India’s junior Commerce Minister Som Prakash said on Wednesday that the government will soon be introducing a national policy for logistics as well as e-commerce to boost the retail trade following the devastation suffered in the global pandemic.
He told the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) annual retail event called MASSMERIZE that the government was working together to meet the target of Atmanirbhar Bharat (Self Reliant India).
The minister said that the government recognised that the business paradigms had completely changed following the Covid-19 outbreak and would accordingly help the industry to adapt to new conditions.
Sanjeev Mehta, Chairman and Managing Director of Hindustan Unilever Ltd, said the industry needed to develop resilience and adaptability as it would be short-sighted to call the pandemic a Black Swan event as a number of similar phenomenon that may be compared to a herd of “stampeding elephants.”
He said businesses will need to be realigned for better capability and products aligned accordingly. “Every office will have to have the highest standards of safety and efficiency of operations.”
Mehta said that the success of future businesses will depend on how agile they are in responding to the changing customer needs. “Covid-19 will make digital as a way of life around the world and in India,” he added.
Raghava Rao, chief financial officer at Amazon, said that though the pandemic had impacted consumer behaviour in ways such as people were not venturing outdoors that much and resulted in more people working from home, there was a spike in consumption of certain items like leisure wear, home entertainment products and fitness goods.
Work from home had also increased demand for products like laptops.
He urged physical retail businesses to redevelop their models so that they have a bigger online presence.
Rao said that such a shift in consumer behaviour is now becoming pronounced even in smaller Indian towns and cities.
Arvind Mediratta. managing director and CEO of METRO Cash & Carry, said that people are preferring to shop either online or from their neighbourhood stores.
While business prospects for physical retail remain viable, they will have to adapt their business models to attract customers, he said.
Mediratta said sales personnel at stores do not often know enough about products that they are selling so companies may look to set up kiosks that provide customers all the information they need.
Physical retail stores may also have options such as self check-outs or buying online and then collecting the goods physically from a store.
Mediratta said that their retail business that catered to physical grocers have seen a 30% rise through the lockdown period by adapting such practices.