It has been a tough one year for the Retail Sector. The onset of COVID-19 and the shutting down of stores and malls indefinitely was a challenge no one had predicted. Millions of retail employees lost their jobs. Retailers were left with little manpower as workers migrated to their native places, and with each day turning up huge financial losses, the situation has been chaotic and worrisome to say the least.
The task for the leaders in this unprecedented crisis was to offer perspective on major concerns, find measures that proved most successful in mitigating the human and business impacts of the virus, and to lift the operational emphasis shifted through the pandemic.
One name which stood tall in the Food & Grocery sector during the pandemic was Ratnadeep Retail Pvt Ltd. In a freewheeling chat with IMAGES Retail Bureau, Team Ratnadeep detailed how it worked seamlessly and steadfastly during and after the lockdown to ensure sales stayed buoyant…
From your brand’s perspective, how did you fare during the lockdown and what was the consumer response in the initial Unlock phase?
Customer behaviour pattern has seen a major change due to the pandemic and being a part of essentials, it was mandatory for us to respond and adapt at the earliest. From witnessing a surge in panic buying and increased basket size at the beginning of pandemic to observing the purchase of mostly shelf-stable products, it was quite evident that how people were prepping to make their quarantined lives safe and comfortable behind closed doors. The food category (staples, packed and ready-to-eat food) had to push their supply to meet with excessive demand, followed by hygiene and cleaning products in the non-food category. In terms of stock availability, we faced a couple of challenges like non availability of skilled workforce , disrupted logistics, depleted stocks level in supply chain, non-operation of manufacturing units and uncertainty around keeping which stores operational etc.
What steps did you take to bring the brand firmly on the road to recovery?
Category: With logistics totally disrupted, we had to directly pick-up branded material from the supplier end. The production cycle of our private label products (mainly staples) had to be increased multi-fold and production time was extended to night shifts for ensuring a continuous supply. We did introduce many brands during the COVID period. We also procured stocks from out of states, which boosted the team ability and confidence.
Human Resource: The foremost thing we did is to bring awareness in employees about COVID and various safety measures implemented for their safety. Our team worked with passion and dedication through the pandemic to serve customers. We provided them with masks, gloves and sanitisers and in some cases even food and room to stay. We also recognised their tireless support and rewarded them properly.
Supply Chain: A tracker was prepared to keep a note of stores open while we pumped our fleet-force with additional drivers as and when required. We installed new packaging machinery overnight, which automated and accelerated the process of packaging our private labels. We set up new tie-ups to keep the supply in the market. New routes were configured, and the old ones were cast aside with changing times. We hired third party logistics vendors to fill in the gaps.
Operations: The first step was to keep only top-performing stores in operation. The supply of products was managed with top performing stores getting products first followed by less performing ones. The senior management of non-operational stores was diverted to our Distribution Centres to help with overall processes.
Marketing: On the marketing front, it has been our constant endeavour to keep our loyal customers informed about the precautionary measures taken on our end, information about operations stores with their consistently operation times.
Did you emphasize more on a digital presence in this time period or did you opt for the traditional retail model with minor adjustments?
While dealing with this, we had to ensure our customers were served in the safest way and when an entire eco-system of safely delivering our products was built, we resumed our expansion plans in June 2020. Over the next 6 months, we started working on multiple launch plans in full throttle. Currently, Ratnadeep is serving customers through its multiple hyper-local format and through tie-ups with delivery start-ups like Swiggy and Dunzo. It is also chalking out plans for a full-fledged Omnichannel strategy in times to come.
Have you launched any innovative consumer experiences over the pandemic period?
- Standing spots were created outside the stores to ensure people maintain social distancing
- Only limited number of customers could shop at a particular point. These customers had to get their temperature checked before they entered any of our stores. This safeguarded our employees and customers to avoid transfer of any virus
- Arranged cold water bottles and erected tents for people standing in queue in the sun.
- Introduced cashless transactions
- Released educative content that included ways to disinfect the products bought from outside
- The production cycle of our private label products (mainly staples) had to be increased multi-fold times and production time was extended to night shift for ensuring a continuous supply.
- Set up new tie-ups to keep the supply in the market.
Which are the new technologies – both in-store & online – that you have introduced in an effort to go contactless?
Ratnadeep is serving the customers through its multiple hyper-local formats and through tie-ups with delivery start-ups like Swiggy and Dunzo. We have also introduced digital payments and contactless delivery. We are also chalking out plans for a full-fledged Omnichannel strategy in times to come.
Has the brand reached pre-COVID levels in terms of sales? If no, how much more time will be required to reach the same?
The response to the festive season was not line with pre-COVID sales. We observed that the customers have become very selective and choosy in their approach. However, we were pretty comfortable in matching the level of business and profile pre-COVID.
Stores in malls vs streets, which ones are bringing in more revenues / raking in more footfalls? Why?
All Ratnadeep stores are located on the ground floor with ample parking space. Hence, our customers don’t have to face accessibility issues. Our stores are strategically located and uniquely designed for a seamless and easy shopping experience.
How much has the company grown under the leadership during COVID? What are your future plans?
Despite the pandemic and manpower challenges, Ratnadeep has maintained a steady growth and expects to cross a ₹800 crore year-on-year turnover by the end of FY 2020. With a well-structured expansion plan and aggressive strategy, the company plans to achieve a turnover of approx. ₹1200 crores by 2021. Moreover, during the lockdown, the company managed to give employment opportunities to around 1000 new people. Ratnadeep Retail already has a retail footprint spanning over 4,00,000 square feet across 100+ stores operating in Hyderabad and Bangalore. The chain plans to reach out to a larger base of audience through multiple format stores; Ratnadeep Supermarket, Ratnadeep Express & Ratnadeep Select with a focus on the core values of quality, variety and freshness, across formats. Ratnadeep has commenced the new year with aspirations to open more than 50 stores across South India (Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka) with an average size of 3,000 sq. ft per location.