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Packing During a Pandemic

It has been nearly five months since the pandemic has disrupted normalcy around the globe. Students around the world, especially in India, have been confined to their houses. Amidst the confusion leading up to the lockdown, many students left their belongings behind including laptops, educational material, clothes and other personal items in their hostels or apartments. Most activities, especially online classes, have become cumbersome without their belongings.

It is during such times that brown cardboard boxes wrapped in brown tape, packages covered in bubble wrap, and courier delivery boys became heralds of good news for students living in distant parts of the country. With the great responsibility of handling their customers’ goods with the utmost care, organisations across cities, serving major colleges, are working towards shipping goods from college campuses to their homes—safely and professionally.

A Spurt in Companies

This unprecedented situation has led to several packaging, storage, and delivery companies springing up in and around Manipal. Apart from them, pre-existing professional companies have also shown interest in delivering goods and belongings from Manipal to their customers’ houses. These companies take full responsibility—including locating one’s belongings, doing the necessary paperwork, packing them professionally, and ultimately couriering it to the intended recipient. The whole process—from the packaging to the items getting delivered at the doorstep, take just a few days.

 Teams from packaging and moving companies secure their customers’ belongings before shipping it for delivery. (Image Credits: Promptly Manipal)

One such company that emerged out of this extraordinary situation is Promptly Manipal Logistics, an entirely student-run setup, that aims to address and solve this problem for the students of MAHE. With separate procedures for students from hostels and those who stayed outside their college campuses, this new company, like numerous others already in the field, has taken up the initiative of delivering belongings to students’ homes across the country. “Any student is free to reach out to us through any major social media platform or fill the form requesting for service. Promptly Manipal then contacts the students personally regarding the formalities to be completed,” remarked Saloni Jain, the Managing Head of PML.

While providing dependable services to their customers, some companies are also shouldering the social responsibility by helping those in need. HaveYourSack, another company that helps deliver packages safely to students, offers to give leftover articles to those in need, with the permission of the customer. “We are not only doing this for monetary benefits, but also for the cause of helping the poor and underprivileged. We have also provided employment to people in need, as we stick by our motto of ‘Pack for a Cause’ in these challenging times,” explained Priyank Dodhia, founder of HaveYourSack.

Paperwork and Procedures

Companies handle most of the official aspects, but students who resided in hostels have to communicate and get permissions from their respective hostel wardens, as well as the Chief Warden to let these companies handle their belongings. After approval, these packers provide the warden with a specific date, time and a list of people who will enter the hostel. For final year students, hostel and mess dues are to be cleared, before any shifting of belongings can take place. Every company aims to provide trustworthy service to their customers, and hence, they often request the customer to let a local friend accompany them while they are handling their belongings. In some cases, couriering the key isn’t even needed, with caretakers allowing the carpenter to break the room and cupboard locks, provided the customer is ready to compensate the costs. In case the customer has a roommate not availing the service, the roommate’s belongings are to be stored in a cupboard.

The whole procedure is done as safely and quickly as possible to minimise risk. Workers wear masks, gloves, and follow all medical protocols while packing the customer’s belongings. The entire operation is completed while on a video call with the customer, thereby assuring them of safety and quality of service. “The whole process was super-smooth and transparent, right from the packing to the delivery. I got my stuff quickly, and with no visible damage. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who’s worried about the luggage they have left back!” remarked Rohit Kuber, a student at MIT.

Members of the company who enter hostels or apartments have to follow safety precautions in line with the new social distancing norms. (Image Credits: Promptly Manipal)

As outsiders to the college community, packing and delivery companies have to obtain permissions from college authorities before starting their operations. Initially, people from such companies had to obtain flu certificates from KMC every time their team wanted to enter the MIT hostels. Subsequent meetings with the Chief Warden, however, resolved this issue for most companies. For students living in apartments, however, the process is more informal, and in some scenarios, case-dependent, with landlords generally allowing the workers to complete the task under supervision.

Prospect of Growth

To keep themselves relevant in the hyper-competitive market, a lot of companies are rolling out new and innovative marketing strategies. Some offer a choice of male and female coordinators, considering what customers would feel comfortable with. Apart from this, there are many lucrative deals these companies provide to their customers. Referral programs, as well as a discount on bulk packaging, are some ways through which these companies attract customers, keeping in mind that many students are looking to save in these times of financial hardship.

Within just a few months of being operational, and plenty of orders still rolling in, companies like Promptly Manipal and HaveYourSack have overcome a multitude of challenges in this domain. New social distancing norms and safety protocols demand the highest level of precaution be maintained while venturing outdoors and handling others’ belongings. There have been challenges concerning temporary lockdowns in regions where customers’ belongings are to be delivered. “Customer satisfaction, service quality and efficiency of operations have been key problems that we have successfully overcome. We are poised to face any new challenge that may arise in future with the increased spread of the disease,” said Saloni Jain, who is optimistic about her organisation.

The current situation necessitates astute planning, optimum utilisation of resources, and a well-defined procedure for these companies to run their business efficiently. Fluctuating statistics of cases throughout the country, regional and country-wide lockdowns and people unable to step outdoors for day-to-day needs have thrust online services and home delivery into the limelight. Packaging, moving, and delivery is a domain that witnesses a lot of competition with companies trying to keep up with customer expectation and satisfaction. With doorstep delivery to students just a temporary model of business, companies are already looking to adapt to keep their business thriving. “I have a given it a fair amount of thought, and for future sustenance, we will have to pivot into other categories. We’ll also have to change the business model slightly which can be viable once normalcy is restored, but still, it’s all relative”, said Priyank, when asked about the future of HaveYourSack.

There is stiff competition amongst companies, as they look to transport and deliver a wide range of items to keep up with customer demands. (Image Credits: Promptly Manipal)

As the pandemic situation has plunged the country into a state of uncertainty, these companies, filled with dedicated and hardworking individuals, are continually striving to improve their standards. Some look to expand their customer base to other colleges, to reunite more students with their belongings at affordable rates. Such companies throughout Manipal should be commended for having combined social responsibility with the commercial strategy for taking the initiative to help students out in the time of need.

Featured image credits: Vectorstock