The logo of e-commerce company Flipkart at its headquarters in Bangalore. Photo: AFP

For Indian e-commerce companies, the second wave of Covid-19 is proving to be a mixed bag. While they are seeing a spike in demand, they are facing logistical constraints due to localized lockdowns and manpower shortages with employees becoming sick.

Senior executives in the industry claim the demand for groceries, sanitizers and masks, books, consumer electronics and appliances has gone up in the past few weeks across various parts of the country, the Press Trust of India reported.

In markets that are adversely affected by the second wave, the demand has gone up by 60%. As for products, the demand for packaged foods has risen nearly 80%, frozen foods (500%) and packaged milk and milk products (150%), they added.

While some state governments have announced lockdowns, the lack of uniformity in rules is proving to be a challenge to e-commerce companies. Unlike last year, the federal government let the respective state governments take a call on categorizing essential and non-essential goods, and which companies will be allowed to sell.

For instance in Karnataka state, which imposed a fortnight-long lockdown on April 27, local authorities have allowed e-commerce deliveries across all product categories, but other states like Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have allowed only essential products such as groceries, medicines and food.

Even the definition of essential products varies from state to state.

Companies now plan in a localized way on how to deal with the challenge. They are also struggling to fulfill their enhanced order books. Walmart-owned Flipkart claimed it is hiring more people. However, unlike last year, supply chains have not been disrupted and e-commerce logistics have not seen a massive impact.

With a rapid spike in Covid-19 across the country, e-commerce companies are taking measures to keep their staff and consumers safe. They are carrying out regular testing of their staff and ensuring they follow safety protocols such as masks and social distancing while carrying out deliveries to customers.

However, despite these measures, the companies are facing a manpower crunch as some employees have either contracted the virus or their family members have been infected.

Food delivery platform Zomato claims 20% of its employees either have Covid-19 or are caring for a coronavirus patient in their household. Some have also left for their hometowns as they fear the lockdowns may lead to more uncertainties like job losses.