For Sukumaran, a 34-year-old delivery man at a neighbourhood grocery store in Bengaluru, the last few days were the busiest he has ever seen. “Phone orders just didn’t stop as most regular customers avoided coming to the store on Coronavirus fears,” he said. “Items vanished from shelves due to panic-buying. Many were ordering groceries in bulk.”
Indrani Gupta, 43, who runs a beauty salon in Kolkata, said people are hoarding essential items which has led to a surge in demand. Online deliveries are taking longer, too. “On March 18, when I placed an online order for groceries from BigBasket, the app showed a delivery date for Monday, March 23, a five-day delivery period due to rise in demand, the app notified. Typically we get orders within a day,” said Gupta.
As consumers use online shopping to avoid going out, offline and online grocery stores, and large e-commerce players have witnessed a sudden spurt in demand in the last one week. Online grocery store BigBasket says that it has witnessed a 2x growth in traffic on its platform and revenue, while its basket value has seen an increase of 15-20% after the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.
Albinder Dhindsa, co-founder & CEO, Grofers, says the company is seeing panic-buying among consumers across states in large quantities. Grofers saw a rise of 65% in the number of orders and 20% in order value across India. The sale of floor cleaners and personal hygiene products almost doubled, while groceries and staples saw a rise of 74% in sales across the country, compared to the previous month.
"We are taking a hard approach to hoarding of essential commodities. To ensure the supplies to genuine customers, we are proactively blocking people who are trying to game the system to acquire items,” says Dhindsa. The company has also discontinued promotions for essential commodities, while excessive buying or multiple orders to bypass inventory limits can lead to order cancellations on the platform, according to Grofers.
India witnessed a record jump in the total number of Covid-19 cases as 63 new cases were confirmed on Friday. At present, there are 258 cases in India. Of these, 219 are Indians and 39 are foreign nationals. The death toll rose to four this week.
“As Covid-19 has spread, we’ve recently seen an increase in people shopping online. In the short term, this is having an impact on how we serve our customers. In particular, you will notice that we are currently out of stock on some popular brands and items, especially in household staples categories. You will also notice that some of our delivery promises are longer than usual. We are working around the clock with our selling partners to ensure availability on all of our products, and bring on additional capacity to deliver all of your orders,” Amazon said in a blog post.
Earlier this week Amazon.com Inc. said that it plans to hire an additional 100,000 employees in the U.S. as warehouse and delivery workers to deal with the rise in online orders amid the Coronavirus outbreak. However, Amazon India didn’t talk about any plans to hire more people in the country.
E-commerce company Snapdeal pointed out that the early phase of demand surge on the platform was driven by masks and sanitisers, where sales volumes spiked 80-100 times over two weeks. Currently for Snapdeal, high-demand items on its platform includes: floor cleaners, microfiber dusters, surface cleaning liquids, towel sets, and others.
“We are now seeing broader growth across categories as users shift offline purchases online in order to minimise external visits. Unusually strong demand for fashion especially summer products like t-shirts, shorts, jeans, dresses, sandals is one such example,” said a Snapdeal spokesperson in an email response to Fortune India. the company said it has also seen a rise of 50% in discretionary purchases for products like LED bulbs, portable fans, hair trimmers, and manicure/pedicure sets.
BigBasket points out that it is not facing shortages in FMCG branded products except in the case of sanitisers. “We will face some constraints for a few more days [in terms of delayed delivery] because it takes time to build capacity in terms of storage, delivery fleet and people,” the online grocery store said in a statement.
Amazon is ensuring that no one on its platform artificially raises prices on basic need products. “We actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policy,” it noted in the blog post.
Mumbai-based digitisation platform m.Paani points out that over 75,000 grocery and daily goods retailers based in Indian metros (Mumbai, Delhi and Pune) have doubled their sales in the past 15 days. A majority of these retailers have set up online shops at m.Paani recently as their footfalls were falling gradually since the beginning of this month, and have recorded a 2x surge in home deliveries.
Rajesh Dahiya, owner of Kamal Stores in Mumbai, who has recently set up an online store on m.Paani said, “We sustain on daily earnings, and I was worried about losing all my business due to Corona scare. I was told about m.Paani by a friend, and set up & introduced my online shop through whatsapp to customers. In the past 15 days, my business has grown 3x.”
m.Paani, a hyperlocal platform, enables local retailers to go online and digitise their consumer relationships. m.Paani adds that currently most sold items on its platform include key staples, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, Maggi and soap bars, followed by biscuits and snacks.