Panic buying in Gurugram, essentials flying off shelves

Mar 21, 2020 11:45 AM IST

Gurugram: Reports of a fourth case of Covid-19 in Gurugram, the closure of malls and rumours that supermarkets could be next, and a general air of panic triggered a scramble at supermarkets across the city as people stocked up on everything from vegetables to home-cleaning products and groceries to liquor on Thursday and Friday.

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Some residents, worried about the physicality of shopping at supermarkets are hitting e-commerce sites. Sales, according to Albinder Dhindsa, co-founder and CEO of online grocery service Grofers, have increased 115% over the last two days across the National Capital Region, which includes Gurugram.

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Home to the Indian HQ of many Fortune 500 companies, an IT and manufacturing hub, happening food courts, mall, pubs and private clubs, Gurugram is one of India’s richest cities. And when it shops, it really shops. Not surprisingly, on both Thursday and Friday, there was a shortfall in essential commodities, household supplies, and vegetables across supermarkets, grocery shops, and departmental stores in Gurugram hours after they opened.

By noon, many stores had empty shelves; there were long queues outside shops and supermarkets across the city, and residents complained that even online stores were running out of staples.

Karun Singh, a resident of DLF Phase 3, said that he reached a supermarket on MG Road just a couple of hours after it opened but by then most essential commodities had run out. “There was little space to walk inside because of the rush. Most essential items were over and even the things that were available, were of unknown brands. People bought a lot; many for more than Rs 10,000.”

Brishti Mahapatra, a resident of sector 53, had a similar experience at her local grocery. “I visited the local grocery in my condominium around 10 am and almost everything had finished. There were just a few brinjals and cauliflowers left. The proprietor told me he had already finished two stocks and ordered a third to meet demand.”

Tarun Yadav, the owner of a grocery store, said he sold his stock of onions and potatoes in under an hour as opposed to the “two to three days” they usually last. “The supply is not a problem yet, but people are purchasing up to 10 to 15 times more than usual.”

Most stores, including ones that usually cater to a select clientele, did brisk business.

“I purchased a lot of daily essentials from the supermarket located in a mall on Golf Course Road, which was absolutely packed with customers. I later went to a Korean store located a floor below, from where I often purchase certain items. The queues there were even more surprising. The shop usually has less than 5-6 customers at a time, but today there was a long queue,” said Sandeep Dayal, a resident of DLF Phase 5.

There were long queues at the vegetable mandi at Sadar Bazar where residents said the prices had nearly doubled: “I visited the mandi yesterday (Thursday) as well to stock up. Today, the same vegetables were costing nearly double the amount. If the mandi has such long queues, I can imagine how the rest of the city is operating,” said Bhanu Sharma, a resident of Civil Lines.

Those who decided to skip the queues and go online didn’t always manage to buy what they wanted. Supplies had run out even there.

Alka Varma, a resident of Sector 72, said she purchases her parents’ weekly requirements online so that they can be delivered to their doorstep. “I was shocked to find that almost all pulses were over [online]. There were no milk cartons available, and the stocks of vegetables were extremely limited. I tried two different online delivery stores and the results were the same.”

Ashwini Kharbanda, founder of e-retailer Neomart said there has been a surge in demand and several merchants on the platform were unable to meet it.

He added that the company was looking at partnering with more local stores to meet demand.

“Compared to sales last month, over the last couple of days, we have seen customers buying items on our platform in large quantities. Personal hygiene products, followed by floor cleaners, have seen a surge in demand along with immunity-boosting products. Essential items are also being bought in large quantities,” said Grofers’ Dhindsa.

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    Kartik Kumar is a correspondent with the Hindustan Times and has covered beats such as crime, transport, health and consumer courts. Kartik currently covers municipal corporation, Delhi Metro and Rapid Metro.

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