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Business News/ Companies / News/  Reckitt Benckiser CEO 'deeply optimistic' about India market

Reckitt Benckiser CEO 'deeply optimistic' about India market

The pandemic has also made consumers more conscious of their choices, be it the impact their shopping has on the environment or their very own pockets

Laxman Narasimhan, CEO, at Reckitt BenckiserPremium
Laxman Narasimhan, CEO, at Reckitt Benckiser

NEW DELHI : Laxman Narasimhan, CEO, at Reckitt Benckiser, the British maker of Dettol and Lysol brands, on Wednesday said that India holds a lot of potential that needs to be unleashed and that he is "deeply optimistic" about the market. Narasimhan also said that the world will witness a more permanent reset of consumer behaviour in the aftermath of the pandemic—with digitization having a deep impact on communication and commerce.

“Look, I think to me this is a question about potential, the potential of India is massive. And I think we all know that. And I think the big question is going to be—can we essentially come together in a way to unleash that potential. I mean, the consumption class has to in some ways, you know, really grow. I'm deeply optimistic about India. I'm deeply optimistic that a lot of the future innovation will come from India. I have my eyes out for that," Narasimhan said at a virtual session on fast moving consumer goods makers organized by industry body Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

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“But I think we have to lean in, and we have to realize the potential that is India," said Narasimhan, the India-born executive who was appointed the global CEO of Reckitt in September of 2019.

Reckitt, that sells the popular Dettol soap and Lysol cleaning products, has significantly benefited as the pandemic raged across the world. Its hygiene products have quickly moved off supermarket shelves helping the company report strong third-quarter earnings that topped estimates.

Closer home, Dettol became the number one selling soap brand in India by value share, riding on the increased demand for personal hygiene products in the country, the company said in July when it announced its half-yearly and second quarter results. Its toilet cleaning brand Harpic too increased its reach in the market in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Narasimhan pointed that going forward three consumer trends are likely to find more permanence the world over. These include a more digitized world, re-imagined consumer experiences and conscious consumption.

“I think the three changes that I think are going to stick for a while—the first one is digital, whether you're a grandmother in China, whether you're a farmer in Peru, the shift that has happened to digital, both in terms of communication, but also in terms of interaction, and commerce, is here to stay" he said.

The pandemic that pushed more people indoors has also prompted them reimagine their own experiences around entertainment and connections. “I think we're reimagining some of these consumer experiences, how food is cooked food, how food is assembled, the role of friends because they've been moments of time when we haven't had it. So, I think reimagining consumer experiences is clearly an area that I think will continue to stick particularly around connection and engagement," he said.

The pandemic has also made consumers more conscious of their choices, be it the impact their shopping has on the environment or their very own pockets.

The role of the environment is going to be very important, Narasimhan said. “Local is very important—it doesn't matter whether you're living in an apartment complex in Delhi, or bandied together against this, you've understood the value of your local community and how important that is. And finally, you are going to see more value orientation, people are going to be concerned about price," Narasimhan added.

The pandemic has also tested the strength of global supply chains. This is especially true for makers of fast-moving consumer goods that rely on ensuring speedy supplies of their products to small retail stores.

Narasimhan said that companies have to device ways to ensure they have alternate ways of reaching shoppers as events such as covid-19 are likely to reoccur.

“I can't imagine that we would go entirely local every for every single thing as an industry or, you know, as a world. Clearly, we (RB) are quite local in many markets with what we do and we will continue to be so. But I do think that at the end of the day we're going to be connected in some shape or fashion. And I think we will have more resilient supply chains, things that we are actually working on, plans. More playbooks presented, more investments made in order to make sure that you are resilient irrespective of what happens," he said.

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Suneera Tandon
Suneera Tandon is a New Delhi based reporter covering consumer goods for Mint. Suneera reports on fast moving consumer goods makers, retailers as well as other consumer-facing businesses such as restaurants and malls. She is deeply interested in what consumers across urban and rural India buy, wear and eat. Suneera holds a masters degree in English Literature from the University of Delhi.
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Published: 09 Dec 2020, 04:32 PM IST
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