Abid Hussain Barlaskar
Distribution Diaries

"With mass migration, packed oil consumption will rise in smaller towns": Business Head, Dhara

As a part of our ongoing series of special interviews, we spoke to Dinesh Agrawal, the new business head of Dhara, about the brand’s COVID-19 experiences.

Dhara, one of the oldest edible oil brands in India, is a household name across the length and breadth of the country. With a penetration so deep, Dhara makes the case for discussion when it comes to distribution.

We interviewed Dinesh Agrawal, the new business head of Dhara, about the brand’s experiences during the COVID-19 crisis. Agrawal was the former COO of Dhara Division at Mother Dairy. The position of business head was, until recently, held by Sanjeev Giri.

Edited excerpts:

What is the biggest distribution-related learning that's emerged from these trying times?

We have learnt that the businesses have to be adaptive in this fast-changing environment to gain competitive edge. We made few necessary changes in our ‘modus operandi’ to keep our operations smooth and effective. Our sales team, for instance, started working from 7 in the morning in the markets, rescheduling delivery times at retailer and distributor level, etc.

We also found sales force automation to be the need of the hour. We have around 18K retailers connected with our system, and plan to expand it to 50k this year. Our distributors turned out to be our strength, and also helped the brand to reach the last mile (possible). Not to miss, we are more extensively planning to increase our distribution in smaller towns.

"We are more extensively planning to increase our distribution in smaller towns"

What are the top 3 changes you have made to your supply chain over the last few weeks?

The primary challenge in supply chain was the availability of vehicles. Due to increased uncertainty, we had/have to increase the turnaround time of loading vehicles for primary logistics. The bookings for loading vehicle were made 3-4 days in advance to avoid last-minute glitches.

In areas where the movement was restricted, we allotted small loading vehicles to maintain the supply of our products. The stocks were transferred from big vehicles to smaller ones to ensure supply to the last point (possible).

Post lockdown, will distribution prowess be more important, than advertising? Do you see ad budgets being redirected to distribution, in any way?

For any FMCG product, distribution and advertising hold significance, as both complement each other in engaging consumers and driving traction. Although, we might see a change in spends in different marketing mediums post lockdown, but we do not see redirecting marketing funds anywhere else.

"With the mass migration from metro/big cities, we expect an increase in consumption of packed oil in smaller town"

What sort of impact do you expect from the mass migration from cities to smaller towns and villages? How would this impact the consumption balance and what are your plans?

Being a mass product brand, we do anticipate a change in consumption pattern not only because of mass migration but also because of increased health consciousness/ awareness of urban consumers. With the mass migration of millions of people from metro/big cities to smaller towns, we do expect an increase in consumption of packed oil in smaller town. We plan to increase our distribution in interior towns to cater to their needs. In fact, with the changing habits and enhanced attention towards hygiene, we do expect some shift from unorganised to organised sector.

"Overall offline media spends too will be executed as planned"

What does your lockdown media plan look like? What were the key shifts in media spends and how would it change post lockdown?

We looked at lockdown as a great opportunity for the brand from marketing perspective where our target consumers spend majority of their time either on social media or in front of TV. Looking at an opportunity, we shifted our budgets and increased the allocation in ATL medium and telecasted our “Zara Sa Badlaav” TVC on DD National during the famous Ramayana show, which recorded the highest TRP during the lockdown period. On the other hand, on digital platforms, observing the increased online time by users, we launched a digital campaign in association with the famous Indian Ocean band to recreate the evergreen ‘Dhara Dhara Shudh Dhara’ jingle. With the relaxations in lockdown, we plan to give some extra weightage to digital platform but overall offline media spends too will be executed as planned.

"Consumers have changed the way they perceive brands as important or not so important to them"

Lastly, 2020 has changed everything, from the way we consume, purchase and think - has the very definition of marketing changed for you in any way?

This year has changed a lot of people in lot many ways. With that, even the brands have to modulate how they interact with their target audience. Consumers have changed the way they perceive brands as important or not so important to them, hence, the brands will have to make the necessary adjustments to cater to their consumer’s needs but the fundamentals remain the same in terms of marketing and communicating the brand message with their core audience.