While many parts of the country are witnessing long lines outside grocery stores during the current nationwide lockdown, the administration of a remote district in Arunachal Pradesh and MeeBuddy, an Andhra Pradesh-based online app are coming together to ensure residents get their essentials delivered home.
It was sometime in February when the Lohit district administration first reached out to MeeBuddy, an app which is like Big Basket, OLX and Urban Clap rolled into one for semi-urban and rural areas.
It delivers daily essentials, agricultural items and services like plumbing, carpentry and electrical work, while also providing a platform to purchase and sell local and used products like agriculture tools, electronic gadgets, and handicrafts across semi-urban and rural areas through affiliated dealers (franchisees).
Launched in February 2019, the app has covered 200 villages working with 20 franchisees across Andhra Pradesh in the past year. It is also operational in Telangana and Arunachal Pradesh with Meghalaya on the horizon. It’s operational in Arunachal Pradesh thanks to its association with the Smart Village Movement, which is working with the State government to enable rural people to provide for themselves through entrepreneurship, job training and onboarding them to open innovation platforms.
“Our delivery boys are currently delivering in Tezu town (District Headquarters) and the surrounding 20 villages. During this lockdown, however, we are focussing only on the delivery of essential items,” says Malireddy Rajasekhar, founder and CEO, MeeBuddy, speaking to The Better India.
Post the lockdown, the Lohit district administration worked closely with the app to immediately operationalise the delivery of essential items. The app has registered over 1480 users in Lohit district and executed over 200 deliveries.
“Thus far, the response to this app has been quite good. On the second day following its launch a week ago, we registered around 900 users. We didn’t expect so many people to get onto the app. There were initial complaints that the app was slowing down a little, but we have managed to address this problem, besides increasing delivery channels. We are covering Tezu, the headquarters of Lohit district, and villages in and around it,” says Deputy Commissioner Prince Dhawan.
For a Mebuddy app to work in Lohit district, franchisee owners were needed. So, the administration initially engaged a couple of unemployed and enterprising youth, reached out to the market association and got all service providers and goods delivery shops registered on it with their product offerings and menu.
The delivery is facilitated by franchisee owners, who have gone onto further hire some delivery boys. These delivery boys are trained and given the proper equipment to deliver these products to residences.
“We have got five delivery boys delivering products around the clock. The plan is to expand this service to the Wakro and Sunpura circles as well. Administrations in nearby Pasighat and Itanagar have already expressed an interest as in,” he adds.
In an interview with Guwahati-based publication EastMojo, a resident, Heymu Lohorung, spoke about how the app delivered his order of coffee, sugar and onions in 30 minutes.
“Had this app not been there, I would have no choice but to step out of my home to procure sugar at least, and it might have put my health at risk, who knows…In fact, seeing pictures coming from various parts of the country showing essential goods shops, vegetable and fruit vendors overcrowded with customers left me wondering that if a remote district like mine can launch such an app and connect all logistics needed to supply essential goods and services to citizens, to stop them come out during lockdown period, in no time, then why can’t the other districts follow this model?” he asked.
It’s a sentiment Rajasekhar also expresses.
“Having hundreds of people gather at markets to buy essential items is a dangerous situation, and our delivery system seeks to ensure people don’t have to take that step. One concern in Arunachal is the lack of mobile network, particularly in rural areas. The areas we are covering so far don’t have such issues, though. After the lockdown, we will expand all over Arunachal, and the state government will address the network issue,” he says.
Meanwhile, for Dhawan, the arrival of MeeBuddy has genuinely eased some of his major administrative concerns.
“From an administrative standpoint, the importance of MeeBuddy is that it keeps people at home. There is no exchange of currency as well since you can pay online, and this saves a trip to the ATM as well. As an administrator, I can monitor whether essential commodities are getting delivered to people, whether there is a price rise in the market, and I have all these statistics available on a dashboard. This is key because often we aren’t able to obtain the correct data of what is happening in the market,” he tells TBI.
In the more interior areas, where the app hasn’t reached, the administration has scheduled time slots for locals to collect their rations. Social distancing has been ensured by marking a queue line. To check prices, they are conducting regular inspections in markets.
At this critical juncture, collaborations like the one between MeeBuddy and Lohit district administration are showing the way forward to ensure people stay at home.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)