INDIA: Online shopping firms like Flipkart, Amazon, Snapdeal and many others will resume selling “non-essential” items to customers in India from April 20, weeks after the nationwide lockdown that has cost e-commerce companies more than a billion dollars in sales. Non-essential items account for more than 65% of GMV for online marketplaces, according to the market analysis.

India this week extended the nationwide lockdown, which began last month, to May 3, but the Ministry of Home Affairs has issued certain guidelines to provide relaxation to the industries on Thursday. 

“Digital economy is critical to the services sector and is important for national growth. Accordingly, e-commerce operations, operations of IT and IT enabled services, data and call centres for government activities, online teaching and distance learning are all permitted activities now,” the ministry said.

Online shopping firms stopped taking orders for non-essential items in India last month and processed orders only for grocery items, hygiene products and perishables amid the lockdown. 

After the recent announcement , the e-commerce companies are gearing themselves up to accept customers orders for non-essential items including smartphones and laptops starting next Tuesday. Spokespeople of Flipkart,  Amazon, Snapdeal and Paytm Mall confirmed that they will be complying with the new direction.

“We are now focussed on supporting the immediate need of consumers and also participating in the resumption of economic activity post the Ministry of Home Affairs notification. We are working closely with all our partners — brands, manufacturers, sellers, small businesses and local shops — helping them to offer the most needed products to customers. While we make sure that customers can safely shop from their homes, we will also continue to ensure safety of our delivery associates and our teams at our facilities,” an Amazon spokesperson said in India.

Governments across the world are trying to find the right balance between safety and convenience for their citizens. In many markets, Amazon has limited the variety of items it can fulfill for its customers. Interestingly, in France this week the company said it will appeal a similar order from the government.

“Allowing e-commerce firms to fully resume operations is a proactive decision that the government has taken to help businesses get back on track and generate consumer demand. Paytm Mall stands favorably poised to help merchants and connect stores with customers and in ensuring products are delivered home,” said Srinivas Mothey, Senior VP at Paytm Mall, in a statement.

But customers should still expect their deliveries to take longer than usual to reach them. An industry insider said the companies will likely struggle with finding enough delivery staff for another few weeks and not all businesses would be proactively operational to process the orders.

Snapdeal  said it will resume orders and deliveries across “all categories.” “We will start first with the delivery of orders that were received but could not be delivered to the buyers due to the imposition of the lockdown,” the spokesperson added.

Paytm Mall & Flipkart said they are working with several logistics companies to service the increasing demands from customers. “Through these efforts, we are empowering the seller community to further e-commerce’s efforts in promoting social distancing and enabling contactless deliveries for consumers. We are continuously working to ensure that customers have access to products, as India fights this unprecedented battle,” a Flipkart spokesperson said.