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India’s coronavirus lockdown has given online grocers the opportunity of a lifetime

A shopkeeper sells groceries to a customer at his shop in Kolkata
Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri
Moving online.
  • Ananya Bhattacharya
By Ananya Bhattacharya

Tech reporter

Published Last updated on

The coronavirus outbreak has brought many major industries in India to a screeching halt. But the country’s online grocery delivery sector—currently valued at just around $1 billion—has been given a unique and powerful opportunity to hit the accelerator.

At 8pm on March 24, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day lockdown across the country during which all shops and e-commerce portals other than those selling “essential items” would be closed. Existing customers and first-time users flocked to the country’s top two e-grocers, BigBasket and Grofers, to stock up.

Bengaluru-based BigBasket clocked twice as much traffic and revenue for the month of March, while the average basket size—value spent per customer per transaction—was around 20% higher than normal days. Meanwhile, Grofers saw an 80% surge in the number of orders on its app in mid-March—even before the lockdown was announced—and the amount spent by shoppers rose by 48%. By the second week of April, there were five times more active users on Grofers’ app than normal.

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