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 FMCG space 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 new brand series, Back to Business, we spoke to Venkatesh Parthasarathy, VP Marketing, LOTTE India that houses our very own Chocopie, Coffy Bite, and Lotte Candies.
How are you coping with the impact of Covid-19 on LOTTE India? How effectively have you used the lockdown period?
While Covid-19 has most definitely impacted our business, Marketing had to take the challenges in stride.
During this time, Marketing focused its attention on the following areas:
- Social Media Presence [Coffy Bite, Lotte Chocopie]: Intent was to maintain mental salience with our customers.
- New Product Launches: Redraft plans – launch months, markets, channels, launch norms
- Relook at Marketing budgets for the balance of the year – weeding out ‘non-essential’ expense items, so as to align with the revised organizational goals. The tussle between ‘brand activation’ and ‘brand building’ had to be reconciled, with the current context in mind.
- Get more closer with Sales, considering operational, inventory challenges across the sales and supply pipeline.
- Data Analysis: Outside the data schema, we have had to add an additional variable – “Red, Orange & Green” [courtesy the lockdown] to look at where our brands have done well and where there were challenges.
- Revisit product portfolio: Endeavour was to ensure market relevance and appeal in the aftermath of the formal lockdowns.
- Communication [Internal/External]: While constant engagement internally was on, throughout, we also had to keep our external partners together – advertising, media & research agencies. Knowledge sharing and exchange of perspectives was a constant affair.
The quest for a solution to a particular crisis helps invent new business opportunities and sometimes lead to a revision of existing business models. What sort of innovation has or will the Covid-19 pandemic bring to LOTTE India?
Three critical levers for our products are Stock Availability, Access, and Consumer Demand.
There is recovery from the manufacturer front in terms of making stocks available and accessible to the retail trade right now.
Likewise large retailers have beefed up their online infrastructure and presence in order to serve their customers. We have also seen unconventional partnerships – Manufacturers /Retail Chains /Online Grocers /Cab Aggregators / QSRs / Food Delivery Apps, emerge to service the marketplace at various stages of the lockdown. Manufacturers & Large Online / Offline retailers are servicing large apartment complexes through RWAs (Resident Welfare Associations). Apart from taking up telephonic orders and deliver goods direct to home, standalone /grocers are rapidly enlisting on delivery apps like Dunzo to build a business.
We are exploring all the above opportunities in our GTM (Go-To-Market). Job descriptions have been redrawn keeping in mind the opportunities, requirements, and employees’ capabilities. E-Commerce as a separate business vertical has been carved out in the Sales organization.
With unemployment rates skyrocketing and salary cuts, consumer spending is likely to be hit in the near term. Discretionary spend categories will be impacted. Customer acquisition will be key, going forward for retailers and FMCG players like us.
Use of digital technologies, better channel partnerships and the right product portfolio are imperatives.
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?
Beginning May, we have been able to service Orange & Green zones satisfactorily. Delivery Infrastructure has most definitely improved in these areas.
What will be your communication strategy post opening of the lockdown? Understandably bringing customers back to you will be difficult. What will be the objective of the communication/marketing strategy?
In the near term, our strategy will rest on customer acquisition for our brands. Mental salience and Availability (Mental & Physical) is key. Since resources are scarce, we will need to match these with the right markets, which offer faster and better returns. Media investments will be made accordingly.
How did you keep the morale of the employees during this lockdown period? On a personal note, what kept you positive?
The WFH period was pretty interesting. I had an opportunity to lay out my day in a meaningful manner. Obviously, the structure was built, on a trial & error basis, reconciling work & home needs [with help from the organization thru use of technology].
I carry this to my office right now in order that I and my team stay more productive and contribute more.
Personally, the lockdown period has helped me in:
- Building closer relationships with my ad, media, PR, and research partners, apart from my team. Work priorities had to be balanced with empathy.
- Improving my knowledge base – Extensive Reading
- Building a resourceful and meaningful network on Linkedin – so that I know who to go to, for support when I have a problem to solve.
- Learning Digital Marketing – with help from my colleagues, agencies and sheer doing!
- Sharpening my MR skills – getting back to Tull& Green was a great help!
- Outside the above, listening to great music helped satisfy my soul.
What are some of the post-lockdown business strategies that you will use to bring the business back on track or atleast get it in the right direction and also create demand for yourself?
Chalk out near, mid-term and long term goals for the business – basis internal/external analyses, inputs from the consumer & research partners. Revisions are mandatory, considering the pandemic’s impact. Redraw brand plans and marry resources, markets and consumers so as to build growths. Changes in the product portfolio is warranted.
Invest more in Digital Marketing, beef up brand communication & promotion. Razor focuses on market interventions and returns thereof – in order that we learn what’s working and what’s not, in a faster and agile manner. Finance & Sales are the closest bedfellows for Marketing, considering one provides resources and the other draws bread and butter with consumer demand. Stay in constant touch with the market, consumer behavior changes so as to ensure contextual relevant and meaningful brand communication.