The article is contributed by S Shriram, Former VP Marketing and Sales, Levista Coffee.
I stayed home for 150 days straight from March 23, 2020, onwards, when the first one-day lockdown began followed by multiple lockdowns. It was the first time perhaps I stayed at home, ever since I joined LKG four decades back. During the five months, I was on WFH mode, a first for me in my retail career spanning 23 years before when I first scooped Ice-Cream at India’s second and Chennai’s first Baskin Robbins outlet in 1997.
All these years, I had a strong belief that Sales and Marketing professionals can simply not work from home, especially for this long. I was made to revise my thought process all these months even as we sold one more cup of coffee (or more) every hour, every day from April 2020 onwards until now. While thousands of people worldwide have been displaced or retrenched from their jobs, many have chosen alternate professions and have fared well, perhaps better than their previous jobs or businesses.
Our friendly neighbourhood grocer is one such example. Many others too, but what’s striking is the resilience with which these entrepreneurs have risen to the occasion and have not only served customers but also made money, well.
During Unlock 1.0, the Union Government laid down restrictions on shop opening times and the Kirana Shopkeepers took the opportunity on their head, something that established Modern Trade Retailers, as well as the cash-rich Online Retailers, couldn’t live up to. The Kirana opened her / his shop by 6 am every day rain or shine, served customers with glee until 11 am (and later up to 2 pm, followed by 6 pm and eventually till 8 pm) and in the meanwhile, managed their staff and family, store inventory, daily cash flows, spread positive word of mouth in the local community and experimented with the digital media – from sending WhatsApp Posters to taking orders through the same medium as well as instant home-delivery, especially for the comfort of the Elderly, sick patients and the physically challenged.
Coffee and Tea Vendors, on the other hand, saw this as a great opportunity. Those who ran petty shops ventured early in the day and served those who were working on the roads and streets while the more smart ones offered to sell add-ons to their customers as well as cater to those who were in the line of duty such as Conservancy workers, the Police Force and others.
All this time, while a section of people was complaining of job losses, another set of people started their Entrepreneurial journeys and the most fancied product category this time was health and hygiene. From liquid soaps to sanitisers, floor cleaners to disinfectants, there was a sudden rush in this category, especially and there was no stopping for their efforts as this market is about to explode sooner than later.
While FMCG giants like ITC, HUL among others launched revolutionary products in this segment, what took me by surprise was that the secondary, unorganized and unbranded market grew and expanded beyond seams.
Those who have never tried the concept of washing hands before a meal were washing hands (and all exposed parts to sun and air) multiple times every day. Similarly, the “Mask Movement” has gained unparalleled popularity and opportunity. I have seen so many roadside vendors who were earlier selling various products now focusing on this segment.
Coming to Coffee, we at Levista have appointed dozens of new Distributors during H1 FY 20-21 and all this is because we have seen a huge surge of coffee consumption at home. With a high prevalence of WFH or rather SAH – “Stay At Home”, it is but natural to witness consumers drink more hot beverages. And in the process, we have seen many of our partners double or treble business during this period. I reckon that we have just begun. The making of “Corona Millionaires” has only started now and we shall see results over the years.