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Amazon, Flipkart, Ola and Uber begin to resume their services in India

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Image Credits: Pradeep Gaur/Mint / Getty Images

E-commerce firms Amazon and Walmart’s Flipkart, and ride-hailing giants Ola and Uber are partially resuming their services in India after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government eased some restrictions late last week to revive economic activity that’s been stalled since the stringent stay-at-home orders were imposed across the nation in late March.

The companies said in their statements that they were resuming services in green and orange zones, districts that have seen less severe outbreak of the coronavirus, across the country. Green and orange zones account for 82% of India’s 733 districts. (See update below)

Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal, and Paytm Mall have resumed accepting — and delivering — orders containing non-essential items (the government has classified essential items as grocery and hygiene products), and Uber and Ola will resume their cab rides in the green and orange zones.

Those living in the red zone — the area that is most impacted by the coronavirus outbreak — will continue to be bereft of the aforementioned firms’ extended services, the companies said. There are 130 districts in India that have been labelled as red. (You can read the full list here.)

All of these firms are also taking additional precautions to ensure safety of their delivery and driver partners and that of customers, they said.

Even those living in orange and green zones might be deprived of the extended services as some state governments in India have imposed stricter rules than the federal government and are imposing their own guidelines locally.

Additionally, Ola and Uber can’t take their passengers to red zones, and Flipkart and Amazon expect to face disruptions as some of their sellers and warehouses are located in the red zone.

India, which introduced the nationwide lockdown in late March, has extended its lockdown by two weeks from May 4 but relaxed some restrictions. The March’s order forced Ola and Uber to suspend much of their services, and Amazon and Flipkart rushed to only serve orders with essential items.

Last month, New Delhi said it would allow e-commerce firms to resume to their full capacity, but it later withdrew the direction after local retail bodies expressed concerns that the move would create a competitive disadvantage for brick and mortar stores.

Research firm Forrester told TechCrunch last month that e-commerce firms had lost more than $1 billion in potential sales in the first three weeks of the lockdown.

The coronavirus outbreak has severely disrupted several businesses. India, the world’s second largest smartphone market, did not see any handset sale last month, according to research firm Counterpoint. Smartphone units are also going back on sale in green and orange zones across the country starting today.

In a call with reporters on Monday, Manu Kumar Jain, a VP at Xiaomi and head of the Chinese smartphone maker’s India business, said more than 60% of the firm’s physical retail shops reside in green and orange zones and those should be operational soon, too.

The company is hopeful that smartphone factories will resume full operations by June, he said. Muralikrishnan B, chief operating officer of Xiaomi India, said the company currently had inventory to service demand for three to four weeks.

The company, which has been the top smartphone vendor in India for more than two years, is providing capital to its offline retail partners in India, said Jain.

Some activities such as travel by air, rail and subways remain prohibited throughout the country — regardless of the zone. Schools and colleges, restaurants, shopping malls, cinema theaters also remain closed.

Updated at 12:00PM May 18 (IST): Amazon, Flipkart and other e-commerce firms have started to accept orders of non-essential items in red zone, too, a day after the federal government further eased some restrictions.

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