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These disruptions led to a lot of wastage of perishable items with startups like MilkBasket being forced to dump 15,000 litres of milk and 10,000 kg of fruits and vegetables.
The 21-day lockdown wasn’t a great start for e-commerce service companies. Despite central government asking states to allow e-commerce operations to run during the lockdown, there were several disruptions in operations and delivery on ground.
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Disruptions led to a lot of wastage of perishable items, with startups like MilkBasket being forced to dump 15,000 litres of milk and 10,000 kg of fruits and vegetables.
“Due to the harassment faced by our employees, we were in complete lockdown. While the intent for the lockdown is right but the message that went out to the frontline, the constable on the street is that no one should come out. As a result, blue collar employees and our delivery staff were beaten up on the street before they could even show their ID,” said Anant Goel, co-founder & CEO, Milkbasket
It is not just MilkBasket but Ninjacart, a startup that connects farmers with kirana stores, also said that they faced similar issues on ground. “We had to dump 20,000 kgs of vegetables in Chennai today. We have not closed our operations, but will have to in 2-3 cities as we are still waiting for clear directives,” said Thirukumaran Nagarajan, CEO & Co-founder, Ninjacart
While startups iron out issues with local authorities, they will soon be faced by another road block. When in crisis, people often revert down to Maslow’ hierarchy of needs to basic desires such as health, safety and security. These reports are sending out waves of panic among essential services staff.
“Employees themselves are scared to come out to work as local panchayat are not letting people move out before the coronavirus scare. The bigger challenge now will be to get people back into work because of the social pressure,” added Goel.
It’s not just panchayats, even housing societies, landlords and PG owners are raising concerns and are against people stepping out of their home to do their job.
There is some relief for these players as central government has taken note of these concerns and is working with states to address challenges, Goyal narrated.
DPIIT secretary Guruprasad Mohapatra has said that states have been asked to allow home delivery personnel with identity cards to deliver food and pharmaceutical products.
Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant told CNBC-TV18 that he personally intervened to make sure Grofers' operations were up and running and ensured that their services resumed.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also announced they will issue curfew e-pass to ensure seamless workflow of essential services.
Gurgaon and Noida Police took to twitter to assure smooth movement on streets for those who fall under essential services category. In Bengaluru, police commissioner is set to meet all related stakeholders.
Despite several requests and measures being taken, people are still panic-buying. Grocery store shelves were wiped out minutes after the announcements of the lockdown.
And, if stocking up of perishable food items continue at this rate, we may already be leading towards the brink of a wastage crisis.
While food wastage is an inexcusable act at any given point in time, dumping fresh produce at this scale during a nationwide lockdown because of a communication gap between the Centre and those at the frontline is something we simply can’t afford.
First Published: Mar 25, 2020 11:22 PM IST