India markets close in 20 minutes

Supply of essentials remains far from smooth

Asmita Dey

Almost a week after the government stepped in to ensure smooth provision of essentials to consumers during the lockdown, supply remains choked due to restricted movement of goods and lack of coordination on the ground.

Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general at the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), told FE that of the 1.25 crore (kirana) stores of essential commodities across the country, only about 25 to 30 lakh are operating.

A considerable proportion of vehicles (including trucks, three-wheelers) are off the road due to non-issuance of passes by local authorities. Wholesalers are facing trouble delivering shipments to retailers for the same reason. Khandelwal said traders and delivery personnel are finding it difficult to get passes issued by local authorities in New Delhi, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

Prashant Tandon, founder and CEO at 1mg Technologies, said a member associated with the firm's delivery team was beaten up in Delhi's Samaypur Badli on Wednesday. Although operations are gradually scaling up across the country, a few states are shutting down further, posing new challenges, Tandon said.

Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO at Retailers Association of India (RAI), said some consumers are resorting to panic-buying which may eventually lead to 'rationing' by stores. "Goods are flying off the shelves faster than they are getting stocked up. Issuing passes is still a problem," Rajagopalan said.

B2B start-up Jumbotail that provides storefront delivery of food and staples to kirana stores said the twin problems of factories, processing plants operating well below capacity and labour shortage across the supply chain, are crippling supplies. Availability of products like hand sanitisers, masks, drinking water cans (20 litres), eggs and dairy items are limited at retail stores due to delay in deliveries. "The perishable products get wasted if the delivery staff don't turn up. We are working with non-essential service providers to utilise their workforce and ramp up delivery capacity," co-founder and COO Ashish Jhina told FE.

Grofers said the company's warehouses are operational with 60% staff and to meet the surge in demand, the firm is hiring an additional 2,000 temporary warehouse and delivery staff across the country. Grofers has also opened the app for new orders, said Rohit Sharma, head, supply chain at the firm.

A spokesperson at Star Bazaar (Trent Hypermarket) said it is working closely with suppliers to "ensure shelves are stocked up". The company said it is operating all stores based on guidelines from the government and local authorities.

Amrinder Singh, director at Bonn Group of Industries that manufactures bakery products, said intra-state and inter-state movement of trucks is still a challenge and it is facing hurdles in moving raw materials as well. Domino's Pizza has said it has launched Domino's Essentials in partnership with ITC Foods to ensure supply of essentials to consumers. The service will allow customers to access grocery products offered by ITC Foods on the Domino's app and the products will be delivered to them by the Pizza brand's delivery partners. The service will be introduced first in Bengaluru, followed by Noida, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad, Domino's Pizza said on Thursday.