Tell us something about your journey and the products that you offer?
Well, it was a pre-decided journey. My family ran a small business of tiles, sanitary-ware and paints in Allahabad. So as an obvious choice, after completing my graduation in commerce, I joined our family business. However, I was very clear about areas of my interest and entered it as a retailer of paints while registering the firm as Vikas Enterprises. This was the time when local paint companies dominated the market, and organized players like Asian Paints, Berger Paints and Nerolac Paints were present in the market but were not that much popular among the consumers.
Asian Paints was working very aggressively in the market though, offering quite an attractive schemes to their dealers like a vacation abroad, a thing that went on to attract me the most a reason why I started dealing with the company. I was quite naive at that time for bulk orders and hence jumped into the project sales. I still remember using a two-wheeler at that time to procure paint orders for my shop. I made sure to get orders from everywhere, also from the areas that gave very limited order quantity because I did not want to miss upon any opportunity. Everything was great and I was getting good orders and business was growing, but I was still finding Allahabad to be a very limited operating area. Thus, eventually I decided to start retailing as well and got my outlet equipped by with advance tool at the time called the Asian Color World Machine. I asked the company to install one and I started retailing.
At present, I deal with almost all leading brands in the market like Asian, Berger, Nerolac, British, Dulux, J.K. Cement, and more. For me Selling paint is a royal business, it is a very luxury product to sell and service.
How is market after unlock?
Market is opening up slowly but gradually and we are opening 5 days in a week. Footfall is limited but I can say we are at 70% lower in sales compared to last year. We have two kinds of retailers in Allahabad city one those who are still running their business with the same pattern, there is nothing changed in terms of customer safety, product display and others are those who changed themselves as per situation and are following all guidelines and safety instructions keeping customer and their staff's health in mind.
Which is the area most likely to affect the market after this pandemic?
We are one of the oldest dealers in the city; and thus can say that we have seen many changes in the market and consumer behavior at different situations. The pandemic has hit consumer footfall and sales quite badly. New projects are not coming up and it will take almost around two years to revive the business.
As a seasoned businessperson, how do you see customer behavior changing in the post-Covid world?
In this new situation, consumers are doing a lot of research before buying anything and are getting aware with every passing day. They are conscious of their safety and family's health. So if you've taken all the measures and your counter is well sanitized and products are well displayed and have a hand-sanitizer on the entrance. Your customer will surely visit you as they know you're following all safety norms.
Another thing that we have noticed is consumers asking for anti-germs, anti-bacterial paints and they are ready to pay an extra amount for it. Which eventually means the demand for such products directly connected with consumer health will increase in future as well.
How do you speculate the business bouncing back after the pandemic? Tell us about your strategy to bring the customer back to the retail outlet.
Painting business relies on festivals and shadi-vivah; September to December is the peak month us. Moreover, paint being a luxury product and due to fund constraints, people will avoid painting for one or two years. I believe, until the vaccine arrives, people are most likely to remain in fear and are going to avoid market and public places.
As a retailer, winning my customer's trust, like when they think we are the safest counter to buy a product can bring more consumers in my counter for which I am following all safety instructions. I am making sure my showroom is super-sanitized on a daily basis, and increase the public dealing area so that social distancing can be maintained. Companies are also helping us in doing that. For instance, recently Asian Paints launched 'Safe Painting' campaign where they are offering a PPE safety kit to the consumer for the safe painting their homes.
Online or Offline? What do you think would drive the future of paint business?
See there is no doubt the future is about online; but honestly in our industry specially building products & materials sector people still believe in touch and feel concept. Also if I specifically talk about paints industry, people do lot of online research before buying paints or texture or look for best colour combinations for their room. However when it comes to finally buy they always end up asking the retailer about these things. Plus, they always ask for feedback or suggestions that they can never get from online purchase. Therefore, I personally believe this industry will always remain offline no matter how much people search about products online their final destination will be the brick-and-mortar shops at least for paints.
What is your message to the people who are already working or planning to come into retail paint business?
Those who are already working in paints Industry, and for those who are planning to enter, I'll say the same thing that we all have to work with safety. Once vaccine will be in-market, which precisely going to take around one or more years time to reach us we all have to command our minds to live or work with the virus implementing innate safety.
As I told earlier, paint is a premium business; you have to be professional, well presentable, and humble with customers and should be equipped with advanced technologies. Carrying transactions honestly & providing great service is the most important in retail business. This is because if you delight one customer, he is sure to bring ten more to your shop. So, good luck with that.
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