Pankaj Bhardwaj: Change in consumer behaviour shall lead to change in product mix

With the industry under lockdown, PrintWeek asks Pankaj Bhardwaj, senior director and general manager, South Asia, Label & Graphic Materials of Avery Dennison, how the company is dealing with the situation.

17 Apr 2020 | By PrintWeek Team

Pankaj Bhardwaj

How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted your business?

In label and graphic business, we cut across multiple segments and applications of the economy and so, economy slowing down has a direct bearing on us. There are application segments that have seen significant impact due to subdued business activity like automotive, signage and other discretionary expenditure. At the same time, we have seen hyper activity in essential goods and home care product categories due to panic buying. The pandemic shall leave indelible marks on consumer behaviour and demand patterns with health, hygiene and packaged goods improving their penetration.

Are any important constituents that go into manufacturing of packaging in short supply?

We have a globally connected supply chain for the majority of our raw materials and global supply chain disruption is posing challenges every day. We activated our business continuity plan late January which enabled us to foresee and prepare for the challenges well within time. We are well placed to serve our customers so far, however, we are sensitive to the fact that lockdowns, port congestion, transport availability shall leave everything vulnerable.

What are these items? How are you tackling the situation?

We are in constant discussion with our suppliers and are keeping a watch on their business continuity plans. Regular discussions, active planning for possible disruption and keeping alternates handy are our approaches to survive for supplies.

Steps the government can take to better the situation?

Well, first of all, it is good to see the realisation on the importance of saving livelihoods and saving lives, together. The impact of economic distress in post-Covid-19 world shall have profound impact on lives and more so in a low-income country like India. I must applaud the country’s leadership and the entire administration for containing the spread of pandemic so far. With the presumption that these measures are adequate for containment, we must ensure the following:

1. Make a clear and pragmatic framework for business to somewhat continue during lockdown and quickly scale back as lockdown ends (which looks like a daunting task right now)

2. Announce financial package for healthy companies to not collapse, keep the financial sector stress-free and to provide for essential capital to companies

3. Take care of essential needs like food for the vulnerable part of society

4. Let this opportunity not pass in positioning the country for getting higher foreign investment and further boosting the Make in India programme

Will this pandemic bring about a paradigm shift in the way packaging is perceived?

The change in consumer buying behaviour shall lead to change in product mix, promotion mix as well as channel mix for many companies and packaging has to evolve for this change. It is tough to predict exact contours. However, change is inevitable. Innovation, agility and consumer connect shall be the cornerstone of success going forward.

Has the pandemic given you any important lessons?

We realised the importance of a robust ‘business continuity plan' and how being extra prepared helps in ambiguous situations. It helped us align our supply chain in advance. We activated work from home more than a week before the country went into lockdown and we could start our plant operations for essential goods reasonably fast. Our mantra has been to prioritise our people's safety first and serving our customers right next. We shall continue to remain a financially prudent organisation that shall collaborate with the ecosystem for healthy growth of label and graphics materials in the country.

Any message for the industry?

Economically challenging situations like this shall require clear focus on the well-being of employees, hawk’s eye on cash flow and a sharp focus on serving the customers. It is also the time to collaborate, exchange learning and lean forward to hand hold each other. As they say, ‘this too shall pass'.

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