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Greenshoots of recovery visible in FMCG sector; say industry leaders at CII Summit

The FMCG sector as a whole is showing signs of revival. The companies that are doing well are those who have built enduring innovative brands and those who are looking after our planet, echoed the speakers at the CII FMCG Summit

After a couple of dull years, the FMCG sector in India is showing signs of revival, said industry captains while speaking at the CII FMCG Summit in Mumbai on Wednesday.

The panellist at the event included Bharat Puri, Chairman, CII National Committee on FMCG and Managing Director, Pidilite Industries, Suresh Narayana, Chairman and Managing Director, Nestle India, Nikhil Prasad Ojha, Partner, Bain and Co and Indrani Kar, Principal Advisor, CII among others.

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“Since liberalisation, the FMCG sector has made significant contributions to India’s growth story, and the sector has persistently maintained robust double-digit growth rates, said, Puri.

As per Puri, The sector as a whole is showing signs of revival. The companies that are doing well are the ones who have built enduring innovative brands looking after our planet.

He further said, “FMCG leaders like Hindustan Unilever and Nestle as well as a crop of new ‘insurgent’ companies have beaten the slowdown, offering hope and lessons that could help the industry rev up its flagging fortunes.”

Several companies have beaten the downturn. Bellwether companies like Nestle, HUL and few others showcased their experiences at the summit.

“Business leaders must quickly pivot to invest in strategies that will engineer getting back to double-digit growth through a rapid penetration increase, culminating in serving more consumers more completely,” he added.

“Growth is an attitude, not a birthright,” said Narayanan, adding that companies should blame the slowdown to their mindset.

The Summit is an apex forum for policy advocacy and perspective sharing for the FMCG Sector and envisions the creation of an enabling environment for the growth and development of the sector.

Key takeaways from the four sessions at CII Summit

The CII summit saw four sessions on various aspects of the industry and brand building.

Session I: Back to the Future - Building Brands that Endure

Moderator - Bharat Puri, Chairman CII National Committee on FMCG and Managing Director, Pidilite Industries, Speakers - Madhukar Sabnavis, Vice Chairman and Director, Client Relations, Ogilvy and Mather, Meghna Apparao, Chief Marketing Officer, Godrej Consumer Products, Vipul Mathur, Global Brand Leader - Brooke Bond, Hindustan Unilever.

The session was on showcasing the new rules of the game when it comes to designing communication for digital-first brands. Experts deliberated on how brands can make purpose a core element of their offerings.

As per Sabnavis, There are three parameters to evaluate the success of a brand - Salience, meaningfulness and differentiation.

“Big bang TV advertising has died today. Digital platforms provide brands to start stirring conversations to the consumers. Brands need to be more experimentative and a lot more opportunistic,” said Sabnavis.

Mathur of Brooke-Bond, HUL, said, “Staying aligned with the brand purpose, creating communication and experience that matters to consumers are the few measures are going to play a big part in driving growth for brands.”

Apparao of Godrej Consumer Products, said, “Brands should focus on local and regional nuances where people are consuming content. Dynamic content optimisation on digital and beyond, voice and vernacular is going to hold the future.

Session II: New and improved - New product development by insurgents and incumbents

Moderator: Karthik Ganesan, Principal, Bain and Co, Speakers: Kanwaljit Singh, Managing Partner, Fireside Ventures, Ankur Jain, Founder and CEO of B9 Beverages, the maker of Bira 91 beers, and Anil Viswanathan, Director - Marketing (Chocolates), Mondelez India.

The session showcased exemplary brands that have displayed an insurgent mindset in driving penetration by becoming relevant across multiple consumption occasions and successfully placing themselves on part with traditional alternatives.

Ganesan of Bain & Co shared the key takeaways from the insurgent and incumbent brands over the years. He said, “A brand needs to continuously keep engaging with consumers and building buzz around the same to scale its business. At the heart of new product development should be a clear understanding of the consumer. With new products, the brands should plan a digital-first strategy. The brands must also be agile and receptive to failures. Driving penetration is not just about reaching a consumer or making a household; it's about participating and winning as many consumption occasions as possible.”

As per Jain of 9 Beverages, getting the product right through relentless innovation at scale have been the growth drivers for B9 beverages in India.

Jain said, “The brand is not sacrosanct once it’s with the consumers. Be a part of the consumer lifestyle. Make a long term relationship and not transactional.”

Viswanathan of Mondelez India said that once a brand has created the right relevance and increased access for the consumers, it should see the opportunity to grow the category by providing more and more value.

Session III: Low Impact High Growth on FMCG and Sustainability

The session focused on sustainability gaining traction among the consumer brands as a core value and how brands need to chart a more sustainable path along with better consumers experience. The industry stalwarts also discussed how individually and collectively, they need to collaborate with the government to work towards sustainability.

Moderator: Deepak Iyer, President – India, Mondelez, Speakers: Venkatesh Kini, Co-founder, Ubuntoo, Richa Arora, Chief Operating Officer, Consumer Products Business, Tata Chemicals

Kini of Ubuntoo, said, “Sustainability is using fewer resources to deliver desired consumer value while generating less waste through the entire value chain. All of us need to collaborate as the battle won't be won single-handedly.”

Deepak of Mondelez, said, “Chasing sustainability goals has never conflicted chasing profit goals.”

Session IV - Pipeline churn - FMCG distribution of the future

Prasun Basu, President, Nielsen, South Asia, shared takeaways on FMCG distribution of the future.

He said, “Shoppers are increasingly accessing multiple touchpoints. As it is visible from modern trade businesses leading the disruption in the past decade and it continues to increase in depth and width. E-commerce is another new disruptor with 3X growth expected in four years.

He further said, “Traditional trade is holding grounds through embracing technology and collaborating with the vibrant start-up ecosystem. Omnichannel has become the new reality and dynamism across channels is an opportunity.”

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