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“We are focusing on automation of traditional Indian sweet & namkeen products”
Tuesday, 17 November, 2020, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Dedicated to providing complete solutions to various food processing companies across India. The company boasts of highly skilled after sale services and delivering global technology with local support. Raghav Gupta, director, Kanchan Metals shares his insights on the current market scenario in an email interview with Kimberley Fernandes. Excerpts

The food and beverage industry has suffered huge losses due to the global pandemic. How has your company been affected?
The pandemic is a world changing event with consequences beyond anyone’s imagination. Most of the business segments have suffered and grappled to sustain their operations during these uncertain times. While many businesses have shut their operations, others are still in a tough spot and taking a long time to recover. Talking about our business, we have witnessed a steady demand for our products. Most of our customers are doing well and either increasing their capacity or entering into new product segments thereby requiring new machinery. We have done very good business in the last 6 months especially in the processing of ethnic Indian snack food, bakery and frozen food.

How has the competitive landscape of the industry changed during Covid-19?
The intensity of competition in the industry is very much the same if not more aggressive as no one wants to pass up on any opportunity, especially during such crucial times. Companies are also seeking to differentiate themselves by experimenting with healthier dishes or upgrading their ingredients. There is a major struggle and more efforts are required when it comes to pricing. Our focus is to work on products where we enjoy a competitive edge in the market and leverage our experience to offer suitable, sustainable, and best solutions to our customers.

How will the changes affect prominent stake holders in the industry?
As the situation keeps evolving, the effects are causing a ripple throughout the industry globally, with business owners and prominent stakeholders calling for support and guidance. The impact is large and unprecedented - changes in consumer preferences, altered buying behaviour, scare of virus spread etc. Businesses are judiciously taking steps to adapt their products in the face of this new environment

How has your marketing mix been affected?
We are witnessing good demand in the processing of ethnic Indian snack food, bakery and frozen food and thus our marketing strategy is focussed towards these categories.This pandemic is all about change, in fact, a very rapid change. Solid behavioural insights are the prominent foundation upon which one should build their new marketing mix. Businesses should understand how the extreme change brought on by COVID-19 has triggered disruption in buying behaviours of consumers. This is because even amid significant behavioural shifts, the fundamentals of consumer decision making remain true.

Once a business understands their consumers’ decision loop, they can more confidently adapt their 4Ps i.e. Product, Promotion, Price and Place to a newly disrupted context.

What are the challenges faced by the sector?
The shortage of labour / skilled labour is one of the most common and major challenge facing businesses, especially in the manufacturing sector.

Further, this is primarily a procurement season for the food processing industry, however, in the current scenario, a lot of businesses are struggling to procure the required raw material due to liquidity issues which ultimately affects the manufacturing capacity. It is also important to maintain the cash flows across the supply chain to put the working capital cycle in motion.

Moving on, today's consumers are very health conscious and very much aware of what they consume. Automation in the processing sector is the need of the hour wherein the products are processed in a way that the consumers are confident of consuming it.

Any unique technologies or innovations that you plan on introducing into the market, post Covid-19?
There are some plans in the pipeline. We have developed some smart solutions for personnel hygiene and currently our focus is on automation for end of the line packaging. We are focusing on automation of traditional Indian sweet and namkeen products as well. We are also constantly striving to improve the quality of our after sale services to give maximum benefit to customers.

Share your thoughts on ‘Make in India' project that aims to push up to 25 per cent of GDP?
It is a great initiative to boost our economy and represent the nation as a powerful manufacturing hub at the global level. The mission's focus to foster innovation, facilitate investment, enhance skill development and build best in class manufacturing infrastructure is promising and if executed well, can deliver great results. Manufacturing currently contributes just over 15 per cent to our GDP, which, Make in India aims to grow to 25 per cent.

We are following the path of Make in India by producing equipment in the country. However, to match International standards and advanced developments in food processing machinery, we are looking for partners to boost the production of our snack food processing equipment. Food Processing is one among the 25 priority sectors identified by the government under the project and we are hopeful of better outcomes.

How do you plan on improving production operation capacity, reliability and efficiency in your company post pandemic?
Our aim is to improve the reach and quality of our engineering services, especially installation and after sale services of complex machinery. Our OEM’s are now struggling to reach the customer site and thus the onus is upon us to ensure customers remain happy with products they have bought from us and in such cases we have to step up and ensure timely and proper commissioning of equipment. We are using digital media frequently to get assistance and support our customers wherever possible.

How has Coronavirus affect your relationship with your distribution network?

Thankfully, the pandemic has not had any negative impact on our business. We continue to do well. Regarding our distribution network, functions are quite smooth. We are a B2B business and deal directly with our customers. Therefore, there is a lot of efficiency, good communication and streamlined operations. With the incorporation of digital medium, our dealings are now more frequent than they were earlier.

What are your key short-term and biggest long-term plans post Covid-19?
Standardisation has always been our primary focus and even now or after the pandemic, we plan to remain focused towards standardisation of our designs. Further, there is a lot of anticipation that once things are back to normal, the market will expand, and the industry will rise. On the same lines, we plan to complete R&D on certain critical equipment so that when the market opens and looks for expansion, we are ready to compete in capacities , especially for production of ethnic Indian snack , sweets and also bakery and frozen products.
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