None of us had expected the lockdown to last for over 100 days; the fight against Covid-19 has only united us and in a way has prepped us all to adapt to the many ‘new normal’ that it brought with itself.
Some of the new normal include us washing our hands multiple times a day or using a hand sanitizer. The nation-wide lockdown is slowly being lifted across orange and green zones and life is crawling back to a new-normalcy.
These ‘new normal’ bring a plethora of opportunities for many brands to innovate and provide solutions and products that are suited to customer needs.
Businesses and brands are now are making their way back into the business; planning their communication plans for a new world post the covid-19 lockdown, keeping a note of some of the new buzz words such as ‘social distancing’, ‘work from home’ and the latest one; ‘atmanirbhar’.
Well, Covid-19 is not over yet, but it’s definitely the start of good. It’s time for Back to Business…
In this story of Medianews4u’s new brand series, Back to Business, we caught up with Dinesh Chhabra, CEO, Usha International Private Limited
How are you coping with the impact of Covid-19 on your brand & the organization? How effectively have you used the lockdown period?
Businesses across industries have been impacted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we are optimistic that with the reopening of businesses as we exit the lockdown one step at a time, the durables industry will see an uptick in demand in the coming months. We expect to see a trend where home and kitchen comfort will thrive, since most people will be working from home or staying at home. Therefore appliances that will ease the brutal summers and bring comfort to consumers will sell more. We are optimistic that with the easing of the lockdown, we will be able to even out business growth in the next 2-3 quarters and retain business continuity.
In line with our commitment towards our consumers, and with our dealers already stocked up before the lockdown, we expect to ensure a smooth transition as we resume business operations in full capacity. Customers may have had to delay their purchases, but we expect the demand in the coming months will make up for the current deficit. We are expecting a smooth transition to resuming business operations in full swing, as our dealers have enough stocks. All our suppliers have stocks for 2-3 weeks and can serve real-time demand. Currently, real demand is 60-65% open for sales.
The quest for a solution to a particular crisis helps invent new business opportunities and sometime leads to a revision of existing business models,what sort of innovation has or will the Covid-19 pandemic bring to your brand & industry?
At Usha International, we have kept consumers at the core of everything we do, and have been working tirelessly at the back-end to make our operations as seamless as possible. We have created a booking platform for fans and air coolers and are home delivering goods in permissible zones with contact-less deliveries in sanitized boxes. The customers can also visit our website and seek assistance in choosing the right kind of air-coolers in accordance to the size of their room/homes and usage.
Having said that, the post-COVID-19 world will likely be a digital-first world wherein consumers will increasingly prefer transacting online rather than offline and we at Usha are already well on our way there. When businesses get disrupted due to unforeseen circumstances that only way forward is to Reinvent – absorb, create and win the new realities; Reimagine – business possibilities – identify shifts, capture new white spaces; and Restructure – build the organisation for a new future which we already are.
While some parts of the country have become Covid-19 free, cities like Mumbai and Delhi are still in a lockdown situation. How are you planning to resume business across cities that are not in the Red?
We are following all Ministry of Home Affairs guidelines and adhering to zoning restrictions (green, orange, and red) across the country. Keeping consumers at the core of everything, we are streamlining operations as much as possible – some of our stores have been opened and we are also selling online. Usha has modern retail outlets, regional outlets, and stand-alone outlets. Online we have certainly seen growth in sales post Unlock 1.0. Things are picking up as there is pent up demand and the contribution from sales of premium category products has gone up.
Talking of offline sales, the situation is improving every day, even though 33% of our stores are in the red zone so among the 2100 Category A (LFR and RR stores) only 1400 have opened. Brand stores are also opening only on certain specified days. However, despite all of this retail sales have increased in the last 15 days since the stores have begun opening.We are optimistic about growth in Sell-Out this month via e-commerce and expecting sales to show some growth or remain flat in offline stores.
What will be your communication strategy post the opening of the lockdown? Understandably bringing customers back to you would be difficult, what will be the objective of the communication/marketing strategy?
First and foremost, these are unprecedented times and consumers expect more mindfulness from brands. Brands need to be cognizant of their marketing and communication strategies, so as to address the larger issue at hand and not be opportunistic. It is also imperative for marketers to lead with agility and adapt to change and pivot their business offerings, to win the consumer’s trust and serve the community. At Usha, we have always kept our brand values at the forefront of all our initiatives and will continue to do so in accordance with our commitment towards our buyers
Further, our call Centre employees are all working from home, and we are offering customer support in all permissible zones. We are also offering an extended warranty to consumers who lodged their complaint during the lockdown period and could not be serviced due to the restrictions. We take pride in our services team and the agility with which they respond to the need of the customer in the language of their choice. We hope to emerge stronger from the current situation.
How did you keep the morale of the employees during this lockdown period? On a personal note, what kept you positive?
The COVID-19 outbreak has accelerated the need to ensure that people around the globe have the necessary skill sets to be able to survive and re-align themselves to the ‘New Normal’. With the lockdown and ensuing isolation, companies large and small are adopting new paradigms of working. ‘Remote working’ has become the norm overnight as companies seek operational continuity amidst the global outbreak. Having said that, the changing environment and increased uncertainty about the future are bound to cause psychological upheavals amongst employees who are coming to terms with the impact of social distancing, work from home, and the new work-life balance till the lockdown in lifted.
This new environment calls for new ways in which we ensure the well-being of all employees. We are using this opportunity to keep our workforce engaged and inculcate in them the power of working collaboratively. Up-skilling to grow professionally and personally, online interactive trainings on product and service offerings, management skills, inspirational readings, as well as some fun stuff to keep a sense of bonhomie going – all of these keep out employees productive, motivated, and engaged.
What are some of the post-lockdown business strategies that you will use to bring the business back on track or at least get it in the right direction and also create demand for yourself?
This is potentially another pivotal moment for traditional retail outlets to have presence across offline and online channels. It is very evident that urban consumers are getting comfortable with online purchase and the trend is rapidly catching on in Tier II and Tier III cities as well. However, for a majority of the population, internet is not yet easily accessible making it imperative for brands to have a presence across all channels. The Omni-channel approach gives consumers an option to shop according to their ease, convenience and requirement. The gradual shift towards cross-channel content strategy will also allow retailers to leverage and maximize their outreach. Having said that, the future will be all about that balance between online and offline, for brands to really succeed.
Is there anything else that you would want to add?
The lockdown being lifted, allowing the opening of standalone shops and e-commerce deliveries is a great relief to all stakeholders, especially the consumer who is reeling under the onslaught of summer and in need of essential products. Consumers went into the lockdown without any notice and suddenly found themselves working from home and doing household chores alongside. With soaring temperatures, consumers want their homes and kitchen to be equipped to help time management and aid an efficient cool summer. This includes appliances that cut time in the kitchen – mixer grinders, choppers, juicers, ovens, as well as air-coolers and fans that keep them and their home cool.
The brand ‘Usha’ has evolved with the people and their changing aspirations and lifestyle needs to reinvent itself to offer innovative products across product categories. Being a long-standing player in the Indian market our constant endeavor is to bring innovations in design, technology and performance that would help in growing the category as well as the industry.