<br>Q: As per a Nielsen survey, the value growth of the FMCG sector fell to its lowest in seven quarters due to the coronavirus pandemic. What is the outlook on the sector?
A: We are in the middle of a health and economic crisis with no historical parallels. It is very difficult to predict how the sector will respond. The health foods category where we operate, is more relevant today than ever before with Immunity being key. We are hoping that the sector will soon adjust itself to the “new normal”. There is a renewed focus on Make in India which will boost local innovations that are affordable and relevant for Indian consumers. Over 95 per cent of our portfolio is made in India, and we continue to invest in innovations that is relevant for Indian consumers. More companies will now start to do this.
Q: What are the supply chain and logistics issues being faced by companies due to the lockdown?
A: The government has been very proactive in its support to Essential goods and services that have been allowed uninterrupted movement. However, topical issues like lack of transportation and availability of labour continues to pose a challenge in distribution. In addition, movement in red zones and containment zones is restricted, which is beyond anyone's control.
Q: Are the relaxations made in the lockdown helping the functioning of the company and what is the status of the manufacturing plants?
A: Our products are classified as ‘essentials food' which was issued by Ministry of Food Processing Industries, hence we are not facing major operational challenges. Our plants have been operational, and we are ensuring proper hygiene and safety of our employees at the plant. After the initial hiccups of a couple of weeks, we are operating smoothly.
Q: Given the current COVID situation, what initiatives are being taken by Danone?
A: Health and Safety of our employees is our key priority. While majority of the staff are working from home, our manufacturing sites are open, and some of our Sales teams are on the field and we ensure that all employees on field or at home are safe and healthy. We are practicing social distancing, sanitation and deep cleaning of all areas as per Government guidelines and our global processes to ensure safety for all. We have initiated many virtual training, wellness sessions and regular town halls to stay connected with the teams. We are also focusing on strategic donations to contribute and support front line workers in these times of the pandemic.
Q: While nutrition may be essential, purchasing power with reduced incomes will become a casualty in a pandemic? Affordability becomes an issue and then there is downtrading. Your views.
A: The pandemic has reminded us of the age-old adage ‘health is wealth' and nutrition plays a key role here like never before. It is an opportunity for food companies to provide affordable food offerings and innovation can play a key role here. We are working on affordable protein solutions that can help the masses, under our Protinex umbrella. We are also working on bringing healthier eating and drinking choices to Indian consumers.
Q: What are Danone's initiatives on major food and health challenges?
A: Protein deficiency is a major concern for India, and Danone is committed to spread awareness about the importance of Protein and its impact on overall health and wellbeing. Through a combination of marketing communication and advocacy efforts, we have managed to create properties which help in establishing importance of protein and at the same time burst myths associated with it. We also partner FSSAI on the Eat Right initiative, to support their efforts on sugar reduction and healthier food choices.
(Sanjeev Sharma can be contacted at [email protected])