Abhishek Ganguly, General Manager, PUMA India and Southeast Asia talks about how the brand is preparing for the new wor...
- In our latest series, we talk to brands about how they have been marketing during these adverse times, the things they have learnt and how they are preparing for the somewhat uncertain future.
- In today's interview,
Abhishek Ganguly, General Manager, PUMA Indiaand Southeast Asia tells us as a retail brand, how they are preparing for the new world order.
- He also tells us about the brand's
marketing strategyand how it ensured it stayed connected with its audience to ensure engagement.
To most brands, it has taught resilience and agility. For a lot of leaders, it has been a lesson in empathy.
And as the country slowly opens up, brands are slowly but steadily opening up to a new world order where things are very different from how they were till a few months back. The focus is now on ensuring the safety of all stakeholders, to make sure that all norms are followed. Its safe to say that the pandemic has completely redefined marketing.
In an attempt to understand the changes that happened at an organizational level for Puma, we recently caught up with Abhishek Ganguly, General Manager, PUMA India and Southeast Asia who not only told us how they are preparing for the new normal, he also spoke about what helped them sail through during these adverse times. As the lockdown is getting relaxed, the brand has seen a steady increase in the footfall and conversions at their stores. Moreover, its e-commerce business has almost seen a doubling in the last 3-4 weeks, which is a positive sign and gives hope for revival.
Ganguly also told us his learnings as a leader and how they are working on future-proofing the business.
Q) Retail, as we have known it, might see a complete overhaul. How are you, as a brand, preparing to adapt to this changing consumer behavior?
As we brave the road to recovery and navigate through the new normal, we are witnessing a major shift in the shopping behavior of consumers. We’re focused on creating a safe and hygienic environment at our stores to instill confidence in the minds of our customers. We have put in place the required cleaning and hygiene protocols across all our stores and facilities. Our retail staff has been trained to ensure social distancing norms are followed. Some of the measures that we are following at our stores include:
- A cap on the maximum number of consumers inside the store at any given point
- Contactless payments and billing
- Hourly sanitization of store fixtures including cash desk, trial rooms, door knobs and hangers
- Contactless temperature screening at the store entrance
- Making masks mandatory
- Sanitizing hands at the entrance and at all touchpoints across the store
- Demarcated areas/ layouts that allow for social distancing within the store
E-commerce has always been a big priority for us at PUMA and we embarked on this journey many years ago. In the current situation, online is of course a more convenient option for consumers to shop. Having said that, over the last few weeks, footfalls and conversions in stores have also increased manifold. E-commerce business is growing very fast – over the last 3-4 weeks we have seen our business almost doubling on this channel.
Q) Have there been any interesting trends you’ve noticed during the lockdown? Any segment that has witnessed more growth than others? With increased focus on fitness, has there been an increase in that segment?
People are taking steps in the right direction to build their immunity and lead a healthier lifestyle. Over the last few months, we have seen people take to fitness more than ever before and it has now become a way of life for many. There is demand for Fitness and Training merchandise because of this. Also with Work from Home becoming a norm, athletic leisurewear has strong demand. I feel sportswear and athleisure would be one of the categories which would have quick revival. The trend is currently upwards and is a good reflection of how things will shape up when normalcy resumes. We have also seen a clear pattern in the kidswear segment with the consumption moving up and is similar to what it is during school holidays. With immunity being really critical and people looking for ways to boost their health, there has been a big uptake in fitness products in the kids segment. In fact, kids who used to only buy motorsports are now buying fitness and performance apparel.
Q) Right now, what kind of products are people buying? Is it purely essential, need-based items?
With people still working from home and taking to fitness more seriously, we are seeing a lot of our customers buy athletic leisure wear and also home fitness gear. They are looking for workout gear like running t-shirts, training tracks, tank tops, etc. On puma.com, lot of the traffic is discovering products through searches much more than before. It shows consumers are very clear about what they want and there is an intent to buy. Purchase patterns are very similar to offline stores – with apparel and footwear growing significantly. We have seen our apparel share go up by 12 percentage points with people buying T-shirts, tracks and shorts that are suitable for home workouts as well as leisurewear.
Q) Post-Covid, what do you think are a few things that will help brands survive and bounce back?
The revival of the economy will take time and it has to be a staged process. As compared to other nations, India can transform the crisis into an opportunity and is in a much better position. Lot of companies and investors will look at India as a destination for future growth opportunities. As businesses return to normalcy, safety and hygiene will continue to be our biggest priority. Going forward, I do believe communication will continue to be key - brands will have to constantly be in touch with their consumers to ensure brand connect and higher recall.
Q) Did you have to tweak your media mix during the lockdown? Post relaxation, how are you planning to market yourself? What will your broad marketing strategy be?
There hasn’t been a major change in our media mix since digital has always been our primary channel of communication. We have always prioritized digital marketing and have had a digital-first approach in our content and campaign planning. In fact, our partnerships with our brand personalities, be it
Q) As a leader, what have some of your key learnings from this experience been?
One key takeaway from the whole experience is that you have to take each day as it comes. We need to keep evolving and adapting to changes and as a brand we need to ensure business agility. These are challenging times for all of us and when we come out of it, we will be stronger than ever. Communication is key during this time. My main focus has been to keep my team motivated by constantly communicating with them. Compassion for people is extremely essential and it is one kind of leadership currency that will be important for future. As a business leader, I am responsible for my employees and their families and my utmost priority is to keep them going. As leaders, we need to look for purpose beyond commerciality in Business.
Q) How are you future-proofing your business? What steps did you take to minimize the business impact?
The retail landscape has undergone a radical transformation. No one could have possibly been prepared for the disruption caused over the last few months. Right now, more than ever, it’s crucial to have a short- term goal in order to stay afloat, survive as a business, conserve cash and ensure all our team members are safe. In times like these, focusing on survival and coming out of the crisis with minimal business impact is the most important thing. In our category, typically, one plans a fashion range 9-10 months in advance, however, given the current situation, demand-planning in advance is going to be really difficult and will need a complete rehaul. Supply-chain will be very strategic going ahead, especially in the fashion and lifestyle industry. We need to create a flexible and nimble structure. Going forward, rolling forecast on a weekly and monthly basis is going to be necessary to maintain health of the business.
Q) What is your vision for the Puma of the future? What do you want the brand to stand for, a few years down the line?
As we look forward to reset and accelerate our efforts in 2021, I really wish for things get back to normal. Next year is very important for us and as a company, I hope to achieve the same levels of momentum we had 6 months back. We need to stay strong and survive this with minimum impact. By next year we hope to bounce back and slowly start recouping. Till then it is all about sustenance, strength, togetherness and hope. There will be no dearth of ambition for PUMA.