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 paint brands 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 brand series, Back to Business, we spoke to Minal Srivastava, Vice President- Growth, Strategy, and Marketing, Shalimar Paints.
How are you coping with the impact of COVID-19 on your brand/company? How effectively have you used the lockdown period?
With the state of the world continuing to remain volatile, we are taking all the required measures to ensure that business continuity and safety aspects run in parallel. We have kept our main focus on the bigger picture and trying to assess how the world will shape up to be in the post-COVID-19 era; if there is any such world that is. We need to accept the fact that this is the new normal now and need to continuously innovate, evolve, and learn to live with it.
We made sure that amidst the lockdowns while prioritizing safety and hygiene, we fruitfully utilized the time. Focusing on training and development and ensuring clear communications with our vast sales team spread across the country is how we spent the lockdown. Additionally, the lockdown period proved to be the perfect time to reassess and rework on various aspects of our business such as our distribution structure, discounting, and other business models/development decisions that we have taken in the past. Also, taking time out to reach out to our main influencers, i.e. the painter community with loyalty programs and other such measures has been mutually beneficial.
The quest for a solution to a particular crisis helps invent new business opportunities and sometimes results in a revision of existing business models. What sort of innovation has, or will the COVID-19 pandemic bring to your industry?
Right now, we are focusing on innovating the product portfolio that can help us steer through the current crisis. Be it a coating that can be anti-bacterial, enabling consumers to try and use the product without the intervention of a painter, or making the entire painting process safe and hygienic.
To achieve this, we have been currently working towards making our services contactless, which is going to be the new norm from now on and hence drive engagement among both existing and prospective customer base.
While some parts of the country have become COVID-19 free, cities like Mumbai and Delhi are still in the lockdown phase. How do you plan to resume business in the cities that are not in the red zone?
Despite the extended lockdowns in various regions of the country, we have done a considerable amount of business. This is large because a lot of our distribution is in smaller cities and towns which have a lesser number of COVID-19 cases as compared to metro cities. For a majority of the part, life is almost back to normal for these cities and towns, and we have resumed operations in these areas. We are confident that business will pick up pace in the coming months with lockdown regulations gradually being eased.
We have also made changes to our usual format of working to a more remote working and digitized model to ensure that our employees are not under any risk. While this is a way to optimize the cost, we are considering the shift in mindset as well since employees need sufficient time to adapt to the new ways of working. A crisis situation often offers you the opportunity to reassess and revise the way you work, so, we are working towards incorporating this change into the way we function.
What will be your communication strategy post opening of the lockdown? Understandably, bringing customers back to you might be difficult. What will be the objective of the communication/marketing strategy?
A bulk of our communication would be to ensure that our business will be able to progress further and flourish through safe and hygienic ways for customers to use our products. Since this is the new life and routine that we will need to get accustomed to, we need to communicate the same to the consumer. It is important to educate and make the consumer understand that there are certain jobs that cannot be ignored, and they need to make sure that they get them done in the safest way possible.
How did you keep the morale of employees high during the lockdown period? On a personal note, what kept you positive?
This has certainly been a turbulent time for not just any one individual, but the organization as a whole. We are working towards opening a direct channel of communication that is easily accessible for employees so that they can reach out at any time regarding any issue they might be facing with the evolving working models. This will allow employees to reach out to the management without any hindrances and ease the pressure if any. Apart from this, we are also revising our team structure to create one which will be best suited for the remote working model.
Personally, this has been an excellent opportunity for me to attempt a few things which I usually procrastinate due to lack of time. So, the lockdown is one of those rare times where we all managed to find some ‘me time’ to focus on ourselves and our progress in life through self-introspection and think about what matters the most to us as human beings. Now that we are slowly bouncing back to normal, I think it is time to put all our introspections to the test and be able to apply what we have learned throughout in real life.
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?
I think it is a bit too early to be discussing and implementing our post lockdown business strategies as it has only been a few weeks since we have resumed operations again. The market is slowly gaining momentum although currently, it is quite slow due to the uncertainty that we are all facing due to the pandemic. Not just demand but the entire business in terms of operations, warehouses, and supply chains had slowed down. However, they are getting back on track right now and despite the dip in demand, we are optimistic that within the next few months, the demand will rise once again. I think this pandemic is a lesson for every business in terms of being prepared to emerge from any crisis with little to no damage.
Is there anything else that you would want to add?
As of now, we are trying to get a better picture of what a post-COVID world will be. We utilized the lockdown period to train and develop our extended teams, reworked our distribution and discount structures, and also reached out to our influencers in the painter community. We are focusing on how to make the painting process safe and hygienic by creating a contactless service. Any pandemic or calamity forces industries to revisit its operations and learn to be more agile. This is exactly what the COVID-19 outbreak will do. We will ensure that our category is safe for consumers and continue to take one step at a time.