Small brands using familiarity to redefine engagement with customers

Many small local and hyperlocal brands are talking about safety, convenience and strong community roots
Having spent the past couple of years struggling to find retail space, customer recall and establish national reach with marketing budgets a fraction of that of the big brands, small food and beverage brands are redefining their unique proposition amidst a lockdown. Instead of looking to expand their footprint or pitching the brand as one that caters to young and millennial tastes and lifestyles, many small local and hyperlocal brands are talking about safety, convenience and strong community roots. 

With customer data to guide them, brands such as Wingreens, id Fresh Food, Licious, Keya Foods and other small brands, some present only within a single city, are framing new conversations around safety, availability and trust. Many have pruned the portfolio to provide a small selection of products, while targeting customers of all ages and not just young urban professionals. 

Once the lockdown was announced, companies which are smaller benefited from their flexibility, nimbleness and agility, say the companies. They were able scale down and adjust to the supply chain much faster, often tweaking their supply chains to cater to small orders and abide by the recommendations of their data analytics teams. “That is the advantage that smaller companies have, as against bigger companies at a time like this,” says Anju Srivastava, the founder and CEO of Wingreens Farms that makes sauces and spreads. Smaller companies have more hunger and need to go to the market even in dire situations, he adds.

How has the lockdown changed the brand’s perspective? For one, the brand saw itself as a millennial choice but it is now increasingly looking at all ages. It is also expanded its online presence and has linked up with local kirana stores where, the company says, shopkeepers have been far more welcoming to stocking such brands. “Addressing the need of the hour has helped grow the brand during this crisis,” she added.

iD Fresh Foods, Wingreens Farms and many other small local brands are reaching out to customers of all ages, leveraging the growing need for safety and convenience to expand their footprint within communities

Ashish Mishra, managing director of brand consultancy firm Interbrand says that security, authenticity and belonging are among the brand characteristics that will wield greater influence among societies and markets. “Locally the likes of iD's and Wingreens are leveraging the new sentiments. The extra emphasis on hygiene has helped offset the price premiums. Furthermore, their agility and flexibility as quasi local set ups to offer a delivery ecosystem is superior to the more complex supply chains of the larger national brands. That is proving to be another advantage.” 

Being small has helped the brands stay in step with consumers, say experts. Musthafa PC, co-founder and CEO, iD Fresh Food said that soon after the lockdown, it decided to scale down the operations and provide only essential products such as chapati and such. A small selection was sought to be offset with bulk orders and deeper community engagements as the brand used technology to power its way through the crisis. 

“The biggest challenge with a crisis like this is that there is no template to follow. Uncertainty is the only certainty. So, when customers started complaining about unavailability of products, due to grocery stores being shut or e-grocers struggling to clear backlogs, we had to find a way to address the gap,” says Musthafa.  

Within a week of virtual brainstorming sessions, it got ready to roll out a unique ‘store finder’ feature on its website to help customers identify the exact quantity of fresh iD products available in their neighbourhood stores. Its tech team also added the ‘notify me’ feature to provide customers with daily alerts on store refills. Musthafa explains that the brand has benefited from the fact that it has its own supply chain and distribution network. This helped adapt to the new business normal, be it understanding the difficulties faced by the ground staff or applying new technologies for a smooth supply chain and customer experience.

The brands are also gearing up for a complete virtual experience model, whereby customers are introduced to new flavours or blends online and the rest of the process, from ordering to delivery, taking place with as few touch points as possible. “Consumers can rely on their mobile based store locators coupled with door step delivery to satisfy the cravings of homemade foods with the much needed convenience of their ready-to-cook offering. These are pointers to what will be useful in the future too,” says Mishra.

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