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INTERVIEW

“We take this pandemic as an opportunity”
Monday, 27 April, 2020, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Asahi Kasei India is a group company of Asahi Kasei, a globally active Japanese technology company. The company is present in India for about eight years with products spanning various segments including premium kitchen revolutionaries. As part of its kitchen range, about six months back, the company launched products such as premium wrap, frying pan foil and cooking sheet in the country. Luve Oberoi, marketing manager, Asahi Kasei Pvt Ltd, in an email interaction with Manjushree Naik highlights how his company is faring amid the Corona virus pandemic spread, the nationwide lockdown to contain it and the subsequent scenario. Excerpts: 

Just six months back you launched premium wrap, frying pan foil and cooking sheet products in India. And, now, this huge Corona virus setback. How difficult will it be to establish these products in the market in view of the crisis? 
We are essential products for daily needs in every household.

We take this pandemic as an opportunity to let our customers know the benefits of the products since most of the people are buying food in bulk quantity and are stocking it up. 
The usage of our premium wrap will help them to keep leftover food, fruits & vegetables fresh for longer time. It helps to avoid food wastage.

How has the pandemic affected your overall business in the food and beverage sector in India? 
As said we are an essential product so there is a need in every household. The challenge is the delivery of the products to each and every household due to the lockdown. However, the products are available online on Amazon and BigBasket which has now become the primary channel to sell.

How does your company plan to get out of the present Corona virus crisis that has hit businesses hard in India? How has the pandemic affected the retail supply chain in the country? 
We are currently selling online through e-commerce which is a golden opportunity for us to reach the masses. At the same time we are reaching out to the consumers through our social media and educating them to stay fit and healthy during this lockdown. We are also educating them to stay at home and how they can use frying pan foil to make meals healthier without using oil. 

There has been obviously a drop in sales to a large extent due to shortage of manpower in supply chain and there is not much that can be done. Once the lockdown is lifted, we would go aggressive with the sales planning and our social media strategy will help us push the brand.

What were your plans for India in the current fiscal? How has the pandemic affected these plans? 
We were going to launch our product in new cities through super markets which is already postponed to next quarter. However we are currently selling through BigBasket in these cities so we have already started generating awareness.

Do you have any product launches and collaborations scheduled for this year in India? Do you plan to go ahead with them? 
At the moment we have no plans and are restricted to same portfolio and products for this year. We already have celebrity chef Amrita Raichand as our brand ambassador who is promoting the products.

How do you foresee the India business in the present scenario compared to your other key markets? 
As India is the least affected country for this pandemic crisis, we hope to recover soon due to hard work and efforts put by the government, medical staff and policemen. Therefore, we can recover the loss in the next quarter. At the moment the focus is to educate more and more people about the brand and create awareness. We want to create a new market altogether as we do not have any direct competition.

How severe is the business setback that you have suffered in Japan due to the Corona virus pandemic? 
In Japan our sales have increased due to this pandemic as people are storing in bulk quantity. The use of premium wrap has increased in every house in Japan. The sales have increased due to more online sales as people are staying at home. As of now in India our business is very small and now we are creating new market so there is not much hit for Indian market for our products as we are still in the initial stage of awareness.

Do you think post-pandemic India and China business outlook will remain the same as pre-pandemic? 
Can’t comment.

What kind of job cuts and other measures are expected across the world by businesses to tide over the situation? 
Can’t comment now, as it is very initial stage. There are certain sectors which have witnessed a steep demand e.g., pharma sector. One can expect growth and stability in the sector. On the other hand, tourism is likely to be hit hard. 

How many more months it will be for normalcy to return as far as worldwide business is concerned? 
As it is a general question to all brands you can put according to current situation in market ( Not clear).

Will businesses across the world change their style of working drastically after the pandemic ends? 
It will depend from sector to sector, industry to industry. As far as the FMCG sector is concerned, I don't think the pandemic will have any impact on it.

How receptive is the Indian market for innovative products like your recent launch? 
The response has been positive and at the same time impressive. Changing lifestyle has led to people wanting to try something new. Over and above that, the purchasing power has also increased which can be attributed to increase in double income households. There is more focus on staying fit and healthy and even the middle class income group has become health- conscious. The working class people do not have time specially in the metros which has led to the demand for convenient product and our product brings convenience and good health to customers.

Indian market is known to be cost-centric. Does this mindset affect innovative products?
The income group of people has shifted drastically. People are welcoming new innovative products because of more purchasing power. Customers want value for product more than being cost-conscious. In metro cities, most couples are working and are always running against time.  Our products bring convenience and good health to customers.
 
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