Virtual connect is here to stay, but…

The year 2020 was difficult for everyone, and Hettich was no different. We certainly have de-grown during the year 2020 over 2019, but now things are getting better month after month.

So far as customers are concerned, they had their own biases. Some dealt with the situation well and some took extremely conservative approach. But now, all are coming to terms with the changed business environment; everyone has learnt to deal with the ‘New Normal’.

We are hoping for the best. Business will get back to normal by the second quarter of the current year. But the markets have changed irreversibly, especially in the home improvement market, in the following ways:

•        People will not like to allow carpenters and technicians to work in their houses for long. As such there will be value migration from the traditional carpentry work to modular furniture and solutions;

•        People have also realised the value of reliable and good quality material on the one hand and the importance of nice housing on the other. Both augur well for our industry;

•        Every large or small home will now have some space earmarked for work and study;

•        There will be surplus funds available in the hands of people because they will cut expenses on travel and eating out. As such, a bigger slice of this small pie will go on home improvement;

•        We expect consumer demand to go up significantly, like in the Western world.

Business online

In the absence of significant trade fairs in 2020-21, Hettich organised many webinars to connect with our customers. We also sponsored shows with the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Kitchen Congress.

Our annual review was virtual; and so are our international meetings. Virtual connect is the order of the day. How effective these are is the subject matter of another debate.

We surely managed to keep in touch with our business partners across geographical barriers. It enabled us to share ideas and to transact business as well.

Considering that our industry is dominated by micro, small and medium enterprises, exhibitors will have resource constraints to create an interesting virtual exhibition to keep visitors meaningfully engaged.

However, I still believe this experience is only the second option to the real-life version. Also, beyond a point, the law of diminishing returns begins to apply. We, therefore, will have to find new methods to stay connected.

Face-to-face

Face-to-face meetings and traditional business shows are the best for our business because, as they say: Jo dikhta hai who bikta hai (That which is shown is sold)!

The reason is that most of the intermediate products, especially furniture fittings, demand visual manifestation of their functionality and proper understating of their possible usage.

Trade shows are places where you have many exhibitors manifesting their products. By and large, all exhibits are interesting and offer great opportunities for a comparative study of available options and alternatives on a real-time basis.

A physical show also offers ‘touch-and-feel’ opportunity. A physical show creates the possibility similar to taking a car for test drive; while in a virtual show it amounts to simulation. Physical shows are a great place to connect with many people in a congenial environment with very little pressure on time.

So far as IndiaWood is concerned, Hettich has been a regular exhibitor for the last 20 years. DelhiWood is not of much use to us as the gap between the two shows is just one year. You can’t keep on going to the same show every year – it results in an adverse risk-to-reward ratio.

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