How Bata is keeping its feet on the ground during Covid-19 crisis

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani New Delhi | Updated on April 09, 2020 Published on April 09, 2020

Sandeep Kataria, CEO, Bata India

CEO Kataria sees changes in consumer behaviour in the short and long term

As India Inc grapples with the impact of Covid-19 and the lockdown, Bata India is taking measures to manage its fixed costs but also developing action plans for future scenarios by looking out for changes in consumer behaviour. The footwear retailer also believes that if the lockdown continues, the government will need to look at evolving its view on classification of essential goods.

Sandeep Kataria, CEO, Bata India said, “From the footwear industry perspective, there is the retail side of the business and then there is actual manufacturing side of it and we have been in the zero revenue stage for the past three weeks. In the short term, we can take some of these hits, but the bigger worry is about how it will impact our abilities in the medium and long term.

“We have pretty significant fixed costs, including rentals as well as staff costs. As the Prime Minister himself has advised corporates not to terminate staff or cut down wages, as a company we are adhering to that,” he added.

The industry has been seeking job support subsidy at 50 per cent of the minimum wages from the government for a period of four months. “We are in talks with landlords at high streets and mall owners on the issue of rentals. But the reality is that they also need to service debts. So, a moratorium on debt payments for the short term for mall owners and landlords is being sought and they can, in turn, pass on this relief to companies like us,” Kataria said.

On the company’s strategy during these challenging times, he said, “Our key focus has been on ensuring health and safety of our staff. We are also analysing internally various scenarios and are developing action plans. We expect to see many changes in consumer behaviour in the short term and the long term,” he added.

Brands expect consumers to increasingly order online and keep away from public spaces in the short term. The company has taken several measures to support the fight against Covid-19. For instance: it has made masks for its employees besides donating them to health workers and police personnel. It is also looking at possibilities to ramp up mask production.

On the strategy to be adopted for the business continuity plan, Kataria said, “We need to put health and safety upfront. But we also need to think through on measures on how to get the economy chugging again. If we are to open factories of products such as footwear, electronics or apparel, we will also need to ensure that the retail stores are opened in a phased manner.”

He emphasised that the industry will need to partner with the government by following strictest hygiene and safety protocols, not only at retail stores but also at the manufacturing facilities.

On the classification of essential goods, Kataria said that it will need to evolve depending on the time lines of the lockdown and in line with the requirements of the front line workers as well as the consumers. “We will need to start with allowing home delivery of products such as footwear and shorter opening hours for retail stores while following all the hygiene and safety protocols,” he added.

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Published on April 09, 2020
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