The Black Swan of 2020: COVID19 VS Retail Supply Chains | Panel Discussion

The Indian retail industry has emerged as one of the most dynamic and fast-paced industries involving more than 15 million retailers. The Indian retail industry contributes approximately 40% to India’s consumption and makes an addition of 10% to India’s GDP.

Before Corona, we were pressing on the new normal! After Corona, the new normal will fade away before it fully arrives, now what lies ahead is The next normal! By acting early, boldly and being decisive, Supply Chain leaders can accelerate their after corona transformation and reach the next normal sooner.

With the stretched disruptions in China due to coronavirus, taking the shape of a global pandemic, the phrase “out of stock” is now one of the biggest headaches across the world. Retail supply chains are worst struggling in the absence of mandatory for operations weapons and multiple countrywide lockdowns. Retailers’ supply chain problems have predominantly arisen from big shifts in consumer behavior and wildly implemented government health restrictions.

As the COVID19 outbreak has spread and its humanitarian impact has grown, retailers have stepped up their efforts to provide consumers with essential commodities respectively. The pandemic’s far-reaching effects have weighed heavily on the health and well-being of employees and jeopardized livelihoods and economic lifelines in various communities.

Coronavirus, by any definition, is the perfect storm. The pandemic has plunged the world in a state of limbo and the reality is that no one was ready for it. The lockdown implemented by Government to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the country has greatly affected retail business. Retailers are now performing extraordinary measures to keep the “out of stock” phrase out of shelves and away from consumer doorsteps. 

In a panel discussion on “The Black Swan of 2020: COVID19 VS Retail Supply Chains”, organized by CPO Innovation Group, thought leaders like Dr. Anil Chinnabhandar, Senior Vice President – Retail Planning and Supply Chain, Landmark Group, Virendra Sharma, Associate Vice President and Head Supply Chain, Jockey India, Karthikeyan Vishnu, Chief Operating Officer, MR. D.I.Y INDIA, Balakrishnan Chettythody, Senior Engineering Director – Supply Chain IT, Lowe’s India, Madhu Natesan, CPSCM™, Divisional Vice President – Merchandising Operations, Hudson’s Bay Company and Razum Rajan CPSCM™, Editor, CPO Innovation (Moderator) zoomed out a little bit and took a look at the bigger picture and the new normal in the future and how retail supply chain systems would be defined and what will be the role of retail supply chain leaders to keep their organizations ahead of the arrived changes post COVID19.

The 2 hour discussion was aimed at bringing forward an actionable prescription for all of us who are in retail to navigate forward successfully amid lockdown 3.0 and beyond.

A live survey was conducted during the panel discussion to know the real-time responses of viewers on COVID19’s impact on retail supply chain. The below diagram presents a glimpse into the survey results.

Q.1 What is the appropriate no. of months required for business recovery?

Q.2 What is COVID19? [A] Disruptor [B] Creator [C] Destructor

Few insights from our expert panelists who shared their views in this live panel discussion:

Humanitarian and operational impacts of the outbreak

As the Covid19 outbreak has spread and its humanitarian impact has grown, retailers have stepped up their efforts to provide consumers with essential goods and to protect the health and well-being of the communities they serve. Particular challenges have arisen in global retail supply chains where the pandemic’s far-reaching effects have weighed heavily on the health and well-being of employees and jeopardized livelihoods and economic lifelines in many communities.

Our panelist shared stories of their initial reaction to the pandemic and how they immediately established strong communication channels and connected with each and every employee and ensured employees’ comfort and safety while making organizational priorities clear to all stakeholders.

Key challenges & pain points in the first 30 days of lockdown

Sharing their key challenges because of country-wide lockdown, the panelists put forward following challenges they faced:

  • Huge Inventory pile-up
  • Difficulties in collaboration with vendor community
  • Continuous consumer engagement to reduce uncertainty
  • Exploring meaningful areas with cost-cutting opportunities
  • Ensuring safety and well-being of front line employees
  • Maintaining associates related training to successfully navigate COVID19

Primary objectives of Retail Supply Chain leaders to mitigate the COVID19 disruption

With the supply chain industry facing several challenges, including shifting customer demand, target audience, government restrictions and potential material shortages, the outbreak forced retail companies to rapidly adapt to the new normal and custom tailor their supply chains to meet emergencies.

The primary objectives of retail supply chain leaders to mitigate initial disruption and set up their business for future success would be:

  1. Leveraging available data
  2. Working closely with suppliers
  3. Running a smart work force

Role of consumer behavior in shaping up retail supply chain responses to COVID19

With no past reference available to judge how consumer behavior will shape up after a pandemic-induced lockdown, marketers and analysts expect to see a cautious customer who wants to stock up to be able to work from home but also conserve cash. Reaction to the COVID-19 virus is upending markets and consumer behavior everywhere. This ongoing crisis and associated lockdown & business closures have created the largest single time period in the last 20-30 years where consumers have been prompted to reappraise their purchasing decision. 

Our panelists put their chain of thoughts around the following areas:

  • Evolution of consumer behavior over the course of crisis.
  •  Consumers’ expectation from brands in this new environment
  •  Role of virtual experience impacting purchasing attitudes.
  •  Major consumer trends that are being reinforced by the crisis.
  •  Developments that will shape physical and digital lifestyles and the types of products and services consumers will seek out in the future

The panel also focussed on what will be the positioning of promising supply chain technology startups and how capable technology startups can gain maximum opportunities by presenting their edge to companies in need who want immediate results and are hungry to return to normalcy.

Watch the full panel discussion to better understand the universal realities of retailing in a COVID19 world and get your actionable prescription around how can supply chain leaders at retail companies chart a path to the next normal, building resilience and returning supply chains to full effectiveness while reimagining and reforming supply chain operations while improving their performance amidst problems that will now arise every day and are almost impossible to predict before its occurrence?

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