A worried nation has been pushed deeper into the sinkhole of anxiety and panic in the aftermath of Covid-19 finds a survey released by Kantar on Monday. While consumer sentiment was already shaky, with fears of an economic crisis looming large over the country, the onslaught of the virus and the global lock down has pushed consumers into a state of high anxiety and in the process, thrown up a huge challenge for brands looking to claw their way back into the consumption basket when things return to normalcy.
“From all the data that I have seen, local and global, India will have a rockier recovery in the post Covid-19 world,” says Soumya Mohanty, chief client officer, South Asia Insights Division, Kantar. For the majority of consumers surveyed, in tier-1 and tier-2 cities, the present situation has thrown up an unimagined challenge and forced a rethink on lifestyle choices.
The survey showed that while the global pandemic has hit consumption patterns in India in much the same way as it has elsewhere, with nothing except bare essentials and hygiene products being purchased under lock down, the road back will be a very different one. This is because there is a big gap between what consumers believe, say and do in the region.
The report noted that the optimistic outlook of a quick recovery is offset by a sense of pessimism that has people preparing for the worst: a future of acute scarcity. Even though consumers said that they believe that this is a temporary blip in the course of nations, their purchase behavior indicates extremely high levels of panic. Indians (in a certain category of affluence) are stocking up more than others in their segment in other parts of the world. Is this because they expect things to be worse than what is being told to them? On that there is no clarity, but Indian consumers are, as Mohanty says, attitudinally optimistic but behaviorally not so much.
So while economies across the world will see consumer sentiment bounce back, but in India, one can expect recovery to come with a slower spring in its step. Data also shows that Indians are among the most likely to trade down, opting for cheaper brands or private labels, over established global names. More than half (53 per cent) of those surveyed said that after the pandemic, they will pay more attention to prices/cost and around 40 per cent said that they would not continue buying the same brands as they did earlier.
What must brands do in such a situation? The survey indicates that Indian consumers want brands to be a part of the fight back against the virus. Around 27 per cent of those surveyed that they want advertisers to attack the crisis and demonstrate that it can be fought and this is the only country among all those surveyed that believes advertisements should offer a positive perspective.