COVID-19: Improved communication, real-time info sharing helped retailers prepare for business resumption

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Faced with disruptions due to the coronavirus pandemic and resultant lockdowns, several retailers took that opportunity to improve communication within their respective organisations which eventually helped them towards smooth business resumption in the unlock phase.
Also, a communication up-skilling of employees, virtual town halls and real-time information sharing during the pandemic helped the retail industry players to win consumer confidence and grow business-customer bonding, said panelists comprising retail industry CEOs who were participating in a session on ‘Phygital Retail Convention’.
“One silver lining of this crisis is the significant improvement of communication within the company and across the industry as such. All have come together,” said Sandeep Kataria, President and CEO, Bata India.
During the lockdown, the retail industry used tools such as virtual town halls connecting all industry and employees.
Through their associations like the Retailers Association of India (RAI) etc, they shared real-time issues facing the industry with a larger audiences.
“We took the concept of townhall for delivering our words to every significant employee of the company,” he said.
Vikram Bhatt, Founder, Enrich Salon said a clear communication and assurance with employees helped in realising the real situation around.
“Through continuous communication, we have to understand this situation better. We can face it in a more meaningful way or tackle it better. You have to be real-time transparent to everyone,” he said.
He added: “When we opened there was no fear in the minds of the people what will happen. They have understood the situation and they are backing us.”
According to Bijou Kurien, Strategy Board Member, L Catterton Asia, communication up-skilling of the employee was one of the major achievements of the retail industry during the lockdown.
“This up-skilling kept the employees engaged and the employees in turn kept the customers engaged, preparing them for reopening. They used this opportunity to upscale them as well as to prepare them for reopening,” he said.
While talking about the lockdown and its impact, Melorra Founder & Promoter Saroja Yeramilli said the crisis still continues.
“Whether lockdown may be over but the crisis still continues and the economy is devastated. We have to keep in mind that we are in a very prolonged battle and conserving cash is very important for all business as the margin is low,” she said.
Over handling of the situation by the government authorities during the lockdown, Kurien said every state faced problems as rules were not very clear.
Rules were pronounced by the Centre and adopted by state governments and implemented by local authorities differently at the ground level.
“There were lots of confusions and had no senses among them as what has to be done,” he said adding that retailers having stores in different states faced this problem the most as “something which was allowed in Kerala was not allowed in Karnataka”.
Expressing similar views, Lalit Agarwal, CMD, V-Mart Retail said even till Unlock 4.0, there have been issues in various states on guidelines front.
“There were problems till 10 days back. And now the people have come to a conclusion that the economy has to be on the forefront and it is a learning exercise…,” he added.

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