Under the first phase of the nationwide lockdown between March 24-April 14, the government had only allowed delivery of essential goods through e-commerce platforms.
Industry body Nasscom has urged the government to expand the list of essential items to include products like laptops and routers to facilitate work from home amid the lockdown.
Four days after allowing e-commerce firms to also deliver non-essential items such as electronic goods and readymade garments, the government on Sunday said non-essential items will continue to be prohibited during the lockdown period till May 3.
“With most of us working/learning from home, access to basic equipment is absolutely critical. Urge govt to consider basic requirements like office chairs, routers, laptops/desktops etc as essentials for #ecommerce deliveries,” Nasscom said in a tweet.
Nasscom had suggested IT companies that they bring back employees on work premises in a phased manner, starting with 15-20 per cent of workforce, even as the guidelines issued by the Home Ministry had allowed IT and IT-enabled services to operate with up to 50 per cent strength.
A significant number of people in IT-BPM companies have been working from home to ensure business continuity.
Nasscom President Debjani Ghosh had also, on Sunday, tweeted that the decision could have been “better thought through”.
“This could have been better thought through… a lot of the eCommerce cos have invested in planning for the 20th. And most don’t have deep pockets to handle these kinds of reversal in decisions. The focus, I feel, should have been on ensuring adequate safety protocols,” she had said.
Under the first phase of the nationwide lockdown between March 24-April 14, the government had only allowed delivery of essential goods through e-commerce platforms. On April 16, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued fresh guidelines for the current lockdown, allowing all e-commerce deliveries and movement of trucks, followed by some states such as Maharashtra, Odisha and Rajasthan also issuing similar notifications.
However, on Sunday, the home ministry issued an order saying the following clause — “E-commerce companies. Vehicles used by e-commerce operators will be allowed to ply with necessary permissions” — is excluded from the guidelines issued.
The government’s U-turn on home delivery of non-essential items will leave consumers disappointed, the world’s largest online retailer Amazon had said, even as the decision was welcomed by local kirana store body CAIT that had called it the “most pragmatic”.
Stating that it will continue to follow the guidelines and deliver essential products, Amazin India had expressed hope that “this situation is rectified soon so that the urgent need of consumers is met and that there is revival of economic activity”.
Players like Paytm Mall have also urged the government to expand the ambit of essential goods to include products like laptops and mobile phones to facilitate people working from home.
“Safety of fellow Indians is of utmost importance to us and, therefore, we support the government’s decision in spirit to limiting e-commerce operations to essentials. However, we believe that the ambit of essential goods should be increased,” Paytm Mall Senior Vice-President Srinivas Mothey had said.
He had added that people in the country are mostly working from home at the moment but many are finding it difficult as they are running low on certain items necessary to effectively operate under the lockdown.
“Laptops, mobile phones, and accessories, computer hardware, webcams, all these things 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,” he had said.
Sanjay Sethi, CEO and co-founder of ShopClues, echoed similar sentiments. “It is imperative to expand the definition of ‘essential goods’. In fact, not doing so could be counterproductive at this time,” he had said.
While the entire nation is forced indoors and working from home for extended period, it is important that besides products like food, groceries and medicine, one also ensures supply of other critical items like small kitchen appliances, personal hygiene items, work from home essentials like phones, laptops and accessories, Sethi said.