Gaurav Malhotra, managing director, Hansgrohe India Pvt Ltd, subsidiary of German bath fittings major Hansgrohe SE, discusses the fallout of Covid-19 pandemic on the bath fittings industry, assess the ways in which the government is navigating the crisis, and how the company is responding to the pandemic:
How has Covid-19 affected your industry? What may be the mid-term impact of this assault?
I think that the impact is at multiple levels. To start, the demand-side will slow down significantly purely on account of a conservative approach towards discretionary spend. It will also impact the abilities of firms to ensure the supply-side with various challenges related to manufacturing as well as logistics. Lastly, the movement of migrant labour back to their hometowns will impact the final execution at the customer-end.
Crisis management is a critical element of leadership. What initiatives did your strategy team take to safeguard your stakeholders?
I feel this has been a great time to introspect and evaluate the business from a step back. First and foremost is to keep the morale high. Our company has seen many challenges in its history and only come out stronger. Our employee safety needs to be focused on at this critical moment. Second, the implementation of technology, largely digitisation of many business processes to enable operations to continue as much as possible. Third, it has been a good time to enhance efficiencies in the business as well as to plan better for tomorrow’s world which may incorporate many different dynamics than previously thought.
How do you assess the economic management by the government? What more can possibly be done? To what extent will the stimulus help your industry recover and revive?
Considering the vast population that we have and the income challenges especially amongst the impoverished, the government needed to focus on the survival of the economically weaker section. I believe several steps have been taken on ensuring food safety, basic income sustainability for this segment of people. The government is also looking at increasing liquidity in the banking system to ensure capital adequacy for most enterprises. All this while, the government was trying to take on the humongous task of testing and isolation of any suspect cases of COVID-19. I believe stronger direct support to the MSME is the last leg of the support package that the government has to announce. We are eagerly awaiting the same and fear that it has already been too long for many such enterprises.
In your opinion, how will the Covid-19 crisis play out in the coming months and years?
I think there will be many short, medium and long term behavioural changes. We will witness increased health awareness, gene mapping at pre-birth, traveller profiling, digital interface, higher levels of sanitisation, and AI-driving processes. This unfortunate event will definitely create a new world out there.
Every crisis has a silver lining. What market changes and demand drivers do you visualise, which may open new fronts for your company?
The most important output will be increased levels of sanitation. It has to be the fundamental change that drives better health and healthcare for India. Apart from this, we show many innovative products that assist with personal hygiene and also the use of technology that can help in body recuperation and increased levels of energy. We will continue to invest in technology and innovations to aid this effort. Our association with leading international designers combined with German engineering continues to help us differentiate ourselves on design and technology. On a business perspective, our scale and profitable global operations ensure our ability to bounce back strongly from this current crisis.