The new normals in a world where Covid-19, unfortunately, is becoming a part of our life will bring about many changes in the way businesses will be conducted, and more importantly, the way we live our life.
In a world post-lockdown where the rules of the game are set to change, or rather have already changed, the way forward for the paint industry is also entering an unknown road.
The nation-wide lockdown is slowly being lifted across orange and green zones and life is slowly crawling back to a new-normalcy. 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.
In this story of Medianews4u’s super successful brand series, Back to Business, we spoke to S Mahesh Anand, President – Nippon Paint (India) Private Limited (Decorative Division) and President of the Indian Paint Association (IPA)
How are you coping with the impact of Covid-19 on Nippon Paint? How effectively have you used the lockdown period?
COVID-19 was an unexpected, invisible enemy that shook the entire world out of gear. No one was prepared for such a disaster. We pre-closed Mar’20 abruptly on 25th Mar’20. Our factory and all our offices were closed and we started following the WFH practice across all departments. Being a multinational company, we were properly guided by our Group on the lockdown guidelines and of course the Government’s guidelines which was also strictly followed.
During the lockdown, we constantly engaged online with all our stakeholders, both internal & external. Painters who form part of the informal sector are one of the most important stakeholders in the paint industry. They are dependent on their daily wages which stopped all of a sudden. We reached out to them by extending e-vouchers & direct delivery of essential goods which helped them in their fight against this crisis. We prepared guidelines on the post lockdown ‘new normal’ way of working for our employees. We also provided guidelines for our trade/dealers on how to resume their business operations post the lockdown. Also, guidelines for painters were prepared & circulated. We also came out with the ‘safety’ painter certification for painters which would help them to get back to work with confidence.
Post lockdown we stared our operations after completing the cleaning, sanitizing & fumigating our factory, depots & warehouses. We ensured our downstream supply chain was completely safe till the products reached dealer shops. Every painting can / carton left our depots/warehouse with ‘Sanitized for Safety’ stickers affixed. Extensive PR campaigns were made around this effort to build strong confidence for our customer network. With Unlock 1.0 we are facing the trade with a lot of confidence, something we acquired by our actions during the 50 days of lockdown.
The quest for a solution to a particular crisis helps invent new business opportunities and sometimes leads to a revision of existing business models … What sort of innovation has or will the Covid-19 pandemic bring to your brand/industry/category?
The decorative paint business in India is driven by the repainting segment or the replacement market. Today paint is not just a decorative item, it comes with lot of functional properties. A coat of paint can offer – anti-bacterial, anti-virus, anti-stain, air-purifying or even heat resistant properties, to name a few properties. This particular crisis has made customers choose more of wellness products across categories they use. Even for paint manufacturers, this crisis has thrown open an opportunity for us to promote our Wellness series of products. We started our ‘Sanitize your Walls’ campaign with these four products which can kill 99% of harmful germs
- KIDZ Emulsion – Clean Air, Safe Touch & Washable interior emulsion
- Odorless Aircare – air-purifying interior emulsion
- SatinGlo Prime – High-sheen anti-bacterial emulsion
- SatinGlo Plus – Sheen anti-bacterial emulsion
We are also working closely with various research institutions for introducing an emulsion that can protect humans from ‘COVID-19 Virus’. Having pioneered ‘Green Philosophy’ in paints in India we, have a distinct headway than our competitors when it comes to the Green & Wellness domain. This crisis has paved the way for our hi-tech products with international quality made in India. Truly VOCAL for LOCAL
This crisis has also widened our horizon and we have entered the PPE products – hand sanitizers, face masks, gloves, face shields, full-body suits for painters, googles. Our target segment is painters and these products will be available across all paint & hardware shops.
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?
Our factory in Sriperumbudur and all our 40 depots have started operations as they are not in containment zones. Almost 80% of our trade is open with restricted timings as instructed by the Government. Logistics are available across districts & states with due approvals. Except for the containment zones, the business has started but not with as much vigor as it was in pre-COVID-19 times.
What will be your communication strategy post the opening of the lockdown? What will be the objective of the communication/marketing strategy?
Our communication aims to reassure consumers that we are following all the necessary hygiene & safety measures to reach them safely. Our painters also, are now ‘ProSafegy’ certified who will be following all safety guidelines to keep themselves as well as others safe. We have further focused on the marketing campaign – ‘Sanitize your Walls’ with our Wellness range of products for Walls, Metal & Wood that would kill 99% of germs and keep you & your family safe.
How did you keep the morale of the employees during this lockdown period? On a personal note, what kept you positive?
By constantly engaging with them virtually, I have been meeting them a lot more frequently now than I did before the COVID times. Encouraging them to enrich their knowledge and improving their personality during lockdown times.
On a personal note, interacting with my team, dealers, other stakeholders & few institutions kept me active and positive. Of course a bit of family time, my time, exercise, yoga, cooking, and watching movies of my choice.
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?
Hoping there should not be any second and third wave of COVID-19 for the business to get back on track. For a diverse and vast country like India, it is very difficult to balance between life and livelihood. Yet another wave would prove to be a disaster. We have calibrated multiple business scenarios to adapt depending on the situation. For the paint business to come back on track, domestic consumption should improve. Once the GDP growth is back on track, the paint industry would also grow as this industry closely perform 1.5 to 2 times of GDP growth.
Is there anything else that you would want to add?
This might sound more philosophical but it is a fact that the human race has overcome many pandemics like this in the past. Though the previous one is almost a century ago, we should still have the resilience to overcome this crisis quicker by keeping us and others safe.