As Indian consumers increasingly turn to e-commerce for purchases in these pandemic times, leading FMCG companies too are dipping their toes in the direct-to-consumer (D2C) space to deliver their products to consumers through their own platforms. This comes at a time when the FMCG sector has been witnessing 2x-3x growth in sales on the e-commerce channel and there are a bevy of D2C model-led start-ups looking to disrupt various segments with their offerings.

Sunil D’Souza, MD & CEO, Tata Consumer Products, said the company has been stepping up its focus in its D2C strategy, as it helps build a premium brand by targeting a specific consumer profile. He added, going forward, D2C will be a key element of the marketing mix for some of the company’s brands. “Two of our recent launches in the premium beverages category in India were through this channel. Tata Tea 1868 -- a luxury tea range and Sonnets by Tata Coffee -- a premium roast & ground coffee range, were launched as D2C brands and we are seeing a good initial response,” he added.

“We also have Tata Nutrikorner, which began as a content platform, but is now evolving into a D2C platform as a one stop shop for our entire portfolio in India. We are piloting this in two cities and will be looking to scale this up further. The Tata Soulfull brand has also seen good traction on its D2C channel,” D’Souza stated.

Customer service

From enhancing availability and convenience to gauging consumer feedback and to customising offerings, the D2C channel is enabling these companies to tick several boxes on their checklists. Take for instance: FMCG major ITC, which initially launched its e-store for employees, but as the second pandemic wave hit the country, swiftly revamped the site to open it up for consumers.

B Sumant, Executive Director, ITC Ltd, said the ITC e-store has received an encouraging response from consumers and is gaining momentum. “To enhance the availability of our wide portfolio of FMCG products for consumers during the pandemic, when people remained confined to their homes, ITC launched the e-store in seven metro cities. Immediately following the outbreak of the pandemic, what was started earlier for employees, was completely revamped to serve consumers better. We put in place an efficient supply chain engine that today runs the ITC e-store,” he added.

For Mars Wrigley India, one of the key reasons to launch its D2C platform was to ensure that consumers do not miss out on its premium product range, which is available through channels such as travel retail, as they stay home during the pandemic. Mars Wrigley Treats e-store now delivers to Delhi-NCR region, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, Jaipur, Chandigarh, Kolkata and Lucknow.

Kalpesh R Parmar, General Manager, Mars Wrigley India said: “We have seen the e-commerce business doubling in the first half of this year. We are not just seeing growth through our partners such as Amazon, Flipkart and Swiggy, but also through our D2C site. We are looking to leverage on this channel to get closer to shoppers and at the same time to customise their experience, especially for gifting.”

Players like Mother Dairy, too, are looking to get on the D2C bandwagon. The company will soon be launching a pilot to utilise its Safal store network in Delhi-NCR region for doorstep deliveries.