Covid wreaked havoc across the globe but accelerated some technological changes that would otherwise have taken years to come, a group of business leaders said at a webinar on Saturday.
“Covid-19 has only accelerated some changes in consumption trends that were already emerging. Some of these trends were already there. The trends which would have been established 12 to 15 years from now were accelerated and happened within two years,” said Shashi Sinha, the CEO-India of Mediabrands.
He was one of the speakers at Brandemic — Insightful discussions on strategic business transformations, organised by The Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in association with The Telegraph.
At another session, three persons at the helm of their companies discussed their experience of steering their organisations through the pandemic.
Rohit Ohri, chairman and CEO, FCB Ulka, who moderated the session called the pandemic a ‘black swan’ event. “It was something we never saw coming…. What has been the big impact on your business over the last 18 months? What are the significant changes you have put in place to combat the challenges?” he asked.
“In modern retail, physical or digital, we want people to change behaviour, we want customers’ current habits to break, we want people to move to newer options. In that sense, Covid was a habit-breaker for customers,” Damodar Mal, CEO of grocery retail business at Reliance Retail, said.
“We are in the business of consumption at home. Our biggest competition is consumption out of home. During the lockdown, our biggest competition shut down. We didn’t give ourselves the option of talking about supply chain and other constraints. We said if inherently simple mundane things like cooking at home and cleaning at home are now part of human joys, then we have a greater responsibility and role to play,” said Mal.
“We get a lot more data on what they buy, why they buy and how they buy. The data allows us to be more nimble…. In many ways, our processes have become better, we are delivering faster,” Srinandan Sundaram, executive director, foods and refreshment for Hindustan Unilever Limited, said.
Abhijit Roy, CEO of Berger Paints, said trust in people was imperative, pre-Covid or post-Covid. “You need to be an empathetic leader but keep looking at the data…. At the end of the day, you still need to trust people… command structure no longer exists,” said Roy.
At another session, Deep Kalra, the founder and CEO of MakeMyTrip, talked about coming back from the massive setback that the pandemic had on the tourism sector.
“We were completely taken aback by the magnitude of the first lockdown. In a way, shame on us. Because we had warnings from China, Italy, Spain and Iran. But most of us in India, we behaved like ostriches,” he said.
His biggest lesson during the crisis — “every time you are increasing a fixed cost, think twice”.