Many factories have continued production at full capacity despite a sharp decline in demand because of Covid-19. As a result, inventories of some organisations are piling up, while some others are counting losses due to running below capacity.
In this situation, businesses need to change their policies to offset losses in the new normal. Competitor companies have to go for aggressive marketing to make a turnaround, Kamrul Hassan, chief executive officer at Igloo Ice Cream, Dairy and Food told The Business Standard in an interview.
Meanwhile, the pandemic-induced income erosion has changed people's attitudes towards spending. They have tightened their belts – sticking to meeting basic needs rather than spending on luxury items, Kamrul said, adding that a particular section of consumers will also look for necessary goods at lower prices. So, all organisations will lower prices to stay in competition.
For this reason, consumers will have an upper hand after consumer-supplier behaviour patterns mutate in the post-pandemic time, Kamrul Hassan, also president at Bangladesh Corporate Forum pointed out.
Talking about ice-cream and the dairy business, Kamrul said, "The pandemic has impacted ice-cream sales significantly. One idea that has been widely circulated among people is that cold transmits Covid-19. As a result, its [ice cream's] sales came to a virtual halt at the beginning of the virus hitting."
Moreover, 60-65% of ice-cream buyers are school- and college-goers. The ongoing closure of educational institutions has also hit the business hard. At the end of the current year, the sector will witness 20% lower sales than last year, he added.
Sales of other fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) have also dwindled with social events remaining suspended and people not dining out much. As the number of people going on tours is minimal now, the market of readymade and frozen food has shrunk too.
Kamrul Hassan believes that even if the FMCG market has suffered massive losses, it will make a turnaround once the pandemic is over as a large number of working people who stay out for a long period every day will return to their work at full blast.
But businesspeople need to change their strategies in the post-pandemic time to bring back their customer base to the usual state. It is also necessary to bring a change in the value chain.
At this time, it will not be enough to expand just with advertisements and communication. They have to draw in customers by offering numerous benefits and getting hold of the market anew
The businesses need to be much more customer- and trade-centric. At this time, it will not be enough to expand just with advertisements and communication. They have to draw in customers by offering numerous benefits and getting hold of the market anew.
Talking about his company's survival during the pandemic-led shutdown, Igloo's CEO said, "We neither went for new investment nor recruitment during the time. We refrained from all expenses except those necessary."
Kamrul Hassan said Igloo is an unrivalled name in the country's ice-cream market with 40% market share right now. Igloo's business has doubled in the last four years.
Regarding Igloo's popularity and success in business, Kamrul said, "I started working with Igloo in 2015. At the beginning, I tried to understand the people's tastes – whether they want newness in ice-cream – or to stick to cup and cone ice-cream. Every year I am taking Igloo to consumers with novelty and diversity."
They give the highest importance to the quality of products side-by-side understanding people's demand, he added.
He said nearly 90% of the ingredients come from Europe while packaging is done with local materials.
"We change flavour or palate according to the taste and preference of local customers. Because, the people of the country prefer sweetness in ice-cream. We maintain the quality for cream or chocolate. The whole manufacturing process except packaging is fully automated," Kamrul added.
We change flavour or palate according to the taste and preference of local customers. Because, the people of the country prefer sweetness in ice-cream
He said they use international-level machines, and Igloo factories here are similar to the production units of developed countries.
Even though Kamrul Hassan did not study marketing, as a successful professional in the sector, he said he had been a visionary outlook since his student life.
Kamrul said, "I did not have chatty afternoons in my university. When my classmates used to hang out, I had to run after money to support my studies. Even after securing second place in Dhaka University's biochemistry department, I joined the corporate sector without trying to become a teacher. Concentrating on a career has brought me to the top."
Apart from his job, Kamrul is working in skilled manpower development, and he does regular TV and radio shows with youths.
Kamrul said he helps youths set up their career goals. The basic of his career counselling is – finishing school does not guarantee success, the main objective is to acquire skills.
Currently, we have to hire experts from Nepal, India and Sri Lanka who are taking at least Tk10 billion a year from our country. I am trying to make our youths compatible for those jobs
"No organisation lets a skilled employee leave. This is what I am trying to convey. I am trying to make the youths understand what a young man needs to create his or her foundation," he said.
Kamrul says, "Currently, we have to hire experts from Nepal, India and Sri Lanka who are taking at least Tk10 billion a year from our country. I am trying to make our youths compatible for those jobs."
About his personal life, Kamrul Hassan said it is also surrounded by corporate life and social activities.
"I have been in [the] office almost every Friday. I give time to the family on holidays – in the afternoon or whenever I have time. I try to travel abroad with my family at least twice a year. It helps to strengthen family bonding and to foster the mental development of my children," he concluded.