Why was home delivery of vegetables required?
Even during COVID lockdown, people had to go to the market to purchase items of daily necessity. While this was important, there was a risk involved in going out due to the chance of exposure. Moreover, going out when there was no public transport available would be difficult for the elderly, single mothers and others, who had no helping hands. Considering this, there was an imperative need to find out a solution that would reduce the exposure of people as well as help those in need. Home delivery of vegetables was the perfect solution, since that would reduce the exposure, and unlike groceries, vegetables perish shortly, which would otherwise need people to regularly get out to purchase every few days. For this purpose, the plan was devised to take orders for vegetables on call, and the order would be delivered to the designated address the next day for Kanker City only.
Searching and finalisation of volunteers
The search for the volunteers was a challenge, since people were afraid of going out, and they would meet a lot of people regularly during home deliveries. In addition, existing vendors would not be a good choice since the administration cannot give preference to one vendor. Under such conditions, the plan was to bring in SHGs/Members from SHGs who can do this. Finally, one active SHG member – Hemlata, was chosen who was willing to do this with her family, and since she already had an E-rickshaw, it would be easy for her to do home deliveries.
Procurement process of vegetables
The family had a backyard garden, and they grew vegetables at home. Apart from that, they were suggested to collect vegetables from their neighbors and others from the village, so that the people could benefit from this initiative as well. For vegetables that were unavailable in the village, the plan was to purchase it from the mandi/wholesale market according to the demands and orders placed and then deliver it appropriately.
The price was kept the same as the market price, and was updated on a daily basis as per the market. The price was informed in advance while taking orders, and the amount was collected in cash the next day while delivering orders.
Finalisation of storage space
A proper storage space near the mandi was necessary for the family to have smooth operations. They were instructed by the district administration to collect vegetables from the village, assess the orders, buy the remaining from mandi, and come to the designated place. They then would proceed to pack the orders and deliver according to the route decided. A shop was facilitated by the district administration near mandi, which became the center of operations.
SOP : taking calls, record maintenance, packaging and home delivery
The family was appraised on how to take orders on calls, maintaining books for finance which included daily purchase and sale, keeping separate diaries for orders and deliveries, and segregating the orders area wise, so that they can plan their delivery route daily. The orders were packed after reaching the designated shop, and deliveries would be done via E-rikshaw, and orders were taken by other family members during the day. A specific timing of 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM was specified for receiving the orders.
Taking necessary permissions and passes from the district administration
The family members were given individual passes to move across the city amidst the lock down. They were also given a pass for the E-Rickshaw, so that the checkpoints would let them pass without any issues. It was specially mentioned that this vehicle would be used by the family exclusively for the purpose of home deliveries, in order to prevent any misuse of the permission granted.
Ensuring safety precautions being followed during vegetable distribution
The family was instructed to follow all the safety precautions while collecting, packaging and delivering the orders. In the designated shop, water and hand wash was kept to ensure they were washing their hands frequently. The orders were packed while maintaining appropriate distance among the members, and wearing masks to cover mouth and nose. While delivering, instructions to maintain two-meter distance from the E-Rickshaw and each other were pasted on the Rickshaw in Hindi. They carried hand sanitizer and gloves while delivering orders.
The pilot was initiated by posting the numbers in the administrative groups initially to see the response and number of orders. Later on, a pamphlet was designed by the fellows and was posted again on various platforms. A news piece was also given in the local newspaper, which also boosted the visibility of the initiative.
Implementation of the idea and challenges faced.
The initiative was kicked off as pilot on 30th March, 2020. For a few days the orders were received, and the initiative went well. However later, the family started selling vegetables other than received orders, which exposed them to more people. They had a bad experience with a lady who was kept in home isolation, and they got very scared of the experience. In addition, most of the villages in Kanker district have closed off their boundaries, and are not allowing movement. They were also afraid that the villages and the Sarpanch would question their decision to sell vegetables in such a manner.
The other issue was the dynamic price of the vegetables. Since the market was open for a limited time, the price of vegetables would drop substantially by evening, and even by afternoon. The price fluctuated too much to bring them any profit. Eventually they got a notice from their Sarpanch and had to stop the deliveries.