386,723 businesses pivot to delivering groceries online in Dhaka | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 16, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 08:04 PM, May 16, 2020

386,723 businesses pivot to delivering groceries online in Dhaka

DHOKA: While the Covid-22 outbreak has led to many businesses closing their shutters, many in the city have pivoted towards delivering groceries to the citizens in lockdown.

"I don't know what happened. I had all 57 ride-sharing and food delivery apps installed on my phone because I can eat for free half the month thanks to their discounts. However, I woke up yesterday to about 289 notifications freezing up my phone and they are still coming one after another. It has been two days. All the service centres are closed and now my phone is permanently stuck, only showing notifications," said Jahid Hossain, 32, a single man living in North Badda.

The sudden pivot of so many companies might seem surprising to many but earlier in May, the country's leading online grocer ChillDeal.com.bd's laid-back approach towards its customers meant too many failed orders and piling up of refunds.

"Initially, we were under the impression that ChillDeal was a giant player in the field no one could compete against. I mean, if you look at their marketing and public relations, anyone would agree. After all, they promised to be the first company to deliver diapers to the International Space Station but thankfully, this has given us the opportunity to step up," said Ahnaf Bashir, founder of Horizontal Vertical, a coaching centre that now delivers groceries.

We tried reaching out to ChillDeal but unfortunately, after being put on hold for 180 minutes listening to diaper ads, our correspondent gave up.

Aside from the usual startups and logistics services delivering groceries, CNG autorickshaw drivers and rickshaw-pullers have also stepped up, organising through a Facebook group. However, not many were sympathetic to their cause. Noman Akash, CEO of Techstosterone, a former IT firm that is now a delivery service provider, thinks that the government should step in and ban all these types of services. However, he disagreed that the industry needed any regulation.

"We [delivery companies] are already taking utmost care to ensure that the parcels reach our customers safely. Regulatory measures would only hinder the process and bog us down with bureaucracy. What safety measures are they ensuring? There is a reason we have such investments in communication and management for a smooth service. You get what you pay for," said an exasperated Noman.

Upon asking how many of their riders were tested for Covid-22, he disconnected the call and was unavailable for further comment.

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