After temporarily suspending operations earlier in the day, Walmart-owned Flipkart will resume its grocery and essentials services after assurance of safe passage of its supply chain and delivery executives by local law enforcement authorities.

Amazon said it was working with government authorities to enable it to deliver essential items.

Flipkart, along with rival Amazon India's Pantry service, were suspended temporarily on Wednesday morning as India entered into a 21-day lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19 pandemic.

"We have been assured of the safe and smooth passage of our supply chain and delivery executives by local law enforcement authorities and are resuming our grocery and essentials services later today (Wednesday)," Flipkart Group CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy said in a statement.

He added that the company continues to strengthen its supply chain in a safe and secure manner for its employees and consumers alike, and will leverage its robust delivery network to make products available to customers across the country.

Similarly, a note on Amazon India's Pantry page said, "Dear customers, due to local restrictions, we are not able to deliver. We are working with the government authorities to enable us to deliver essential items. We will communicate through e-mail/SMS when we have an update."

It also offered customers the option of cancelling their order.

E-commerce platforms have seen a manifold growth in orders on their platforms in India over the past few weeks as people logged online to stock up on food and household products as well as office items like routers and cables (to work from home) on concerns around spread of COVID-19 infection and restrictions in public movement that have now been enforced.

Snapdeal, in a statement, said it is operational and working regionwise to complete as many deliveries of essential goods to customers as possible as per local operating conditions.

"For the next few weeks, we will prioritise processing of essentials (orders relating to personal and home hygiene, safety, etc). We will continue to accept other orders too and are informing other buyers that these will be delivered once movement restrictions are lifted," it added.

Snapdeal said authorities in various cities, including Delhi, Gurugram and Bengaluru have discussed operating issues with various e-commerce companies.

"They have also started to roll out protocols which will allow essential operations to resume in a controlled manner," the statement added.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a complete lockdown across the country for 21 days, asserting that social distancing is the only way out for the country in its decisive battle against the coronavirus. More than 500 people have tested positive for coronavirus in India with around 10 deaths.

Interestingly, Amazon India had on Tuesday said it has temporarily stopped taking orders and disabled shipment of low-priority products as it focuses on delivery of essential items like household staples, hygiene and other high-priority products.

E-commerce players, including Amazon India and Milkbasket, have been facing disruption in delivery of even essential products to their customers.

The government, however, in its notification has allowed delivery of all essential goods including food, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment through e-commerce.

Industry watchers have said there is an urgent need for uniform classification of essential items across various states, and that instructions need to flow down clearly to the last mile, where the delivery agents are facing issues.

Industry experts also flagged challenges around movement of delivery personnel and staff, as well as interstate movement of goods amid lockdown across the country.

Ananth Narayanan, CEO and co-founder of Medlife, said one of its delivery personnel in Delhi was hit by the cops on the way back to the fulfilment centre.

"In the process he was injured and suffered bruises on his face and body. We now also have reports of similar incidents in Bangalore," he added.

Narayanan said the indiscriminate use of force against personnel delivering items specifically exempted by the government during the shutdown, will disrupt services.

"The essential services sector has to be free of harassment and violence. We request the state governments and concerned authorities to ensure that strict instructions are given to the police to permit delivery personnel with valid documentation perform their duties in these times of crisis," he said.

Some e-commerce players are also urging the government to expand the scope of essential products beyond food items and medicines to include other products, like cable and routers that may be required for customers who are working from home. PTI SR

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