eCommerce players mapping manpower to area-specific protocols as second phase of lockdown intensifies

Forum Gandhi Mumbai | Updated on April 10, 2021

Retailers Association of India claim that 20-25 per cent of business had dropped by the end of February 2020

From mapping manpower to area-specific protocols to scheduling group deliveries, top retail and grocery retail players have put in place micro-level strategies to ensure the least disruption in deliveries during the second phase of lockdowns in different regions.

India has over 15 lakh modern retail stores that generate ₹4.74 lakh crore worth of business. Almost 60 lakh people are employed at these stores.

According to a report by the Retailers Association of India, the business had dropped by 20-25 per cent by the end of February 2020 itself when the coronavirus panic just broke out in India. Another report had stated that if such a lockdown were to continue, over 30 per cent of the stores would never reopen.

“While the situation in the State looks grim and implementation of stricter rules is necessary, it is also important to calibrate a balance between lives and livelihood. Complete shutting of retail businesses other than essentials will impair the ability of retail and allied businesses to survive,” said Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO, Retailers Association of India (RAI).

However, as they say, the show must go on, hence, players have started taking learnings from the previous lockdown in order to have the least impact on operations.

Recently, Future Retail’s brick and mortar chain, Big Bazaar made a just in time announcement by ramping up its online platform as well as delivery business. This makes Big Bazaar’s CEO, Sadashiv Nayak, too, is bullish about dealing with the stringent norms across the States.

While it was successfully testing its eCommerce platform and delivery module, it also started implementing norms across its stores in order to avoid issues. “The minute we got to know about the lockdown, we made sure we mapped our manpower from the place where they were travelling from and setting them up at the store nearest to them.”

Not only this, it implemented rack distancing and asked brand promoters to come in the morning and leave by afternoon to not crowd the aisle.

Where Big Bazaar became the latest entrant in the eCommerce industry, existing players like Amazon and Snapdeal continue to follow stricter norms.

Online grocery player Grofers is ramping up its stocks and coordinating with manufacturing and merchant partners to ensure there is no shortage of essential food items.

“We have seen a 30 per cent surge in demand in certain locations and have been able to deal with this seamlessly without any disruptions, and are confident that we can deal with larger volumes due to the tremendous effort of our teams and the support from the entire ecosystem,” a Grofers spokesperson said.

While it has beefed up its stocks, Grofers has also built a technology solutions that have allowed it to service those who are in temporarily quarantined societies due to a high case count. “A society ordering technology product allows several consumers from a society to order in a common delivery slot, with all orders delivered to the society’s designated safe area,” a spokesperson said.

Online marketplace, Shopclues, too, has realised the importance of delivering essentials during a lockdown. A Shopclue spokesperson said, that learning from the previous lockdown, the company realised that, “It is important to focus on essentials rather than leisure or luxury products as consumers are now extensively dependent on online shopping for essentials and other relevant products.”

eCommerce player, Snapdeal has also learned from the past lockdown. “Our biggest learning from last year is to communicate more frequently and to effectively coordinate well with all stakeholders,” a Snapdeal spokesperson said.

eCommerce players also said that another learning from the previous lockdown was to design and implement area-specific operating protocols as restrictions might vary from one area to another.

Published on April 10, 2021

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