A lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19, while an important decision by the government, hurt the economy and the retail segment in India. Retail giants in India worked with the objective of keeping the food chain going so that modern and traditional trade outlets would not run out of stock during the lockdown period. One such brand was Dr. Oetkar. Although the brand faced a massive challenge in the form of movement of products – from the plant to the consignee, from the consignee to the distributor and from the distributor to the retail outlet – and production was halted for a week, Dr Oetkar worked hard to ensure that supply was not depleted.
Once the brand received permission from the concerned authorities to reopen with strict guidelines and SOPs, several consignees, distributors and retailers went out of their way to ensure product availability on retail shelves by depleting pipeline inventories. And while foodservice sales nearly dropped to zero, and the sales of Dr Oetker’s retail products slowed down in the two weeks after March 24 due to closure of malls and shops, mid-April onwards, the brand observed increased order volumes for condiments such as mayonnaise and Italian sauces.
In an interaction with Progressive Grocer, Oliver Mirza, Managing Director & CEO, Dr. Oetker Indian Subcontinent talked about the steps the brand is taking to overcome the impact of the lockdown and their future plans. Excerpts from the interview:
How did you cope with the constraints forced by the lockdown in terms of underutilisation of production capacity, shortage of labor, and workforce and distribution challenges.
Our production facility was shut for a week post the announcement of the lockdown. After receiving necessary permissions, we restarted operations with only one-third of the workforce. We are operating a few busses with social distancing protocols. Thermal screening of employees and regular sanitisation is part of our standard operating procedures. We even sanitise shoes of every employee before they enter the production area. We are practising strictest social distancing and hygiene guidelines. Every department in the facility has pitched to achieve production excellence.
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