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Business Recovery and Continuity in the COVID-Adjusted World

Business Recovery and Continuity in the COVID-Adjusted World

The challenge being posed by COVID-19 and the repercussions it’s creating, has continued to impact global stakeholders significantly. Societies, irrespective of geopolitical differences have suffered significant losses, emotionally and economically. It is a crisis that has profound implications for companies globally. From the complete or partial shutdown of factories, to supply chain disruptions, to labour shortages to cash flow stress, companies are feeling the business and financial shock of the COVID-19 outbreak. However, effective interventions are starting to show promising outcomes.
Impact on sectors and business depends on intensity and shape of the health and economic recovery, especially in an extended fight phase

To prudently navigate the COVID-19 crisis, particularly putting into foresight, the possibility of an extended ‘fight’ against the virus, the phase requires integrated action by governments and business leaders

Companies have to be predictive and proactive in their decisionmaking to ensure continuity and build resilience.The initial response to the immediate response mechanism of the pandemic needs to evolve into business continuity strategies. Innovative intervention mechanisms are required to ensure compliance to existing protocols of social distancing, restricted services, hygiene etc. while embracing newfound opportunities and avenues to ensure growth.


An integrated perspective on health/medical progression, governmental responses, societal reactions, and economic implications is required to asses the conditions effectively.

An integrated perspective: Navigating the COVID crisis

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, the global productbased systems have been challenged by factory shutdowns, demand surges for essential goods, stockpiling and panic-buying, along with shifting consumer preferences (e.g. online over physical). This has raised new and unprecedented questions on the level of resilience of global value chains and the overall approach to manufacturing.


Adjusting and overcoming these disruptions require new forms of collaboration across companies and industries to ensure business continuity while protecting employees and improving resilience of delivery channels for the future.

 

As global value chains have traditionally been optimized for costcompetitiveness reasons, the COVID-19 pandemic proves that companies need to reorient towards new approaches, which are prone to risk competitiveness. Additionally, they need to build new strategies in collaboration with governments to be able to adapt and respond to future shocks.


The lessons that the implications of COVID-19 has made the business communities realize are about having an integrated perspective in overcoming a crisis through a phased approach.

 

Three phases that  ncompass the society’s navigation of the fallout caused by this pandemic are: control, contain and carry on.

The initial phase after a pandemic outbreak is control, where the goal is to urgently limit number of confirmed cases, especially critical care, social distancing and partial business closures outside a few, lead to economic recession with large employment impact. This entails the control phase.

 

In the second phase, where the global businesses are moving towards at this point in time is contain, where businesses are finding paths to collectively fight the virus, restart the economy, and support society in balancing lives and livelihood. Moderate economic activity,
some business reopening and social distancing at a sustainable level are key observations on the existent scenario. The world is transitioning towards phase 2 of containment currently.


The third phase of carrying on would be dependant on several aspects including vaccine/ anti-body development along with effective stimulus provided at the Governmental level. Disease controlled through vaccine/cure/ herd immunity and treatment within sustainable medical capacities possible. Reactivated economy withtrong business rebound and job growth, social restrictions limited or completely suspended. The transition delay from phase 2 to phase 3 will have to be carefully evaluated based on the factors mentioned above.

 

The critical factors for effective progression towards phase 3 are institutional capabilities in disease progression, health care system capacity, and response; Government policies and economic stimulus; business & public engagement and response.

Key aspects that will structure the economic outcomes during and post the pandemic crisis

Being prepared for post-pandemic recovery

Businesses can consider the phased approach of control, contain and carry on as analogous to short-term, medium term and long term outlook to recognize and address topics that are upsetting their current business model. There is a requirement for them to advance long haul strategies with plans of action cultivating virtual collaborations across the value chain, a lean and coordinated technological intervention modules and to create enterprises with
digital flexibility and cyber resilience.

 

For every business, the key strategic priority to navigate the crisis would be effective workforce management, with a people first mentality. An impactful workforce transformation plan that aims to create a highly adaptive disruptor culture capable of adapting to constant change enabled through communication across all levels through virtual platforms, employee assistance programs and leveraging the opportunity to re-skill and up-skill the team will be crucial in future-proofing the work force.


Product development and distribution will adopt a new normal of customer preferences amidst protocols of social distancing, work from home, accessing data online, cancellation of large events and general business losses. Redesigning business models and distribution channels should be aligned to customer needs as well as impact of external environment. Product innovation will come to the fore replacing the traditional long-term product life-cycle strategy.

 

Product distribution strategies will also have to factor in its approach to enable virtual and contactless sales. Businesses will have to leverage the growing customer awareness and the accelerated rate of digital adoption.

 

Capitalizing on technology for process excellence will be the pillar of strength amidst restricted access to physical contact. This is where processes can be strengthened to ensure digital interaction is a strength for the business through seamless digital servicing capabilities and encouraging self-service through an easy customer user interface for service queries and retain brand loyalty and customer satisfaction through an agile customer relationship management system with intelligent automation. Heavy investment in technology and process automation will be value-driven investments for business recovery and continuity.


Risk management will be crucial as businesses get ready to recover from the fallout caused by the pandemic. With additional reliance on technology interfaces, the cyber risks associated with it also emerge. Challenges to data security and privacy looms large. A strong information security policy and architecture will help overcome this risk, in addition to ramping up organizational security. To tackle regulatory risks, Government authorities should be reached
out through proper channels, to ensure business stimulus packages and to avoid non-compliance as well as delays in financial disclosures. It is the ideal time for business owners and entrepreneurs to learn from the crisis and develop a strong business model.

Sentimental analysis backed sectoral outlook

Rebooting the economy: The Indian perspective

The Prime Minister has announced the “Atmanirbhar Bharat” economic stimulus package to the tune of INR 20 Lakh Crores, effectively setting aside 10% of the Country’s GDP to reboot the Country’s demand-consumption ratio with focus on the 5 Pillars Of India’s Self-Reliance with an economy with potential for quantum jump, infrastructure, tech-driven system, demography and demand based intelligence-driven supply system. The strategy of the economic reboot will have to be driven by promoting local products facilitated by significant reforms around land, revenue and ease of doing business.


According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), many economies may face negative per capita income growth in 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic. In its recent forecast, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) indicated a clear fall in world trade between 13 per cent and 32 per cent in 2020, considerably the highest fall since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The IMF has also reduced growth forecast for the Indian economy, projecting a GDP growth of 1.9 per cent in 2020. In its recent World Economic Outlook, the IMF does project a rebound in the growth of the Indian economy in 2021, at a rate of 7.4 per cent. This is reassuring data that brings hope.


Although India has been successful till date in containing the spread of the virus, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted normal economic activity and life in the country. India’s trade has been severely disrupted. Currently, businesses are very vulnerable to the unfolding economic crisis. People have been facing a sudden loss in their incomes, causing a major drop in demand. To rescue the economy, India has announced a range of fiscal and monetary stimulus packages. The major aim of this stimulus is similar to the conventional Keynesian prescription of ‘pump-priming’, whereby
income transfers to people having higher marginal propensity to spend can boost up the declining demand.

 

In driving the country’s economic recovery, the key directions at the Governmental level entail global and regional cooperation, structural reforms across sectors aided by fiscal and monetary stimulus. People at the moment are locked in homes, and hence, are unable to spend or earn. First and foremost step towards the reboot is to restore confidence in the economic system and the governance. Improved and coordinated responses from
stakeholders are critical at this point.

 

The country needs to continue with the fiscal stimulus packages for sometime at least till the economy rebounds. Labour-intensive sectors require focus. India will have to route the incentives to better support agriculture, MSMEs, logistics and transportation, exports and imports, health etc. Here, international cooperation may help countries to minimise the overlaps by sharing information, encourage smart implementation and avoid the pro-cyclical stimulus impacted by market fluctuations. Promoting smart implementation of packages may generate higher dividends to the economy.

Prospective strategies for India towards the goal of self-reliance and geopolitical cooperation

Conclusion

Structural reforms are inevitable at this point. Higher spending in food security, fighting poverty, technology and innovation, strengthening international trade, nutrition and livelihoods, public health and capital flow, smart and green logistics, enhancing the quality of human capital and education standards, strengthening institutions and governance needs to be areas of focus.


Countries have to invest more in healthcare, both management and facilities. New social and behavioural norms – “social distancing”, “wearing masks”, “maintaining hygiene”, etc., are the new normal, and we have to adjust with such new norms amid the pandemic. India has an important role to play in the post Covid-19 world, and it is immensely useful for the country to stay engaged in such global discussions. While there are substantial challenges and concerns, India must resist the temptation for quick fixes that do not address
the underlying concerns and avoid permanent solution. Structural reforms are must and should continue to focus on strengthening the country’s economic fundamentals—only then can they contribute meaningfully towards a more robust and resilient Indian economy.


But, the concerted action by the countries in the world will surely turn the tide. India has great opportunities in this context, especially looking at the composition of global value chains in the world trade. Overall, COVID-19 has brought untold misery to a large section of low income individuals across the globe. The uncertainty about future looms heavily in the mind of both consumers and producers.

The MSME sector, especially in our competitive engineering goods manufacturing, provides great prospects for employment and growth in the economy. The need of the hour is to carefully chalk out plans for the future resurgence of economic activity in the nation.


For the next few months, management of the economy and the management of public health need to go hand in hand. While India needs to learn from other countries, at the same time, it has substantial scope for learning from within India. In the management of the Corona crisis, it also depended on how state governments managed the crisis. Similar approach is needed for management of the economy as well. Strategies cannot be fixed for the entire country for all times to come. They need to be dynamic and flexible. States need to be empowered, be it through allowing them to go for fiscal expansion or deciding on the level of restrictions that they would like to impose in different areas or the exemptions that might be allowed. The Centre needs to support them with information and technical advice, logistics, material support, and financial assistance.


However, the Centre needs to be more concerned about the exports as the failure to revive it quickly can have serious long-term impacts. A comprehensive strategy addressing the impact of the current crisis may put the Indian economy back on a sustained growth path and strengthen the country’s trade and foreign policy.


The need of the hour therefore, is to evolve new and innovative mechanisms to overcome the economic hardships caused by the pandemic.

Cushioning the COVID impact on our clients: Consocia’s value driven services providing dynamic solutions

As COVID-19 grew into a global crisis, Consocia realized the need to support industry colleagues in dealing with the biggest challenge faced ever in recent times that of business continuity. In response to the situation, we were swift in curating an in-house crack team comprising experts in research and insights; stakeholder database generation; content; government relations and public policy.


Consocia Advisory engaged Central and State Governments besides many Districts through strategic narrative backed by data to highlight the need of the hour in the fight against the deadly pandemic. We urged immediate orders to restore Client’s ability to manufacture, warehouse, transport and distribute the client’s essential products across the country.


Presently, Consocia is working with several enterprises for business continuity as well as crisis management. In the last few weeks, we have helped opening of plants and warehouses of the Indian entity of a global disinfectant company in 6 states including in Red zones as well as
Containment areas, besides that of a renowned lighting solutions company in two states (Haryana and Karnataka) already while they are now looking for our assistance in three more states.


Within a few days of being on-boarded, through our 24×7 support, we were able to secure not only policy interventions for manufacturing but also for warehousing, logistics and distribution as well as access to staff & workers. In the process, we were able to assure the Central and State Government stakeholders that all due precautions are being taken to prevent and contain COVID 19. We even helped with internal SOPs for transportation and staff movement.


We are helping the apex body representing the Shopping Malls across India against the debilitating impact the Coronavirus pandemic has had on them. On behalf of SCAI, Consocia has crafted several interventions to draw the attention of the stakeholders and policy-makers on the plight of the industry and reinforcing reasons for Malls to be considered for resuming operations in a staggered manner, for the post-lockdown phase. At the same time, Consocia is working with the empowered Group of Ministers and Committees for COVID-19 response as well as the RBI seeking urgent financial stimulus for the sector and amplifying the initiatives through media engagement from time to time.


The upcoming editions of the dynamics of business transformation white paper series will focus on specific industries with strategies and outcome driven solutions to positively impact business outlook for business recovery and continuity in the COVID-adjusted world.


COVID-19 is a long battle for the industry. As your trusted well-wisher, our team is available to support you during these uncertain times in the areas of business continuity planning, public affairs, public policy and government relations. Contact us: reachus@consociaadvisory.com

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Strengthening employee wellness in the wake of COVID-19

The impact of the Corona virus has created a strong need for companies to overhaul their initiatives towards employee wellness. According to health experts, sudden changes of habits resulting from prolonged work from home, worry about self and family members and enforced isolation are all significant mental and physical pressures which can lead to stress and physical ailments. Companies are reevaluating the measures they can take in order to help their employees stay sharp, healthy and productive.

 

I recently saw an interview of Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Chairperson, Biocon where she shared her views on the care required for the lifting of the lockdown and gave the 3 T mantra of aggressive testing, tracing and treating. She also stressed that livelihoods are also very important and we need to start a planned exit which strikes a balance between lives and livelihood.  

 

Companies should also keep an Emergency Response Protocol well prepared with various guidelines that can mitigate problems and guide employees on what needs to be done in case any COVID 19 case is detected among employees. These guidelines should be circulated to all and should include the government instructions on the do’s and don’ts for all employees. Clearly, office administrators need to be careful to sustain the best hygiene practices that can create a safe working environment for all employees.

 

At Consocia Advisory, today was our first working day back in the office after over two months. While working from home still continues for some associates, we have set up hygiene and safety protocols at the office. We ensure vacant space between each employee and have sanitisation of surfaces multiple times a day. We are also following strict social distancing in conference rooms, meal areas and other common areas to ensure that employees are protected and kept safe.

 

Now many companies are opening their offices after having started their manufacturing operations and some of them are setting examples to show the way in preventive hygiene practices at the workspace. The way the social distancing norms have come up by the Shopping Centers Association Of India, (SCAI) is very comforting and exemplary. They will be controlling the entry and exit of the number of footfalls in the malls and will only allow 78 sq feet per person as a part of the social distancing norms.

 

Companies are using employee communications to drive and sustain awareness about their wellness programs. Several companies are providing free medical consultations to their employees and their families so that they can get advice on simple health measures related to diets, food, exercise and other medical queries. Besides the services of doctors, companies are also hiring nutritionists which can help individuals and families achieve healthy balanced meal plans.

 

Companies are also hiring mental health experts like clinical psychologists as many employees have behavioral and attitudinal changes due to the experience of a prolonged work-from-home for the first time. The strain of sitting at one place sans interaction with teams and colleagues can be very demotivating for many employees. Calls and video conferences have only a limited role in uplifting the morale while working from home, opine experts.

 

Important stress busters that can make a significant impact are yoga and meditation opine experts. They help in providing agility and calm the mind so that the impact of the stress factors is diluted. Companies are connecting employees with professionals who can train them in these stress busters. Often, there are enough capable people in house who can double up on the role of training employees. 

 

Telemedicine and online consultation of doctors enable employees and families of employees to consult medical professionals without leaving their homes. This helps employees and families get access to good quality medical help even if they are staying in remote locations.

 

The emerging trend of virtual fitness sessions, where employees can attend fitness programs online is growing rapidly. Virtual fitness allows thousands of people to take advantage of high quality trainers and also choose training programs best suited to their needs. In fact, online training may offer a far higher number of choices. Companies are connecting their employees to such training programmers. 

 

Fitness and health apps are the latest fitness tools that health enthusiasts use to keep track of fitness regimen, which may include reminders for exercise, hydration, stretching food and sleep.  Additionally, there are even mindfulness apps which help in reminding people to do mindfulness exercises like deep breathing exercises etc.  Experts say proper use of these apps can help the efforts to be more self-aware about healthy practices.  Some companies which have large employee strength, have gone to the extent of creating employee help desks with 24×7 advice. This can be used by employees to take information about symptoms and nearest treatment centers etc.

 

The thread which can bring together these various initiatives is a robust employee communications program. Periodic engagement with employees via team and individual calls, video meetings, emailers from the company have to be initiated and sustained so that employees do not feel disconnected from the office environment or feel that their efforts are not being recognised. One should be able to remove the fear and create the right environment for a safe work environment in the office. Special rewards and recognition programs for those who come forward and help in removing and mitigating the fear will boost company morale considerably. For communicators, this is a time to strengthen internal communications as employees are likely to be subjected to fake news. Speed will be essential to ensure that everyone is well versed on the present situation in the company and employee redressal will be critical.

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How India’s largest disaster rehabilitation programme was conceived and implemented

One of the worst humanitarian crises that India has ever seen was the 2001 earthquake that happened in Bhuj, Gujarat, on 26 January. According to various reports, more than a million structures were damaged or destroyed, and 26 villages suffered losses of almost all their buildings. The scale of the disaster was enormous. Governments, private firms, and corporates started mobilising and facilitating help. The initial flow of humanitarian assistance in the first 2 weeks was focussed on emergency supplies of food and medicines as well as tents for people to stay.

 

This is the context to what happened next in terms of building India’s largest philanthropic coalition which would go on to build 5 thousand homes, 27 anganwadis, hospitals, and giving employment to many people ensuring that the craftsmen were able to sell their crafts in the US and bringing smiles back to hundreds and thousands of people who were earthquake-ravaged.

 

I used to work at Pepsico India at the time and my boss PM Sinha tasked me to brainstorm and develop an action plan which would look beyond the immediate relief measures and create a long term impact on rehabilitating the villages which had suffered so heavily in this disaster. We decided that forming a broader coalition with reputed business bodies and roping in more partners would enhance our reach and effectiveness. While doing an on ground need assessment study, we realised that besides the ongoing ground level efforts, a long term and impactful rehabilitation project would have to involve these major components – housing, fund sourcing, fund management and communication – an inherent strength of Pepsi as one of the best known FMCG brands in the world.

 

The lynchpin of the communications campaign was a film with the participation of our then brand ambassador Mr Amitabh Bacchan. We developed a 30 second film directed by Mr Santosh Sivan with a strong emotional appeal for funding. We approached all the TV channels like Fox, Sony, Star and many others who agreed to air this film on their channels free of cost.

 

Since we wanted to raise money from abroad, there were legal challenges to the effort as well. Therefore, we partnered with a multinational NGO operating in India. Additionally, although there were many voluntary donor organisations with funds available globally, they didn’t have credible organisations to partner with. We were able to provide them with a credible alternative. The final contours of the foundation were finalised during a meeting with Dr Amit Mitra, Secretary General, FICCI and PM Sinha, Chairman, Pepsico India. A very strong management committee was set up including top management from Pepsi, FICCI and CARE India. We targeted a fund corpus of 4 million dollars and the Pepsico foundation seeded half a million dollars into the fund. We also created a partnership with CARE India and that’s how FICCI-CARE, Gujarat Rehabilitation Project was created to create houses and infrastructure for the villages requiring relief. This would provide them with houses to stay, providing significant relief from the enormous challenge of not having a roof over their heads.

 

I must give full credit to Dr Amit Mitra, currently the finance minister of Bengal, who ensured that any lead which I gave him, for small or large organisations were always approached and followed up. We approached several well known donor organisations, Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, USID, the American Indian foundation and several others. The impact we created was that we were able to generate up to 26 Million dollar. This amount of funding, at this rate of speed is indeed rare in the history of private funds for disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction.

 

During the reconstruction of houses, we ensured that artisan and craftsmen from the villages were employed giving a boost to rural employment in the area. All the bricks for the construction were sourced locally, and people were able to generate employment by making bricks as well. We hired a construction team led by armed officers, hired CFO level auditors and got construction designs verified by earthquake specialist Dr Arya, confirmed that the design of the houses would withstand up to 9 richter scale earthquakes. In the course of rebuilding houses in the 26 villages. we even took fresh land for construction. We also interacted with the commissioner Mr Man Singh, who was the then rehabilitation commissioner and received an enormous amount of support from him. He told us we would also be able to work with the big Chief Minister relief fund. So, 30% of the funding came through the Chief Minister relief fund. As a project, we had started with half a million dollars of Pepsico Foundation funding, which multiplied itself 52 times to raise 26 million dollars and additionally received 30% more government funding.

 

I still vividly remember one Gujarat village in particular, Nani Charai. I had kept an amount of Pepsico Foundation funds exclusively for rebuilding one of them. I have had further occasions to travel to Kandla from Bhuj, and on that route when I see the Pepsi sign on a water tank in that village, it makes me emotional and I swell with pride, with the recollection of the best coalition project I did, which helped thousands of lives and brought smiles to so many faces.

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How Covid-19 lockdown has changed the way we eat, live and stay connected

The famous movie starring Julia Roberts, “Eat, pray, love”, has become a catchphrase, representing in a sense, the basic necessities of life in modern society. The character in the movie is on a journey in life seeking meaning in order to discover her true self and achieves some fundamental realisations about the nature of life. COVID-19 too has created such a situation across the world that across all classes of society, many of us have come to a common realisation of what the “essentials” of our life are, and how those who have them are fortunate indeed. The pandemic has wreaked such havoc in societies all across the world that, as society and individuals we have fundamentally changed all the basic habits that have defined how we live.

My family members and I are experimenting with new dishes and learning more about food. My wife runs a food blog, Vaishalee’s Tips & Treats and we are experimenting with one new dish a day. Yesterday she baked Buns which turned out fluffy and delicious, better than the store bought ones that use preservatives. And having hot buns straight out of the oven was a new high. Over and over again, we are able to make food that we usually bought at stores or had at restaurants like Jalebis . Homemade Papri, GolgappeChaat, Biryani, Breads, Cake, Pizza including the base etc at home together using traditional processes of cooking, with time, patience and love. Friends on social groups too, are sharing and trying out recipes of new dishes everyday. Baking and Cooking has brought families together as a common source of joy. Prior to the lockdown many office goers had food in the office canteens or Cafeterias or ordered in through delivery portals, now home cooked food has a new safety and joy.

In the lockdown,  households are shifting to traditional patterns of cooking instead of using ready made, packaged foods. This is a huge shift in consumption habits for the more developed markets across the country. If consumers’ preferences shift to traditional patterns of consumption, it would be a major challenge for many companies selling packaged foods and for the entire restaurant industry. They would need to reinvent themselves completely, either in terms of their product or in terms of their marketing, or both. Restaurateurs are facing extremely difficult and challenging times. Their outlets are facing severe losses and they need to enhance customer traffic to outlets as soon as the lockdown ends. Additionally, implementing social distancing norms and will further eat into their costs. 

As a society, we have started looking inwards in all our daily activities and prayers. As a devotee of god Hanuman, I had been going to the temple every Tuesday for the past 40 years. However, I am now worshiping at home with equally firm conviction and there is a deep realisation that if God is in our heart, worshipping at home is equally meaningful as worshiping at the temple outside.

Along with our ways of worshipping, our mode of work too has undergone a drastic change, as millions of people are now working virtually. Tiny tots, of Nursery and KG classes are attending video classes. For business organisations online seminars and conferences, video calls and meetings, digitally shared documents and reporting via instant messaging applications have become the new normal. They were present earlier as well, however, post the lockdowns globally, these forms of communication have experienced explosive growth for business purposes. ‘Zooming’ now has become a commonly used verb to denote online conferencing instead of speed. When the name of a brand becomes common parlance, one can safely say that the use of the product or the category has been well and truly established in everyday life.

Due to the lockdown and new ways of working from home we are saving on time travelling to work and we are able to spend abundant time with our loved ones at home, cooking, playing board games or singing together etc This is certainly creating more love and bonding in our lives.

Even more drastic changes have come about in our pursuits of leisure, entertainment, business, social and cultural activities. With virtual family dinners and get-togethers for birthdays or other occasions, live streaming of musical albums instead of musical shows and virtual prayer meetings becoming the accepted norm everywhere, humans have become digitally connected and physically isolated. My group of walking friends meet online every day at 7:15 pm. Earlier, I used to think that working from home was impossible for me, and I am sure millions of people around the world would have felt the same. Now I have already become accustomed to leading my teams for virtual work sessions. Recently, I moderated a health webinar which is just one among the many that are to come.

This trend is not expected to vanish soon. A large Indian multinational IT company has announced its plans to continue remote working till September and many other companies are in the process of making similar plans. What are the new and emerging challenges for marketing in a world where customer behaviour has changed so radically? Companies marketing foods, dining chains, musical events, travel, entertainment shows and malls as well as  many other categories of products will require a re-think in the way they do business.

Communicators have begun creating campaigns to carry out continuous customer engagement so that there is better recall among customers. However, it is most important for brands and companies to not only ensure safety and social distancing but also inform all the key stakeholders of the business about the steps taken to ensure the same. This will go a long way to help alleviate the anxiety in the minds of customers, when they contemplate going out post the lockdown. Therefore, assurance of safety will become a key message in all the communications that are done by brands, across all categories.

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Ad wars and brand wars

In my earlier years at Unilever, I saw the launch of Ariel by P&G, and Unliver reacted by launching a campaign on how Ariel was not good for coloured clothes. This campaign was done at a time when detergents were used by fewer housewives in India. Consumers at the time saw the largest brand wars of the category in the early 90’s, and the impact was so high that detergent powders became a way of life.


In 1993, Coke was re launched in India after a gap of 16 years. Pepsi, which had been launched in India in 1990, saw its rival walking away with the most prestigious event – the cricket World Cup. How could Pepsi be kept away from this event? I had joined Pepsico India in 1995, and was a part of the team which was building bridges with teenagers. We took pride in building a brand for the new generation. Well, some of the media at that time called it, “The time of Cola wars”.


Pepsi, which was the largest sponsor of cricket in India could not miss this highly significant opportunity. So, if Coke was the official beverage sponsor, what would Pepsi be doing, was the question being asked, by loyal consumers. So how did Pepsi win back the share of mind? While brand Coke was busy with its biggest campaign of communications for the World Cup, Pepsi was getting ready to do the unconventional. The campaign was called “Nothing Official About It and came from research insights that teenagers do not like the term”Official”.


With this campaign, Pepsi first got into its fold, all the top players of cricket playing countries. Even the most famous cricket umpire in the world – Dickie Bird was also roped into the campaign, saying “There is nothing official about it.” The campaign created media and advertising history and is regarded by the advertising and marketing fraternity as one of the most successful campaigns ever.


The tremendous success of the campaign led to the line “Nothing Official About It” becoming a catchphrase in popular vocabulary. The campaign was strategically brilliant and the Pepsi brand was shown to be fun and irreverent as opposed to the “official” sponsor. During this four month campaign, I spoke to almost every publication in the country, about how Pepsi’s strategy won the hearts and minds of Indians.


I remember that the Indian media, and publications from across the world including the UK, Canada, South Africa and Australia wrote about this campaign in their newspapers. But the best compliment was by an English author, who wrote about the passion of cricket in the sub continent, and mentioned how the brands leveraged this passion in their journey of Indian operations. So much so, that he named one chapter of the book – “Nothing Official About It”.


I have also seen telecom wars in 2003 to 2005 where Airtel and Vodafone, Airtel v/s Reliance Communications both helped in raising the category the way the cola wars had done. While Vodafone came with the launch of its mascot (the Pug) in 2003, Airtel came up with – Express Yourself campaign. These campaigns really raised the bar for the category. People still ask me, who benefitted in these so called ‘brand wars’ and my answer is always simple – it’s the consumer.

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