Friday, April 10, 2020

This too shall pass

A Few days back, I received a forward in WhatsApp urging citizens to boycott e-commerce platforms operating in India stating earlier these companies splurged on advertisements by generating noise as they held round the year sale, imposing us to purchase things that we don't consume, but now they are unseen during testing times, living us with no option but to fall back on our time tested neighborhood stores to meet our daily needs.

For a moment even I felt like falling to the forward, but then my mind pondered with a few questions like a) are we not responsible for the rise of these companies? b) did we not fell to the enticement? c) did we not savor all the rebates? d) did we not purchase things that we don't need?. We changed our basic understanding of consumption forgetting the thin line between needs and wants.

We can always keep debating on this topic but my opinion is not for or against that forward but in such adversity how new generation fintech/e-commerce companies have responded to an adage - "Tough times never last but tough people do".

Life is not always calm, there have been periods in the past - mankind, when faced with adversity, had looked deep within and believed in their everyday power to get all of us through.

Pessimist started perceiving the ongoing pandemic as a glass half empty by terming the pandemic as "a Black Swan", but optimists approached positively by looking the glass as half full and could see the swan as cool, calm, graceful but furiously fierce and determined paddling below the surface.

It is during such troubled times you know the true character of a person; a chance to exhibit their best as optimists reinforced the statement "new beginnings are often disguised as painful endings".

Tech companies started factoring the directives issued by the government for essential goods and services to their advantage, this business disruption might not be a major revenue earner for them but this out of the box thinking paved way not only for collaboration but also led to a different stream of business opportunity as huge demand for daily staples were forecasted.

Organized existing marketplace in Big Basket, Grofers, along with e-com companies like Flipkart, Amazon all were facing a mounting task of fulfilling the extra demand during the last week of March' 20 fuelled by lockdown resulting in reduced manpower, disruption in logistics, uncertainty in supply-chain across state borders and panic purchasing. Almost all forcibly had stopped taking orders as the orders surmounted beyond comprehension.

A slew of internet businesses like Zomato, social commerce start-up Meesho, etailer Snapdeal, DealShare, Paytm Mall, real estate platform NoBroker, Swiggy, have all diversified into the groceries space, a category considered hard to crack for e-commerce players.

To meet the rising consumer demand companies started teaming with local manufacturers, Kirana stores, local modern retail outlets like Nilgiris, Modern Bazaar,  NinjaCart, Gully Network, Jumbotail apart from organized retail-like Spencer's Retail, Vishal MegaMart, More Retail, Metro Cash & Carry, etc. to fulfill orders, all of them now are in further discussion with multiple national and regional (FMCG) brands for strategic alliances.

Companies started accepting finite disappointment, but we're not losing infinite hope." Start-up company Perpule (app for self-checkouts & easy payments) launched an e-commerce portal "Storese" by launching a grocery ordering online platform by partnering with prominent offline retailers such as Vishal Mega Mart, More Retail Ltd, Metro Cash and Carry, etc by targeting apartment residents of Bengaluru city to order essentials and groceries by leveraging its POS technology through a real-time inventory map of the stores on its online platform.

All online and offline companies are pooling their resources to survive the current business environment and have kind of rewriting the rule "Life keeps throwing stones at you, and we have to keep discovering the diamonds" or "when life knocks you down, you can either bounce back up and move on or you can stay down there and live the rest of your life with resentment and regret".

Flipkart has started a pilot project in partnership with Spencer's in Hyderabad to make doorstep delivery of groceries and essentials to leverage synergies and delivery of essential products to consumers and promote social distancing.

Marico has partnered with Swiggy and Zomato to ensure the delivery of its popular Saffola brand of oats and oil. Once the order is placed, a delivery executive picks it up from the nearest Marico distributor and delivers it to the consumer in Delhi, Gurugram, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chandigarh, and Ahmedabad.

ITC Ltd. has tied-up with Domino's Pizza to deliver its Aashirvaad brand of flour, salt, and spices, besides Savlon hand sanitizers, to customers in Bengaluru, Noida, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, and Hyderabad

Big Bazaar has aligned with online bike aggregator Rapido and food delivery service scootsy is delivering groceries in Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Jaipur.

Spencer Retail has joined hands with Uber in the Kolkata market aside with Rapido and Scootsy to deliver in Mumbai, Gurugram, Cochin, Hyderabad, Haridwar, and Chennai.

BigBasket has teamed with Uber and Rapido to deliver groceries in select parts of India is advertising-free profiling of clients during the lockdown period.

Zoho an app development platform is letting companies use their products for free.

We may never know how long humans have to face the ongoing situation? or to that matter how many such stop-gap associations between companies will last? whether retail consumers spoilt for choice will continue to solicit this temporary arrangement without any discounts or will the retail customers revert to time tested habitual buying behavior developed over the last few years. One thing that I can foreknow is such disruptions are there to stay.   

These all are just a few examples of how as a nation we all are fighting together, paradoxically these are testing times but learning times which reiterates "our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." This too shall pass.