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Commentary: Do consumers really care about brands when bare essential is top priority?

As consumers scramble to get their supply of daily essentials, it remains to be seen if they look for their preferred brands or just manage with whatever they can lay their hands on

In this hour of a global health crisis, when the Covid-19 threat has spread to every corner of the world, it is interesting to observe how relevant brands are to a consumer whose primary concern is now getting hold of his supply of daily essentials.

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As mandated by the government, though grocery shops and pharmacies are open during the 21-day lockdown—which many states have extended till April 30—essential items are vanishing off the shelves either due to the non-availability or panic buying. The result: scarcity of items of daily use, forget your favourite brand.

Sample this. Suppose a consumer prefers Dettol hand wash over any other brand. But what happens when he goes to a nearby shop to get one and the shopkeeper informs him that only Savlon and some other brand is available. What will the consumer do? He will obviously buy whatever is available instead of thinking about his preference, knowing the importance of hand wash to keep the coronavirus at bay.


Again, there has been a lot of debate regarding the use of hand sanitiser in the absence of soap and water. Awareness ads and videos in different mediums say only sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol content should be used. Knowing the urgency, people are even hoarding sanitisers at home as they are not sure how long the lockdown will last. As such, branded ones are flying off shelves and people are buying whatever they are getting their hands on — even local products offered by fly-by-night operators. Though it’s specified on the bottles that there is 60% alcohol, what is the guarantee about it?

Some people argue that washing hands with soap and water is enough and also doubt the efficacy of hand sanitisers. Lifebuoy even went to the extent of creating an ad, showing a doctor saying, “Not only Lifebuoy, whatever hand wash or soap or hand sanitiser is handy, wash and clean your hand to save yourself from coronavirus”.


Veterans and old-timers are saying the world has never faced such a crisis ever since World War-II. In fact, during World War II, only countries in war zones were affected but Covid-19 has spared no one and forced a global shutdown. So in this hour, food is the most essential thing anyone would need — branded or non-branded.


If a consumer visits a shop to buy Aashirvaad Atta, for example, and the shopkeeper says only some other brand or a local variant is available, that person will not return empty handed. Because the foremost thought in his mind would be choosing between staying hungry and getting something, at least.

For students staying away from home and bachelors who don’t know how to cook, the anytime favourite is Maggi instant noodles. So at the onset of this crisis, such people, and even families, hoarded Maggi packets — even in cartons. Three weeks into the lockdown, when home stocks have started drying out, people are buying whatever they are getting —it could be either Yippee or some other Maggi lookalike as it’s easy to make for whom cooking is an alien concept. The thought behind this is, obviously, getting an instant snack.

As positive cases increase every hour and people are scared to even step out of home, they are not even thinking of buying anything beyond essential — leave aside anything luxurious. Food takeaways are available but are people really getting what they want?

When a KFC fan called an outlet in a posh Delhi locality in the evening, he was told they were done for the day and nothing was left. So that person had to skip his evening snack that day. This is just an instance.

A lot of brands are delivering essentials at the doorstep — with a waiting time extending up to even days in some cases such as Bigbasket as one NCR resident pointed out — but even they can supply till stocks are available. But what about places where such deliveries are not available? In remote pockets? In unauthorised colonies in big cities? Or even in posh high-rises where delivery boys are not allowed in?

So manufacturing and distribution of essentials is more crucial at this hour at a time when staying safe, and alive, has become the top priority and people are not even thinking about brand preferences.

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