India’s government had assured e-commerce companies that their operations would not be disrupted amid a nationwide lockdown to fight the coronavirus, but most are facing crippling disruptions after just three days, sources familiar with the matter said on Friday.
Local issues such as differing state and district level regulations are hindering operations, the four sources, who asked not to be identified, said. In some cases, for example, it has been difficult for e-commerce firms to get curfew passes for their delivery people.
The 21-day lockdown began on Wednesday.
Industry executives say local authorities have not uniformly followed guidelines and stopped delivery staff and company warehouses from operating.
Most of Amazon.com Inc’s 60 plus fulfilment centres in India were shut, with the company still in talks with state authorities to swiftly reopen warehouses, three sources familiar with the situation said.
“It’s worse than one can think,” said one of the sources.
A second source said only a “miniscule” number of Amazon warehouses were operational in the country, citing it as a key reason for disruptions. Even when operations do begin to partially normalize amid the lockdown, it will only be in major cities, the source added.
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The large-scale disruptions highlight the implementation woes faced in ensuring the supply of essential goods to 1.3 billion people during the nationwide shutdown. India has reported 724 cases of infection so far, and 17 deaths.
Several users in India sought help from Amazon on Twitter about ordering essential items, and the company responded saying it was unable to deliver due to local restrictions.
“There are clear guidelines provided by Government to enable essential services, and so we are working with the relevant authorities to ensure we are able to operate,” it tweeted.
On Thursday, trade minister Piyush Goyal held a meeting with e-commerce executives, and said later the government was “committed to ensuring that essential goods reach the people.”
Walmart-owned Flipkart, has also been hit by the shutdown. While some grocery items appeared available from its site on Friday for delivery in New Delhi, it was not clear how far its operations remained disrupted, as the same were not on offer in Mumbai.
One source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Friday that Flipkart had been able to reopen grocery warehouses, even as its other warehouses remain shut.
Flipkart did not immediately respond to a request for comment.