The year 2020 has been a great teacher, and equally great leveller. To say that life has changed dramatically in 2020 because of COVID would be an understatement. COVID has completely transformed the way we live and work. Turning a crisis into an opportunity I firmly believe that every crisis teaches you a life lesson and is also an opportunity that should not be wasted. While it did come as a big shock initially, I would say we were also quick in responding to the emerging situation. Our top-most priority was ensuring the health and well-being of our employees, vendors and Business Associates; this is a core value for us.
The crisis was also an opportunity for introspection and to challenge some of the established norms or ways of working. I think COVID taught us the need to remain fluid and agile. We established an extended management committee team that covered functions like Operations, Sales, Marketing and R&D. We sat together online and created, conceptualized and executed strategies which included rethinking portfolio approach, rethinking our go-to-market approach, rethinking our entire organisational transformation. This is how we were able to launch over 50 new products and extensive media campaigns during the lockdown period. It was a Blitzkrieg of sorts by the company.
When it comes to innovation, speed is the keyword. Our flexibility, agility, and capacity to make rapid choice was decisive in the success of the operation.
Technology was a big enabler. During the COVID-induced lockdown period when physical order-booking had become difficult, we leveraged technology to make the process simpler and seamless for our partners. We rolled out a Mobile App for retailers, commenced order-booking on WhatsApp and activated our Call Centre to take orders from retail outlets across the country. These initiatives continue even today and are a part of our GTM strategy now.
From Fearful to Fearless
We have discovered our mettle, courage and resilience as a team, the extent of which was unheard of in the pre-COVID times. This black swan event has been an inflection point to bring about changes and transformation in the organization. COVID, in fact, has acted as a catalyst for change. We have become much more agile, nimble footed and quick in our execution than earlier – something which we were struggling with.
In the process, we have completely changed our organisational culture… We have also improved our risk-taking ability, moving from a fearful to a fearless attitude.
There was also a greater humanitarian crisis with the second wave of COVID and we doubled up our efforts to lend a helping hand in the relief efforts to support frontline medical workers in the communities where we operate, besides supporting special COVID Centres set up by various state governments. We closely monitored the situation and went all out to support our employees. Special COVID helpline was set up to provide assistance to our employees and their families, organised vaccination drives, tied-up with hospitals, set up oxygen-supported beds in our guest houses for emergency requirement, besides extending a special insurance cover to around 3,200 frontline sales workers and another 650 CFA employees who are not on our rolls.
The personal health and safety of our people remained our top priority throughout COVID. In the unfortunate event of any of our employees succumbing to COVID, Dabur decided to support their family with continued monthly salary for One year, in addition to the Company’s Term Insurance cover. While we understand that this can in no way make up for the loss, we feel this small gesture would help support the family through this tough period.
Acknowledging the fact that the second wave was also taking a heavy toll on mental health of individuals, we organised special webinars with renowned medical practitioners to address matters like how the mind functions, why do we suffer, what is mindfulness, how to be balanced, being happy and stress free. Employees were offered practical tips and methods to lead a stress-free life. We also launched a company- wide Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) to help employees and managers with resources and access to expert counsellors to support their mental and emotional wellness needs at all times.
For Dabur, rural has always been key growth driver, and this is a result of our strategy investing ahead of the curve in expanding our rural footprint. Even in a COVID year, we expanded our rural network from a little over 52,000 villages in March 2020 to around 60,000 villages by the end of March 2021. We have expanded our rural coverage to 83,000 villages now, surpassing the target that we had set for ourselves over a year ahead of schedule.
Alongside, we are expanding our product basket in the rural market by way of newer affordable packs across categories to feed these markets and push demand growth. Similar initiatives will continue in the coming year, besides higher investments in consumer activations in rural India to better reach out to consumers in the hinterland, giving them an opportunity to touch, feel and experience our products.
In the post-COVID world, e-commerce is the big growth engine for urban India. With the fear of COVID infections prevailing, e-commerce emerged as the most-preferred contactless method of making purchases among consumers. The result: Our e-commerce business grew by almost 3 times to gain a saliency of 6% of turnover, up from just 2% a year ago. In the normal course of time, this growth would have taken 2-3 years.
Going forward, we intend to drive our business by investing aggressively behind our brands, staying focused on Health and Hygiene, driving innovation, broadening our play in select segments, leveraging the new-age channels of e-commerce, Cash & Carry and Modern Trade, besides expanding and enhancing the efficiency of our distribution network.