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Supermarkets in India are witnessing a significant uptick in demand for personal and home hygiene products like hand washes, sanitisers and floor disinfectants. (File Photo: AFP)
Supermarkets in India are witnessing a significant uptick in demand for personal and home hygiene products like hand washes, sanitisers and floor disinfectants. (File Photo: AFP)

Coronavirus: Indians buying more personal and home hygiene goods

  • Local brands have emerged to fulfill demand that surged between 300% and 400%, especially for hand sanitisers
  • The government has included sanitisers and masks under the Essential Commodities Act

NEW DELHI: Unlike the West that is seeing consumers hoard toilet paper rolls and other essentials, consumers in India are going more for handwashes, sanitizers and floor disinfectants as they step up efforts to stay safe from coronavirus.

As India’s Covid-19 cases crossed 80 with reports of two people succumbing to the disease, retailers said that demand for such goods is essentially emerging from pockets where more cases are being detected. To meet the shortfall in such products, local brands that moved in to meet the demand that has risen four to five times, especially for hand sanitizers.

On Friday, the government included sanitizers and masks under the Essential Commodities Act until the end of June to discourage shops from hoarding and selling these products at a higher price. The move is also aimed to ensure better supply of such goods that have seen a supply lag in several cities.

Offline and online retailers said they are seeing a significant surge in sale of antiseptic handwashes, germ-killing liquid cleaners, and sanitizers. “All brands positioned as antiseptic or germ-killing are doing well. Sales of such products have increased substantially over the last two weeks," said Kamaldeep Singh, president at Future Group-owned Big Bazaar’s food business. Singh added that among products that have seen a surge in demand are soaps, handwash, floor cleaners. “Within the cleaning category, disinfectants are getting more salience."

Over the last two weeks, sanitizers witnessed 400% jump in demand before the inventory was exhausted, said Albinder Dhindsa, co-founder and chief executive officer, Grofers. Sanitizers have seen the highest demand; while the share for toilet paper, and kitchen rolls have gone up. A surge in demand for personal hygiene products since the outbreak of the coronavirus in the country has led to a 28% jump in traffic for the online grocer. The number of carts containing tissue items also saw a 77% jump in the last two weeks.

Dhindsa said Grofers is also seeing high demand for immunity-building items such as Chyawanprash and Ayurvedic products. “A hoarding behaviour has also been observed with respect to products such as atta, dals and rice," he said. Grofers said maximum traffic for such products emerged from cities of Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, and Hyderabad.

Wholesale Metro Cash and Carry said it saw an “unprecedented 350% increase in demand for hand sanitizers in March." While there has been a complete sell-out of hand-sanitizers in the markets, the wholesaler has worked with supplier partners to match up demand, a spokesperson at Metro Cash & Carry India said.

Moreover, Metro has also introduced more options of hand sanitizers in its 27 stores. In all, the personal hygiene category grew 35% in the first quarter of 2020 for the chain; while tissue paper saw a growth of 20% and floor disinfectants 28%.

The wholesale company is working with supplier partners to stock up on hand sanitizers, handwashes and antiseptic liquids. It is also adding new suppliers in these categories to fulfil demand.

India’s top packaged consumer goods firm Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) said it is investing “disproportionate amount of time and effort" to make consumers aware of the first line of defence, which is using soap and handwash. “As the risk of infection is currently heightened, it’s paramount to communicate the right hygiene practices to people", said a company spokesperson without divulging any sales numbers for its products.

The Himalaya Drug Company said demand for its sanitizers and handwashes surged ten times over the last few weeks. "Apart from PureHands, Guduchi, (pure herbs tablets) that augments immunity, has witnessed a threefold increase in demand," said Philipe Haydon, CEO, The HimalayaDrug Company. The demand for sanitizers was pan-India, while that for its immunity building products came largely from Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Gujarat.

A spokesperson at Reckitt Benckiser (RB) that makes Dettol soaps and liquid disinfectants did not respond to queries sent by Mint. Walmart and Flipkart declined to comment on the story.

Globally, countries have been in a lockdown mode taking extreme measures to control the spread of the pandemic that has now affected 1,45,360 people worldwide. As cities announce closure of schools, universities and cinema halls it has prompted consumers to buy surplus goods in case supplies for basic household necessities run out.

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