South India contributes almost 40% to the appliances market: Saurabh Baishakhia

The pandemic changed the dynamics of all the e-commerce platforms and the consumer demand for home appliances. As COVID-19 protocols restricted people from stepping out of their homes, it significantly increased the demand for need-based functional kitchen appliances, which helped them to work from home more efficiently. Diversified appliances maker Usha International not only experienced a rising demand during the lockdown, but also after the Unlock 2.0 in many regions for all categories aided by new segment launches, marketing programmes, reach expansion in low market share territories, improved retail and digital integration and stronger engagement with consumers on digital platforms.

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The company is currently at 6-7% market share and is expecting 10% by the end of this financial year. Along with this, Usha International has significantly decided to expand its operations in the southern markets. As the festive season rolls in, the company has already seen a huge demand picking up pace with Onam and Raksha Bandhan along with the wedding season.

With this expansion, the appliances maker recently launched a campaign highlighting its range of kitchen appliances starring brand ambassador actress Keerthy Suresh. As part of their campaign, they released four TV commercials across traditional and digital mediums in multiple languages, including Hindi, English, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam.

In an exclusive interaction with Adgully, Saurabh Baishakhia, President - Appliances, Usha International, speaks about the uptick in demand for kitchen appliances, the latest TVC campaign featuring Keerthy Suresh, focus on the Southern markets, expectations from the festive season this year and a lot more.

With India returning to normalcy, what’s driving the uptick in demand for kitchen appliances? 

As the consumers opt for appliances to ease their daily chores while managing work from home, the market saw a clear rise in the demand for need-based functional kitchen appliances. The replacement and upgrade demand is also high after the Unlock 2.0, especially at Usha. We, too, witnessed a similar phase wise revival from all regions for all categories aided by new segment launches, marketing programmes, reach expansion in low market share territories, improved retail and digital integration, and stronger engagement with consumers on digital platforms.
In terms of product categories, we have been witnessing a great deal of demand for kitchen and home appliances that ease WFH situations, like Food Processors, OTGs, Wet Grinders, Rice Cookers, Cooktops and Home Comfort (Air-Coolers, Garment Steamers, etc.). 

We are optimistic that in the upcoming festival season, in case we do not witness another lockdown, we will gain back a lot of lost ground and perform fairly. With enhanced consumer sentiments and macro economic conditions, we see sales picking up in smaller cities due to reverse migration. This has made the economy more distributed and as retail has opened in most of the cities of India, festival season looks promising for the category.

What made you shift your focus towards the Southern market? How has Usha International’s association with Keerthy Suresh been in the latest TVC? 

South India contributes almost 40% to the appliances market and has been a focus market for us. Catering to the local nuances of the region, whether it’s a colour or a new category segment, gives us more space to catch up on potential and incremental growth. In the last quarter, we have introduced a whole range of new products and joyful colours specifically targeted to the Southern region. Our strong consumer insights, built-in channel capabilities and network strength will be the catalysts for growth in this region. We are focused on identifying the need gaps in the market, as they are great for finding inspiration for growth opportunities.

Recently, we launched a new media campaign highlighting our kitchen appliances range starring brand ambassador and National Film Award (2018) winner, actress Keerthy Suresh. As part of the campaign, we released four TV commercials in six languages across traditional and digital mediums aimed at amplifying connect and engagement with consumers across India with a focus on South markets.

The films feature Keerthy whipping up an array of lip-smacking delicacies using four of Usha’s hero products – Trienergy Plus Mixer Grinder, Colossal DLX Wet Grinder, Rice Cooker, and Calypso OTG. The films have been run in various languages, including Hindi, English, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam, for optimum reach and impact. With this campaign, we are looking to further strengthen our connection with consumers and increase our brand salience not just in these markets but across the country as well. 

How has the homegrown brand remained resilient while redefining consumer connect through its evolving brand strategy? 

Over the past 9 decades, consumer centricity has been a core value to the organisation. Based on consumers’ insights, valuable feedback, market gaps and customer needs, the brand has constantly tried to launch products with a value proposition. We are focused on driving brand relevance by being committed to understanding what our customers might expect or need – whether it’s emotional appeal through new colours, or convenience through technology. Maintaining brand relevance means maintaining the trust and loyalty of our customers.

Even during the unprecedented period of COVID-19, we have had our ears to the ground the past year and a half. We at Usha were quick to realise that offline and online work in tandem and complement each other to drive real success. We emphasised on our service delivery and had our supply chain, logistics and inventories in place, and we followed all the mandated guidelines and zoning restrictions, while also ensuring the safety of our consumers and employees.

What has also worked well for us is that we have been focused on creating more avenues for touch-less shopping as digital adoption is here to stay even in the long run. Our digital-first strategy was even more relevant during the pandemic. At the same time, we have also been working on revamping our in-shop presence with better display and a safer experience for our consumers.

What is the company’s focus across organized retail, E-commerce, and traditional dealer networks across the country? 

Currently, as a company, we are being more secular and democratic with the right assortment of products for each region. Our last mile connected, unified and broad-based approach across all channels will help us strengthen our network even further. E-commerce has risen multi-fold and thus, we have been focused on creating unique retail experiences for our consumers by offering seamless services on online platforms like Brand Stores on Amazon, engaging demo videos across product categories, A+ Content, etc. We are also building our product portfolio on all digital platforms. We have invested heavily in E-commerce and have increased our focus towards digital, in order to ensure seamless, continued sales. Digital will always be a touch point at some point in the customer’s cycle, whether pre-purchase or post-purchase.

We have certainly seen a rise in E-commerce sales, having said that, we are also witnessing growth in offline sales – in our modern retail, regional and stand-alone outlets. Adopting an omni-channel strategy with an emphasis on phygital is the way forward.

What is Usha International’s outlook for the appliance category in the upcoming quarter? Will this festival season be fruitful enough to drive the sales? 

After one and a half years of continuous disruption, we are confident of our business in the upcoming quarter. Necessary channels, marketing programmes, top of the mind awareness and with inventories in place, we are bullish about our sales in the upcoming quarter. As the festive season rolls in, the demand has already started picking up pace with Onam and Raksha Bandhan and we are hoping that demand from the West region will follow suit with Ganesh Chaturthi in September, and then with Pujas, Dussehra and Diwali in October and November. Additionally, the wedding season has also kicked in, giving a boost to the demand.

After the pandemic struck, was there a need for Usha International to re-think and rework on its product portfolio? 

Not really. On the other hand, we had an increased demand for cooking and home appliances that eased WFH situations. The pandemic taught us how to manage our supply situations as there was a pent-up demand after each lockdown. Consumers ended up buying more trusted brands and Usha was able to leverage this sentiment in a positive way.

A major shift due to the pandemic has been in terms of consumer behaviour and the rapid acceleration towards digital. As a brand, we worked on creating enhanced digital content leading to a better consumer journey.

Usha International is looking at growing the appliances business 3X as it approaches 2025. Could you give us some insights on this? 
We are currently at 6-7% market share and targeting a 10% market share by the end of this financial year. Our aim is to be in the top three in whatever categories we operate in and aim at 15% share by 2025.
Reach is going to be a big growth driver and our aim is to be in every pin-code of India. Our rural strategy is to target towns below 1 lakh and 50K population. We will continue to build our omni-channel presence for the categories by leveraging digital and activations. The marketing strategy is to reach the customers at all touch points of their purchase journey.


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