NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India’s coronavirus lockdown is disrupting e-commerce companies including Amazon and Flipkart, despite government assurances it would not, four sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Differing state and district level regulations relating to the 21-day lockdown, which began on Wednesday, are hindering operations, the sources said on Friday, with e-commerce firms finding it difficult to get curfew passes for delivery staff.
The disruptions highlight the difficulties of ensuring the supply of essential goods to 1.3 billion people during the shutdown in India, which has so far reported 724 cases of coronavirus and 17 deaths.
Most of Amazon's AMZN.O 60 plus fulfillment centers in India are shut and the U.S. company is in talks with state authorities to try to reopen them, three of the sources said.
Industry executives say local authorities have not followed guidelines, stopping deliveries and warehouses from operating.
“It’s worse than one can think,” one source said, while a second added that only a “miniscule” number of Amazon warehouses were operating, citing this as a key reason for disruptions.
Even when operations do begin to return to normal, it will only be in major cities, the second source added.
Amazon said in a statement that its top priority was to deliver the products which customers need the most and it was seeking urgent help from federal government and local authorities with detailed on-the-ground operating procedures.
In New Delhi, Amazon’s Pantry service was suspended and the delivery slot for essential goods, such as oil and soaps, was shown as being April 26.
“There are clear guidelines provided by Government to enable essential services, and so we are working with the relevant authorities to ensure we are able to operate,” Amazon said on Twitter in response to questions from users in India.
Indian trade minister Piyush Goyal held a meeting with e-commerce executives on Thursday and said the government was “committed to ensuring that essential goods reach the people”.
Walmart-owned WMT.N Flipkart has also been hit, with some grocery items which had been available earlier on Friday in New Delhi intermittently going out of stock.
A source familiar with the situation said Flipkart was facing challenges with last-mile delivery of goods once they leave its warehouse due to restrictions on movement.
Flipkart said in a statement it had resumed grocery operations and there was a significant spike in orders.
“We are enhancing capacity to meet the increase in customer requirements,” it said, adding it had received support from local and federal authorities.
Reporting by Aditya Kalra and Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by Euan Rocha, Kim Coghill, Mark Potter and Alexander Smith
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