Sometimes, perhaps at all times, challenges bring massive opportunities to your doorstep. The bigger the challenge, the larger the number of opportunities.
We faced such a challenge in the early days of UNIBIC when productivity was at an all-time low. It caused so much frustration that we often wondered how large companies with a much bigger workforce managed such inefficiencies!
We rolled out an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform in 2012 to manage everyday business processes and automate back-office functions. We hoped the platform would help address our productivity issues. Our investors were new to the brand, but they trusted the brand implicitly, we’re committed to our cause and gave full support to all our initiatives, the technological ones as well.
To hold the trust of our investors, we had to address the challenges on the ground, especially the workforce-related inefficiencies. The first thing that we did was to put a full stop to misguided practices.
Next, we engaged an energetic, calm and impactful startup which was trying to solve one of the biggest challenges that every FMCG company in India faces – people efficiency. This startup is Bizom, and we started working with them in 2015.
We implemented the Bizom platform and soon started calling it SACH internally. It was around the time when mobile networks and connectivity were from 2G to 3G, and on-the-go internet access was becoming easy.
First, we gave devices to the teams and did not compel them to invest personally and therefore avoid any discontent from the workforce. We quickly realised that it wasn’t working. People didn’t value the devices or the initiative.
So, we told the field team to bring their own devices. We were, perhaps, the first of the companies to do so. We also told them that attendance would not be marked if it isn’t done on Bizom SACH. Naturally, we had very high attrition of frontline personnel. But we didn’t go back on our policy. Today, our policy and technological changes have brought our people on par with any big FMCG organisation.
In the last few years, we went through many challenging macroeconomic changes, including demonetisation and GST implementation. Now, we are facing a COVID-19-induced recession. However, demonetisation and GST changes were made to ensure a better tomorrow at the macroeconomic level.
These are serious business challenges. But as an organisation, we viewed them as opportunities and sailed through them by making changes in our business practices. For example, we manufacture a majority of our cookies and snack bars in Bangalore. Pre-GST, we had more than two dozen depots to service retailers across India. Our average inventory was very high.
On 1st July 2017, when GST was implemented, we were so well prepared that we closed all but four depots (one for each region). We made all our direct customer supplies from three mother depots. Today, we work on 90%+ shelf life stocks with approximately one week inventory + one-day inventory on the wheel. This approach has ensured fresh stocks, just-in-time supplies and high fill rates.
At UNIBIC, we believe that every problem brings a set of opportunities, and only by acting on them can we emerge successfully. This attitude has helped us thus far, and we are sure it will continue to assist us in the future.