Interview: Saurabh Baisakhia, President, Home Appliances, Usha International
After two consecutive summers washed out by the pandemic, consumer durables company Usha International is optimistic about 2022 as the economy opens up. Saurabh Baisakhia talks to Christina Moniz about the company’s growth strategy in rural markets, plans to expand its product portfolio, its long-term collaboration with IPL’s Mumbai Indians and more.
Offline retail was Usha’s forte. Was it a challenge to grow your online presence during the pandemic?
From a consumer perspective, home economics has been the big buzzword over the past two years. People were looking for solutions to adapt to this new way of life, opting for devices with a wider range of features. When online retail really took off, we had to digitize all of our processes to meet consumer needs. We are traditionally strong in offline retail; During the pandemic, we had to ensure greater integration between online and offline. Therefore, we have changed our go-to-market strategy. We have increased our online presence – today the online channel accounts for 10-12% of our sales, up from 4-5% before the pandemic.
During the Christmas season they saw a 25% increase in sales at rural markets. What factors contributed to this growth?
In rural markets, we’ve consistently done well from quarter to quarter. One of the main reasons for this was Usha’s focus on distribution in rural areas with a population of less than one lakh. We are now present in most PIN codes in the country. This, coupled with our omnichannel approach, has had a positive impact for us. Rural markets currently account for 15-20% of our sales.
The past two summers have been bleak for organized fan companies. What do you expect as summer 2022 returns to normal?
We are optimistic about summer this year. After the last two challenging summers, we expect the market to stay open this time. We have a range of new coolers, fans and cooking appliances coming out this summer. Not only are we expanding the breadth of our portfolio, but we also have many aggressive marketing plans across digital, print, TV and radio. We have earmarked EUR 35-40 million for advertising and marketing over the next four months.
We currently have a good market share in most of the categories in which we operate. We still have some catching up to do in the home appliances business, which is a huge opportunity since it’s a $10,000 billion segment. We have a market share of 7-8% in this category and want to increase it to at least 15% in the next few years. While increasing our presence in categories where we perform well, such as B. fans and sewing machines, we will also concentrate on the comprehensive expansion of the device portfolio in the further course. We invest both in our product portfolio and in our brand.
This is your ninth year of working with IPL’s Mumbai Indians. How has that helped the brand?
Usha and Mumbai Indians share synergies in terms of brand values. This partnership has helped strengthen our position in markets like Maharashtra. These associations help foster strong customer engagement while also strengthening the engagement of our dealers and employees. Given the popularity of the IPL, the association helps increase our brand awareness and allows us to communicate new product launches strategically.
The southern region currently accounts for 40% of the home appliance market. How does Usha plan to increase its market share here?
The South is definitely a significant market. Usha has strived to not only improve its presence in terms of reach, but is also working to build a strong portfolio for categories that are performing well in those markets. We have appointed Keerthy Suresh as our brand ambassador for the southern range of equipment.
In fact, we’ve grown significantly over the last year. From an all-India perspective, Usha enjoys a good double-digit market share in the North and East regions and our aim is to increase our market share to reach a similar number in the West and South in the next few years.