Over a century after making its first soap in 1918 during the Spanish flu pandemic, becoming the first company in the world to produce soap using vegetable oil instead of animal fat, Godrej Consumer Products Ltd (GCPL) is looking at 2020 as its ‘second beginning’, according to the company’s executive chairperson Nisaba Godrej.
According to a PTI report: Addressing shareholders in the company’s annual report for 2019-20, Godrej described COVID-19 pandemic as “a health, humanitarian and economic crisis of epic proportions to contend with” for which the company would “need to do more of what we do and do it even better.”
Stressing that the company will not be deterred by the current crisis, she said, “Godrej was founded in a crisis; as part of India’s freedom and swadeshi movement in 1897, and also during the bubonic plague that year.”
“We first made soap in 1918 (also the first soap in the world to be made from vegetable oil and not animal fat) during the Spanish flu pandemic. So, as we see it, 2020 could be our ‘second beginning’ for the next 123 years of Godrej.”
Reiterating the company’s resolve Godrej said, “While we don’t get to choose market conditions or the intensity of our competitors, and certainly not a global pandemic, we do choose our attitude in the face of these.”
She said, “there is no denying that this is a bad situation. But, we are also fortunate that GCPL is an FMCG company with a robust portfolio to deliver in a COVID-19 world.”
80 percent of the company’s product portfolio comprises health (household insecticides), hygiene, and value for money products, Godrej said, adding that “many of our innovations have started playing out fully in the last couple of months and we have seen high growth in household insecticides and hygiene.” Admitting that the company’s performance in 2019-20 ‘was not good’, she said sales declined around 4 percent and profit before tax (pre-exceptions) was flat.”
“March 2020 was particularly impacted by the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and the eventual lockdown in many geographies where the company operates. This resulted in virtually no sales in the latter part of the month, she added.
“In order to overcome the challenge of the current health crisis, she said, “The excellence we will require now, going against water rather than with water, to perform and take market share, means a significant step up in ways we probably haven’t even realised yet.”
“Godrej said 2020 will be the ‘Year of Resurgence’ for GCPL’s household insecticides business. “This is our largest and most critical category globally. We are going where the consumer demand is and the demand is to protect their health. We see this as a long-term area of focus,” she added.
Although the company struggled initially to meet demand, which has been very strong in the last couple of months, Godrej said, “We are scaling up our supply systems and have never had stronger portfolios across price points and formats, in India and Indonesia, to serve this.”
The company is also making a foray into this category in Africa, where it is still underserved, she added.
In response to COVID-19, GCPL had launched sanitiser products across India and SAARC, Indonesia, Africa, Latin America, and US in just a few weeks.
“In many of these markets, it was the first time we were entering the category. We will now be scaling these up into full portfolios with multiple product offerings,” she said.
Stating that India and Indonesia make up roughly 70 percent of the company’s overall business, she said, “There are significant opportunities for growth here, especially given the current consumer demand trends, and we are well poised to leverage this.”
Godrej also said GCPL has “big dreams” for Africa, one of its largest investments outside India, although its performance over the last few years there has not been up to the mark.
“Africa has a young, fast-growing, urbanising population with growing aspirations. There is much to yet start unearthing as infrastructure, industrialisation and digital leapfrog. We see tremendous opportunity here, to innovate and grow sustainably both in hair care and household insecticides, while also ‘doing good’,” she said.