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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STERLING’S STRIKE HELPS ENGLAND DEFEAT CROATIA
Raheem Sterling, center, celebrates after scoring goal during the Euro 2020 soccer championship match between England and Croatia at Wembley stadium in London.
A thunderous goal from Raheem Sterling helped England defeat Croatia 1-0 in the Group D encounter of the ongoing European Championships here at the Wembley Stadium on Sunday. England managed to gain full three points from the match against Croatia and now the Three Lions will lock horns against Scotland on June 18 while Croatia will square off against Czech Republic on the same day.
The first half between England and Croatia saw no goals and as a result, the scoreline remained 0-0 at halftime. In the first half, England held on to the ball for 58 per cent of the match, while Croatia held on to it for 42 per cent. The deadlock was finally broken in the 57th minute as Raheem Sterling registered the goal for England. This was Sterling’s first goal at a major tournament. Kalvin Phillips made a stunning run as he beat two players and then he went on to pass the ball to Sterling, and he did not disappoint and successfully netted the ball into the goalpost.No more goals were possible in the match, and in the end, England went away with a 1-0 victory. Austria will lock horns against North Macedonia while in another match, Netherlands and Ukraine will be squaring off against each other.
Mizoram man who headed world’s largest family dies
Ziona Chana, the man from Mizoram believed to head the world’s largest family with at least 39 wives and 94 children and 33 grandchildren, died on Sunday at the age 76.
Taking to Twitter, Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga on Sunday bid farewell to him. “With heavy heart, Mizoram bid farewell to Mr. Zion-a (76), believed to head the world’s largest family, with 38 wives and 89 children. Mizoram and his village at Baktawng Tlangnuam has become a major tourist attraction in the state because of the family. Rest in Peace Sir!” he tweeted along with a group picture of the huge family.
Zion-a featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not in 2011 and 2013 for having the world’s largest family.
He reportedly lived with his family in a large 100-room, four-story building.
We will be part of the next Union cabinet expansion: JD-U chief
Amid the speculations of the Union Cabinet expansion, R.C.P. Singh, National president of the NDA-ally Janata Dal (United) on Sunday said that JDU is part of the alliance of the ruling NDA coalition at the Centre and the party will be part of the Cabinet whenever there is an expansion.
“There is no confusion. We are a part of NDA. Whenever there will be an expansion in the cabinet in Centre, JD (U) will be part of it,” he said.
At present, the JD(U) has no representation in the Union Cabinet. the JD(U) contested the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in alliance with the BJP.
However, RCP Singh chose not to comment on the inclusion of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) in the ‘cabinet expansion’.
Singh also mentioned that everything is good in the alliance in Bihar and there are no clashes in the NDA-led government in the state. “Everyone is together in the NDA in Bihar. The NDA government will complete its present term in Bihar. Everyone is working towards the development of the state,” the JD(U) chief said.
“The RJD is spreading rumours that nothing is good in the NDA to keep its MLA together. There is everything good in NDA but there are clashes in the RJD,” he added.
First three desi nuclear attack submarines to be 95% made in India
In what would be a major boost for the submarine building capability within the country, the first three nuclear attack submarines to be built indigenously would be having 95 per cent Made in India content in them and it would further go up in the next three. The Cabinet Committee on Security is considering a proposal worth around Rs 50,000 crore for indigenously building three nuclear attack submarines which would be built by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in Visakhapatnam. This project is separate from the Arihant class project under which six nuclear-powered submarines are being built with the capability of launching ballistic missiles.
“The nuclear attack submarine project would be a big boost for the indigenous submarine capability as 95 per cent of it would be made in India. This would provide a big boost to the domestic defence sector including both private and public sector,” government sources told ANI.
For the six nuclear attack submarines, the planners are confident that they would be able to complete the project without any external help but if required, they may take help of one of its strategic partner countries, they said.
The project would also be very helpful for the economy as it is expected to generate a large number of jobs in the defence sector, the sources said.
The Navy and DRDO would first get a clearance for three of these boats and will have the option of building three more after the completion of this project. The Indian Navy proposal to have six indigenous nuclear attack submarines was one of the first few major defence modernisation proposals to have been cleared by the Narendra Modi government soon after it came to power in 2014.
Even though marred by some delays, India has been making big headways in the field of indigenous submarine building capability. The first Arihant class boat was commissioned a few years ago and the second one INS Arighat is also undergoing sea trials and is expected to be commissioned in near future.
India has plans of building 24 submarines including six nuclear attack ones which would give it long legs to operate in the Indian Ocean Region and will help it to keep its adversaries in check at long distances.
The first six conventional boats are already under construction in Mumbai under the Kalavati class project while the tender for the next six with greater capability would be issued soon after recent clearance by the Defence Ministry. There is a plan to build six more conventional submarines under the Project 76 but it will take a long time to be initiated.
SECOND WAVE WASHES AWAY DABBAWALAS’ HOPES, FORCES THEM TO TAKE OTHER JOBS
Currently, many dabbawalas are jobless, some of them have returned to their villages while others had to find new ways to earn their livelihood. According to the members of the Mumbai Dabbawala Association, many bicycles can be seen outside railway stations in this lockdown but there are not as many dabbawalas.
The pandemic has brought a halt to their lives. Only some of them are working and delivering dabbas in hotels and hospitals while the rest are earning their livelihood through other means. Some dabbawalas have become auto drivers or are selling vegetables to earn money.
Mumbai’s 130-year-old dabba delivery system has over 5,000 dabbawalas like Kailash Shinde who now operates and provides dabbas for hotels and travels from Andheri to Malad to Borivali and Bandra.
Since trains are being used only for essential services, dabbawalas face a lot of problems in travelling. Due to the lockdown, the places have been shut where they used to deliver dabbas.
Subhash Talekar, President, Mumbai Dabbawala Association says “we demanded the state government to allow us to travel in local trains as essential workers are being allowed. We should also get a nod to commute in trains as it gets difficult to go by any other vehicle to far off places. Lockdown has affected our economy drastically”
A dabbawala told us how this lockdown has impacted his life. Kailash lives in a chawl system in Andheri with his wife and two children. The pandemic and the lockdown have caused a lot of damage to dabbawalas. Kailash showed us his house and opened up about the difficulties he is facing due to the lockdown.
He says, “Before the lockdown, I had a team of 18 people and used to earn from Rs 12,000 to Rs 15,000 from one house and had over 400 orders. But after the lockdown, I have a team of only three people and fewer orders. Now we get only Rs 5000 to Rs 6000 in which we have to survive as the money is divided among three people.”
Kailash and his wife earn to manage somehow and give good education to their children. His wife also works to support her husband and family, yet this is not enough.
Due to the pandemic, Kailash had to face commuting hurdles as half of the money earned goes into travelling. In an emotional appeal to the government, he says, “I request the government to look into the matter and allow us to travel in trains as the lockdown has greatly affected our economy. If trains are opened for dabbawalas, then it will be a ray of sunshine for them from the dark clouds of lockdown.”
Experts find no proof of 3rd wave hitting kids hard, but states in no mood to take chance
With 80,834 Covid-19 reported cases in the last 24 hours, India continued its declining trend of new infections and reported the lowest single-day count in 71 days, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on Sunday.
The new cases pushed the Covid case tally in the country to 2,94,39,989. India has been witnessing a continuous fall in the active caseload and the current active number of Covid cases stands at 10,26,159 with a net decrease of 54,531 cases in the last 24 hours.
The weekly positivity rate further dropped to less than 5 per cent and currently stands at 4.74 per cent while the daily positivity rate stands at 4.25 per cent today. It has remained less than 10 per cent for 20 consecutive days now.
Despite the downward trend, most states seem to be gearing up for the anticipated third wave, especially on creating infrastructure for paediatric wards, given the buzz that the coming wave might hit kids particularly hard. In view of the pandemic, the states have kept the health budget of 8-14 % for the current year. The Delhi government allocated Rs 9,934 crore or 14% of the total budget to health. CM Arvind Kejriwal on 12 June cautioned that the chances of the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic were quite real, while he asserted that his government was preparing on a “war-footing” to combat it.
The Kerala government allocated Rs 2,800 crore to deal with the health emergency. The third wave of Covid-19 is expected to arrive in October, necessitating a larger budget for Covid mitigation.
Bihar has kept Rs 13,264 crore on health this year. The health department has focused its attention on arranging beds with medical facilities for children who, experts fear, could be mostly affected in the third wave. Currently, there are 816 beds for children in the nine medical college hospitals in the state. Of these, only 225 have oxygen facilities.
Uttar Pradesh allocated 5.5 per cent of its total expenditure for health. CM Yogi Adityanath said that the state is now preparing for a probable third wave. Paediatric ICUs in district hospitals and mini-PICU in community health centres were being operationalised. A new 20-bed PICU has been planned for Deoria and a mini-PICU in Laar.
Incidentally, as the states gear up to ramp up their paediatric wards, a new report says that there’s no substantial evidence to suggest that children will be more affected or have greater illness severity in the anticipated third wave.
The Lancet Covid-19 Commission India Task Force prepared the report after convening an experts group comprising leading paediatricians from the country to examine the issue of ‘paediatric Covid-19’ in India. It said that the infection’s symptomatology in children in India appears to be globally comparable.
“Most children with Covid-19 are asymptomatic, and amongst those symptomatic mild infections are predominant. Most children have fever with respiratory symptoms, and often present with gastrointestinal symptoms and a typical manifestation compared to adults. The proportion of symptomatic children increases as age increases as does the severity in such age groups,” the report started.
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