COVID-19 & eCommerce – Latest Updates on Shipping Non-Essential Items & More

India is currently facing challenging times owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. People are mostly staying indoors and trying to procure necessities, while there is a lot of speculation about the services that are active and restricted.

The eCommerce industry has seen a lot of twists and turns with regard to the operational updates. 

Finally, after several appeals from various segments, the MHA released an official guideline allowing the shipping of non-essential items in the Orange and Green Zones in the country. 

This update comes as a relief for many small and medium eCommerce businesses that were not able to ship non-essentials until now. We hope that they will be able to reach consumers faster and deliver better. 

Recent Update and Division of Zones

The government has specified these zones based on the COVID-19 cases and their severity in various districts. 

The list of the distribution of districts in these three zones was released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) in a letter dated April 30, 2020. As of 1 May 2020, there are 130 districts in the red zone, 284 districts in the orange zone, and 319 districts in the green zone.

Source: Letter dated April 30, 2020, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW)

This number is expected to change and the government will update this list on a weekly basis. 

Even when delivering orders in the orange and green zones, delivery executives have to follow a strict protocol for hygiene and safety. They must make use of masks, gloves, sanitizers, etc when delivering products. Also, social distancing needs to be followed wherever required.

Before moving further to how you can deliver non-essential items to your customers, here is a brief recap of the timeline of how the lockdown impacted the eCommerce sector. 

eCommerce Lockdown – A Brief Timeline

On 24 March 2020, our Prime Minister ordered a nationwide lockdown for 21 days. Following this, all eCommerce services were asked to stop and guidelines were issued for the movement of only essential items. 

Most factories and services were shut down in the first phase of the lockdown. 

There were a few operational challenges in the beginning but state governments issued orders to allow the movement of essential goods in the nation. 

After the first phase of the lockdown was about to end on April 14, 2020, the Prime Minister announced a second phase of the lockdown till May 3, 2020. 

New guidelines were released that allowed local standalone shops to operate for essential & non-essential items. eCommerce companies were also given a green signal to deliver non-essential goods starting April 20. 

Soon after, a government notification was released on 19th April, that rolled back the shipping of non-essential goods and companies could only ship essential goods till May 3. 

On May 1, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced that eCommerce companies could deliver non-essential goods in the government-specified orange and green zones. However, only essential items can be shipped in the Red zones. 

On May 17, after announcing about the lockdown 4.0, the ministry of home affairs offered considerable relaxations for eCommerce. Sellers can now deliver non-essential products to red, orange and green zones. This comes as a breather for eCommerce businesses as they can deliver products and resume business. But, only essential items can be delivered to containment zones.

List of Non-Essential Goods for Shipping

Non-essential goods include all the items that were allowed to ship before the lockdown. 

These include – 

  • Mobile Phones
  • Computers
  • Televisions
  • Refrigerator
  • Women’s Apparel
  • Kid’s Apparel
  • Men’s Apparel
  • Pens
  • Books
  • Notebooks
  • Registers
  • Office Staples
  • Furniture
  • Kitchen Appliances
  • Home Furnishing Products 
  • Sewing & Craft Supplies
  • Fitness Equipment 
  • Sports Equipment 
  • Toys
  • Baby Products 
  • Bags
  • Fashion Accessories

These, and all other products that you easily bought or sold online before the lockdown started, constitute non-essential items. 

Only a few products like groceries, medicines, personal care, etc were declared as essential items. Everything else comes under non-essential items and you can procure it from eCommerce companies in the orange and green zones.

How Can You Ship Non-Essential Goods?

The next big question is how can you get non-essential items delivered to your customer’s doorstep. After the announcement, various courier companies have started their operations to deliver these items to customers in the orange and green zones.

You can tie-up with courier companies and arrange for pickups so that your orders can be delivered on time. 

Also, you can tie up with shipping solutions like Shiprocket, that help you ship with multiple courier partners. This gives you a greater pin code reach and you can resume your services quicker. 

To ship non-essential items with Shiprocket, read more here

Final Thoughts 

Update about eCommerce companies shipping non-essential items comes as a breather for various websites and marketplaces. This will help sellers resume their businesses. We hope with further relaxations, the operations of all businesses will resume as before and we will be able to get things delivered seamlessly without any roadblocks. 

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