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INTERVIEW

“Drop in HoReCa negatively impacted our grains & foods businesses”
Monday, 25 January, 2021, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Two billion people each day enjoy foods produced on Bühler equipment these include flour, rice, pasta, chocolate, coffee and beer. Grains and food solutions ensuring safe and healthy food and feed and Consumer foods solutions for creating culinary delights are the two key pillars of the company. In 2019, some 12,800 employees generated a turnover of CHF 3.3 billion. As a Swiss family-owned company, Bühler is active in 140 countries around the world and operates a global network of 98 service stations, 32 manufacturing sites, and 25 application centres. In 2020, the company celebrates its 160th anniversary. Prashant Gokhale, president, South Asia, Bühler, in an email interaction with Manjushree Naik talks about the effect of the pandemic on business and the road ahead. Excerpts:

Worldwide business has been affected massively due to the pandemic. What has been the impact on Buhler's India business and worldwide business?
The total number of positive Covid cases in India has now surpassed 9.6 million. The economy as a whole struggled during Q2 and Q3 (during Q2 overall GDP fell by 23.9 per cent compared to Q1, Q3 saw recovery but still minus 7.5 per cent). This was largely a result of many family-owned companies feeling uncertain and so big investment decisions were postponed. Stringent lockdowns forced a severe drop in HoReCa operations (Hotel, Restaurant and Cafe businesses) resulting in limited consumption of many commodities.

Amongst the sectors that you operate in, which have been most affected?
The slowdown in the industrial and automotive sector has led to less investments in our Die Casting business and Coating business. The severe drop in HoReCa operations negatively impacted our Grains and Foods and Consumer Foods Businesses.

How much in figures has the business been affected? How long will it take to go back to the pre-pandemic levels?
We foresee overall investments were less than half during these challenging times and we predict that a similar trend will continue in 2021 as well. Recovery is expected from 2022 onwards.

Most countries except say India are talking about a second wave. How will this affect recovery?
A second wave has already hit the Northern parts of India and is expected to reach Southern parts of the country in Jan/Feb’21. This would certainly curtail new investments and hence recovery is expected from 2022 onwards.

What about product launches, new collaborations etc. How have these been affected?
We did not stop any product launches this year as we believe that innovation is the key to success. Traditionally product launches are done during exhibitions but this year we reached out to our customers digitally via our newBühler Virtual World platform.

How has the entire business scenario been affected across the world? Has the pandemic changed the way you do business?
In my opinion this pandemic has hit the re-set button in many areas. Food safety, digitalisation, automation, sustainability are becoming a necessity in India. New business models have evolved during this pandemic. Work From Home culture, Hybrid models have been successfully rolled out with our employees all around the world.

What are your plans for the remaining part of this fiscal and next fiscal?
We will continue to support our customers not only in their new ventures but also by adding value in managing their existing assets efficiently. We will continue to be agile and flexible to handle any challenges that come our way. We will build upon our strengths to be well spread across India to support our customers on a real-time basis. We will continue to build on our innovations and drive sustainability across the world. As the Bühler saying goes, ‘We never walk away’.
 
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