New Delhi: Whoever thought they can beat the lockdown blues by ordering stuff on e-commerce platforms, here is a big bitter pill. Retailer Flipkart on Wednesday said it has temporarily suspended its operations and services - including grocery items, as India enters a 21-day lockdown. Even ecommerce major Amazon followed suit, announcing its decision not to take any more fresh orders, in other words, effectively staying away from the business during the lockdown period. The safety of their delivery staff and employees of other affiliated departments have influenced their decision to suspend their operations.

Interestingly, the two online retailing majors developing a cold feet amid Coronavirus fears, comes within hours of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assurance that the ecommerce business can go on unhindered during the nationwide lockdown. The news now would be received like a bolt from the blue by millions of households who may have been hoping to make the most of Flipkart or Amazon or any other online platforms to place their orders and get things delivered at their doorsteps. In fact, this seemed to be the only effective option left for the online buyers as the lockdown enforces a strict shutdown of all businesses except essential commodities.

All those looking to go for online purchases of gadgets, appliances, apparels and a host of other stuff are certain to feel crippled by the decisions of Flipkart and Amazon. They can only grudgingly wait for the lockdown to end.

Although Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his second address to the nation on Tuesday said ecommerce platforms are allowed to provide essential goods and services during the 21-day lockdown, Flipkart has decided to halt all orders from March 25 for all three supply chains -- grocery, non-large goods and large items.

"Flipkart has temporarily suspended orders as we assess the possibilities of operating in the lockdown. We are prioritising the safety of our delivery executives and seeking the support of the local governments and police authorities to meet the needs of our customers as they stay home during this lockdown," Rajneesh Kumar, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, Flipkar, said in a statement.

The company also posted on its website: "These are difficult times, times like no other. Never before, have communities stayed apart to stay safe! Never before, has been at home meant helping the nations!"

In an internal email sent to employees, Adarsh Menon who is senior vice president at Flipkart wrote that senior executives will "evaluate how to get supply chains back in consultation with government and stakeholders but as of now the platform will not accept any orders".

Ecommerce giant Amazon said that it has prioritized available fulfilment and logistics capacity to serve products that are currently critical for customers such as household staples, packaged food, health care, hygiene, personal safety and other high priority products.

"This also means that we have to temporarily stop taking orders and disable shipments for lower-priority products. For all pending customer orders on lower-priority products, we are reaching out to customers and giving them a choice to cancel their orders, and receive a refund for prepaid items," said Amazon in its latest blog post.

The company said it will continue to work with concerned government authorities to ensure on-ground support that will enable it to offer a more expanded selection to fulfil customer needs.

"We recognize these are hard decisions that may impact some of our sellers' business - we appreciate their understanding and continue to work for ways to enable small businesses to meet customer requirements during this time,' said Amazon. (IANS)

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