RETAIL & HOME INDUSTRY BUSINESS LEADERS DISCUSS THE CHANGE IN CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR - The Daily Guardian
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RETAIL & HOME INDUSTRY BUSINESS LEADERS DISCUSS THE CHANGE IN CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR

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NewsX was recently joined by a power-packed panel of India’s biggest business leaders from the retail and home industry for a session on consumer behaviour. Six business leaders were part of the panel who reflected upon their learnings from the pandemic and discussed what lies ahead for the industry in 2021.

The panel included Mahesh M, CEO of Creaticity and session convenor, Govind Shrikhande, mentor and ex-MD of Shoppers Stop, Latika Khosla, founder and design director of Freedom Tree, Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO of RAI (Retailers Association of India), Kavitha Krishna Rao, country commercial manager of IKEA India, and Ashish Shah, co-founder and COO of Pepperfry.

Addressing the pandemic, Ashish said, “Pandemic was a very different event for all of us. It bought all of us sitting at home together, as we spent more time at home, and our appreciation and liking for the living things and non-living things went up significantly. Therefore, it did a lot of good to the category and people started thinking about the piece of sofa that should be replaced so that they can watch Netflix at home more properly. Suddenly, they realised the need for having a dining table so that the family can have lunch together, etc. Just by the means of observation that people started doing at their home, the category started to benefit significantly.”

He further said that early on when things were opening-up in May-June-July, the way he saw it was that it was the first time in life that they got time to sit back and think about themselves. He added that this event kind of redesigned things for them. “I think all of us here would have restated our priorities, our value systems for the future and therefore, there are very clearly called out action points that we would want to take in our lives or lead a certain way of life going ahead and I do not see that changing as I would not want to go back to times when I used to be in the office at 9.30 am and leave at 11 pm, 6 days week and working 14 hours a day, etc. I know that all of that can be accomplished through Zoom calls, being at home and also spending time with family. So I think there is a significant change in what we are now defining as our priorities. Therefore, going back to the same regime, way of working, etc, in my opinion, won’t happen. Therefore, this is something which is going to stay. I think it is a very different way of consuming things, not only what we want to consume but how and where we want to consume has also changed and therefore I don’t see this going back in a near future,” said Ashish.

Kavitha shared two perspectives on the topic, the first one being around the pandemic and the second one was the home category in itself despite the pandemic. Agreeing to Ashish’s statement on how people have started spending more time in their homes, she added that clearly the need for furniture and furnishing related to home has increased and it was exactly the trend they saw at IKEA as well. Kavitha said that it was not just the work from home space but there were a lot of aligned categories including cooking and eating, storage and organising and outdoor furniture where they had seen an increase in interest among consumers. She added that there will be a lot of growth within the home category.

Putting forth her second perspective, Kavitha said, “We’ve looked at a lot of reports and it talks about typical households spending about 2.5% of their income on products or services related to homes. This is still very low if you compare it with the global average which also means that as consumers begin to see how essential furniture and home furnishing is and that it can actually make a difference to their everyday lives, I clearly see that the Indian households are also going to start spending much more money in the home category. So that is also the reason why I feel that this growth and increase in interest in the category is something that is going to stay for the long term. In the next 10 years, I expect this category is going to see immense growth.”

Throwing some light on the massive shifts in the home lifestyle, Kumar said, “One of the things that we realised almost at the start of the pandemic was that suddenly everybody is refocusing on where they are. Recently, I had a chance to go out of the house and I went to one of the Shivaji Maharaj forts in Maharashtra and was wondering if, at that time, a fort was getting created, the kings would make sure that the fort had everything inside to make sure that even if they have got somebody coming and attacking them, just being inside the fort, they can handle everything. This is what individuals felt like when they were sitting inside their houses when this pandemic started. Suddenly, 1000, 2000 and 3000 square feet houses became the fortresses that they were inside. This meant that every single customer was looking at that place and thinking that it’s not just my house, it’s also the place where I am going to work from, the school for my kids, my workout space, and many also decided to make their gardens. Several new initiatives started and they also realised that they are talking to various people, so multiple studios were there in the house to do various things.”

“When someone from outside came to their house, they also had to make sure to take all kinds of precautions and that created its own protocols. This is exactly the way people would have felt when they were sitting inside the fort in those days and this has definitely shifted. Also, when you are sitting inside a fort and when you have to go out, you start thinking about what do I need to do to make sure that I am safe and how do I come back after accomplishing the tasks and this is what I am seeing happening to consumers. If you look at all our retailers, the first good news is that one of the earliest categories to recover was home. The ticket size has also doubled and I think that is because they were sitting in the house browsing as to what they want. The home also became the place where the discovery phase of shopping was happening so they were thinking about various things from a digital perspective and then they were going to the store and buying whatever they wanted to buy and come back soon enough into their houses,” he added.

Latika said that the way things have been, there’s been no place to go but a home for the last few months. She said, “People would ask earlier, there’s competition. I would not consider other home brands as a competition but your competition is somebody who stops and decides to have lunch or they have got some school things to do for their children so the budget goes into that. If there’s a vacation or a family wedding, the interests are distracted. At the moment, we have all been blessed that the interest is entirely on home and the lessons to learn from that have been that there’s been an over utilisation of home.”

She feels that there has been a realisation that it’s time to look after your home as a lot of people who buy from Freedom Tree are busy professionals. They have been blessed with this time to look after their homes. Latika added that people had realised that it was the space that nurtured them the most for when they do need to step out.

“The two biggest shifts that have happened for us was quick online and offline seamlessness as anybody who came to the store made a purchase. They risked to come out and would make a purchase. What surprised me the most was the unusual categories, the bigger category investments. The purchases of better quality, higher-value products was also surprising. People were looking at buying things as investing in themselves. These are few of the unexpected things,” added Latika.

Govind said, “Covid-19 has been one of the worst phenomenons for working women and I would like to highlight it because classically a working woman was leaving home to her mates, leaving the kids to school, and was then going to work peacefully. Now that she is at home, she has to take care of her work, her husband, her home as well as the kids. Normally she works eight hours a day but is now working 24 hours a day. WFH will stay but I still believe that human beings are social animals, we love to touch, feel, and talk to people so we cannot be stuck in a fortress. There’s a great word in Marathi, ‘natyabhoomi’ that means “firta rangmanch”. In Marathi when you say firta rangmanch, the same drawing hall becomes a playground, the same playground becomes a kitchen, and the same kitchen becomes a school which is what is happening.”

He further said that certain things that were luxury till yesterday has become a necessity today, and some things that were wants yesterday have become needs today. For example, now that the maids were not coming, a dishwasher became a permanent part of people’s homes. Govind said that all the additions in the homes became a need from luxury which is the change in consumer behaviour.

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Dharmendra Pradhan reviews projects in Varanasi; says city ‘statement of Indian, Hindu culture’

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Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh) [India], February 27 (ANI): Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Saturday said that Kashi represents India and Hindu culture and has the potential to grow as a religious tourism spot.
While reviewing the progress of a CNG boat conversion project and the Khirkiya Ghat redevelopment project, the Union Minister said, “Kashi is a statement of our Indian and Hindu culture. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has created a new India. He envisioned it to increase employment and increase the prosperity of the people. Kashi will emerge as a religious tourism spot soon.”
The Khirkiya Ghat redevelopment project is being undertaken by GAIL (Gas Authority Of India Ltd) and Indian Oil.
Pradhan also flagged-off two boats powered by CNG.
“Reviewed the progress on the CNG dispensing station under CNG boat conversion project and ghat revitalisation project being undertaken by Gail
and Indian Oil at Khirkiya Ghat, one of the most sacred ghats in the holy city of Varanasi,” he tweeted later in the day.
“Gail India is undertaking work to strengthen the CNG infrastructure and convert 2000 diesel-run boats into CNG to help reduce pollution in mother Ganges and ensure a clean environment. Indian Oil is redeveloping the Khirkiya Ghat to preserve its heritage and glory,” he added. (ANI)

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Make judicial system more accessible, affordable for each citizen: Venkaiah Naidu

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Chennai (Tamil Nadu) [India], February 27 (ANI): Vice President Venkaiah Naidu on Saturday urged students of the Tamil Nadu Dr Ambedkar Law University (TNDALU) to make the judicial system more accessible, affordable and understandable to every citizen.
While addressing students at the University’s 11th Convocation, Naidu told students that the cost of legal processes often deterred people from getting justice and a way must be found to reduce the expense for common citizens.
“You have a unique opportunity to deepen our country’s democratic roots. You can make the judicial system more accessible, affordable, understandable to every citizen. The cost of legal processes is a major impediment in making justice accessible to all. A common perception is that there are many hidden costs in availing the legal route to resolve disputes. We have to find ways to reduce this out-of-pocket expenditure to the common citizen,” he said.
He called for the disposal of criminal cases related to public functionaries in a speedy, dispassionate, objective manner.
“Special courts can be constituted to exclusively deal with criminal cases involving public servants and elected representatives,” the Vice President suggested.
He also proposed separate fast track courts for resolving electoral cases and to look into electoral malpractices and also opined that defection cases in legislatures should be dealt with expeditiously in a time bound manner.
He further added, “There is also a serious issue of protracted litigation. Timeliness in rendering justice is a major concern… This delay is often attributed to huge pendency in courts, frequent adjournments and long leaves of courts. We have to do whatever is possible in our own purview to ensure speedier justice.”
The Vice President also encouraged the students to excel in their profession and not to settle for mediocrity.

Naidu observed that pendency in cases is also a serious concern. Underscoring the importance of timely justice, he suggested we find systemic solutions to solve the nearly 4 crore pending cases in the country, with most cases stuck in the lower courts, where around 87 percent of the total pending cases lie.
The Vice President outlined a few measures to tackle this problem. “Frequent adjournments could be avoided and except in extraordinary situations, we can develop a Standard Operating Procedure that limits the number of adjournments to a reasonable number like one or two. He also suggested that alternative dispute redress mechanisms like Lok Adalats may have to be fully leveraged for speedy disposal of cases,” he said.
He further motivated the young graduates to lead the wave of new innovations in legal jurisprudence and fully leverage it to improve access, to lower costs and to reduce pendency.
“The practice of online courts and e-filing was accelerated greatly during the COVID pandemic and they can continue to serve us greatly in not only improving the ease of access to justice but also reducing the associated costs and improving the ease of doing business,” he said.
He added that appointments to the courts must also be expedited and vacancies must be filled in a time-bound manner. (ANI)

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Court issues notice on PIL seeking to remove election symbol from ballot paper, EVM

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New Delhi [India], February 27 (ANI): The Delhi High Court has issued notice on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking direction to State Election Commission to remove election symbol from the ballot paper, including the unit of the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM), in the municipal elections in the national capital.
The Plea states that the election symbols are not required in the presence of photograph of the candidate and the presence of reserved election symbol is ultra-virus the provisions of law enshrined in the Constitution of India and the Delhi Municipal Corporation (DMC), Act 1957. The presence of reserved election symbol is the root cause of corruption in the Corporation.
The Division Bench of Justice DN Patel and Justice Jasmeet Singh on Friday sought response from all the respondents in the matter and slated the matter for April 13th for further proccedings.
The Petitioner, Alka Gehlot is an Ex-Contestant of last municipal election held in 2017 had earlier too approached the Delhi HC in 2019 and that petition was disposed by the court with a direction to the Respondents (including State Election Commission, Delhi) to look into the grievance of the petitioner.
The State Election Commission (SEC) later, refused to grant the prayer of the petitioner without hearing the petitioner on the ground that the Commission cannot make any amendment either in the Act or in the Rules. Further, the SEC refused to grant the prayer of the petitioner on the ground that there is no merit in it and the commission shall continue with the existing impugned provision of putting up election symbol on the ballot paper, plea read.
Advocate HS Gehlot, represented petitioner states that the DMC Act 1957 provides that the councilors to be chosen by direct election on the basis of adult suffrage from various wards which the corporation comprises of without any preference to candidates of political parties. Hence, The SEC ought to conduct election to elect a candidate and not a party. Presence of reserved symbol on the ballot paper is blatant violation of Fundamental Rights and other constitutional rights of the people.
The Plea stated that, Population of Delhi is growing exponentially in violation of NCR Planning Board Act, 1985 and the Municipal Government cannot escape responsibility as most of the corporators are indulged in property dealing or have nexus with them. As a result of unplanned growth Delhi has become one of the most polluted city in the world. (ANI)

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Kumbh Mela 2021: Centralised control room set up at Haridwar railway station

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Haridwar (Uttarakhand) [India], February 27 (ANI): A centralised control room has been set up at Haridwar railway station ahead of Kumbh Mela 2021, informed Kumbh Mela Administration on Saturday.
“A centralised control room set up at Haridwar railway station ahead of Kumbh Mela 2021. All the nearby railway stations have been connected through CCTV, with their feed being streamed at this control room. A telephone line has also been set up at the centre,” it said.
The preparations are underway for Kumbh Mela 2021 to be held from 1st to 30th April in Haridwar.
The Uttarakhand government has decided to limit the Kumbh this year to 30 days due to pandemic.
Officers in charge of the Kumbh Mela said that those who attend the religious congregation should do prior registration at a portal and should have a COVID-19 negative report.
Kumbh Mela is not only a religious pilgrimage, but one of the largest mass gatherings at one place. It is celebrated four times over a course of 12 years and spans four locations namely Prayagraj, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik. The Maha Kumbh is celebrated in a cycle of 12 years at four river-bank pilgrimage sites across India. (ANI)

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Delhi HC asks Animal Welfare Board, Vasant Kunj RWA to identify spot for feeding street dogs

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New Delhi [India], February 27 (ANI): The Delhi High Court on Wednesday directed the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and Residents Welfare Association (RWA) of Vasant Kunj to hold a meeting with residents of the area and the petitioners to identify a spot for feeding and taking care of street dogs.
A single-judge bench of Justice Prathiba M Singh directed AWBI to send two of its representatives to the RWA and hold a meeting on March 8 to decide on an appropriate spot for feeding the dogs.
During the meeting, the members of AWBI and RWA were asked to interact with the residents in the area, along with the petitioners, and identify a spot, “which is not used by children, senior citizens and other residents”, so that the said specified spot can be used for the purpose of feeding and taking care of street dogs.
“Once the said spot is identified, the Petitioners would feed and take care of the street dogs at that particular spot, and no hindrance, whatsoever, shall be caused to the Petitioners in carrying out any activities in respect of the street dogs at the said spot,” the court said.
The court said that the Station House Officer (SHO) of the area concerned should also be present at the time when the meeting would be held between the RWA and petitioners along with representatives of AWBI, and it will be the duty of the SHO concerned to ensure that peace and harmony is maintained amongst the residents of the area so that no harassment is caused to the Petitioners by RWA and vice versa.
The court order came while hearing a plea filed by Urvashi Vashist and two other animal lovers through lawyers Abhik Chimni and Lakshay Garg.
The petitioners, who give care to and feed the street dogs in Sector E Pocket 2, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, have filed the petition against the Residents Welfare Association, which, according to them, is creating hindrances in feeding the street dogs and also in taking care of them.
Advocate Chimni, representing the petitioners submitted that whenever the petitioners are trying to feed the street dogs, enormous resistance is caused by the local residents.
The court noted that in an earlier order it had given various directions including one to AWBI, in consultation with the RWAs, to identify suitable spots in the various colonies for the feeding of street dogs.
“However, appears that there has been no consensus in identifying the suitable spot and the RWA appears to have been having apprehensions in view of the fact that children and senior residents also roam around in the open area of the block, for their own recreation,” the court noted. (ANI)

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RSS destroyed institutional balance in country: Rahul Gandhi

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Thoothukudi (Tamil Nadu) [India], February 27 (ANI): Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has destroyed the institutional balance in the country by ‘systematically attacking elected institutions and free press’ for the last six years.
Explaining his statement at VOC College in Thoothukudi, Rahul Gandhi said, “A nation is a balance between its institutions, if that balance is disturbed then the nation is disturbed. That is the central idea. What are the institutions that make up the Indian nation? There are elected institutions Lok Sabha, Vidhan Sabhas, Panchayats. There is the judiciary, there is a supporting free press. These institutions together, they hold the nation together in place.”
“What we have seen over the last six years, is a systematic attack on all these institutions. Democracy does not die with a bang, it dies slowly and I am sad to tell you that democracy in India is dead. It doesn’t exist anymore. It is dead because one organization, the RSS has combined with huge finances to penetrate and disturb and destroy our institutional balance. That is what is happened,” he said.
“There are many different manifestations of this. Misuse of sedition law, the killing of people, threatening of people. These are all symptoms of the problem. But the problem is that the concentration of the capital has combined with the organization of the RSS and has disturbed and destroyed the institutional balance in the country,” the Wayanad MP said.
He said that there are multiple other balances that are also being distorted. “Remember India is a union of states, so all states come together to form the nation. When you destroy the institutional balance of the country, you also destroy the negotiation between the states. Because if all states do not have equal say then the power balance between those states is disturbed. And that is a serious problem for any country and that is what we are facing,” he said.
The Congress leader added, “I think the spirit of this meeting is to understand what is happening and to defend the Indian nation and its institutions from this brutal assault which is taking place.”
“Question isn’t whether Prime Minister is useful or useless. Question is who is he useful to? PM is extremely useful to 2 people i.e. ‘Hum do Humare Do’, who are using him to increase their wealth and useless to the poor,” Rahul Gandhi said while replying to a question at VOC College.
Tamil Nadu assembly elections will be held in a single phase on April 6 and the counting of votes will be done on May 2, the Election Commission of India (ECI) announced on Friday.
With this announcement, the model code of conduct comes into force. The assembly elections in the southern state are important for the national as well as the regional political parties.
Polls will be held for 234 seats in Tamil Nadu with the Congress-DMK and BJP-AIADMK alliance being the major groups contesting against each other. (ANI)
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