E-commerce platforms demand free movement in lockdown

Request aimed at facilitating masses by providing them with items of daily use

Usman Hanif April 02, 2020

KARACHI: The trend of online shopping in Pakistan has spiked following imposition of lockdowns in multiple cities to tackle the spread of coronavirus and some online platforms are now urging the government to facilitate them in smooth movement so they could serve the masses.

At times when authorities are sealing supermarkets for not following the directions laid by the government, online platforms have emerged as the best bet for consumers for swift supply of edible items.

Following almost two weeks of lockdown, a massive chunk of the society is now running out of groceries and other essential items of daily use which is triggering hardships for it.

“At such a time, shops that have online operations and other e-commerce companies in the country are experiencing an increase in the number of orders pertaining to various essential commodities and goods,” said Carrefour Pakistan Country Manager Jean Marc Dumont. “However, the platforms are unable to meet the orders due to prevailing lockdowns in different parts of the country.”

Carrefour, operated in Pakistan under Majid Al Futtaim group, recently introduced a mobile application which allows its customers to buy products from their homes. “Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Pakistan, online orders received through this application soared by 70% in one week which reflects a major change in customer preferences,” he said. “On the other hand, customers also prefer to use the service to avoid stepping out of their homes and risking their lives.”

Daraz, a subsidiary of Alibaba group, also saw a rise in online orders mainly in two categories ie DFresh, the department for fruits and vegetables and DMart, the department for other groceries, said Daraz Managing Director Ehsan Saya.

“We are making sure that our employees and delivery agents are strictly following protective measures recommended by the World Health Organization,” he said.

The provincial government has banned the logistic services which not only impacted the common man but also the businesses which provide online delivery services. In this regard, the Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT and ITES ([email protected]) has requested the government to allow courier companies and their essential staff to work all across Pakistan during the lockdown.

“Government should immediately notify all relevant law enforcement agencies (LEAs) and other federal and provincial authorities to allow e-commerce deliveries by third party logistic companies,” it urged.

The association has also devised a statement of purpose (SOP) on safety and hygienic measures for the workers and relevant stakeholders including shopping centres, e-commerce companies and 33 logistic companies.

[email protected] has assured that online shopping service providers and the logistics staff would adopt hygienic measures at every stage to prevent the spread of coronavirus at workplaces.

Over the years, e-commerce sector has evolved in Pakistan at a rapid pace and seen its market volume surge to Rs99 billion last year, according to data from the State Bank of Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 2nd, 2020.

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