Monday, April 6, 2020

Coronavirus consequences: Know how COVID-19 affects food industry

This has turned into a big problem as more than 95 percent of restaurants in India are offline.

New Delhi: Apart from thousands of victims worldwide, the coronavirus epidemic has claimed another casualty – online food delivery startups.

Swiggy and Zomato are working with minimal delivery partners and limited restaurant partners in several states as riders and kitchen staff have refused to step out fearing police harassment amid the lockdown.

Apart from increased difficulties in procuring supplies, these businesses are also facing another problem – their staf are being harassed by police when they step out to deliver orders.

This has turned into a big problem as more than 95 percent of restaurants in India are offline.

“Manpower can’t be risked and supply is still not very smooth,” Anurag Katriar, president of NRAI, was quoted as saying by ET.

“Virtually everything is shut,” he added.

Ironic as it may sound but digital India saw its biggest challenge on Wednesday when smartphone-based leading food delivery platforms Zomato and Swiggy found themselves in no man’s land as restaurants, including cloud kitchens, went out of service and delivery boys were turned back by local authorities as the 21-day lockdown came into force.

There was nothing for millions of food lovers to order as restaurants went ‘unserviceable’. Wherever there were food outlets some open, delivery boys were stopped by the local authorities.

“Our delivery partners are facing several hurdles across cities while trying to deliver food which has been classified as an essential service. We are communicating with the relevant authorities and hoping these issues are sorted soon,” a Zomato spokesperson told IANS.

In a tweet, Zomato CEO Deepinder Goyal said that the company is actively working with the authorities to clear the confusion so that essential services can operate without trouble.

Swiggy said there has been a short-term impact in terms of softening in volumes which can be attributed to the shortage of supply due to temporary closure of many high-volume restaurants located in malls and disruptions on ground across certain states.

“However, Swiggy is working with local governments to remain operational and extend our support during these testing times, especially to the customers in need,” said a company spokesperson.

Zomato also said that it will continue to operate with curtailed partner network (restaurants and delivery) for those in need of food delivery.

Both the players have introduced “‘contactless'” delivery option where the delivery boys ensure social distancing.

Zomato and Swiggy currently dominate the online food delivery market in India. Zomato has also acquired Uber’s Food Delivery Business in India in an all-stock deal of nearly $350 million.

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