“Brands Creating Customer Trust Through Actions Are Set to Reap Rich Dividends Post Pandemic”: Experts at Great Lakes, Gurgaon’s ‘Sapience 2020-21’


Gurugram: “As the economy starts recovering post pandemic, customers are coming back to the brands that they trust more. Hence, the focus of brands now more than ever should be on earning the trust of customers through real world actions – rather than advertisements – to make them feel that they are cared for,” said business leaders participating on the Marketing Panel of Sapience 2020-21, the Annual Management Conclave of Great Lakes Institute of Management, Gurgaon, which was organized virtually, today.

The key panellists: Mr Shashank Srivastava, Executive Director, Maruti Suzuki India Limited;Mr. Sanjay Gupta, Marketing Director – APAC, Uber;and Mr. Deepak Ohri, CEO, Lebua Hotels & Resorts, Bangkok;also emphasized that investing in the welfare of employees, digitization of business, and revisiting the pricing of products and services, in the backdrop of the adverse impact the pandemic had on the finances of customers are important for the resilience of brands.

In his address, Mr. Srivastava, said that trust of customers is the fundamental currency in the post Covid economic recovery, as customers are going to channel their spending on more established and well- known brands. He mentioned that from zero sales in April, 2019 when there was hard lockdown, his company could start registering impressive sales in the second and third quarters of the financial year thanks to its track record of being there as a reliable brand in the market for over forty years and having acquired the trust of over 2.2 crore customers.

Mr. Srivastava pointed out that the pandemic had accelerated the pace of digitization of business multifold. “In 2016, the rate of online enquiries for models was about 3%. It increased to 15% in 2019 when pandemic was just breaking out. But in the last three months, it has shot up to 50%,” he said and added that typically a car buyer used 27 touch points in his or her purchasing journey. Out of which Maruti India had already digitized 23 touch points.

Mr. Srivastava said that the company is now open to tailor make payment plans for customers, who are concerned about financial uncertainties. It has invested in creating new ‘standard operating procedures’ for its dealers with respect to physical distancing, hygiene, and other customer safety measures.

Mr. Gupta, in his address, highlighted the initiatives taken by Uber India for the financial stability of drivers, and for ensuring the safety of drivers and riders. “For our driver partners, over one lakh of them, large part of their income came from driving. Hence, we created Uber Driver Care Fund to provide them financial help that could restore a semblance of financial security. We introduced Uber Essentials, a new service category for the safe commute of healthcare professionals, and other frontline workers. For the drivers of this service, we provided personal protective equipment, and sanitizers. We installed safety screens in the vehicles to ensure the safety of drivers and riders,” he said. According to him these visible actions created so much goodwill in the minds of customers than what advertisements would have done.

In his address, Mr. Ohripointed out that retaining the emotional connect of employees and customers proved to be very effective for his hotel chain to start getting back to business better than its competitors. “We employ about 1500 people. Our hotels in Thailand, India, and New Zealand, were closed for about four months during the lockdown restrictions but we did not send a single employee home – though they had to take a cut in their salary. Besides this, the cost of production went up, when we restarted our business, but we maintained the same rate card for our services by bringing down our profit margins. We also invested in the safety of our employees and guests by taking special precautions on hygiene.

MrOhrisaid that pandemic has resulted in the growth of local brands and properties who are equipped to tap the emerging market of millennials, better than large, global chains who have relied all these decades on baby boomers. For the hospitality industry to witness full recovery, it might take two more years.

The panelists also shared their views on data privacy, digital media, and reversible and irreversible changes due to pandemic specific to their industry. Earlier, Dr. Umashankar Venkatesh, Professor, Marketing & Director, PGPM welcomedthe gathering. Prof Anirban Chaudhuri, Professor, Marketingmoderated the panel discussion, and Prof Jones Mathew, Professor, Marketingprovided concluding remarks. About 400 participants, who include students of Great Lakes Institute of Management, and executives from different industries, attended the session.