FMCG major HUL is watchful of the situation after the second wave of the pandemic but is confident of the medium to long-term growth prospects of the sector, according to company Chairman and Managing Director Sanjiv Mehta. The company in its annual report for 2020-21 said while there are encouraging developments, the trajectory of the pandemic still remains “unpredictable” to a large extent as the country is witnessing the second wave of Covid-19.
While discussing prediction of the third wave, Mehta said HUL’s focus would continue to ensure uninterrupted supplies of Covid relevant portfolio and meeting the demand arising out of evolving consumer needs.
“We remain watchful of the situation while focusing on driving volume-led competitive growth.
“Even though conditions will remain unpredictable and we will be living with the effects of Covid-19 for some time, we remain confident of the medium to long-term growth prospects of the FMCG sector,” said Mehta over the outlook for the company.
According to HUL, despite being one of the fastest-growing markets globally for FMCG products, India’s per capita FMCG consumption is still amongst the lowest in the world, giving the industry a long runway for growth.
HUL is also investing in building capabilities for e-commerce and modern trade channels as consumer shopping behaviours are shifting towards e-commerce.
“We are investing in building capabilities for channels of the future viz. e-commerce and modern trade and are co-creating differentiated offerings which are fit for the channel,” said Mehta.
Over 5 lakh retailers are now ordering through HUL’s eB2B app Shikhar, which has enabled its retailer partners to place contactless orders.
“We are scaling up the adoption of Shikhar, our eB2B app to create a digitally wired customer ecosystem which will help in optimising space and speed up restocking,” he said.
Mehta further said HUL’s overriding priority remains, therefore, to protect lives and livelihoods.
“As the second wave of the pandemic unfolds with predictions of a third wave in the offing, our focus continues to be on our people’s health & safety, ensuring uninterrupted supplies of Covid relevant portfolio, meeting the demand arising out of evolving consumer needs, caring for the communities in which we operate, and finally, protecting our business mode,” he added.
In the pandemic-impacted 2020-21, HUL reported net revenue of Rs 45,996 crore and its comparable domestic consumer business grew 6 per cent with underlying volume growth of 3%.
“The year 2020-21 saw unprecedented disruption to lives and livelihoods across the world and India was no exception,” he said, adding the economy declined sharply during the first half of the fiscal year as the country grappled with the pandemic.
However, effective measures taken by the government and the Reserve Bank helped the Indian economy recover. The rapid rollout of vaccines coupled with the government’s efforts on stimulating growth improved consumer sentiments.
“Our people have shown their resilience and commitment to rise in the most difficult circumstances. With our strong portfolio of trusted brands, industry-leading capabilities, resilient workforce and a clear compass strategy guiding our decisions, we are well placed to deliver consistent, competitive, profitable and responsible growth,” he added.
It also completed the merger of GSK Consumer Healthcare into HUL last fiscal year adding iconic brands such as Horlicks and Boost in its fold. HUL has also completed the acquisition of female intimate hygiene brand VWash.
While talking about the last fiscal year, Mehta said it saw a significant change in what consumers buy and where they shop – from online shopping to rising concern about health, hygiene, sanitation and nutrition.
“In the pandemic, the humble bar of soap became the first line of defence resulting in an unprecedented demand for skin cleansing and hand hygiene products,” he said, adding Lifebuoy launched 15 new product variations in the hand hygiene portfolio within just 30 days.