Delivery companies miss out on demand surge amid stay-at-home orders

By Dat Nguyen   August 5, 2021 | 08:25 pm PT
Delivery companies miss out on demand surge amid stay-at-home orders
Shippers are prepared to be vaccinated in Ho Chi Minh City on August 2, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran.
Delivery companies are unable to capitalize on rising demand since drivers are not keen amid mobility restrictions and delayed vaccination.

Hung, a shipper in Hanoi, has shut down his driver’s app for over a week now after the city imposed travel restrictions.

Though his company, AhaMove, does provide paperwork for the 22-year-old to pass through checkpoints set up to discourage people from coming out into the streets, he is concerned about contracting Covid and spreading it at home.

"It is difficult financially, but since I do not know when I’ll be vaccinated, I’d rather stay at home for safety," he told VnExpress International.

Nghia, who works for Grab, does not have the liberty to make that choice since the city does not allow his company to operate.

Hanoi allows delivery people from supermarkets, e-commerce platforms and postal services but not from ride-hailing companies like Grab, Be Gojek, MyGo, and FastGo.

"It is unfair. Three or four trips a day would help me earn enough for food, but we cannot do anything but wait."

The shortage of drivers and ambiguous and inequitable regulations mean delivery companies are unable to take advantage of the surging demand amid the lockdowns in Hanoi and HCMC.

AhaMove reported a tenfold rise in the number of orders after the lockdown began, but it cannot accept much of them since its drivers are not allowed past checkpoints. Hanoi does not allow delivery of "non-essential" goods.

"Many shippers refrain from working since they have to pay for their own Covid-19 tests," Tuoi Tre newspaper quoted Phan Tuong Bach, operating director of AhaMove, as saying.

In HCMC, there are times when the number of orders is triple the normal rate, but a driver shortage means they could not be accepted, he said.

There is also confusion occasionally as authorities in Hanoi and HCMC abruptly change regulations catching delivery companies unawares.

AhaMove last week had to apologize to its drivers and customers in HCMC after some of its drivers were fined for delivering goods after 6 p.m. amid a ban on people leaving their homes at night.

Startup Loship is facing similar difficulties as many of its drivers had stopped working.

CEO Nguyen Hoang Trung said working conditions have become extremely difficult for delivery people because of lack of clarity on what constitute essential goods.

The company has doubled the minimum income in the hope of attracting more drivers back to work.

Be Group saw orders rise tenfold in mid-July but had to suspend operations two weeks later to keep its drivers safe.

Ride-hailing giant Grab asked to be allowed to deliver food, saying Hanoi’s suspension of its services while allowing other delivery companies to operate goes against its policy on fair competition. But its demand has yet to be approved.

HCMC has had strict social distancing regulations since July 9, and they will continue until August 16. Its Covid-19 tally now is more than 112,000.

Hanoi is in the 14th day of a 15-day social distancing campaign. The city has had nearly 1,800 cases.

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