E-tailers fret over Maharahtra’s ‘essential’ products rule

BENGALURU: It’s deja vu for ecommerce platforms in Maharashtra. The state’s decision to allow e-commerce deliveries only for essential products has triggered concerns among e-tailers over challenges of following the guidelines.
Industry executives said this is reminiscent of last year’s lockdown across India when the definition of ‘essentials’ changed quickly as people stayed home and worked from their houses. Maharashtra is one of the largest e-commerce markets in India, particularly due to the capital Mumbai.
Typically, groceries, medicines and food are considered essentials for online deliveries. But e-commerce platforms had seen surge in demand for work-from-home equipment, personal care, home and kitchen appliances as consumers spent more time online and indoors during the lockdown last year.
“Allowing essentials only is a massive execution problem. The definition of essential changes from one consumer to the other. This could get very difficult,” a senior e-commerce executive said. At least two other industry executives echoed the same.
Last year, e-tailers also had to make a large set of products — those that were not considered ‘essential’ — unavailable on their platforms when consumers tried buying them.
In an interview with TOI in May last year, Amazon India head Amit Agarwal had said the characterisation of ‘essentials’ is “very ad-hoc” and that it changes from customer to customer. He had said it’s best to let a consumer decide what’s essential.
Spokespeople of Amazon India and Flipkart did not have immediate comments on the matter on Tuesday night.

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