COVID impact: Goyal hears out ecommerce CEOs

BENGALURU: Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, on Thursday interacted with a group of chief executives from ecommerce, food delivery, cash and carry, and logistics companies over video conferencing to understand the issues they were facing, before passing on his recommendations to the home ministry.

Over the past five days, ecommerce companies have seen their business slow to a crawl as they grapple with local authorities indiscriminately shutting down operations, despite a notification by the central government including ecommerce as an essential service during the ongoing lockdown.

The meeting was attended by Flipkart CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy, Amazon India Head Amit Agarwal, Snapdeal’s Kunal Bahl, apart from representatives from Swiggy, Zomato, Delhivery, NetMeds, Udaan, Walmart, Metro Cash and Carry and DHL, among others. “The purpose of the call was to speak to a few players, understand how they’re looking at the situation, make an assessment and pass it on to the Ministry of Home Affairs,” said a person aware of the matter.

Ecommerce firms raised concerns around labour shortages, sought for an expedited channel for trucks to get into states, asked for a way in which the government could issue passes for their staff electronically and a uniform list of items that could be delivered by them rather than having several different lists at state levels.

One of the major concerns that they raised was differentiation of essential versus non-essential items by the government, which meant not delivering a lot of products that consumers wanted.

The industry leaders pointed out that a way should be found for sellers on marketplaces to function during the lockdown. “The minister was of the view that we should trust the people and companies to deliver essentials, rather than having the authorities pointing out what can be delivered and what cannot,” a person who attended the meeting told ET.

“He is of the belief that discretionary spending is just not there, so people are going to be buying only essentials.”


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