The availability of modern communication facilities during the restrictions of social distance imposed to check the spread of coronavirus have resulted in proliferation of online shopping and home delivery services in the country.
Many people are earning millions of rupees by providing the services from their homes and offices.
The social and economic activities have been extremely limited to save the people from contracting the virus. The Punjab government shut down economic activities across the province ahead of the Eid. After facing difficulties in visiting the markets, many people found a solution in online shopping.
With online shopping booming, the big multinational companies as well as tailors, barbers, butchers, automobile painters and mechanics have launched home services.
In view of the festive season, free home delivery of henna, bangles and make-up items has also been started.
The companies are using mobile apps or WhatsApp groups for selling their products. Especially readymade garments, cloth and matching shoes, jewellery and make-up kits are being delivered to people's doorsteps.
According to market reports, the sale of cloth has been the highest during the current month, followed by readymade garments of national and multinational brands, including those for children and men. The products are mostly selected and ordered through websites.
Beauticians also offered online booking for home service as the beauty parlors were closed. The bookings were available through WhatsApp and phone call.
However, the charges for sending the teams to the addresses given by the clients at the booked time were higher than the rates normally charged at the salons.
A beautician said the people readily paid the higher charges because of the convenience and lack of the option to visit the outlets. She said some people preferred to send their own cars to pick the staff to save time.
Another major sector of online trade is groceries, fruit, vegetables, meat, bread and eggs. Food delivery through online orders is also continuing on a large scale.
Many people have also involved their children and other relatives in delivering their products at a limited scale after receiving the orders on phone. Thus they do not require smartphone, internet connections and knowhow about using them to avoid discontinuation of their income during the shutdown of markets.
According to Hanif, a resident of Johar Pul area, he is illiterate and he produces bangles, shoes, colorful hair catchers and small scarfs for children and adults. He also does not have a smartphone, but he has started the work from his home. People call him by phone and tell the size of bangles and shoes. He gives his children three or four designs of the items to take to the buyer on a motorbike. The customer chooses the items and makes the payment at his home.
However, the buyers missed the traditional attraction of going from one shop to another and then arguing over the prices
On the other hand, the Federal Investigation Agency's (FIA) Cybercrime Wing is also receiving complaints from online buyers of not receiving the ordered products. The complainants said they paid the price of clothes and shoes through credit card but didn't get the ordered items. Some complainants also said the riders brought products of different brands than those ordered.
An official said action would be taken regarding the complaints after the Eid.
On the other hand, some shopkeepers in Lahore shifted their businesses to their homes after the markets were closed. Some also displayed their products on motorcycles or rickshaws in front of closed shops for sale.
People who could not shop online opted for such stalls.
Meanwhile, officials of the departments concerned started patrolling the major markets with the help of the army to strictly enforce the coronavirus prevention standard operating procedures (SOPs) and action was also taken against those who did not follow the law.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 13th, 2021.