‘Green shoots visible in retail industry’

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani New Delhi | Updated on October 05, 2020

Gautam Hari Singhania, Chairman & Managing Director, Raymond Ltd

Raymond CMD hopeful of stronger recovery going into festival season

The retail industry has begun witnessing green shoots, says Gautam Hari Singhania, Chairman & Managing Director, Raymond Ltd. Talking to BusinessLine, he highlighted how his company focused on repurposing its garment factories to manufacture PPE products following the Covid-19 outbreak and concentrated on launching a new range of hygiene products to meet the evolving consumer needs. He was also upbeat about a strong recovery during the upcoming festival season. Excerpts:

Do you expect segments such as PPE and hygiene products becoming significant contributors in terms of revenues in the next 1-2 years?

I certainly see PPE as a big market, in this environment. We managed to create a holistic range of PPE products, including coverall suits and masks, which is being supplied to the government, the corporate sector and hospitals. We were able to capitalise on the opportunity with our existing capabilities and we see a consistent demand in both domestic and international markets. Our FMCG business has launched a whole bunch of products such as liquid hand washes, disinfectant floor cleaner, sanitising sprays and hand sanitisers. The entire product portfolio was well received by the consumers as well as the institutional segment. The focus on hygiene products will be an integral part of the future and companies that build a good share in this space will do well. This is a space that requires a lot of trust and credibility, and consumers will gravitate towards trusted brands.

Could you please elaborate on Raymond’s digital strategy in times of the pandemic ?

We are building a complete ecosystem which encompasses both the digital and physical world and creates an engagement and monetisation platform for our brands in a manner that is relevant to the new lifestyle of consumers. We have accelerated our pace of digital adoption and will be moving our channel and trade partners extensively onto the digital platforms for trade bookings and other related activities, We have significantly amped up our omni-channel capabilities to serve our consumers more efficiently with faster turnaround time. We have revamped our own e-commerce platform with the launch of and have increased our presence on online marketplaces.

Has the retail industry started witnessing green shoots?

The first 3-4 months of the total lockdown were very tough. I think retail is picking up now. It is a good sign and we are seeing revived activity in the space. Now, even malls are reopening. There are green shoots, and in fact, it’s a little more than green shoots. We are hoping to see quicker and stronger recovery going into the festival season.

Have sales touched pre-pandemic levels? What are your expectations in terms of growth from the festival season?

It’s a mixed bag. Some of our businesses such as engineering, auto components and FMCG are almost at pre-Covid levels. Real estate is showing signs of recovery. Apparel and textiles is taking longer, as malls are re-opening gradually and wholesale markets in key cities are still taking time to recover. The good thing is every week, we are seeing an improvement over the previous week. It’s difficult to predict since the situation is dynamic. But the trajectory is correct and is in the right direction.

What kind of support does the industry need for economic recovery from the government?

The industry does need support and the government is doing what it can. I think access to capital and loans can be improved, so that companies can tide over the situation. I think a lot of companies are facing challenges because of the pandemic and not because of their own problems. So they need the support just during this period. But India is a strong and resilient country and we will fight it out.

Do you think rural markets are witnessing better recovery trends compared with urban markets?

I think the rural markets have been more buoyant primarily because urban markets have been facing more severe lockdowns. Therefore, economic activities in the urban regions have been less and that has impacted sales in those regions. The only way the world will recover is by restarting economic activity, because the economic disaster that this pandemic has caused is unprecedented.

I don’t subscribe to the theory of continuous lockdowns. We have to learn to live with this virus. We have to practise social distancing and safety measures and we need to move on. Nobody knows when the vaccine would come. The protocol to deal with the disease has come a long way. Fatality rate has come down significantly, which is a positive sign, and the doubling rate has also come down. So, we need to take all the precautions and move on. Otherwise, the economic disaster will be beyond repair.

Published on October 05, 2020

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