With the country’s entire focus on stemming COVID-19, it’s too early to say what impact the second wave of infections will have on the underlying offtake and consumption, says Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) chairman and managing director Sanjiv Mehta.
“The entire focus of our country (now) should be in taming the virus, protecting the health and well-being of the people,” Mehta said while addressing a virtual quarterly earnings press conference. He was responding to a query on the growth outlook under the current circumstances, where India is reeling under a devastating second wave of pandemic.
With a Budget that was absolutely amazing, Mehta said this would have been a good year for the country from a resurgence of economic activity and growth point. He asserted that the company is still bullish on it “if we are able to tame the virus quickly”. When asked if the possibility of multiple waves of the pandemic was of concern, he said, “Multiple waves, it would depend on the intensity. It would depend on how lethal they are.”
On the impact of the ongoing wave of COVID-19, Mehta said “As far as underlying offtake and consumption is concerned, it is too early to say what impact. Supply chains are running even in places where there is localized lockdown, stores are opening. The business, albeit impacted to some extent, it is still running.”
He said to wait and see how it pans out. “At this stage, I firmly believe looking at what has happened, it is not going to be as bad as what happened in the June quarter of last fiscal.” In regards to the infections of HUL employees, Mehta said there are pockets despite the company’s high standards and protocol, people have got impacted. “So the entire focus has been how do we best look after them as far as possible.”
He said the company has decided to facilitate and if necessary, pay for the vaccination not just for the employees and their families, but all the people in the company’s ecosystem. “It comes to nearly 300,000 people, which includes salesmen and all. But, yes we have a fair share of people who have been impacted.” Mehta highlighted that HUL is talking to different hospitals for partnerships for the vaccination programme but not yet finalized, as it is not clear how much vaccines will private hospitals get at the moment.