In a chat with Indiaretailing, Paras Budhiraja, Director, Paras Spices Pvt. Ltd., a leader in premium quality spices with a diversified bouquet of offerings, which includes spices, seasonings, herbs, dehydrated vegetables, dried starches, etc., talks of how the winds of fortune is blowing for the food retail business under the existing lockdown scenario and his assessment of the straws in the wind that will guide the industry’s actions going forward.
Ever since the lockdown began, a lot of companies in the food businesses have seen a spike in the demand for their products, especially those in the essentials category. From the short-term perspective, this spurt in demand can be explained as a panic-buying pattern on the part of consumers – a kind of herd behaviour that found its own momentum in the initial days of the lockdown.
As a result of this rush of demand on the one hand and a sharp dip in the production at the other end due to the restrictions of social distancing and lockdown, food manufacturing companies have been confronted with both front-end and back-end supply chain problems. This turn of developments has made the current business scenario very complex and challenging to operate in for companies. Thankfully, over the past few days, things have improved considerably even though businesses are far from experiencing a smooth sail.
Looking into the future, it is not possible to predict for sure when businesses will be able to turn a corner. But I think we’ll be able to have a clearer picture of the scenario in a month’s time. We hope that by then India and the world will have started recovering from this pandemic. However, even if we are able to contain the spread of COVID-19, I believe it will take at least 6-9 months for the market sentiment to be restored.
Like any seasoned food operator, we remain forever alert to the special safety and hygiene precautions of the times. Even otherwise, as a player in the food business, safety and hygiene is a sine qua non of our operations. We have been following the WHO guidelines and protocols even before the spread of the virus had started in India. We’ve reduced our working manpower to the minimum essential for better implementation and observation of all the required protocols. All necessary steps like maintaining proper physical distancing between our employees, proper sanitization, continuous body temperature monitoring, etc, are being ensured at our manufacturing facility.
We also have a very strong focus on training and sensitizing our employees to the practices that need to be followed both at work and home.
We believe in the dictum “never let a crisis go waste”. So, despite the challenges thrown up by the current situation, we have been able to work our way around the most niggling and nettlesome issues of our business operations. As an organization, we believe that this is the right time to introspect and reflect on our processes and the solutions that we offer and how we can further improve on our offerings. We’re also trying to understand how consumers are reacting to this current situation, what kind of change in the preferences and consumption trends will we see going forward, and how best we can map and work on the gaps with tailored and more focused offerings.
Looking ahead from where we stand today, I personally feel that brands with a focus on Food Quality and Safety will forge ahead in the post-COVID phase and should fare better in the long term. The changes in the lifestyle that we are witnessing is also a very big factor that will have an impact on the kind of innovation that companies will focus on. As e-commerce and social media will most certainly play an even bigger role in the days ahead, our social media feeds are now buzzing with food and recipe videos. We have all seen how the Dalgona coffee videos became one of the hottest trending topic worldwide. Brands will need to take such lessons to heart and look at continuously evolving with the changing times if they want to continue resonating with the consumers.