E-Tailers Urge The Centre To Expand The List Of Essential Items

Items like kitchenware and small kitchen appliances, personal hygiene items, innerwear, work from home essentials like phones, laptops, and accessories, are being demanded to be included in the category

The coronavirus has unearthed tough challenges. With the lockdown, the people are panicking and struggling to gather essentials. Although e-commerce firms are exempted from the lockdown, online players are now urging the government to expand the list of essential category.

As most of the employees working from home, other items are in need besides the essential category. Many e-commerce firms have notified that they have been getting demands on electronics, etc. E-commerce platform Paytm Mall agrees the ambit of essential goods should be increased and shared: “Laptops, mobile phones, and accessories, computer hardware, webcams should be allowed to be part of essential goods. If the lockdown continues, lack of proper technical support would hinder the efficiency of employees, which in turn, would affect a company’s operations.

Similarly, industry body Nasscom has requested the government to expand the list of essential items to include products like laptops and routers to facilitate work from home amid the lockdown. In a recent tweet Nasscom said: “With most of us working/learning from home, access to basic equipment is absolutely critical. Urging the government to consider basic requirements like office chairs, routers, laptops/desktops, etc. as essentials for #ecommerce deliveries.” A huge number of people in IT-BPM companies have been working from home to ensure business continuity.

E-tailer giant Amazon has disabled shipments for lower priority products and is using logistics capacity to deliver critical products like household staples, packaged food, healthcare, hygiene, personal safety products. It has also mentioned that due to ongoing coronavirus crisis, its operations are impacted in the short run and it is working to resolve the same. Even though, the company didn’t share any comment on the government’s move to exempt e-commerce for the supply of essential items.

On the other hand, e-commerce company Shopclues stated that “if we don’t expand what’s included in the essential goods, it could be counterproductive at the time”. A Shopclues spokesperson shared: “It is important that besides food, groceries, and medicine, we should also ensure supply of other critical items like kitchenware and small kitchen appliances, personal hygiene items, innerwear, work from home essentials like phones, laptops, and accessories, etc.”

The home ministry, on 16 April, allowed e-commerce firms to also deliver non-essential items such as electronic goods, stationery and readymade garments, but then on 19 April, it rolled back its decision and said non-essential items will continue to be prohibited during the lockdown period till May 3.

While excluding e-commerce from the list of items to be allowed to operate after April 20, the ministry has clarified that deliveries of essential items will be allowed as before. It has requested state governments to ensure free movement and operation of the entire supply chain for essential items to be delivered through e-commerce channels.

The Retailers Association of India (RAI) appreciated the government’s earlier order of allowing non-essential delivery by e-commerce firms but asked the same to extend to all forms of home delivery across retailers. “The widening of the essential product categories will help support the government’s steps to ensure the safety of its people, while also enabling movement of goods required for economic activity,” the RAI states in a recent statement.

Moreover, several retailer industry bodies have been asking to allow retail shops to function with proper preventive measures. The All India Mobile Retailers Association (AIMRA) had appealed the government to allow local mobile shops to function (using proper preventive guidelines), pointing that the heightened usage of mobile phones has many to be malfunctioning or stopped functioning. The AIMRA stated that it would take at least 10-12 months for retailers to bounce back after the lockdown.

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