In a bid to address the safety concerns of consumers amid the pandemic, e-commerce marketplace Snapdeal has tested last-mile delivery of packets using robots developed by autonomous mobility startup Ottonomy IO.
The robots use specialised Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms to navigate crowded areas and can run along sidewalks and local streets autonomously to deliver orders to nearby homes, the two companies said on Tuesday.
These robots use machine learning, fuse data from 3D Lidar and cameras to have a robust understanding of the external world.
Once the delivery robot arrives at the doorstep, the customer receives an alert. Through a unique QR code sent to the user, the hold area of the robot can be unlocked and the customer can retrieve their order.
Since the delivery robots can carry multiple orders at a time, the QR code used by the customer only unlocks the specific package hold area that contains the order placed by the user.
“We are investing heavily in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to develop future-oriented capabilities. Delivery via robots is part of the evolving future of logistics and we are excited to partner with Ottonomy IO to test these technologies,” a Snapdeal spokesperson said in a statement.
The pilot was conducted in multiple societies in Noida and Gurugram.
The delivery robots were stationed at the entrance of residential societies, wherein the delivery agent scanned a QR code and placed the package inside.
Equipped with the society’s map, the robot navigated to reach the consumer and disinfected the packet on the way.
The robots can be remotely monitored and controlled whenever human intervention is needed.
“Contactless delivery is a need of the hour to ensure shopper safety and enhanced experience,” said Ritukar Vijay, Co-founder, Ottonomy IO.
“Automating the last-mile delivery process and clubbing it with contactless interaction helps address safety concerns of both shoppers and delivery professionals,” Vijay said.
Flipkart Wholesale expands footprint to 12 new cities
Digital business-to-business marketplace Flipkart Wholesale on Thursday said it has expanded its operations to 12 new cities ahead of the festive season.
Flipkart Wholesale will now be operational in Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Mysuru, Chandigarh Tricity, Meerut, Agra, Jaipur, Thane-Bhiwandi-Ulhasnagar, Greater Mumbai, Vasai-Virar-Mira-Bhayanadar, Thane (Kalyan-Dombivli) and Thane (Navi Mumbai).
Expanding with the fashion category in these cities, Flipkart Wholesale said it is looking to digitally transform kiranas and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to help them grow faster, retain their customers, and improve their profitability.
“As we enter the festive season, we are excited to be scaling up our offerings across 12 cities, aiming to create more opportunities for MSMEs and Kiranas,” Adarsh Menon, Senior Vice President and Head – Flipkart Wholesale, said in a statement.
“From trendy Jaipuri Kurtis to evergreen Mysuru silk saris, we aim to help small businesses embrace the digital transformation and emerge as more robust businesses,” Menon added.
By this year-end, Flipkart Wholesale also plans to expand into categories such as home and kitchen, and grocery.
Flipkart Wholesale said its customers will have access to easy credit facilities in partnership with leading banks and non-banking financial companies to manage cash flow.
E-commerce platform Flipkart first announced the launch of Flipkart Wholesale’s operations earlier this month.
At the time of the launch, the platform was available for fashion retailers, especially footwear and apparel, in Gurugram, Delhi and Bengaluru.
Nepal-China border point reopens after 3-week closure
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The Rasuwagadhi-Kerung border point between Nepal and China reopened on Thursday after it remained closed for around three weeks due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a senior customs official said here.
The border point, which is one of the key trade routes between the two country, was closed after a Nepali worker tested positive for the novel coronavirus, reports Xinhua news agency.
Earlier, it reopened in early July after it was closed for nearly six months firstly due to snowfall in the bordering Chinese region and later because of the Covid-19 outbreak.
“Two containers of medical goods entered into Nepal after the reopening of border point on Wednesday,” senior customs officer at Rasuwagadhi, Punya Bikram Khadka told Xinhua.
“Now, we hope the movement of goods will take place normally.”
According to the officer, there has been a restricted flow of goods through this border as both countries have adopted zero human-to-human contact policy between the two sides until the pandemic is over.
The Tatopani-Zhangmu, another border point, which reopened in late March after closing in January, has also remained shut for the last few months.
Imports fall leads to New Zealand’s largest trade surplus in 6 yrs
New Zealand imports fell nearly NZ$1 billion ($650 million) in August, leading to the country’s largest annual trade surplus since 2014, the Stats NZ said on Thursday.
The NZ$1.3 billion annual goods trade surplus reflected a rise in exports and a fall in imports over the past months, Xinhua news agency quoted Stats NZ as saying.
“The recent falls in imports and growth in exports resulted in an annual trade surplus not seen since the strong 2013-2014 dairy export season, when product prices were high,” senior analyst Nicholas Cox said in a statement.
Imports of crude oil, cars, and other vehicles were much lower than usual in recent months after the Covid-19 pandemic, Cox said.
New Zealand’s demand for fuel dropped due to the international and domestic travel restrictions, which were put in place to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
During the lockdown in April, imports of vehicles were particularly affected by international trade restrictions and the closure of vehicle dealerships as non-essential businesses, he added.
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