Thursday, May 6, 2021

FMCG companies giving more importance to kiranas over ecommerce

Grocery orders could not be placed from several PIN codes on Amazon Fresh on Tuesday and remained unavailable till Thursday last week.

Large consumer goods companies selling essentials are prioritising stock replenishments at neighbourhood grocery stores over ecommerce as last-mile deliveries through online platforms are getting delayed because of Covid curbs.

“We are seeing a huge increase among consumers buying essentials from kirana grocery stores, with acceleration of Covid-19 cases causing delays in online deliveries,” said Mayank Shah, Category Head at Parle Products, the country’s largest biscuit maker. “Our immediate and core priority now is ensuring quick replenishment of stocks at the neighbourhood retail stores. All our energies are focused here, to meet increased demand for essentials.”

Grocery orders could not be placed from several PIN codes on Amazon Fresh on Tuesday and remained unavailable till Thursday last week.

“Sorry, delivery slots are currently full. We are working on increasing delivery capacity. Please check back later,” Amazon Fresh posted on its orders page. Online grocery supermarket BigBasket said on its homepage that deliveries may get delayed due to Covid-related restrictions on movement.

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Company executives said consumers shouldn’t start hoarding, adding that they are replenishing stocks of essentials as a top priority.

“We are ensuring immediate and enough supplies. The neighbourhood stores ensure that stocks are delivered to consumers, at a time when deliveries through ecommerce may be facing delays in impacted markets,” said Saugata Gupta, Managing Director, Marico India.

Delivery fleet shortage

Executives said the challenges are not on the policy side, with most state governments having ensured at least in notified guidelines that logistics, delivery and manufacturing of essentials aren’t halted, but on account of delivery fleet shortage, disruptions at distribution depots and supply chains with employees absent amid higher infections.

“Our supply chain and sales teams are working round the clock to ensure replenishment of channel partners and retailers in all markets,” said edible oil maker Cargill’s MD Piyush Patnaik. The maker of Nature Fresh, Sweekar and Leonardo olive oil said it’s aligning with market opening times in select markets, and that investment in capacity building in the supply chain is yielding “good results.”

While companies are prioritising the replenishment of neighbourhood stores to meet higher demand, executives said supplies to ecommerce platforms are also continuing in order to maintain brand visibility. “We are ensuring that last-mile deliveries are seamless and timely at neighbourhood grocery stores. At the same time, we are fulfilling supplies at ecommerce platforms for brand visibility and salience,” said Abhishek Sharma, President of Pladis, which makes McVitie’s cookies.

Delhi is the second big market after Maharashtra to announce that ecommerce platforms would be allowed to deliver only essentials including food, medicines and medical equipment during curfews. Maharashtra announced last week that all essential food purchases would be permitted for just four hours a day until May 1 but home delivery from shops would be allowed between 7 am and 8 pm.

Trade partners said supplies at kirana stores are being serviced consistently with more agile, shorter replenishment cycles as companies are applying learnings from last year.

“There are indicators of stocking increasing in kiranas versus the same period last month,” said Akshay D’Souza, Chief Marketing Officer at Mobisy Technologies, which owns kirana-focused sales automation company Bizom.

“Unlike last year’s lockdown, FMCG brands have managed to maintain strong production this time round, which is helping ensure uninterrupted supply of products. They have also maintained consistent distribution in kiranas.”

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