E-commerce firms boost seller support to ensure business continuity


Large Indian e-commerce firms have been stepping up to provide increased support to their seller ecosystem, in order to ensure business continuity, after the lockdowns heavily impacted the operations of small and medium-sized businesses.

Amazon India has provided a fee waiver and increased access to working capital to its sellers, as they continue to face issues with liquidity and access to manpower.

On Wednesday, Amazon also said that it will be providing covid-19 health insurance, free of cost for its sellers in India. With this, it expects to help lakhs of Amazon sellers – anyone who has had an active product listing on Amazon.in between January, 2019 and 26 May, 2020.

The e-commerce major has more than six lakh sellers on the Amazon Marketplace.

“..We have reduced their fees by 50% for a period of time, so that they can actually get relief for a longer period of while they get their business back into shape. We’ve changed some of our policies like disbursement policies to be daily disbursements because we don’t want working capital to be held for any longer than a day even though their products may not have reached yet. So we are trying to improve the cycle of capital rotation for them,” Amit Agarwal, country head, Amazon India recently told Mint in a recent interview.

Walmart-owned Flipkart has also offered all its sellers a health insurance plan, specific to covid-19 to cover the sellers along with their families and employees.

To ensure business continuity, Flipkart also waived off the storage fee for April, under its ‘Fulfilled by Flipkart’ service that allows sellers to store their inventory in Flipkart Fulfillment Centers for faster deliveries, a Flipkart spokesperson said.

Flipkart, that has around 2 lakh sellers and micro-small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) on its platform, has also ensured that all the payments related to cancelled orders in the lockdown period were settled within the next payment cycles, in a bid to provide more liquidity to its sellers, and offered special offers on loans that sellers can avail through its Growth Capital programme.

In April, Flipkart had announced a three-month moratorium on existing loans availed through Flipkart’s Growth Capital programme.

Gurugram-based Snapdeal, which claims it has 5 lakh sellers on its platform, has waived off cancellation penalty for its sellers on the platform.

“Snapdeal has extended the timelines available to its sellers for shipping the orders received by them. It has also communicated to its sellers that no cancellation charges or penalties will be levied if they are not able to ship in time or ship at all,” said a Snapdeal spokesperson.

Snapdeal is also leveraging technology and analytics in order to provide insights to its seller base on what to sell on its platform, basis the demand it is receiving from consumers. This would help sellers plan their listings and focus on selling products, with higher demand, said Snapdeal.

The e-commerce firm also claimed to have updated its seller panel to bring a 360-degree view of payments in order for sellers to have enhanced visibility about various payments in the pipeline.

Paytm Mall, which said it has 100,000 sellers and MSMEs on its platform, is helping its merchant partners to stock up on inventory and helping in fulfillment of orders.

“We have partnered with several suppliers and brands of FMCG goods to help sellers stock up. We have ramped up hyperlocal deliveries in more than 50 Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities so that small shopkeepers who do not have adequate manpower can do home deliveries and safely conduct business,” said a Paytm Mall spokesperson.

Over the past two months, curbs on selling non-essential items, particularly mobile phones, electronic gadgets and apparel have hit margins and revenues of several e-commerce firms.

Both Walmart and Amazon, as a part of their recent earnings call said that these limited operations, during the first three lockdowns starting 25 March in India, deeply impacted their growth and operations in the country.

Now, with large e-commerce firms allowed full-scale deliveries as a part of Lockdown 4.0, the sector is seeing some signs of relief as customers start ordering from these zones.

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