Retailers and e-commerce firms hire more, expand home delivery for business after lockdown

KOLKATA/BENGALURU: India’s leading retailers, e-commerce firms and restaurants said they are bracing up for a surge in home deliveries and online sales for next six months since consumers are unlikely to step out of their homes for shopping in fear of catching the Covid-19 virus. This includes fresh hiring of delivery personnel, training existing store staff for e-commerce business and building more warehouses.

Walmart-owned Flipkart is undertaking fresh hiring of 4,000 people, Spencer‘s Retail 1,000, two senior industry executives said. Reliance Retail and Arvind Fashion are building their processes for a surge in e-commerce and phone orders, and training manpower for that.

Mobile phone retail body, All India Mobile Retailers Association (AIMRA) has asked all the 1.5 lakh cellphone stores across India to be ready for post Covid-19 lockdown by grooming manpower for home demonstration and sales of smartphones, its president Arvinder Khurana said.

Consumer electronics retailers like Vijay Sales, Kohinoor and Great Eastern Retail too are preparing accordingly which includes creating e-commerce portals, retraining existing staff, video-call demonstrations and phone booking.

“Out-of-store delivery business has emerged as the preferred route for consumers and could be sizeable for some time post the lockdown,” said Spencer’s Retail and Nature’s Basket MD Devendra Chawla. “We anticipated and trained our store staff towards contactless safe delivery and adding manpower at front-end for delivery,” he said.

Flipkart will be ramping up manpower as it has taken live its essentials delivery to 300 cities from just five earlier to gear up for surge in deliveries of staples and FMCG products which hitherto was a small contributor of around 3-4% of sales, a senior industry executive said. An email sent remained unanswered.

Retailers said the partnerships created for delivery of essentials with delivery fleet operators like Uber, Swiggy, Zomato, Rapido and Zypp will continue post the lock-down and could be expanded for other products like smartphones and apparel.

E-grocers like Grofers and Big Basket have already announced hiring of over 12,000 people for frontline roles. Grofers CEO Albinder Dhindsa said the company will further scale up manpower and warehouses.

”We are already seeing 8-10 times more demand than we can serve right now,” he said.

Fine dining chain Speciality Restaurants, which operates outlets like Mainland China and Oh! Calcutta, is setting up a separate business vertical for takeaways and home delivery. “We will work with aggregators. Revenue will be certainly less than dining-in as consumers will continue to remain cautious in venturing out,” said founder Anjan Chatterjee.

Arvind Fashion that sells brands like Gap, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and US Polo Assn said it is training its brick-and-mortar store staff for online sales and home deliveries since it is bound to increase this year. Retailers are also working on home-trials of apparel before purchases and easier return norms since in-store trials before purchase will not be possible.

“The six month period starting from July will be critical as store walk-ins will undoubtedly not be normal. Since walk-ins will be less, our offline store staff will be utilized in quicker packaging for home delivery through our logistics partners,” said CEO J Suresh.

The Centre has indicated that there will be a staggered opening up of the economy post lockdown and restrictions will be remain for shops and malls, and probably only deliveries will be allowed from restaurants for the moment while worst affected areas will remain under lockdown.

AIMRA is developing a training module for shop-floor staff to undertake home demonstrations and deliveries of cellphones. Mumbai’s leading electronics chain Kohinoor is going to expand its 250-people delivery force by 30% and provide them with personal hygiene gear as it is gearing up for e-commerce business. Great Eastern too is building up such capabilities keeping cost under mind.


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