Building resilience in the face of uncertainty

With an extensive experience of over 25 years in the world of finance and accounting, Naresh Bhansali, CEO – Finance, Strategy & Business Development and Chief Financial Officer at Emami Group, shared his insights on all that has changed in the world of the consumer goods industry, and the trends to watch in the future to come.

Speaking exclusively to BW Businessworld, Bhansali discussed at length a wide range of topics, including the challenges faced as a CFO in times of uncertainty, thriving in the post-pandemic era, the need to make better use of emerging technologies, working for a sustainable future, and setting future goals.

Sailing in turbulent times:

The overall business environment in all areas over the past couple of years has been in choppy waters, and the role of a CFO in an organization has now become more important than ever. Bhansali said, “The world has become increasingly dynamic and the business environment, both internally and externally, has undergone rapid change. Just past the trauma of the pandemic, we now find ourselves caught between the ever-changing geo-political situation impacting economies across borders in unprecedented ways.”

Apart from the external factors mentioned above, there are also internal factors that complicate the life of CFOs. Bhansali pointed out, “There are factors such as rising costs, high inflation, slow growth rate, combined with changing consumer behaviors, business models and increasing customer demand for quality products. environmentally friendly quality at a lower cost.

In the consumer products industry, having an omnichannel presence is no longer a luxury but a need of the hour. As the rules of the game have changed, consumers are now in control and want products to be available to them at the right time.

Bhansali commented, “Previously, we used to supply the products to consumers at the grocery store or pharmacy. Now we have to be present on all channels. There is channel disruption as we make our products available to every touchpoint. , including e-commerce platforms and company-specific websites. As a result, business becomes more complex and challenges evolve.”

The digital era, which forces businesses to disrupt channels, has also created several opportunities.

Bhansali explained, “It is now relatively easier to reach consumers through e-commerce platforms, and the use of technology has helped predict consumer behavior. Management structures have also become more collaborative to support emerging opportunities. »

Thriving in the post-pandemic world:

Like any other CFO, Bhansali has faced a plethora of challenges during the pandemic.

Bhansali recalled: “When we first witnessed the onslaught of the pandemic, we were all worried about how the future would take shape. The priority suddenly shifted from growth to livelihoods and flows. It was only after we stabilized that the priority shifted back to growth and profitability. The pandemic has taught us the need to constantly reinvent, learn and adapt.”

In the post-pandemic period, the functioning of an organization has also undergone dramatic changes. Bhansali emphasized, “Virtual meetings alongside the WFH are now the preferred choice. We encourage our colleagues to adopt this practice, as the WFH is more efficient than going to the office and marking a physical presence. office for five days doesn’t matter as long as you get the job done.”

Moreover, in the digital space, companies have intensified the presence of their products. Bhansali remarked, “We are increasingly tapping into the e-commerce space. During the pandemic, we launched our platform, Zanducare, and received encouraging responses from customers.

Need to better use technology for business growth:

Adapting to new practices is much more important in today’s business environment, and successfully harnessing technologies to meet customer demands is a must.

Bhansali emphasized, “It is of the utmost importance to keep abreast of what is happening in the market and know how to meet consumer needs through the use of technology and deliver results to match. their expectations. The mantra of winning companies is a faster response to consumer needs.”

In today’s digital age, technology is an integral part of the business world.

Bhansali explained, “From R&D to providing consumer services, everything we do is interdependent on technology. in the future, the use of big data, analytics and bots will play an important role in the future.”

Paving the way to a sustainable future:

Sustainability can be defined as focusing on changing the business model to generate profitable growth while minimizing the impact on the environment, and it is something that is embedded in Indian philosophy. Emami is dedicated to providing Ayurvedic products using modern laboratory practices.

Bhansali emphasized, “We believe in providing products that are good for health, environment and society. Our products, packaging and processes are implemented with the environment in mind. The use of plastics over the years has decreased significantly, and we also use renewable resources such as solar energy and wind energy during manufacturing. »

“70% of the water we use is recycled, and at the same time our water consumption has decreased by 25% over the last year. We are also optimizing the use of plastic and paper and we are going to become plastic waste neutral very soon. All these measures are going to have a positive impact on the environment,” he added.

Consumers are also increasingly concerned about the environment, and this trend is accelerating. Therefore, it is in the company’s interest to stay aligned with sustainable growth.

Exploit emerging opportunities:

Emami has identified investments in the B2C space alongside acquisitions for growth. Bhansali said, “We recently acquired Dermicool, a leading brand in the pungent heat powder and cold talc segments, and also invested in men’s grooming start-up Man Company. These steps will add a lot of value to our existing business.”

Emami also exploits emerging opportunities and invests in startups and emerging companies. Bhansali remarked, “These businesses have grown significantly from the level we have invested in, and we have also given them complete freedom to operate. The idea is to nurture, grow and acquire them when ‘they’re mature and it’s mutually convenient for both parties.”

Emami is developing aggressive plans to invest in new ideas, innovations and growing B2C businesses.

Set priorities directly:

Bhansali suggested that from now on, tackling current challenges remains the priority. He commented: “Our main priorities remain to generate positive and sustainable growth – growth in the face of volatility and an unpredictable business environment, and cost management, which is certainly not easy in inflationary conditions. current.

Bhansali is a firm believer that the mantra of success for any business is to feel the pulse of customers and use technology to delight them quickly.

“Of course, the business environment is certainly complex and it requires evolution to adapt to changes and chart the right course. Keeping abreast of emerging trends in consumer preferences and responding quickly to their needs through different channels is another major challenge.. There is also a need to quickly identify and adopt the latest technologies and make them useful for customers and businesses,” Bhansali added.

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