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NEW DELHI : Kolkata-based Emami Ltd will aggressively expand its health care portfolio, sold under its Zandu brand, as a shift in consumer habits post covid-19 drives up demand for such products, said Harsha V. Agarwal, director, Emami Ltd. The maker of BoroPlus cream, Kesh King hair oil, and Zandu chyawanprash, that reported a revenue of 2,881 crore in FY21, said it has also rolled out several digital-first brands. Edited excerpts from an interview: 

Are your personal care and male grooming categories back to pre-covid levels?  

Many of our categories are more than their pre-pandemic levels. Some of the discretionary categories—like men's grooming, etc. are still to come to that level. But we are seeing improvement there as well. Some of our categories got impacted due to the seasonality. Navratna, for example, is a summer brand, and peak of covid waves in both the years were during the summer months. But in most of the categories, we see demand has surpassed pre-pandemic levels. 

Do you see consumers tighten household budgets over the next six months? 

Obviously, there's been inflation in some of the food items. From a household perspective, one needs to manage their overall budget, and food is an essential item. So, we see more of the impact in discretionary spending where they seek more value. Now where the inflation goes from here will be very crucial. The only good point is that a large percentage of our overall business is health care, which are more essential in nature rather than discretionary. 

FMCG companies have seeing high commodity inflation. Is that cycle over for Emami? 

There’s been overall inflation but we are not seeing a big upside in any prices from here on. But yes, in a few items, especially, in packing materials, costs have gone up. We don't see them softening in the near future. We have been diligent in managing our margins and the profitability level. We have been taking several initiatives right from cost-reduction to buying more effectively, and, whenever needed, some price increases also have been taken. So, overall, we probably don't see any challenge. 

There's increased competition in health care and immunity segment as demand increases. Will you capitalize on this demand? 

We've done quite well in the overall health care segment. Last year, our health care portfolio (mainly under brand Zandu) grew over 40%. Apart from that, we have introduced many digital-first products (under Zandu). We want to pursue aggressive launches for the next one or two years. We see it as one of the strong growth engines for us. 

Will heathcare products trend moderate as the pandemic abates? 

Overall, the consciousness of health among consumers has gone up. If you ask me, in many of the categories, like immunity, whether the sales will remain at the same level as what it was during the pandemic, I will say no. But will it be more than what it was pre-pandemic, I would say “yes’. I see many other categories also developing as consumers are now taking interest in their overall health and are looking for new solutions, products, and formats. 

Last year the company increased its stake in The Man Company. Will you acquire or invest in such new-age brands? 

Going forward, yes, we are looking for opportunities in the startup area, in digital-first brands where as a company we can invest and have a strategic presence. 

I think the direct-to-consumer space is very exciting.  From that perspective, it is a mix of initiatives we are taking—right from creating digital-first products under the existing brands, launching digital-first brands and as well as acquiring or investing in other digital-first brands. We have also created separate teams. 

In the digital space it is not only about the categories we are present in such as personal care and health care. I also believe that e-commerce gives us an opportunity to enter into categories where we are not present through the digital first route. 

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