Blogger’s Park: Only the Fastest Will Survive – The Financial Express

The pandemic has turned consumer behavior on its head and the acceptance curve for newer, better and more relevant products has gone through the roof

From Atul Hegde

About a year ago, I made the cardinal mistake of ordering a home delivery meal through an app that was the best in its class for table reservations, especially in upscale restaurants in my town. I just assumed they’d be just as good at having food delivered from the same restaurant they’d been so efficient at getting me reservations. But it was nothing short of a catastrophe; You totally botched a simple delivery. Today, due to a series of enforced lockdowns, much of their business is from grocery delivery, and they’re mighty good at it.

The pandemic has turned consumer behavior on its head and the acceptance curve for newer, better and more relevant products has gone through the roof. It is no longer a question of whether a brand should adapt to market changes and consumer preferences; now it’s about how quickly they can adapt. If brands don’t see this change and act accordingly, they will soon be irrelevant. The last 15 months or so is by far the fastest in which to change consumer habits and brand adoption. A tectonic change is taking place and it is fascinating to see how brands master this challenge. Categories that have been hit the hardest are also the ones that show the quickest answers.

To stay alive

The travel and hospitality industry – one of the hardest hit industries – has some great stories of product innovations that have kept brands relevant and alive even as sales have plummeted. Emirates was the first to introduce global Covid insurance for all of its flyers. It didn’t stop there. The brand went from introducing special PPE uniforms for staff, to celebrating a fully vaccinated flight crew, to adding additional revenue streams with aggressive promotions for the purchase of miles at discounted prices. The Emirates brand has remained relevant to its core consumer. Closer to the house, an old brand like Taj Hotels quickly realized that they had to push food delivery and started their own food delivery app. Also true to its brand ethos, the Taj Group was at the forefront of Covid relief efforts, be it by providing meals or overnight accommodation for our Covid warriors on the front line.

The auto industry, which has been hit by manufacturing challenges, has also shown an amazing tenacity to recover; and some segments have seen record sales. Luxury brands like BMW have launched a contactless sales program that ensures minimal real world contact when purchasing your vehicle. Mercedes had a number of launches across all segments, and almost all of them were digitally powered.

The opportunists

We also saw some great examples in the opportunity sectors – sectors that benefited from rapidly changing consumer habits, like digital payments and FMCG. The immunity boom has fueled several innovations from old FMCG steeds and also start-ups in this area. Brands like Dettol, Dabur and Unilever have all brought new products and flavors to market at an amazing rate and are enjoying success with consumers.

Digital payments have seen incredible consumer adoption: India ranked # 1 in real-time payment transactions in 2020. The UPI payments backbone has changed the way India handles transactions. You can now open bank accounts at home and get all personal loans without physical meetings as all KYC is done online.

These times are like no other that we have experienced in our lives. It’s amazing to see how companies keep their brands alive with a combination of great product innovation, pinpoint brand messaging, and most importantly, incredible speed to market. It is truly a case of “only the fastest will survive”.

The author is a co-founder of Rainmaker Ventures

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