Food supply chain has witnessed a rapid innovation and transformation courtesy technology that has been a key differentiator and allowed producers and retailers to tap into consumer behaviour trends, seek their product choices and focus on providing quality products on shelves. With start-ups bucking the trend and the impact COVID-19 has left on the supply chain, India and its organized retail has taken steps to move into a new world with surge demand, acute labour shortage, harvest and supply issues and broken food supply chain. Companies have tried to the most by addressing the key touchpoints and problems that largely ails the customers and at the same time adapt it for a fresh normal.

Food economy has diversified by the modernization of lifestyle, rising consumer awareness and the strong growth in the per capita income. The transformation of rural-urban supply chain has ushered the country’s food supply chain and has added a new dimension. COVID has created an uncertainty but quality and price are still the two key needs of the customers that account for a retailer’s performance and sustainability in the market. Convenience and availability are the other half of the success story of food retailers. Technology played a crucial role during this lockdown and bright to front a host of enabled services like time-sensitive deliveries in controlled environments, click and collect, doorstep deliveries, hygiene and also allowed retailers to up their game with the changing customer expectations. Coupled with multiple payment options, free home deliveries, mobile app purchases are the new areas of interest for customers and largely addresses the growing lifestyles and purchasing habits.

Government needs to tweak policies to respond to the impact and void created by COVID and arrest the supply chain disruptions, curb food prices, address the shortage of labourers and contain economic fallout. With normalcy being restored to the essential industries which include production, harvesting and transporting of food have been allowed to operate, there are still concerns like interstate border issues, remodelling to the new norms, ensuring continual trading and protecting both customers and farmers that prove to be a major obstacle and are key to keep the food supply chain up and running in a COVID impacted nation.

Food retailers too are on a mission to change the way people buy and consume in India by providing them with a convenient and hygienic experience. Brands and companies are driven by the customer belief in public health and environmental sustainability that has allowed the retailers to partner with local communities to bring food to your table which is best in quality and at reasonable prices. For retailers, there is a huge opportunity to focus on the consistencies in the taste and quality of food, cut down wastage and pilferage and become more socially conscious and put out food on shelves with higher shelf lives to tap into the growing food retail segment in India.  

Though there are short-term obstacles for the retailers to scale but an upsurge in consumption in rural areas as well as smaller cities is a strong revival sign. Retailers need to address the scepticism and take the organized food retail of fresh produce like fresh vegetables, fruit, meat and poultry online as well as to the stores and tap into the mindsets of the customers in the locations where timely deliveries and familiarity with the neighbourhood shops along with the myth of price parity has to be addressed and lay the foundation for building a strong network of food retail. An upsurge in organized food retail and its immense contribution across the food supply chain, will see India building a robust and integrated food supply chain for the present and the future.

Nishanth Chandran

Founder and CEO, Tendercuts