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Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Apps rethink services to make life easier amid lockdown woes

Apps like PhonePe, Zomato, Dunzo are now delivering groceries, medicines to the doorstep

On 14 April, the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended the countrywide lockdown by 19 days, payments app PhonePe introduced a new section called “Stores",where users can order groceries from neighbourhood shops.

The section has a home delivery filter, which lets users find the nearest stores on the platform and order groceries from the same. “During the lockdown, customers want to know which shops are actually open and home delivering. We have solved for this by introducing two filters in the Stores section — ‘currently operational’ and ‘home delivery’. We keep this information updated as the situation is changing dynamically," said Vivek Lohcheb, vice president, offline business development, PhonePe. Due to PhonePe’s underlying payments platform, customers can make payments directly from the app as well.

PhonePe isn’t the only popular app looking to deliver essential services though. The strict lockdown has left apps and services in the dark as only essential services are allowed to operate. As a result, popular apps and services have been forced to rethink their operations, bringing essential services like grocery delivery, medicines and more into the fold.

Amazon Now, Flipkart, Grofers and Big Basket are the go-to names when it comes to online grocery delivery. However, these services have buckled under increased demand, with many consumers finding long delivery schedules or items out of stock.

The alternatives come in the form of services like Swiggy and Zomato, which have so far operated in the food delivery space. Like their usual restaurant partnerships, these two have partnered with local kirana stores, allowing customers to order daily essentials delivered by their riders. Swiggy has also partnered with brands like Hindustan Unilever Ltd, P&G India, Godrej Consumer Products, Dabur India and more to enable delivery of food items and essentials. Even Domino’s, one of the most popular pizza chains in the world, has started delivering certain groceries. Jubilant FoodWorks, the company that holds the master franchise for the pizza chain, has partnered with ITC Foods to enable the service in Noida, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad.

“We will use the Domino’s supply chain and delivery network to deliver essential goods such as Aashirvaad Atta, spices etc. at people’s doorstep," Pratik Pota, chief executive officer and whole-time director of Jubilant Foodworks, said in a press release.

Similarly, hyperlocal task-based service, Dunzo, has partnered with Britannia, Cipla and Marico to deliver medicines and groceries directly from those companies’ distribution centres. While grocery and medicine delivery remains a popular addition, there are also other changes that apps are making. Newspaper delivery is among the worst hit due to the pandemic because of unfounded rumours about the virus’s spread through newspaper handling. To plug the gap, many are turning to epapers to read the news.

For the same, apps like Paytm can come in handy. The company is giving users free access to various e-papers through its app. The feature is available on both Android and iOS devices.

Gated community monitoring app, MyGate, has also tied up with 16 newspapers in 17 cities. People living in colonies that MyGate has partnered with can use the app to read their daily e-papers. In the transport space, Uber and Ola have both started providing cars for emergency services. While Ola Emergency allows citizens to travel to hospitals mapped on the service, Uber Medic is meant for healthcare workers to travel between their workplaces and home. Cars on Uber Medic have “roof-to-floor plastic sheeting" which forms a barrier between the driver and passenger.

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