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Second wave of Covid? From Tanishq to Panasonic, India Inc says we’re ready

If, perchance, there should be a second Covid-19 wave, companies will not be scattering in disarray this time round because many of them have re-configured their businesses to cope, so companies such as jewellery seller Tanishq can let consumers try on necklaces and ear-rings virtually and deliver the items to their doorstep.

Tanishq has overhauled its sales channels through a host of technological initiatives. As reports grow of a surge in Covid-19 cases and a possible second wave, Tanishq’s Vice President (marketing and retail), Arun Narayan, exudes confidence about managing.

Since the last year has been spent catering to customers through video calling, digital payments, home delivery, live assisted chats, and virtual try-ons on its website, he knows that his business is much more insulated from the impact of a new pandemic wave, feels Narayan.

A range of companies that Business Standard spoke to echoed this confidence. Consumer goods companies have adapted their plans and primed their supply chains. Last year, Panasonic incurred huge losses in sales during the peak summer. Demand for air conditioners and refrigerators bombed.

Should there be a virus resurgence, Panasonic is ready with its summer products range, said Manish Sharma, president & CEO, Panasonic India and South Asia.

“We continue to take all precautions at our offices, retail stores and manufacturing units. As of now, we are evaluating remedial measures in case of any disruption in manufacturing or sales. We will continue to follow the government’s directive on the evolving situation,” he said.

Being discretionary items, the home appliances category was one of the worst hit during the last lockdown. But B. Thiagarajan, managing director at Blue Star, is unperturbed. Sales of its air conditioners grew 17 per cent year-on-year in the October-December quarter and he expects the trend to continue.

“We have streamlined our operations and supply chains for minor disruptions like localised lockdowns. Given that the vaccines are now administered at a rapid pace, I don’t see any major disruptions like last time”, said Thiagarajan.

In the fast-moving consumer goods space, some leading manufacturers are keeping their inventories high so that any abrupt lockdown around their production facilities do not impact their supply. “Further, most firms are producing larger packs more so that if consumers opt for stocking up like last summer, then they are able to feed them. Lack of enough supplies in the initial days of the pandemic had led to the loss of business for us,” said an executive from a leading FMCG firm.

According to another senior executive from a multinational, the new business continuity plan has already been tried and tested over the past one year. Therefore, no major disruption in operations management is expected.

A Nestle India spokesperson said: “We continue to abide by our stringent Covid-19 protocols across our operations and adhere to all precautionary measures such as masking, social distancing, temperature screening and sanitizing.”

German wholesale chain Metro Cash & Carry has put in place an e-commerce application for convenient online shopping. It claims that nearly 70 per cent of its Indian customers on the app are exhibiting hybrid (online & offline) buying behaviour.

According to Arvind Mediratta, MD and CEO, Metro Cash & Carry India, it is now expanding its reach with small format stores.

“We have absorbed all the learnings from the past year on disruptions in the supply chain and the evolving consumption and buying habits of customers. We are now better equipped to ensure enough stock availability for our customers, especially in kiranas,” he said.

A large number of companies have also appealed to the government through the Confederation of Indian Industry to expand the scope of vaccinations so that they can get their employees and their families vaccinated.

Metro Cash & Carry is beginning to vaccinate its 14,000-strong Indian workforce, employed directly or indirectly, and Blue Star has said it is planning a similar move. Business Standard

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