Three days after India imposed a nationwide lockdown, Devender Singh revved up his motorcycle to deliver meat and eggs to customers - but his heart was in his mouth as he closed in on a police barricade on a deserted New Delhi road.
Beatings of delivery workers by overzealous police after Prime Minister Narendra Modi late last month suddenly imposed the world's biggest lockdown to contain the coronavirus had unnerved him.
"That day, it felt like my time to get thrashed had come," Singh, 30, told Reuters on a quiet summer afternoon as he was out making deliveries.
"But what I was expecting didn't happen. The police were very friendly - they just asked me where I was going and why."
Singh said he was allowed to proceed after he flashed a so-called movement pass authorised by the police and given to him by his employer Licious, an online meat store backed by Bertelsmann's venture capital arm and Silicon Valley's Mayfield Fund.
E-commerce is now limping back to life in India as the border closures, warehouse shutdowns and general confusion that initially accompanied the three-week shutdown order have eased.
While still clearing a backlog of previously placed orders, most online retailers are accepting new orders, albeit with delayed deliveries and a limited product catalogue.
Moreover, political coldness towards e-commerce, which many in India see as a threat to millions of brick-and-mortar retailers, has faded.
While grocery stores and pharmacies are still open, it has become evident that Singh and the thousands of delivery workers like him have become crucial frontline soldiers in the country's battle against the pandemic.
Highlighting that shift, two days into the lockdown, Trade Minister Piyush Goyal held a video conference with nearly two dozen e-commerce executives in a bid to understand hurdles faced by the sector.
That contrasts with Goyal's public snub of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos during his India visit in January, when he said the company wasn't doing a "great favour to India" by investing a billion dollars.
"While e-commerce companies are still somewhat struggling to fulfil deliveries, everyone - the government, customer, and Indian businesses - is fast realising that online retail cannot be ignored anymore," said Satish Meena, a senior analyst at Forrester Research.
"I believe the government will now urgently streamline e-commerce regulations which will help ease processes and remove bottlenecks in the sector."
For Ankita Mitra, a public relations professional based in the southern tech hub of Bengaluru, e-commerce has been a godsend.
She said she has been placing online grocery orders for her parents who live nearly 2000 km away in north India.
"I can sleep at night, knowing that my parents don't have to worry about going out tomorrow," she said.
Australian Associated Press