Until the Covid-19 lockdown, Chitra Cariappa, a senior citizen, had a fixed monthly routine that involved going to the bank to withdraw money, the medical store to stock up on medicines, picking up groceries and doing the rounds of Airtel, BESCOM, BWSSB offices to make payments. Forty days into the lockdown, she now uses Paytm and Google Pay to order groceries online, buy medicines from local stores, pay utility bills and even house tax, for the first time.

“I never trusted digital payments but, with lockdown restrictions I was forced to learn to use Paytm and Google Pay with the help of my children and neighbours. I am now very comfortable with this mode of payment and intend to continue it post lockdown, as it is contactless, convenient and saves me a lot of time,” she said.

Entrepreneur couple Amit Roy and Chaitali have graduated from cooking the occasional meal or two every month to preparing three healthy meals a day, thanks to the lockdown. “I have never felt the need to cook in the last seven years because we always had a cook. On weekends at home, Amit cooked for the love of it. But now, I cook thrice a week and he cooks the rest of the meals, including Mexican, Indian and Pan-Asian food. We don’t intend to eat out for the next couple of months and plan to cook ourselves hereafter, because food is tastier, healthier and we both have lost weight too,” said Chaitali.

Digital growth

Social intelligence platform Frrole’s latest State of the Indian Consumer report, analysing the impact of Covid-19 on consumer behaviour, reveals that the country may be on the cusp of behavioural changes like cooking at home instead of eating out, online workouts instead of the gym, working from home, making digital payments, quitting smoking, etc. The report is based on the social activity of 10 million-plus Indian consumers from 3,000 cities across the country on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube.

“Conversations around home recipes witnessed a steady increase from 800 conversations in week 10 (March 1-7) to 5,000 conversations in week 17, ended April 26. This reinforces confidence that home cooking might become a permanent lifestyle change for some after the pandemic blows over. Conversations around digital payments saw a 36 per cent spike in week 14 (March 29-April 4), when digital payments to Covid-19 relief funds were being made and we saw a spike in conversations by the older generation who were learning to pay bills online for the first time,” said Amarpreet Kalkat, co-founder and CEO, Frrole.

“While students and young working professionals were talking about the non-availability of cigarettes in the early period of the lockdown, the older demographic (35-65 years) were talking about using Nicotex, a nicotine patch, indicating concern about their overall health and immunity,” Kalkat added.

GOQii Play, an in-app interactive video platform, churns out 32 live videos which amount to 16 hours of original content every day, covering a wide range of topics from home workouts, yoga and meditation to nutrition, emotional and sexual wellness and medical aspects. “Each video or live session has a minimum viewership of 1,000-5,000,” claims Vishal Gondal, founder CEO, GOQii.

“The ongoing pandemic and consequent lockdown imposed by the government has resulted in user engagement activity increasing by 300 per cent on GOQii Play and other social media platforms due to partnerships with Fit India, CBSE Schools, TikTok, insurance companies and banks, that have all contributed to this huge growth. Engagement will grow even after the lockdown lifts, as people realise the only way to boost immunity is investing in good health,” he said.

Regional appeal

SnapBizz, which provides smart technologies for kirana stores, analysed over 1.7 million consumer bills recorded in its 8,000-plus network of kirana stores across the country to find that regional/local food brands like Freedom (cooking oil), Sagar (detergent powder) and Ajay (oral care) are gaining favour among consumers as compared to national brands, as retailers push customers to try brands that are readily available.

Another example is the fledgling regional brand, Habanero Foods, which is available in modern trade stores in Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi and Mumbai and has seen a 10x spike in countrywide orders for its sauces, wraps, dips in the last 2-3 weeks on Amazon.in, with daily orders growing at 20 per cent. “People have realised our value proposition of import-quality products at Indian prices that are 60 per cent cheaper than international brands. The top sellers are pasta sauce and tortilla wraps, because they are quick and convenient to make,” said a delighted Griffith David, founder of Habanero Foods.

“In certain categories like biscuits, snacks, bread, baked goods and cooking oil, we noticed customers going for more premium products versus regular products, which could be because children are at home, availability and retailer push. Some of the premium products being preferred are Garnier (personal care), Epigamia Greek Yoghurt (dairy), Real (beverages),” said Prem Kumar, founder-CEO, SnapBizz.

While the pandemic has certainly influenced changes in the way we eat, work, shop, live and play; it is a moot point whether the change in consumer behaviour will spawn a new lifestyle trend post the pandemic. “Digitisation was an ongoing trend and adoption will definitely be accelerated. However, post lockdown, the two biggest fears for people will be Covid and financial problems due to income loss. Anything that helps them avoid crowds or save money will be accepted eagerly,” says Jessie Paul, CEO of Paul Writer.

Pointing out that people will continue to embrace options like video tutoring or work from home, as it will save them time, she said: “To balance against this is the fact that many of our commercial transactions are also social interactions. Going to the bank, the fish market, the school, the bar — these are all ways to stay in touch and meet familiar people. It is a way to spend time productively. Not everyone is time-poor, and for them merely saving time will not be a sufficient reason to maintain this new behaviour. It has to also add value financially and emotionally.”