Big Billion Days sale: Ekart to tap 1,200 kirana stores for last-mile deliveries

Ekart will be handling 2.5 times the average number of daily orders for a period of 10-12 days during and after the Big Billion Days sale
India’s largest e-commerce marketplace FLIPKART’Slogistics arm Ekart has tied up with close to 1,200 kirana stores across the country to enable last-mile deliveries and store pickups during its upcoming Big Billion Days sale.

Flipkart, which expects daily business to quadruple in the five day period starting October 2, has been working on testing out its new last-mile delivery mechanism for the past eight months. The company says that the new arrangement will allow them to deliver products in smaller towns where Ekart doesn’t have a big presence.

The company says its new last-mile delivery model will allow it to forgo hiring a large temporary workforce, which it would have had to train in advance, making it a lot more cost effective. Moreover, kirana stores have a lot of spare capacity where manpower is usually underutilised during the middle of the day, incentivising them to partner with Flipkart.
“A lot of work has gone into ensuring that we have enough capacity to ensure that orders get delivered on time. The additional complexity that we’re having this time is that the sale is happening 7-10 days before Dasara, when people are not going to be available all the time,” said Neeraj Aggarwal, vice-president (operations), Flipkart.

On September 17, Business Standard had reported that e-commerce firms are staring at a shortage of delivery staff as they compete with offline retailers to ship goods to customers quickly. Flipkart and Snapdeal have previously said that they would hire 10,000 temporary workers each to deal with the spike in deliveries during their festive season sales.

Kirana stores, temporary delivery staff and in-store pickups at outlets of Apollo Pharmacy will account for between 20-25 per cent of all deliveries made during the sale period. While the sale lasts for just five days, Ekart’s delivery staff will be handling 2.5 times the average number of daily orders for a period of 10-12 days during and after the Big Billion Days sale.

Apart from partnering with 1,200 kirana stores, Ekart has also tied up with a similar number of local agencies that will provide it with manpower. The combined strength of delivery personnel the company adds for the festive period will be close to 10,000, augmenting Ekart’s strength to around 30,000 people.

“One of the things we’ve done this year in a very big way is to build this variable delivery stack or alternate delivery model. So you live close to a kirana store and assume that your locality gets 30-50 parcels in a day, we’ll hand over these parcels to these stores to go do our last-mile delivery for us,” added Aggarwal.

In the past three months, Ekart has been able to increase the number of pincodes it services to 5,000, from 3,800, through such last-mile delivery mechanisms. While kirana stores will be utilised to their maximum during the 10-15 day window around the Big Billion Days sale, Flipkart says the mechanism is here to stay.

Ekart will handle between 5.5-6 lakh deliveries per day for around 10-12 days to flush out the orders coming in during the sale. While majority of that business will come from Flipkart itself, the logistics services will not stop servicing third-party customers.

The logistics firm services partners such as Jabong, Myntra, Voonik, Hopscotch, Reliance and Madhura, to handle a part of their supply chain needs.

“The idea has and is to provide them with the same type of service and capability that we’d provide to Flipkart. If they too are going to see a spike in demand due to festive sales, then we’re going to fulfil their demand. They will become our trusted partners only if we’re able to stand with them during a period like this,” said Aggarwal.

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