Online Grocery Demand Rises

Big Basket and Grofers are planning to hire 12,000 people to meet the demand surge in online grocery shopping that is among the few sectors that have benefited from the nationwide lockdown due to Coronavirus.
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#OnlineGrocery
Due to Coronavirus lockdown, more and more people are moving towards ordering essential commodities from online platforms like Big Basket, Grofers, etc. Both the companies observed a huge spike in the number of their customers. Amid threats posed by Coronavirus, people are stocking up food grains and other essential commodities in their houses. According to the directives from the government, Big Basket and Grofers have put certain limits on buying sanitizers as it is considered an essential commodity. 

Big Basket said that it is witnessing double growth and that order baskets are larger by 15-20% these days. Whereas Grofers has confirmed growth of around 5-7% in the demand. Big Basket and Grofers on average do 1.6 lakhs and 90 thousand next-day delivery orders per day respectively. Due to high demand, the normal delivery time has been increased from 1 day to 3-4 days. Grofers also saw a customer who stocked up the commodities, billing as high as Rs. 52,000 against the former record of Rs. 24,000.

‘We Are Hiring’ say E-Commerce Players
When the online retail business is at an unprecedented peak, online grocery delivery companies are facing problems with manpower. Due to lockdown and government directives to keep social distancing, migrant laborers went back to their hometown. This shortage in the workforce has crippled the companies’ operations.

Looking at the imminent threats on the company, Big Basket has decided to hire 10,000 people on a permanent basis. New staff will fulfill the shortage at warehouses and delivery bases. Some people will also be recruited to execute the delivery of goods. Grofers also announced that it will hire 2,000 people from industries like textiles, manufacturing, and services which have been deeply impacted by the lockdown. As per Grofers, only 65% of its warehouse staff is currently operational.

Offline retailers are also mobilizing for recruiting new staff. Spencers’ Retail, Naturals’ Retail, and Reliance Retails are mobilizing for hiring new staff through an online interview to meet up the shortage in the workforce. Future Group and Big Bazar saw a surge in demand by 20-25%.

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Online Grocery

  • HomeGrocer.com was one of the first online supermarket players which began its operations in 1997.
  • In May 2019, Big Basket received a funding of $150 Million which boosted the valuation of the company to over $1 Billion, giving it an entry to the coveted “Unicorn” club.
  • While Big Basket is backed by investors like Alibaba Group, Grofers’ investors include SoftBank and Sequoia Capital.

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Electricity Out For 9 Mins, Discoms Out for A Year?

Via a video message, PM Modi urged citizens to turn off electricity and light a candle, diya, or use mobile’s flashlight or torch for 9 minutes on 5th April 9 PM to mark the fight against the pandemic and symbolically end its darkness. He also praised the discipline showcased by people during the lockdown. Number of cases in India as on 2nd April 2020 had crossed 2,000 and deaths were above 50.
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Dipping Electricity Demand
Electricity demand was low during the end of the year 2019 but picked up during January and February. However, it steeply declined in the month of March due to the Coronavirus lockdown. There has been a 21-22% reduction in energy consumption. National electricity demand fell to 2.78 billion units on March 25 from 3.45 billion units before the lockdown.

Electricity demand by passenger railways and commercial and industrial sector constitutes 40% of all power consumption and cross-subsidize residential tariffs as well. With the mentioned sectors coming to a complete halt due to the lockdown, and moratorium on the payments due, the already struggling independent power producers will take a hit.

As electricity distributors and consumers get a 3-month moratorium on payments, there have been no announcements to help power generation companies.

Extended Relaxation in Tariffs
Various state-run electricity boards and private players have decided to cut down tariffs for residential as well as commercial and industrial consumption. Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL) has reduced residential tariff by 5%, whereas Adani and Tata cut it by 12.3% and 19% respectively. For industrial and commercial tariffs, MSEDCL will slash rates by 10-15% and Adani by 20-25%. Maharashtra also announced a three-month moratorium for commercial and industrial electricity consumers on payment of fixed charges.

Gujarat has not changed tariff but extended the electricity bill payment date by one and a half month. Gujarat’s Below Poverty line consumers will get a 30% reduction in tariffs. Tariff for agricultural consumers is reduced to 80 paise/unit from Rs. 1.5. Uttar Pradesh has also extended the bill payment date and announced a 1% rebate on payment before the due date.

Electrifying India
As per the World Bank report on Energy Progress in 2018, India’s 85% population has access to electricity. As per the government’s Saubhagya dashboard, almost 100% households in India have access to electricity. India’s per capita electricity consumption in 2018 was 1181 kWh.

PM Modi’s 9-minute electricity break should result in electricity saivings of 0.02 kWh per capita. Given India’s population of 1.35 billion, this will translate to a saving of 25-30 million kWh. If the average per-unit electricity price for 1kWh is Rs. 6, then the consumers will save (and power generating companies will lose) around Rs. 15-18 crores.

At a time when electricity demand has been low due to broader economic slowdown, financials of the power generating companies have dwindled. They await supportive measures by the government.

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Electricity in India – India is the world’s third-largest producer and third-largest consumer of electricity. The national electric grid in India has an installed capacity of 368.79 GW as of 31 December 2019. Renewable power plants, which also include large hydroelectric plants, constitute 34.86% of India’s total installed capacity. During the 2018-19 fiscal year, the gross electricity generated by utilities in India was 1,372 TWh and the total electricity generation (utilities and non utilities) in the country was 1,547 TWh. The gross electricity consumption in 2018-19 was 1,181 kWh per capita. In 2015-16, electric energy consumption in agriculture was recorded as being the highest (17.89%) worldwide. The per capita electricity consumption is low compared to most other countries despite India having a low electricity tariff. India has a surplus power generation capacity but lacks adequate distribution infrastructure. To address this, the Government of India launched a program called “Power for All” in 2016. The program was accomplished by December 2018 in providing the necessary infrastructure to ensure uninterrupted electricity supply to all households, industries, and commercial establishments. More Info

Zoom & House Party Cash in on Lockdown

Since the lockdown, to control the Coronavirus pandemic, became pervasive across the globe, video conferencing apps and other online apps have gained immense popularity. Among them, Zoom and Houseparty apps have seen tremendous growth even after getting into controversies like user permissions for the former and hacking user data for the latter.
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Coronavirus containment required governments across the world to take strict measures like complete lockdowns of city, state, or even country. With the government also endorsing work from home, video calling applications like Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook, etc. have gained immense popularity.

Zooooom
Zoom is a video conferencing app that can accommodate up to 100 participants with a time limit of 40 minutes in the “freemium” version. As per Firstpost, Zoom’s daily usage shot up by 300% since the lockdown. Its daily active users also were up by 340%. The company’s stock surged, valuing the company at $29 billion, which is more than airline companies like United Airlines or American Airlines. Universities have shifted to Zoom for conducting online classes, whereas companies began conducting meetings on it.

However, a lawsuit was filed against Zoom claiming that it was sending user data to Facebook irrespective of the user having a Facebook account or logging in using Facebook. In response to the lawsuit, Zoom founder Eric Yuan said, “We originally implemented the ‘Login with Facebook’ feature using the Facebook SDK for iOS in order to provide our users with another convenient way to access our platform. However, we were made aware that the Facebook SDK was collecting device information unnecessary for us to provide our services… Our customers’ privacy is incredibly important to us, and therefore we decided to remove the Facebook SDK in our iOS client.” Zoom users are requested to update their apps so that their data is no longer delivered to Facebook.

What is Houseparty?
An app called Houseparty that allows a maximum of 8 people to talk or let’s say have a “virtual party” on a video call has gained a lot of traction. Worries for Houseparty began as users complained that the app allowed their email, Spotify, Uber, online banking accounts, etc. to be hacked. Many experts have also raised concerns that it collects a ‘worrying amounts of personal information’ of the user. Some said that, while the user may request for deletion of her data, the company may still possess it as a backup as required by law. Houseparty, however, denied allegations of hack and announced a $1 million bounty for anyone who can prove it.

Curiopedia

Videotelephony comprises of the technologies for the reception and transmission of audio-video signals by users at different locations, for communication between people in real time. A videophone is a telephone with a video display, capable of simultaneous video and audio for communication between people in real time. Videoconferencing implies the use of this technology for a group or organizational meeting rather than for individuals, in a videoconference. Telepresence may refer either to a high-quality videotelephony system where the goal is to create the illusion that remote participants are in the same room or to meetup technology, which goes beyond video into robotics (such as moving around the room or physically manipulating objects). Videoconferencing has also been called “visual collaboration” and is a type of groupware.

While development of video conferencing started in the late 19th century, the technology only became available to the public starting in the 1930s. These early demonstrations were installed at “booths” in post offices and shown at various world expositions. It took until 1970 for AT&T to launch the first true video conferencing system, wherein anyone could subscribe to the service and have the technology in their home or office. The development of advanced video codecs, more powerful CPUs, and high-bandwidth Internet telecommunication services in the late 1990s allowed videophones to provide high quality low-cost colour service between users almost any place in the world that the Internet is available. More Info

Contact Tracing and Cluster Containment in the Face of Lockdown Violations

As the number of COVID-19 cases surge massively in India, Health Ministry has said that it has begun contact tracing of people who were found at various congregations. This preemptive measure would help contain the formation of new clusters as the government has already identified 10 hotspots in the country.
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Hotspots in India
Joint Secretary of the Health Ministry, Lav Agarwal said that the number of cases in India have been rising because people are not co-operating to the lockdown and other preventive measures, and due to the delay in the detection of cases. As of now, the government has identified 10 hotspots in India.

They include – Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Bhilwara in Rajasthan, Dilshad Garden and Nizamuddin in Delhi, Pathanamthitta and Kasargod in Kerala, Meerut and Noida in Uttar Pradesh.

The Curious Case of Hotspot Delhi
In Delhi’s Nizamuddin, nearly 1,800 people had gathered for a religious congregation – Tablighi Jamaat – at the Markaz building in late February and early March. As per authorities, clerics who arrived there from Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand may have transmitted the virus. 6 people from Telangana and 1 each from New Delhi and Tamil Nadu, who attended the congregation, fell victim to COVID-19.

On the other hand, migrant workers from Uttar Pradesh and other states gathered in large numbers at Anand Vihar bus station of Delhi. DTC buses were dropping many to UP border while many were walking through the highway to cross the border. The government, in a strict notice, announced to seal the state borders, quarantine those who had already migrated, and urged migrant workers to stay where they are as they will be provided with food, shelter, and wages.

Contact Tracing
The government is trying to track the attendees of Tablighi Jamaat. Nearly 850 people from Kashmir, 300 from Karnataka, 150 in Uttar Pradesh, 180 in Maharashtra, and others in Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Odisha, Gujarat, etc. are being tracked by the government. Tamil Nadu Health Secretary informed that 67 people who attended the religious congregation had tested positive. Of the people who were traced, more than 400 people have been hospitalised as they showed symptoms.

The state governments are tracing the people who attended the congregation and people who have had contact with them. Traced people are being put in quarantine. For instance, in Chhattisgarh, an urgent operation tracked nearly 100 people who attended the Tablighi Jamaat meet (TJ). All of them were instantly put in the quarantine facility or isolated at home. In Gujarat’s Bhavnagar, nearly 30% of the people residing in the area near the deceased, who had attended TJ, have been quarantined. However, many people have remained untraced as their mobile phones have been switched off. Police is trying to locate their addresses.

The recent rise in the number of cases in India can be attributed to such congregations. Tamil Nadu became the state with the third-highest cases after 67 new cases associated with the Markaz congregation were found. Moreover, people who were part of congregations pose an immense threat to stem Coronavirus in India. On 31st March 2020, India reported the largest hike, 270 cases, taking the toll to more than 1,500. So far 45 deaths have been reported – with ~3% fatality rate. Maharashtra has the highest number of cases followed by Kerala.

Curiopedia

Contact tracing is the process of identification of persons who may have come into contact with an infected person (“contacts”) and subsequent collection of further information about these contacts. By tracing the contacts of infected individuals, testing them for infection, treating the infected and tracing their contacts in turn, public health aims to reduce infections in the population. The goals of contact tracing are:

  • To interrupt ongoing transmission and reduce spread of an infection
  • To alert contacts to the possibility of infection and offer preventive counseling or prophylactic care
  • To offer diagnosis, counseling and treatment to already infected individuals
  • If the infection is treatable, to help prevent reinfection of the originally infected patient
  • To learn about the epidemiology of a disease in a particular population
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The cluster containment strategy would be to contain the disease within a defined geographic area by early detection, breaking the chain of transmission and thus preventing its spread to new areas. This would include geographic quarantine, social distancing measures, enhanced active surveillance, testing all suspected cases, isolation of cases, home quarantine of contacts, social mobilization to follow preventive public health measures. More Info

India’s Fight Against COVID-19

covid

On 24th March 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the worlds biggest lockdown of over 1.3 billion people for 21 days to prevent the community spread of the virus. Even as the number of COVID-19 cases in India breached the 1000-mark, India is multiplying its efforts to stop the spread of the virus and safeguard its citizens.
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The PM has urged people to strictly stay indoors and promised delivery of all essential goods and services like banks, petrol pumps, ration, grocery, LPG supply by exempting them from the lockdown. Though India is increasing its potential day by day to combat the situation, the number of cases has been increasing steadily and have crossed 1,200 as of 31st March.

Measures by States and the Issue of Labour Migration
All states initiated a tight shutdown starting with educational institutions in the 2nd week of March. The country was horrified with the crammed mass of people at Delhi’s bus stations and widespread migration of people across state borders to return to their native places. All state governments have issued orders to make proper arrangements of temporary shelters for the poor people and migrant workers after UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath sent a letter to CMs of other states urging to take care of UP natives in their states.

“The state will protect them and provide food, but they should not leave their place. I understand that they are anxious but they should not leave. I request everyone not to believe in any fake news.”

Uddhav Thackeray, Chief Minister Maharashtra

As Maharashtra saw the maximum number of cases in early days, the government announced a curfew and has implemented a full lockdown including the suspension of Mumbai’s lifeline, the suburban local trains. CM Uddhav Thackeray‘s Shiv Bhojan scheme which offers meal at Rs 10 will be made available at Rs.5 from April 1. The Mumbai’s dabbawalas also suspended their services. The Maharashtra government has set up 163 centres to provide food and water to stop the large scale migration. Maharashtra government has also released 601 criminals from 37 prisons on parole to reduce crowding. It also announced an 8% cut in electricity tariffs.

A total of 104 prisoners were released in the western region, 113 in central, 145 in south and 239 in the east.

Sunil Ramanand, Additional Director General of Police (Prisons)

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced free ration for people with no ration cards along with other safety measures to protect the migrating labors. On 26 March, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced Rs.100 crore relief package for the state.

Karnataka CM BS Yediyurappa and Andhra Pradesh CM Y. S. Jaganmohan Reddy have announced free ration for all people. Telangana CM K. Chandrashekar Rao also announced 12kgs of free rice for white ration cardholders.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced an increased insurance coverage from Rs.5 lakhs to Rs.10 lakhs for people who are risking their lives for others in this crisis. This includes doctors, police, nurses and courier services.

To tackle the shortage of sanitizers, 9 liquor factories in 7 districts of Rajasthan will be used to produce sanitizers. The state government also directed 4 private companies and 5 production units of state-owned Sugar Mills to start manufacturing sanitizers.

On March 5, the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Sikkim banned the entry of foreign nationals as a preventive measure.

Central Government’s Global Outreach and Economic Package
On 15th March, PM Narendra Modi led the SAARC nations video conference in which an emergency fund was proposed which was welcomed by the SAARC nations. PM Modi also participated in the emergency G20 video summit which decided on coordinated action against COVID-19.

The COVID-19 Economic Task Force formulated the Rs.1.7 lakh crores worth economic package to provide support to the poor people, health workers, and all business sectors. Private hospitals have been granted permission to start the treatment of COVID-19 patients. The government will pay EPF contribution for both employer & employee for the next 3 months benefitting 80 lakh employees. Provident fund scheme regulations have been amended to allow a non-refundable advance of 75% of the PF balance or 3 months of wages, whichever is lower.

To support the poor households; over 20 crore women Jan Dhan Account holders will get Rs.500 per month and Ujjwala beneficiaries will get free LPG cylinders for the next three months. The collateral-free loan has been doubled to Rs.20 lakhs for 63 lakh women self-help groups.

Under the MGNREGA scheme; the wages have been increased from Rs.182 to Rs.202 which will generate an additional income of Rs.2,000 for nearly 5 crore families. 8.69 crore farmers will be helped with an immediate installment of Rs.2,000 via Direct Cash Transfers in the first week of April.

On 25th March, Union Minister Prakash Javdekar announced an advance three-month ration of wheat at the rate of Rs 2 per kg, and rice at Rs 3 per kg for 80 crore people.

One-time amount of Rs 1000 will be given to senior citizens, widows and handicapped people, in two installments over the next three months impacting 3 crore people. Rs.50 lakhs insurance per health care worker is announced as a medical insurance cover for three months.

United We Stand
On 28th March, the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund) was set up to provide relief to the affected people. After the announcement people have come out in large numbers to contribute to this fund. It has received a great response from all segments of the society ranging from individuals, students, employees, MNC’s, celebrities, industrialists and corporations who are contributing in their own ways in this fight against COVID-19.

DRDO has started working on developing multi-patient ventilators in tie-up with companies like Tata, Mahindra, Honda, Hyundai, and Maruti Suzuki. All opportunities are being explored to build ventilators at the production units of these car companies to meet the growing demand.

All paramilitary forces personnel have contributed their one day salary. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation announced that all its 14,500 employees will contribute to the PM CARES Fund. Infosys Foundation has committed Rs.100 crores. The Tata Group has pledged Rs 1500 crores. The Adani and JSW group have pledged Rs 100 crores each.

Reliance Industries not only donated Rs.500 crores but also set up a hospital in Mumbai only for coronavirus patients. They have also donated an amount of Rs.5 crores each to the state governments of Maharashtra and Gujarat.

After Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla appealed all the MPs to contribute to the PM Cares fund; nearly 15 MPs have donated Rs.1 crore each from their MPLADS (Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme) funds. MLAs and MPs from different parties have contributed their one month’s salary to this fund.

Bollywood megastar Akshay Kumar personally contributed Rs 25 crores. Other celebrities like Vicky Kaushal, Katrina Kaif, Singer Lata Mangeshkar, Nana Patekar, Anushka Sharma and many more have come ahead to contribute the fund. Cricketers including Sachin Tendulkar, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli have pledged to donate to the PMCares fund.

Oil companies together have contributed Rs.1031.29 crores and also announced an ex-gratia amount of Rs 5 lakhs for any demise of their personnel involved in LPG distribution.

“Welcome the humanitarian decision taken by Indian Oil, BPCL and HPCL. The well-being of our workers is of paramount importance, this compassionate move will strengthen the safety nets of our workforce aiding India’s fight against corona.”

Dharmendra Pradhan, Union Petroleum Minister

Ola Cabs have given their 500 cabs for the safe transport of doctors and medical staff who are treating coronavirus patients. Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali also announced the help of Rs 25 crores. Vivo donated 1 lakh surgical and 5,000 N95 masks to the Maharashtra government. Hyundai-India announced to incur the cost of 25,000 COVID-19 Advanced Diagnostic Testing Kits that would be brought from South Korea.

Indian Railways at the Forefront
Indian Railways has geared up its entire machinery to take preventive measures. Control rooms have been set up all over and the railway staff is being sensitized and educated to combat the virus.

Indian railway services have been suspended to avoid migration of labour; they have stepped forward and transformed train coaches into quarantine facilities with the latest medical services. In an act of indigenous innovation in the face of disaster, the railways has overnight converted its trains into a fleet of moving isolation wards with a capacity of more than 6000. These have the potential to reach the remotest parts of India, parts bereft of modern hospital facilities.

“Railways will offer clean, sanitised & hygienic surroundings for the patients to comfortably recover.”

Piyush Goyal, Union Railway Minister

Criticism of Shortage of Testing Kits
India has been heavily criticized for its low number of testing kits. Only 6.8 tests per million Indians are at disposal. Initially, India was testing only those who had traveled to high-risk countries or had come in contact with an infected person but now anyone with severe respiratory distress and showing probable symptoms are being tested.

With the growing risk and number of cases, the number of tests is increasing with testing permissions now extended to several private labs too as compared to only one state lab initially. Approvals to 15 private companies were granted by the ICMR to commercially sell diagnostic kits based on licences obtained in the US and EU.

Mylab Diagnostics, a lab in Pune became the first Indian firm to get full approval to make and sell testing kits. It has already shipped the first batch of 150 kits to diagnostic labs in Pune, Mumbai, Delhi, Goa, and Bengaluru. Each of their kits can test 100 samples and costs only Rs.1200 as compared to the imported one which costs Rs.4,500. The testing kit called Patho Detect was made in a record time of 6 weeks instead of 3-4 months.

It was an emergency, so I took this on as a challenge. Our kit gives the diagnosis in two and a half hours while the imported testing kits take six-seven hours.

Minal Dakhave Bhosale, Virologist & Mylab R&D Chief

Measures by the RBI
The RBI’s monetary policy committee (MPC) meeting was held to discuss emergency measures to manage the crisis and handle the global economic slowdown. RBI gave a major relief with a moratorium of 3 months of EMIs on all types of outstanding loans with the added reduction in the repo rate by 75 basis points or 0.75%.

The outlook remains extremely uncertain at the time and going forward much will depend on how India battles Covid-19 pandemic. There is a rising probability that large parts of the world will slip into recession.

Shaktikanta Das, RBI Governor

RBI announced 3-way liquidation injection which includes: the auction of long-term targeted repo operations, reduction of CRR to banks by 100 basis points and accommodation under MSF increased from 2% to 3% which will inject total liquidity of Rs 3.74 lakh crores to the system.

Travel Restrictions and Other Impacts
The central government has put all incoming travellers, including Indian nationals into quarantine of 14 days. All international and domestic flights stand suspended along with existing visas for India being cancelled. BCCI has postponed the opening of Indian Premier League from 29 March to 15 April. The ODI matches between India and South Africa on 15 and 18 March were also cancelled.

Stock exchanges BSE and NSE have cut down its working hours. It will now start at 9 am and close at 5 pm unlike midnight earlier. However, trading hours have remained unchanged. All toll plazas have been shut down to avoid any delay in the transport of essential goods.

The World Health Organisation has appreciated the measures taken by the Indian government and has asked people to cooperate with the authorities.

Curiopedia

Coronavirus is the common name for Coronaviridae and Orthocoronavirinae, also called Coronavirinae. Coronaviruses cause diseases in mammals and birds. In humans, the viruses cause respiratory infections, including the common cold, which are typically mild, though rarer forms such as SARS, MERS and COVID-19 can be lethal. Symptoms vary in other species: in chickens, they cause an upper respiratory disease, while in cows and pigs coronaviruses cause diarrhoea. There are no vaccines or antiviral drugs to prevent or treat human coronavirus infections. They are enveloped viruses with a positive-sense single-stranded RNA genome and a nucleocapsid of helical symmetry. More Info