Mukesh Savlani, CEO at Welspun Flooring Ltd, talks about how customer behaviour is likely to change and how the company is utilising lockdown to prepare for the post-COVID economy. This and more in an interview with Sourcing Hardware:
In your opinion, how will the Covid-19 crisis play out in the coming months and years?
Apart from its economic impact, the crisis would force companies across industries to look at their business from a new angle and trigger innovation. The crisis will cause customer behaviour to change drastically, with now a higher focus on hygienic and safety-friendly products. Consumers will make health-conscious changes to their lifestyles and will be more efficient in spending of their disposable incomes. Most importantly, everyone across the globe will try to be prepared for such crises with better contingency planning and measures in place.
Every crisis has a silver lining. What market changes and demand drivers do you visualise, which may open new fronts for your company?
Online shopping is going to significantly rise in terms of share of the overall pie of spending by customers. This would give an edge to tech-savvy companies that can quickly adapt to the new trend. We expect that more companies would encourage their employees to work from home in coming years, which would foster the concept of home office. We also anticipate a shift towards ‘made in India’, which would boost local manufacturers in our space who can match international standards. With a higher focus on safety and hygiene, service will become a huge factor. This will likely lead to customers swinging towards brands that offer professional services so that they do not have to employ labour by themselves. This would give our business a huge boost, as we are the only Indian flooring brand that offers installation services as well.
Our complete programme for our installers is COVID-safe and ready, from health checks to uniforms and to SOPs about sanitising the installation zone. Our Click N Lock tiles can be cleaned up with cleaning agents having 70% alcohol content. We are in the R&D phase with products that can be germ/virus-free and resistant. Our factory is absolutely sanitised and ready to start functioning with all the health regulations and conditions in place.
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How has Covid-19 affected your industry? What may be the mid-term impact of this assault?
The situation has certainly brought about an immediate business slowdown in the building materials space, as real estate activity has come to a stand-still. In the short to mid-term, one can expect the slowdown to continue. But it primarily depends on how and when in India and globally the pandemic spread curve flattens. Accordingly, economic activity will start getting back to normal. On the positive side, the assault would quicken the digital transformation of organisations as physical contact-involving activities would decrease substantially.
Crisis management is a critical element of leadership. What initiatives did your strategy team take to safeguard your stakeholders?
We have recognised the severity of the situation early and have drawn out plans to manage the crisis across all our functions. Our company is reviewing all cost items including multiple contracts and is looking to optimise the same through critical analysis and brainstorming. We are doing this to ensure timely payments to our partners and safeguarding interests of internal and external stakeholders.
We have utilised the crisis period to review our processes and SOPs across functions to increase efficiency. This will enable us to come out of the situation as a highly efficient organisation.
Our company is also conducting extensive training sessions for its employees. It is organising upskill programmes to achieve higher productivity once the operations resume. We are utilising digital tools and conducting focused webinars to constantly engage with our external business stakeholders, as well to ensure business relationship continuity. This will equip us to immediately generate sizeable business post lockdown.
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?
The government has been taking steps in the right direction with the primary focus on curbing the spread of the pandemic. At the same time we understand that they are making commendable efforts to release restrictions on the functioning of industries in a phased manner, by balancing the liquidity requirements of people as well as slowing the COVID spread. Their current strategy is in the right direction, keeping the nation’s safety on utmost priority, and this strategy needs constant review in view of the rapidly changing scenario of the virus. Our industry could be helped through proactive initiatives such as allowing operations in a phased manner with minimal staff to start with, but at the same time ensuring the COVID spread is controlled.