Brands get creative with customer engagement to stay relevant amid crisis

Be it app-based cab operators, hospitality chains or consumer goods, brands that have found themselves in the list of non-essentials are in a tight spot as the world around them shuts down for business. Missing from consumers’ lives, they also face the threat of oblivion as the consumers withdraw from earlier lifestyles into a more frugal existence. To deal with the ensuing disruption in their businesses, a group of companies — from Uber and Ola to Swiggy, Zomato and the five-star hospitality chains—are stepping in with products and services that directly alleviate the ongoing crisis in consumers’ lives or are tying up with brands that do so. While all of this is helping the brands stay relevant amidst the crisis, a report by Nielsen India notes that this is also reflective of a growing worldwide trend to move towards a more tech-enabled consumption grid.

Consider for instance the manner in which Uber and Ola have found a way to be a part of essential services network. Uber Essential has been launched to facilitate essential travel for residents of Mumbai and the service is being extended to other cities too. Prabhjeet Singh, director, Operations and head of Cities, Uber India & South Asia, said, “Amidst the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, we are leveraging our technology and network of driver-partners to enable citizens to access essential medical services, while simultaneously also helping authorities contain the spread of Covid-19.’’

Swiggy has revamped ‘Swiggy Go’ by launching a hyperlocal delivery service ‘Genie’ in over 15 cities. It has expanded its delivery of groceries and household essential services to over 125 cities. The service is being fulfilled through neighbourhood stores and distribution centres of large brands. “While the grocery and essentials category has always been a part of our long-term strategy of delivering hyperlocal convenience, we have enabled faster ramp up for the benefit of our consumers,” said Vivek Sunder, COO, Swiggy.


Mahindra Logistics has also stepped well beyond its core area of operations, it announced that its enterprise mobility business, Alyte will provide emergency cab services for those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. A spokesperson said that a dedicated fleet had been put together that was focused on senior citizens, disabled individuals, expecting mothers and doctors, nurses and others involved in providing essential services. 

For ecommerce, this has been a time when tie-ups between small and new operators and old majors have 
flourished. Zypp, a full-rental electric scooters app, has partnered with BigBasket to enable home delivery of everyday essentials and grocery items. The self-drive mobility platform, Zoomcar, is utilising select vehicles to ensure emergency mobility for the frontline workforce, including bankers, healthcare professionals, and delivery executives. The company has partnered online retailers 

like BigBasket, Grofers, Milkbasket, and Apollo Pharmacy for last mile delivery. In many cities, the hospitality chains and hospitals have come together to combat the crisis. Apollo Hospitals has pooled around 5,000 rooms by joining hands with Lemon Tree, Ginger, Oyo and has also tied up with Zomato for food delivery services. Prathap C Reddy, chairman, Apollo Hospitals Group, said company's Project Kavach uses technology and innovation to create out of the box solution to help people. Ritesh Agarwal, Founder & Group CEO, Oyo Rooms, said the company’s partnership with Apollo Hospitals has been developed to ensure the company utilise capacity where possible to create highly sanitized pay per use quarantine facilities. "This is an unprecedented situation which requires all of us to find new ways to work together and rise to the occasion,” said Agarwal.

For all brands in their endeavour to stay relevant and be of assistance in the ongoing crisis, technology has been a big enabler. A recent report by Nielsen India on the impact of Covid-19 on consumption patterns and brand partnerships also noted that online offerings and tech-based enablers will grow in importance. It believes that this will be the norm as more and more people seek a tech solution to problems or needs that were hitherto serviced offline.

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