Due to a standoff with the state sales tax department, almost all major online stores have stopped delivering products to the state

Technopark’s postcode, 695581, is, perhaps, one of the most keyed in address in the city on e-commerce sites. In fact, it’s hard not to miss the “sacks full” of parcels, stamped with the logo of popular online stores, which arrive on campus on a daily basis. No longer.

Thanks to a standoff with the state sales tax department, regarding payment of taxes to the state, almost all major online stores such as Flipkart, Myntra, Jabong, Snapdeal, and the likes have stopped delivering products to Kerala. Techies, many of whom confess to being online shopping addicts, are feeling the crunch.

“If you type in any pin code in Kerala, the standard reply is ‘delivery is not available to this pin code for the current item,’” says Gautham Jose, a developer at an MNC. “I really miss buying stuff online. I do most of my shopping for clothes, electronic goods and shoes online. I have Flipkart’s app on my phone and whenever I wanted, I could order what I want, knowing that it will be delivered home or to the office,” he adds.

Gautham’s colleague Mythily Nambiar, who often gets books delivered to her office, says: “Online shopping is a huge deal in Technopark. There are often queues to collect parcels from outside the buildings when they arrive on campus. The whole issue started off with e-stores stopping their cash-on-delivery option. Then it just snowballed from there.”

Arun Babu, a senior systems administrator with an MNC, says he’s rather perplexed with the issue. “Recently, I went shopping for an inverter for my home and found one online that fit all my specifications. Thanks to the standoff, I had to cancel my order. When I enquired in electric shops in the city, the MRP of the same inverter was Rs. 4,000 more, which is quite a big difference for an ordinary customer like myself! Tell me why I should I miss out on lower prices, bargains, options and better quality goods, especially when we are already playing service tax to the central government when we buy the goods?” he asks.

The standoff has been on for more than a month now. As we understand only eBay and Amazon currently deliver to Kerala. However, the deliveries are limited to certain goods and there is almost always a delay.

Naadam R. Bhadran, who works for E-Team Informatica, explains: “eBay is able to deliver because we are buying from individual sellers, who courier the parcels independently. It’s those retailers who deliver directly, through their own channels, who are having a problem. Amazon, meanwhile, is said to have a tie-up with India Post.”

There seems to be no end in sight for the deadlock, unless a uniform tax regime for e-commerce is implemented across the country, and techies say that they don’t know who or how to approach the problem.

“I have tried calling up customer care representatives of online stores a couple of times. Their standard response is that it is a logistics problem, and unless and until their logistics partners can work it out with the sales tax department, there is not much that they can do.” says Naadam. Gautham agrees and adds: “Until the issue resolved, I guess I will have to head to the actual stores.” Meanwhile, Arun says: “If they intend to continue the standoff, the government should ensure that the products are all available in stores here and also that we get it at the same price as quoted online. Both seem rather unlikely.”

However, techies being techies always have a trick up their sleeves. “I now get my shopping delivered to my friends’ or colleagues’ addresses in Bangalore. I time it so that delivery is on Wednesdays, Thursdays or Fridays, so that when they come down to the city for the weekend, they can bring it to me! It’s a bit of a stretch, yes. But beggars can’t be choosers,” says Naadam, with a laugh.