Online Grocers struggle to meet demands created by RMO in Malaysia

  • Among the reasons given are staff shortage & uncertain supply chains
  • MyGroser expects to normalise operations again within a day or two

Grocers like Tesco and MyGroser are scrambling to meet the spike in demand.

These are indeed unprecedented times in Malaysia and the world. And just like grocers in any country hit by the Covid-19 disease, Malaysian grocery chains are experiencing a tsunami of demand crashing against their websites. In Malaysia, the public has been encouraged by the government to go online to purchase their daily essentials after the Restricted Movement Order (RMO) was enforced in the country on 16 March. However, most of the online grocers right now are no longer able to take additional orders, in part due to difficulties related to the RMO itself.

For example, Tesco Malaysia posted on their official Instagram page yesterday that a number of their staff "need to respond to personal or family challenges connected with dealing with COVID-19", clearly contributing to their issues with capacity. Their online app has its next available delivery slot on 10 April, more than two weeks from today.

Tesco Malaysia supermarkets themselves are still open to members of the public who can visit their stores. Apart from maintaining social distancing and encouraging the use of credit cards and e-wallets, Tesco is also trying to encourage customers to use their Scan & Shop app. Customers can scan the barcode on the products as they shop, and then present it at the self-service counter for immediate payment (an assistant will check that the number of items in your trolley tallies with what is on the app). It was originally intended just to make shopping easier, but the supermarket notes that it also simplifies social distancing in their stores.

As for demand, there has been increased purchases in toilet paper, cooking oil, rice, flour, UHT milk and hand soap. And just this week, to ensure as many people as possible get the items they need, Tesco Online is now limiting customers to no more than 3 items on every product line.

"Please expect a higher than usual substitution of products," their Instagram page reads, while adding "Rest assured that we are opening more new slots for the weeks to come."


Supply chains less predictable

Online Grocers struggle to meet demands created by RMO in MalaysiaMeanwhile, MyGroser chief executive officer and cofounder Stephen Francis (pic, left) explains that he too had to limit orders through their app. "It was really a question of focus and being responsible," he said, stressing the importance of fulfilling customer orders and meeting delivery windows. "The normal expected supply and resupply of products to our cloud stores have been less predictable this week."

He too agrees that there has been a shift in purchasing patterns. "We are seeing more people buying items that show they are cooking more at home."

MyGroser has had to adapt to the uptick in demand. “Currently, we are deploying an enhanced online solution that is able to handle greater volumes of requests and orders, as well as increasing the number of vehicles to better meet delivery times,”

Stephen is confident that normal service will be resumed soon, and that he can open new order slots shortly. "We are already seeing supply chains adapting over the past few days, with the hope being that we can normalise operations again within a day or two."

Nevertheless, he stresses the importance of keeping the flow uniterrupted. "It would help tremendously if we could get fresh produce from different parts of the country moved quickly to the main population centres," he said. "Suppliers are doing their best but we see slowdowns due to capacity in some instances, and also concern over how to do so."

What's clear is that the inability of grocers, physical such as Tesco and online such as MyGroser, to meet demand in the present time, has nothing to do with tech. It is a talent capacity and supply chain issue created by a public health crisis.

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