Home / Opinion / Views /  Opinion | Doorstep delivery may become the norm in a post-coronavirus world

In her recent Twitter posts, a reporter covering the covid-19 crisis in China, particularly Wuhan, has spoken about consumer behaviour shifts even as the place emerges from a prolonged lockdown. She pointed out that people are cautious and no one is eating out though restaurants and malls have opened.

India is still a couple of weeks away from its lockdown being lifted. However, from how the experts see it, life in the post-covid-19 world may not be the same. How we shop is set to change. Both supply chain experts and e-commerce pundits are predicting a huge spike in online deliveries for food, groceries and all things essential. While people had taken to buying fashion and other goods online, grocery delivery was chugging along. That is expected to pick up pace.

The signs of this change are already visible. Shared micro-mobility service provider Yulu has partnered with several e-commerce and hyper-local delivery firms, such as BigBasket, Licious and Medlife, to ensure the supply of essential goods to people staying indoors, owing to the countrywide lockdown. It is utilizing its manpower and fleet of e- vehicles for the purpose with a pilot in Bengaluru.

In the last 10 days, a clutch of companies has tied up with various delivery services for the first time to carry essential goods to consumer homes. Food delivery apps, such as Swiggy and Zomato, have been at the forefront of this revised strategy. Zomato, which brings home food from restaurants and cloud kitchens, will now fetch your staples for you from the neighbourhood stores. Swiggy and Zomato have also signed up Marico Ltd to deliver its cooking oils and other products through their food delivery app. Britannia Industries has tied up with Dunzo app for doorstep delivery of its range of biscuits, croissants, ghee and dairy whitener. ITC, meanwhile, has partnered Domino’s Pizza app for its food products.

Clearly, these companies are anticipating a big surge in consumer demand for home delivery of products driving such collaborations and solutions.

Sreedhar Prasad, an independent e-commerce expert, believes that a large section of consumers will be hesitant to go to public places. “Home delivery of essentials will no longer be a choice but a given."

It is believed that adoption of new habits is faster under abnormal circumstances.

“So, at the moment, the adoption rate of home delivery is very high. Zomato, Swiggy, BigBasket and Grofers are benefiting without spending any marketing dollar. Unfortunately, right now, they are at a disadvantage as the supply is constrained," Prasad said.

Zomato has stepped up with Zomato Market. Experts say this is likely to continue, as it is a question of utilizing the infrastructure and the customer base it already has. Once trust is built, comes loyalty. “Why then would a consumer struggle to park his car or wait in billing and checkout queues at a retail store," said Prasad.

However, the business model of grocery retail may change. Many of these companies use their own warehouses at present. Now, they will increasingly integrate the neighbourhood stores for fetching goods for hyper-local delivery, Prasad said.

According to Easwaran P.S., partner and lead, supply chain, Deloitte India, delivery of essentials will see a disruption both on the consumer and company side. Until now, consumers were not very comfortable transacting for groceries online. “They valued the touch and feel of the produce. However, covid-19 will have a cascading effect. Every offline company will explore contactless delivery. Even the general trade (kirana) will look at this model."

Easwaran said that new collaborations started during this crisis will continue as one delivery app providing a plethora of services will capture both consumer wallet share and market share. Brands that deliver safety and hygiene will win.

Anil Talreja, partner, consumer business, Deloitte, admitted that there will be huge volatility in the e-commerce segment. “You will see fund raising, and mergers and acquisitions."

Existing players will expand portfolios. New partnerships and collaborations will be forged and new companies may spring up as e-commerce penetration is still low.

There will be challenges, too. It will be a cultural shift for consumers to become comfortable making online payments. Even physical infrastructure of roads for last-mile delivery is an issue, especially in small-town India.

Besides, broadband connectivity may be a hurdle as you go deep into the country, where these companies want to cast their net, Talreja said. However, the big city phenomenon will definitely see a surge in small-town India.

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff.

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