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Companies said they are better equipped to tackle demand for essential products as partial lockdowns return in pockets of the country after a year that saw manufacturers and retailers of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) face erratic supplies and disruption in the movement of goods.

FMCG firms have stepped up the frequency of supplies to the market and distributors in anticipation of more restrictions in the next few weeks as India battles a surge in covid cases. They are also taking lessons from last year’s lockdown and using them at scale to ensure availability in the market.

“While the buying sentiment has turned shaky in some markets highly impacted by cases and lockdowns, we are applying learnings from last year to streamline the supply chain. Some of the measures implemented last year, such as order-booking though our call centre and WhatsApp have been stepped up. We have also increased the frequency of supplies to distributors and outlets in the impacted markets to tide over any potential impact," said Adarsh Sharma, executive director, sales, Dabur India Ltd.

Maharashtra, which is seeing a surge in covid-19 cases, has implemented a lockdown till the end of April. However, sales of essential goods are permitted in the state.

FMCG distributors said they have enough stock at the retailer as well the distributor level to last them well beyond end-April. “In a post-covid era, the salespeople have also evolved when it comes to taking orders from retail. They are all now connected via WhatsApp, with the company software and with individual retailers, so placing orders is not a problem. Besides, deliveries of essential goods is still allowed in Maharashtra," said Dhairyashil Patil, national president, All India Consumer Products Distributors Federation.

Online retailer Grofers reported a spike in weekly demand in the aftermath of the lockdown announced in Maharashtra. “We have already witnessed a 30% spike in weekly demand in these markets. With the state government announcing stricter lockdown norms, we are ramping up our capacities to serve our customers in a safe and secure manner," a company spokesperson said.

Last year, as demand for essential goods remained strong, FMCG firms created links with hyperlocal delivery partners, activated sales to distributors and retailers through digital platforms, and worked deeply with business-to-business suppliers to ensure availability in stores.

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