, Portea Medical, HomeLane believes that various governments are trying to do their best to balance the need for a lockdown to break the chain while keeping the convenience of consumers in mind, and it’s a tough balancing act. “In this situation, home delivery of food, goods and services needs to be encouraged so that citizens don't have to travel. The distinction between essential and non-essential goods is an unnecessary complication. It's prone to discretionary interpretation and abuse by individuals enforcing compliance. Also creates confusion for shops, e-commerce companies,” he added. 

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