An employee takes stock of stacked products at an Amazon warehouse in Bangalore. Photo: AFP

As the coronavirus outbreak is pushing more and more Indians to buy food and groceries online, some unscrupulous sellers on e-commerce platforms are jacking up prices.

India’s two e-commerce giants – Amazon and Flipkart – are working towards taking action against such sellers, the Business Standard reports.

The artificial price rises have hit kitchen staples and consumer sanitary products, which are now in short supply. Amazon claims it has already blocked thousands of products that were being sold above the stipulated maximum retail price, while the Walmart-owned Flipkart said it was removing products with fake claims and inflated prices on an ongoing basis. Flipkart claims it is urging sellers to exercise responsible pricing.

In many towns there has been a rush to stock up on essential commodities as authorities have advised people to stay home, and ordered the shutdown of schools, colleges, restaurants, malls and movie theaters, to prevent gatherings of people in large numbers.

Both companies are also working towards ensuring that essential items do not run out on their platforms. Flipkart has reportedly told its sellers to supply products such as hand sanitizers, gloves and masks on a priority basis to ensure their ready availability.

Amazon India too has some products in the household staples category which are out of stock as it has witnessed an increase in people shopping online due to the Covid-19 spread.

Online grocery retailers such as Bigbasket and Grofers also witnessed a spike in new customers and orders over the weekend due to the coronavirus. Consumers are stocking up on staples such as flour, rice and pulses, along with biscuits and frozen food. Personal care items such as soap, sanitizers and diapers are also flying off the shelves.

BigBasket claims that demand has doubled over the past few days across cities, with order values going up 20% on average. SoftBank-backed Grofers has reportedly registered an increase in demand of about 80% in Mumbai alone over the weekend while cities such as New Delhi and Bengaluru clocked an average 50% spike in the past two days, the Economic Times reports.

The unprecedented demand has led to delays, as the current number of delivery personnel are proving to be inadequate. From typical deliveries within one day, orders are now being delayed to 3-4 days.

These sites are now identifying and clamping down on those resorting to bulk buying. They are trying to ensure that essential commodities are available to genuine customers. Grofers has started implementing limits on sales of hand sanitizers and masks per order.

Retail stores ranging from high-end branded ones to neighborhood small stores are also witnessing a surge in sales. They are also taking measures to ensure an adequate supply of essential commodities that are in great demand.

The manufacturers of fast moving consumer goods have already increased their production and ramped up distribution to ensure the availability of hygiene products such as hand wash soaps and hand sanitizers on retail shelves. Companies such as ITC, Parle Products, Amul and Godrej Consumer are rushing stock to stores to ensure adequate supplies.