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    Coronavirus: Online grocers, pharmacies see surge in demand, but ridesharing and co-working startups suffer

    Coronavirus: Online grocers, pharmacies see surge in demand, but ridesharing and co-working startups suffer

    Coronavirus: Online grocers, pharmacies see surge in demand, but ridesharing and co-working startups suffer
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    By Mugdha Variyar   IST (Published)

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    The coronavirus outbreak has impacted every industry globally and startups in India are no aberration. Companies in sectors such as travel, ridesharing, co-working, among others are starting to feel a big stress from the dip in consumer sentiment due to fast-spreading virus, which the World Health Organisation recently declared a pandemic. 

    The coronavirus outbreak has impacted every industry globally and startups in India are no aberration. Companies in sectors such as travel, ridesharing, co-working, among others are starting to feel a big stress from the dip in consumer sentiment due to fast-spreading virus, which the World Health Organisation recently declared a pandemic.
    But the virus has also brought glad tidings to a couple of sectors in the country. E-pharmacies and online groceries are seeing a big jump in demand owing to increased buying of essentials across cities as people fear store closures in the near future in line with shutting of schools, cinemas and gyms in major India metropolises.
    Here is a quick rundown of how various sectors are dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.
    Ridesharing
    With several state governments such as Karnataka and Maharashtra asking companies to let employees work from home, and with a number of companies voluntarily asking their employees to work remotely, ridesharing platforms such as Uber and Ola are seeing a significant dip in demand for cab rides. The takers for the apps’ pool services have seen the biggest drop.
    According to Sanjay Kothari of consultancy firm Redseer, there has been a 20 percent drop in demand for cabs on the ride-hailing platforms across the top seven cities between March 1 and March 12.
    “The fall in demand in these metros has led to a 10 percent decline in the number of car rides that the platforms are seeing every day,” he told CNBC-TV18. The difference in the drop in demand and in actual rides is owing to multiple cab requests for one cab in a location, he added.
    According to Redseer, the top seven metros on an average see 1.7 million rides per day through Uber and Ola, and 2.25 million rides per day pan-India.
    Ola and Uber did not respond to queries.
    Online grocers
     Online grocery platforms such as BigBasket and Grofers have seen demand double in the last few days owing to customers looking to stock essential items.
    BigBasket said it has seen a two-time growth in traffic and revenue over recent days, while basket value has increased by 15-20 percent.
    Grofers has also seen customers in metros resort to what it calls “panic buying”.
    “In the last couple of days we have seen what we may call panic buying across a number of cities and categories. Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune and Ahmedabad have seen a higher surge with nearly 80 percent growth followed by Delhi NCR and Hyderabad at about 60 percent spike in business. We have seen a rise in both the number of orders (45 percent) as well as order value (18 percent),” Grofers said in a statement.
    The surge in demand has also led to pressure on supply chains for these platforms, thus affecting on-time deliveries.
    “Although we faced some disruption in the last three days, we have taken corrective action and have geared up for supplies to meet the increased demand. Increased demand is in essentials such as staples, atta and dal, fruits, and vegetables we are in control because the predominant share is from our private label products,” BigBasket said in a statement.
    “We will face some constraints for a few more days because it takes time to build capacity in terms of storage, delivery fleet, and people. Our teams are working hard to streamline this and we will be back on track very soon,” the company added.
    On Grofers, personal hygiene category has seen the biggest surge (sanitizers up by 400 percent, handwashes 120 percent, soaps 70 percent) followed by floor cleaners. Healthy consumables such as honey and ayurvedic products such as chyawanprash have seen a growth of 60 percent. Disposable categories such as toilet paper, tissues and wet wipes have registered high demand.
    “Lately, we are also seeing panic buying and hoarding of essential commodities like atta, sugar, pulses and rice,” the company added.
    To ensure availability and access to critical goods, Grofers said it is working with more manufacturing partners to scale supply to meet increased demand, while requesting customers to opt for considerate shopping so that shelves remain stocked for everyone.
    “A lot of people are trying to game the system to acquire items and Grofers is working proactively to block them and make sure essential supplies are available to all our genuine customers,” Grofers added.
    Co-working spaces:
    Another sector that is facing the brunt of employees working from home is the mushrooming co-working business.
    “Overall, co-working spaces have reportedly noted a drop of about 15-20 percent in footfall, but this phenomenon is also highly regional. In cities with fewer coronavirus cases, it is bound to be lower, while in the identified ‘hot zones’, it will be higher,” said Santhosh Kumar, vice-chairman, Anarock Property Consultants.
    “Since a lot of member companies have given an option to their employees to work from home, we have experienced a drop in footfall at our spaces. However, it is business as usual for us in India and we will continue to monitor this situation further,” WeWork India said in a statement.
    Co-working spaces are also taking the extra step to ensure protection of members who do turn up at their centres.
    “All WeWork locations are subject to increased daytime cleaning and regular sanitation of common touch points. We have also temporarily suspended all events in the common areas across our locations until further notice,” WeWork India said.
    “Co-working is a local phenomenon. As such, unless the government mandates the closure of all workplaces, their operations remain discretionary. However, many companies are now offering - and some insist on - working from home. If things spin further out of control, we may see some co-working hubs in deeply-affected cities going into temporary suspended animation,” Anarock’s Kumar added.
    Online pharmacies:
    The trend of increased buying has been particularly drastic when it comes to hand sanitizers and medical masks, which have gone out of stock across medical stores, prompting the government to also declare them as essential commodities.
    “We have been seeing a big surge in demand for masks and hand sanitizers over the past few weeks. Several people are also opting for online doctor consultations, even for a fever,” said Prashant Tandon, CEO of online pharmacy 1mg.
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