Whirlpool India said it is resuming business in a calibrated manner this week in line with respective State government directives, as the country grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Vishal Bhola, Managing Director, Whirlpool India, said, “Our manufacturing plant in Puducherry has re-opened and we are working with Haryana and Maharashtra Governments to re-open our two refrigeration factories in Pune and Faridabad. Our service, sales offices and warehouses are resuming operations this week as well and we are in touch with local administrative offices to get approvals for all offices shortly.”
“ While there is clarity from the Centre on account of resumption of operations in green and orange zones, our C&FA agents and service technicians are awaiting confirmations from local authorities to resume smooth operations,” he added.
The company said that safety of employees and its associates remains the key priority and it will be adhering to social distancing SOPs at its facilities and will also ask its employees to continue to work from home as much as possible.
On how soon the industry is expected to see recovery once the lockdown is fully lifted, Bhola said, “The medium-long term prospects for consumer durables are still very strong. Across categories, penetration levels for appliances are still very low and that will continue to fuel demand. Unlike other countries, the appliance replacement cycle is also very long and therefore even the replacement demand is more of a necessity than a luxury. We expect a short-term surge because of the latent demand in the system.”
While the government has given relaxations on opening of all shops in rural regions and standalone shops in urban centres, barring malls, not many durables stores have opened yet. “Consumer footfalls are yet to show up on the retail floors as practically most stores are yet to open. In the short term, we expect consumers to move towards a contact-less decision making and purchase journey and we are working with our retail partners on the same,” he added.
Asked about online sales, Bhola said so far only 7-10 per cent of the sales were happening online for the consumer durables industry. However, this is expected to change significantly. “In the last few weeks, we have been scaling up our presence not only with e-commerce marketplaces but also with traditional offline retailers wanting to have a strong online presence,” he added.
As consumers are increasingly looking at products to enhance health and hygiene, the company said it has fast-tracked its innovation pipeline to meet the evolving consumer needs. “There is going to be an increase in the demand for washing machines as well as new categories like dishwashers both from a hygiene as well as convenience perspective. Our belief is that the consumer journey would change significantly as we move forward, and at Whirlpool, we are looking at re-imagining every single touch point and how that would change,” he added.
―The Hindu Business Line