The Great Indian Homecoming: How the pandemic has moved products and services back home.


09 Jul 2020



Fireside Ventures

<span>The Great Indian Homecoming:</span> How the pandemic has moved products and services back home.

The aliens from Mars Attacks. Bill from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Even R2D2 and C3PO. It was a very long list of stars lighting up Walmart’s Super Bowl debut this January showcasing curbside pickup. In the months that have followed, this feature has become an essential way for consumers to navigate the pandemic – picking up groceries, food, and much more. Interestingly, though, the trend has stayed confined largely to the West.

Elevated anxiety about being in public places, social distancing, and constant sanitising have taken the joy out of grocery shopping, and stores in India still report 30-40% lower footfalls than pre-pandemic times. Much like China, consumption in India has shifted to the home – with home delivery of groceries on the rise, as well as a greater reliance on e-commerce.

Of course, e-commerce is the obvious winner on the home delivery front, but the trend has also fuelled the rise of other enablers. Shopping apps, for one. Messaging apps, like WhatsApp for Business, which are helping several thousand newly-online businesses serve their customers, and in combination with the growing number of businesses supporting digital payments, are enabling consumers to transact minus cash, or contact. And concierge services like Dunzo and the like.

Swiggy was quick to pivot its food delivery focus to delivering groceries, medicines, and more through Swiggy Genie., too, expanded its offering to include grocery deliveries. In the US, Uber acquired food delivery service, Postmates, to build on the Uber Eats model to provide other services that leverage its advanced logistics platform.

Much like these services leveraged their existing workforce and logistics to pivot, hypermarkets like Grofers struck alliances with existing networks like RWAs on MyGate to facilitate priority deliveries to entire housing blocks.

As home delivery has become more and more mainstream, brands like Licious have attracted a whole new cohort of first-time users, thanks to the appeal of the doorstep delivery of clean, hygienic meat and seafood. Even an everyday product like iD batter found digital ways to connect their consumers with their closest available retailer.

The other major opportunity to serve what McKinsey calls “the homebody economy,” is the delivery of experiences and activities to the home. This can be in the form of "live" sessions on a mobile app – we’ve seen Sarva conduct yoga sessions on its app across borders and time zones, and host live workouts hosted by celebrities. It can also be a product – homestyle cooking paste brand, Tasty Tales, for instance, has found favour with home cooks looking for the novelty of a different cuisine, in their own kitchen.

In the US, the Lululemon-acquired Mirror is all set to make the most of the stay-at-home workout trend. The same trend has seen the emptying of bike aisles at Walmarts and Targets across the US, as families opt to use a bike for exercise, as well as safe commuting. Closer home, Frog Bicycles have seen an uptick in bike sales across models and geographies.

For some of the sectors worst affected by the pandemic, these “home service" trends could signal a way forward. At-home beauty services are on the rise, as consumers seek salon-like experiences in the safety of their own homes. Ditto with personal fitness and yoga trainers. Online education is going through the roof, as consumers learn new things, reskill, and upskill while at home. Retail is experimenting with AR and VR to allow customers to virtually try on jewellery, clothes, and even shoes.

We don’t believe that these are short-term trends alone – practices like home cooking, or app-based learning, or even at-home workouts are habits that will endure even beyond the pandemic.

In just a few months, we’ve come to not just work from home, but also dine, exercise, travel, learn, and much, much more. It’s the Great Indian Homecoming, and at Fireside, we’re watching closely to see just how a new generation of brands will leverage it.

A few years ago, it was said that all businesses are becoming digital businesses. At Fireside, we believe that post-Covid, all brands will need to be "good for you" in some way or the other. Health and wellness are now motivators, and not just influences on consumer decisions. We're seeing consumers seek freshness, and clean-labelling across foods and personal care. Fashion is having to address comfort, and multitasking. And across categories, packaging is working harder - to be sustainable, even while it is safe. 

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