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By TPCI | May 15, 2020

The unprecedented times of the pandemic has surely made the entire globe to fall under a single umbrella. Coping up with the surging demand and sudden “out of stocks” at the retail and grocery stores have not came that easy. However, manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers across the globe seem united in the difficult times and are seen giving their best shots to sail the catastrophe together.

Australian wholesaler of food products, Mr. Dean Hasnat, Director, Ostindo International PTY LTD, speaks to IndusFood on the impact that the pandemic has made on food stocks at his stores and also the measures he plans to take to drift his business through the opposite currents.

IndusFood: What possible impact of the pandemic do you see on your business and Retails?
Mr. Dean Hasnat: As an impact of the Covid Crisis our business has taken somewhat of a downturn in Australia. Restaurants have been closed. People cannot move out. Many takeaways are open, online apps can arrange the pick-ups and deliveries to homes, but actual sit-downs are currently closed. This is having a significant & material impact on the companies which do not have pickup or delivery services.

In Retails, we saw a lot of “panic buying” of staples in Australia, through the month of March. Australian retails and supermarkets were heavily shopped by consumers for essential staples as rice, lentils, spices etc. in April. We have been hit by a lot of “out-of-stocks” due to the panic buying and thus retailers simply could not cope up with the demand. Resultantly, shelves at many stores were empty. So, it was actually the empty shelves that were propelling consumers to buy even more than what was required.

As the infection now seems to settle down, “panic buy” by the consumers seems to go away. Also, people have seen retails, grocery shops, supermarkets and hypermarkets been remained opened in the trying times too, so today Australia expects less panic buying and thus a better situation for retails too.

IndusFood: How do you plan to address the surge in demand and manage the delay in delivery?
DH: For us as a wholesaler, unfortunately we could not increase our inventory or stock to meet the demand infused by this panic buying. We just have to drive through the stocks which we had in-hand for orders. By the time we could understand the ways to deal the situation, India moved into a lockdown. Our ready dispatches got stuck. Unfortunately, the panic buying took us really completely by surprise and the time frames were not enough so that we could take proactive steps to cover-up sales and increase our stocks in turn. Thus due to lock down in India we could not replenish our stocks that we utilized during the panic buying. We have been managing somehow. However, our sellers have started work at factories now, so we hope to receive the orders soon.

IndusFood: What immediate procurement from India are you looking for amidst the pandemic? What challenges do you see down the line?
DH: The panic buying took down our stock level by about 2.5k-3k pallets. We are running short by this quantity across our wholesale business at the moment. (At the time when interview was taken)

The panic buying rendered most of the commodity products like rice, lentils, spices etc. to run out of stock. The best way to address this is if we can, by anyway, work with our suppliers and get the shipments. We do have suppliers in other countries which we had to increase the order from but more or less we are relying on India.

The challenges have been quiet significant. Due to the lockdown the factories are not able to work. Although, few have been working with minimal staff as they fall under essentials, many still are completely shut. Resultantly, in second half of April, my suppliers have failed to have any output effectively for last month. Now, many of our sellers have started their operations with minimum staff to produce our orders but the absence of labour remains another big challenge for them. The labours are stuck in others states. Besides, there are restrictions on lorries; goods inter-state movement was prohibited because of which our order could not reach the port. There has been difficulties in paper working from home also. There are certain GOV declarations that we need to produce which has been really difficult to obtain at the moment. In certain cases we also are asked to lock the original copy of those declaration or documents but those copies are certainly unavailable. It's been difficult. Through this medium, I would like to praise our suppliers. They have been doing everything they could to get the goods released which are stuck in these difficult times and clear our shipments.

IndusFood: What hygiene norms can be expected from your end to be followed by manufacturers back in India while production and dispatch?
DH: Of-course, the factories in which the manufacturers are producing at the moment must follow good and hygienic manufacturing processes. I think at this time there is a general and earnest expectation that they would be taking utmost care that the staff which is currently working in the factory is free from any viral infection. Also, once they are there in the factory, they should practice social distancing and stringent safety standards.

IndusFood: What hygiene and safety norms are you following at your stores?
DH: All the non-essential staff are working from home. We take up E-meetings. Within the office there is demarcations of minimum distances to be kept between employees. External visitors are not allowed unless they are providing essential services from Australian GOV. Besides, while we unload the orders and organize them, we split them into four separate lunches so that we can maintain GOV prescribed distances and no. of people should be per cubic meter each time. This is how we are managing our work force and safety of all at our workstations.

IndusFood: Is there any innovation by you in say the last mile delivery or hygiene norms?
DH: The Australian GOV has been quiet prescriptive at lying what businesses and services should run and how it should work. So we are just following the GOV norms and disseminating that information to the team too making sure that everybody is aware.

IndusFood: How do you see technology, AI, and automation taking over in days to come?
DH: See, this virus has made us to take up things & technologies which we could have never taken up earlier for the immediate use. Surely, the coming days will see a lot of innovation and will drive the era.