Extraordinary Times Call for Extraordinary Measures: Ruchita Mishra, Inorbit Malls

In Conversation With Ruchita Mishra, Inorbit Malls

In unprecedented times as ours, the Retail and Apparel industry- the industry that never sleeps, faces crucial challenges ahead on how to take the path forward, after feeling the burn of the coronavirus crisis. In conversation with Ruchita Mishra, Head of Procurement, Inorbit Malls, who talks about the impact of the pandemic on malls and the retail industry, how customer behaviour and the pattern is expected to change drastically and how adaptability will prove to be instrumental in tiding over the catastrophe:

With the retail industry reeling under the crisis of the pandemic and the resultant lockdown, how has its impact been on the supply chain of Inorbit Malls?

With the world reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic & affecting economies of all developed countries across the Globe; India is no exception. And so is retail, of all the industries that had been badly impacted by Covid.

With governments imposing lockdowns throughout the country on their citizens and social distancing becoming the new norm, businesses across the board are suffering, including among those are retailers, brands, and their supply chain. Public places were first ones to come under close down, Malls including theatre and eateries were the frontiers to take this impact. The overall operation ceased at most common place of meet & greet i.e Malls. As far as retailers are concerned impacts like affecting seasonal sales, non-clearance of last winter season collection are the usual story with almost most of the retailers.

As far as Mall supply chain is concerned, all our materials are struck at various place – some across the globe & some at various parts of India. Projects are delayed & we do not know till when. Another impact is on handling our maintenance contracts; even though malls are closed, we are yet to incur cost of critical equipment, which make our property, a friendly place.

What are some of the most prominent changes that are expected in the procurement patterns for the retail industry in the Post-COVID era?

While we all are yet to hear some good news on this front, but whenever lockdown is lifted and mall will be allowed to re-open, retailers for some time may still be grappling from changing shopper preferences and habits.

While the COVID crisis got many brands to close the operations as, after all, everyone was facing cash crunch and it became survival of fittest, others who have survived are exploring various strategies to make most of their operations. For us, the most critical task remains to get customers back and this required making them understand that people are safe at our Mall & inside our premises.

With usage of technology procurement, we are trying to build up a safe, healthy & sustainable atmosphere for customers. As far as retailers are concerned, ways of doing business online & offline both will undergo a drastic change. Stores that used to celebrate increasing crowd during season sale will be allowing limited count of consumers inside stores.

Several retailers who did not have ecommerce linkages are exploring the same now, but this salvages only a fraction of revenue. Definitely quarantine will alter buying pattern of consumers with less buying of formal clothes, electronics, salon services to more of essential services & medicines only resulting in revenue loss for all of us.

Having said that, we all know human is a social animal and we all have been saving even in this difficult time and waiting to explore the world post-COVID impact. Situation will rebound and the impact will be diminished slowly. With restrictions on international travel, Malls would remain a preferred and safe choice for meet & greet. It is important for us in this time to plan well for re-opening; take care of all health & safety elements, not just for our consumers but all retailers, employees & vendors.

“The pandemic has dramatically accelerated the consumer adoption of online grocery shopping. Grocers have no choice but to adapt their business models and delivery methods.”

The retail industry has to maintain a fine balance between catering to the demand whilst ensuring that the supply keeps up with the pace. What are the challenges that you face in keeping with the demand and time constraints?

With the fast-changing trends & new demand, none of us could have foreseen certain elements of supply chain. This situation was new for all of us. While in retail most part of ‘essential operations’ at all our malls were running even at extended business hours yet it’s just a minuscule component of overall revenue. We all have witnessed the time when for close to a month, complete economic activity came to a virtual standstill barring essentials. As a result, there is a widespread loss of income and demand destruction.

The challenges that I faced were mostly in evaluating in right solution for dealing with pandemic. With high demand of preventive solution like that of fumigation tunnel which normally is fabricated & should not range more than few thousands, but will impulse buying it is available now in lacs. Similar is the story of Infrared thermometer which most of us never heard of earlier, now is available in 8k to 10k. Several such solution has come up to cater the demand of industries who is concern about health & safety – some of this solution can portray technology & will be a feel-good factor and other may be really be effective. Its important that we evaluate these solutions effectively.

Few attributes which remain critical in this time for supply chain is being agile, able to adapt quickly and alignment.

Grocery supply chain is perfect example of being agile. While we as consumers may worry about empty shelves at grocery stores. It was important to recognize that the grocery industry faced an unprecedented spike in demand in March as consumers over-purchased out of fear and the large shift from dining out to at-home eating.

Adaptability is another such feature. Consider, once again, the grocery industry. Over the past decade, many small/ big e-commerce solutions have developed in order to handle last-mile deliveries of groceries to our home. Most of these grocers have a varied range of methods like direct buy from farmers, third party, peer to peer movement etc. The revenues during normal business times have always been enticing. With the rise of COVID-19, grocers no longer have the benefit of time to test different delivery models. The pandemic has dramatically accelerated consumer adoption of online grocery shopping, potentially with lasting effects. Grocers have no choice but to adapt their business models and delivery methods in real-time to solve the online delivery problem as many customers are rapidly switching to online grocery delivery.

As the Head of Procurement of Inorbit Malls, what is your strategy in steering your organisation through unprecedented times and crises?

As Head of Procurement, it was important for me to be more vigilant; most critical for any procurement professional is cost savings. Any extra penny saved is the penny earned was our mantra. We re-negotiated some of the ongoing contracts commercials & their terms. It was important to take our strategic partners along in this difficult journey.

This is an abridged version of the original interview published in the June issue of Logistics Insider magazine. To read the complete unedited story, download the e-copy of the magazine.

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