COVID-19 outbreak brings both orders & worries for startups, Technology News, ETtech

COVID-19 outbreak brings both orders & worries for startups E- pharmacies are witnessing a spike in orders as Indians turn to buying essentials online fearing the spread of COVID-19 infection.

With nearly 60 people testing positive for the dreaded virus across the country, demand for home delivery of other household supplies is also set to increase rapidly according to industry executives who are strengthening safety and hygiene measures for staff and customers.

Medlife, the country’s largest online pharmacy, said that it has seen searches spike by 40% and orders for essentials such as face masks and hand sanitizer rise by 100% in the past few days. 1MG also said it has seen a manifold rise in the orders for masks, sanitizers and disinfectant wipes on its platform.

“Consumers are concerned about going out, especially in places where there may be other people with infections,” said Prashant Tandon, founder, and CEO, 1MG.

Apart from demand for supplements and immunity building products, consumers are also opting for online consultations and other services such as at-home diagnostics.

“Digital health models, including ePharmacy and telemedicine has made it possible for consumers to access the medicines and healthcare advice they need (online),” Tandon said.

With malls and restaurants also reporting a drop in footfalls by over a fifth in the past fortnight, consumer internet firms are beefing up hygiene and safety measures – for delivery agents and consumers – in anticipation of increased online transactions over the coming weeks.

HR virtual assistance startup Leena AI has created a chatbot to answer queries about COVID-19 while 1MG has come up with videos on the topic which have already been seen millions of times.

Businesses with large on-ground presence such as grocery, food delivery, ride-hailing and eCommerce businesses have all launched a series of measures from instructional videos to stringent screening mechanisms at last-mile centers. They have also hiked healthcare benefits for their delivery fleet.

Food delivery apps Swiggy and Zomato said they are providing delivery partners with daily advisories. Swiggy has started training its delivery partners and cloud kitchen staff on ways of risk mitigation and also on identifying symptoms early on.

Grocery app Grofers is also issuing an advisory to customers encouraging them to pay digitally. “While Cash on Delivery is the favored mode of transaction…it can also become a source of transfer of virus between individuals… avoid the act of looking for change at the door and exchanging notes,” said CEO Albinder Dhindsa.

He said the company has implemented stringent screening for its staff across centers and pickup points and also introduced added safety measures like washing and disinfecting delivery crates after every use.

Red alert for on-ground staff

On the ride-hailing front, Ola and Uber have sent an in-app advisory to drivers on precautionary measures as well as instructional videos to help understand the scope of the virus better. While Ola said that all its walk-in centers across cities are equipped with health advisory material, sanitizers, and masks, Uber has formed a dedicated operations, security and safety teams, guided by the advice of global consulting public health experts.

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