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'PM's complete silence on economic package worrying'

By Viveat Susan Pinto
April 15, 2020 12:42 IST
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'Clearly, the next few months will be very challenging for industry.'
'We are clearly in a phase where recovery is a dream.'

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi addresses the nation on April 21, 2020. Photograph: PTI Photo

Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi's address to the nation on Tuesday, April 21, the fourth in a month, has left India Inc captains wondering when the issue of an economic stimulus package will be broached.

"While extension of the lockdown was imperative, given the rise in cases, I don't think the issue of an economic package can be overlooked. It is key to recovery," Harsh Mariwala, below, chairman, Marico, tells Viveat Susan Pinto.

 

Would you have liked the PM to have touched upon relief measures in his address?

Economic relief measures are normally announced by the finance minister.

Having said that, I would have really appreciated it had the PM given some indication of an economic package during his address. He was completely silent on the issue. That to me is worrying.

There is urgent need to look into the challenges faced by industry.

Demand for discretionary products has come to a standstill.

Movement of essential goods and services remains restricted.

These issues have to be addressed quickly.

But the PM has said a comprehensive set of guidelines will be released. Won't that help?

The guidelines have more to do with helping sectors come out of the lockdown, it does not address the broader issue of economic relief required to help industry get back on its feet.

The coronavirus outbreak has disrupted businesses significantly and many have been set back in terms of financial performance. They require support to get going.

While extension of the lockdown was imperative, given the rise in cases, I don't think the issue of an economic package can be overlooked. It is key to recovery.

What will be the impact on manufacturing because of the extension to the lockdown?

A lot will depend on what happens between now and April 20.

The PM has said there will be strict monitoring of districts, regions and zones for COVID-19 cases.

Selective relaxation will be given in only those areas where the impact of the outbreak is low. This basically means that manufacturing will not normalise quickly.

Clearly, the next few months will be very challenging for industry.

But the (coronavirus) curve has to be flattened. There is simply no choice there.

The 21-day lockdown has helped slow down the curve slightly, but it hasn't flattened the curve altogether.

There is greater discipline needed (from people) when it comes to following lockdown rules.

When do you anticipate recovery of the fast moving consumer goods market and Marico in particular?

If we can maintain even last year's volume growth, it would be enough.

We are clearly in a phase where recovery is a dream. I would be happy if we can simply maintain what we achieved last year in terms of sales growth. That's all.

What are the shifts in consumption you are seeing right now?

Anything to do with the online medium will be significant in the post COVID-19 world. Whether it is e-learning or online shopping or digital payments or even virtual events and launches.

As the lockdown gets extended, this behaviour will get pronounced and companies will have to pay greater attention to this trend.

At Marico, we will accelerate the work we are doing in the digital space and encash opportunities that come up in the area.

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Viveat Susan Pinto in Mumbai
Source: source
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