With online classes starting for schools/colleges, parents struggle to find computers/tablets for children to access them
- • Want some more items to be added to the ‘essential’ list so they can buy at a retail store or via ecommerce apps
- • Computer hardware, Home supplies and mobile phones among top items that many consumers want to buy to be functional
April 6, 2020, New Delhi: Photos and videos from different parts of the world are surfacing where people are buying essential goods from the market and stocking up their homes to help them survive through the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of Coronavirus. Most Indians are in the same boat as the Government of India announced a country wide lockdown till 14th April. Although the Government has kept essential commodities outside the ambit of the lockdown, there are still several products that people are in need of but say they are unable to buy as markets and shops are closed and ecommerce is not delivering.
There was some discussion earlier about changing the schedule for the school season to start on June 1 given the COVID-19 situation and lockdown. However, upon the direction of MHRD, boards like CBSE have decided to continue with the original schedule and instead start classes in virtual or online mode. Some schools have already started last week and many others are due to start next week. Portals like Diksha and Swayam will have academic lessons in various languages for students and teachers. Many private schools have issued guidelines and suggested the use of platforms like Microsoft Teams and Zoom to conduct their online classes. This would require many parents to setup a computer or tablet with internet for their wards, and may require them to buy items like computer, tablets, routers, printers etc.
LocalCircles conducted a survey to understand the percentage of parents that currently do not have the necessary infrastructure to set their wards up for online classes from home. Also, polls were done to understand the broad needs of people that currently do not fall under the ambit of ‘essential goods’ but are required by people in their everyday life or for special events like online classes. The survey received over 23,000 responses from people residing in 203 districts of the country.
43% parents/grandparents say they do not have the requisite computer hardware needed for their children to participate in online classes
In the first question people were asked if they have all the hardware like computer, tablet, printer, router, etc. required for their children/grandchildren to participate in online classes from home. 57% said ‘yes’ indicating that they have everything to set up their children for online classes while 43% said ‘no’.
This means that 2 in every 5 parents do not have the necessary equipment to enable their wards to take the online classes which will start sometime in April. After the announcement was made by MHRD, many parents wrote on LocalCircles that the Government should do something to help them in procuring these things so that their children can join these virtual classes properly. Some parents at schools where online classes already started last week expressed how they were letting their child use their computer for online classes and compromising on their work from home. Some others mentioned having 2 children and 1 computer with one child using the mobile phone of one of their parents to attend the online class. Parents also expressed concerns that their mobile screen was too small for a screen share by the teacher and not the right solution.
To understand that if there were other such items that people needed critically, LocalCircles sought feedback from consumers.
The second poll asked other than essential goods (rice, flour, sugar, spices, pulses, vegetables, medicines, etc.) what are the other products that they critically need to buy from local retail stores during the lockdown. 7% said they need to buy gadgets like Computer, Tablet, Printer, Router, etc. for online classes or work from home while 10% said they need to buy a mobile phone. 5% said books, 15% home supplies and 12% chose others. 49% said nothing else is critical.
49% consumers say they need something critically that they need to purchase from retail stores outside of essential goods and medicines
Most corporates have asked their employees to work from home to follow the social distancing norms and to protect them from the virus. Since many people were unprepared for such a long lockdown, they are running out of items like printer cartridge, paper etc. Many don’t have a laptop in their possession at home and hence unable to work from home. People are missing the ability to visit a large department store and buy these items.
60% consumers say they need something critical that they need to order via eCommerce platforms outside of essential goods and medicines
When the same question was asked from an ecommerce standpoint, 8% said they need to buy gadgets like Computer, Tablet, Printer, Router, etc. for online classes or work from home, 4% said mobile phones, 35% said home supplies and 12% said others. 37% said there is nothing else that is critical.
Home supplies is also an area where people are facing a shortage. Many countries have reported a shortage of toilet paper but luckily that is not the case in India. However, items like soaps, shampoo, floor cleaner, detergents etc., are things that people would like to get delivered via ecommerce sites.
The ecommerce sector is also facing an acute shortage of delivery personnel as many of the staff members engaged in warehousing and delivery have gone back to their native places due to the lock down. This requires such platforms to hire temporary staff from other sectors with redundancies. However, one essential to become a delivery partner is to possess a smart phone and the new hires are unable to procure them currently.
Based on the survey, it does seem that if the lockdown is to be extended beyond April 14th either at a national level or at state or district levels, the Government must expand the scope of the products that are available via retail stores and ecommerce platforms and include some of the categories listed above given the genuine needs of people.
LocalCircles will be sharing the details of this survey with various Government stakeholders so these inputs can be evaluated for policy changes and implementation.