Menu

Satyendra Shukla – CEO, Melange Sourcing

Podcast description goes here…

Transcript


Asil

Hi, everybody, welcome back to the turban thinker. So I’m really excited to have an industry veteran with me, but also a very good friend. So we’re here today with Satyendra Shukla. And I met Saty around 20 years ago when I was a buying head and head of accessories for Karen Millen and whistles.

So this is when we first met. And Saty’s always been in the business of sourcing and manufacturing and working with some of the global best based in India and working with some of the great fashion houses and retailers such as Debenhams, working with coveted brands like Kelly Hoppen, Sophie Conran, to name a few. And honestly, if I continued, we’d go way over the recording time. So welcome. Welcome to Turban Thinker. And it’s great having you.

Saty

Thank you so much, Asil. 

Asil

So Saty, today we’re going to focus obviously on the biggest issue today. And this is the key focus on everybody’s life, actually, which is the global stand still. And I wanted to understand you’re based in India, so I have a list of questions to ask you. But first and foremost, I want to wish you and your family all the health and safety and everybody in India. Obviously, India is also my home and part of my heritage and background. And, you know, I’m very passionate about. So let’s start talking about the situation and what you’re actually facing in India today.

Saty

Yeah. So thank you so much for inviting me. And it’s wonderful being here. So just to begin with, Asil l think with regards to this covid-19 situation and what’s happening, but I’m not specifically talking about India. I think the government has been very firm and very effective in the way they’ve been dealing about it. And I still remember when this broke out somewhere around in January, I was still travelling. At that time, most of the country’s we’re being very, very relaxed.

And I still remember that almost all the flights which were coming across from Japan and China. The government in India was basically checking them out and getting the details and post-March. When I been coming in over here and I realized that, you know, they have started screening people out of the airport. And the most important thing is I think you have to put it across, the government has been very, very effective in the way they are communicating across even the lockdown, which the government has put in.

There are no ambiguities. It means lockdown is a lockdown. You are supposed to stay back at home and you’re not supposed to get out of your house. So in a way, I think that’s clearly working on the ground. So even as we speak being, the eight of April, in India, we have probably, I think, five thousand four hundred cases which have been detected COVID positive and approximately 150 deaths. And the government is actually has outlined a number of initiatives to have the hospitals and everything ready.

But I think one of the very important things which I would probably put across from the Indian perspective is that on the ground, the people are rallying up with the government. Everyone is going out and supporting the government. So everyone is trying to stay back within their homes and trying to ensure that they do not go out, even for the essentials. Almost whatever possessions you need, it is all available, you can get out, but only you are allowed to go live probably once a day and pick up the stuff.

And yes, the entire government machinery from police to everyone is working on the ground trying to create the difference. I think another thing which many people have been talking about, especially in the international media, is that how do you manage a country of one point three billion in such a lockdown? And I think the beauty of that comes across as every person, the common man is working on the ground to make a difference. So there are lots of people, you know, who are the daily wage earners who cannot go back home because there is a complete lockdown.

So the government has basically provided shelter for them. And everyone apart from the government, which is providing food and all, including the women, providing them wages even for one one month, each and every one is trying to pitch in. So I still a lot of people who are making food every day and going out and distributing it up.

Asil

So, that’s incredible to me when you see a very unusual situation like this and the entire population coming together. And I was saying earlier on another podcast I actually had that it’s an incredible moment in history for us because I don’t think our generation certainly hasn’t experienced a global lockdown and a global crisis of this nature, which is impacting everyone personally, their lives, their livelihoods. Businesses, industries. So how many weeks have you been on lockdown now?

Saty

The lockdown began on the 25th. But I personally, myself, because when I came back from Dubai, I was on self quarantine, which is voluntary. So it’s been twenty four days. But yes, the lockdown is supposed to open up on the 15th of April, which as of now, looks like they are going to extend it further.

Asil

Well, inshallah, it will not extend too much, and I think, you know, the sentiment, as I was saying, is very unusual time because, you know, as individuals and human beings, we are all coming together from different corners of the world and we’re all experiencing the exact same thing. And it’s very, very interesting dynamic. So I want to come back to your profession and your industry. Obviously, you’ve been in sourcing and manufacturing now for over 20 years, and you’re phenomenal at it.

And I’m very interested to know, how do you think this situation is going to affect sourcing and manufacturing in India? How do you think it’s going to affect the global industry as such?

Saty

Asil, I have to put it across. And, you know, this has been a terminology which I’ve been using for the last one week or so, this pandemic is basically a reset button. It basically has brought everything down to exactly to the same place. So whether you are a large manufacturer or whether you’re a small manufacturer, you’re all down to the same place. And the reality of this is whether it is the brand or whether it is a manufacturing company.

And the future is very, very unclear. No one knows where this is finally going to land up everybody into. And I personally believe that this is also a situation which I think predominantly speaking, where many of the very large brands, without naming them, who always claim to be the partners, it is their real test of character. Whether they are personally, they are they are the real partners or at this moment, they’re only going to think about themselves rather than also their other manufacturing companies who are partners in providing them the goods and services.

And I have to and honestly speaking, I think what I have already been experiencing since the last two to three weeks, I am seeing so many brands just being taking unilateral decisions and cancelling orders without even partnering, without even discussing with their partners.

And I think, for me, that’s a shame, because at this juncture, it is not a question about you or me. It’s a question of we. It’s a question of trying to overcome this tragedy. I think if you look at it, humankind is far bigger than any of the tragedies put together. But it only boils down if we think together rather than just trying to cover up and protect our interests. To probably put it in a very nutshell, I think a lot of retailers having just doing the knee jerk reactions.

I also see quite a number of brands and retailers who have gone out and who are partnering with the factories and asking them help and telling them that we need to find a way and the solution to resolve this current crisis, especially for the manufacturing companies. That’s a huge amount of issue because a lot of them only work based on the orders. So there are already companies which are sitting with finished goods. There are some people who are sitting on materials and they seriously do not know where this is all going to land up.

But I think the more important thing which is going to happen is in the short run, the the larger manufacturing companies will have a lot more to think about and to plan it, because I think the larger companies, because of their overheads, are probably will not be able to sustain the business for too long for the smaller people. I think they would be able to manage it because I think most of the governments are going to come into play and will try and help, especially from the context of India, where most of the businesses are small to medium.

I think you should be pretty OK in the short run. In the long run, I think things would probably even out, but we will have to wait and watch.

Asil

We will I mean, what I was also referring to earlier on today in my other conversation is that it’s an interesting time because this whole appetite for mass consumerism and this need and want and all of this sort of bulk buying and, you know, this pressure to want things that you don’t actually need, it’s proven very quickly that we as individuals and human beings need very little and we can survive without all the mass, you know, products that we are bombarded with thousands of them a day.

And so it’s going to be a fascinating time when it comes to the consumer, because like I said earlier, it’s the one moment in time when the entire world is feeling the same. And so I’m sure that the consumers are going to be looking at things very differently. Their expectations are going to be very different. And it might be, like you said, a reset where we see the mom and pop businesses, the smaller businesses, the more bespoke.

It’s all about coming back into that sort of playing field as opposed to the larger consumption that we’ve been seeing typically, certainly over the last 10 years. So how do you think consumer habits will change?

Saty

Asil, I fundamentally think that with the current situation, I think people have been forced to go back and think which they were never doing it earlier. And I think the consumers are going to first. I think we look at the priorities of life.  Earlier, food was never considered to be the priority. It was taken for granted that it is going to be available to you. But today, if you go out right and you already see that all over the world, it’s just not unique to one particular country that when it comes down to the situation, then there is a lockdown down.

Everybody is running towards to first to get the food. So people to start looking at the priorities of life. And the first priority is going to be to take care of your food and to take care of your health. Right. And other things will follow later. Right. And I think the same thing is also going to apply to the government. I still know that most of the governments, whether it is a developed nation or a developing nation, always get the help.

They can find it to be taken care of. But no one ever thought if a crisis comes down, will the government be able to manage it. So I personally believe that, as you said, it’s likely the consumers are going to start thinking in a very different manner. So the first priority has got to be good food and good health. Right. Same thing will then bolster that people, if they want to buy clothes, they’re going to be looking at buying cheaper run of the mill stuff.

They would want a good quality stuff, but something which they buy and they’re happy with it. And the point is, every brand will have to make it compelling reason for why they need to be bought. I think in the last 15 years, we have got too many me too products. We were just dumping it up. And the bottom line is the model, we have just all exploited it. So if you fundamentally will ask where this is all going to lead to, you’ll see a complete reset.

Even in the consumer mind, the consumer is also not going to look at cheap value product. He is going to look at the value product, but it needs to make it compelling reasons for him to buy the product.

Asil

I certainly hope so. I hope so. Yes.

Saty

I do think also the more stories about smaller people, artisans, people doing small, beautiful businesses where their business makes a difference to people’s lives will come more and more into play. We have already spoken a lot in the last two to three years about eco friendly organic. I think those will become the headlines on the front line from the times to come.

Asil

Finally, finally, because I know it’s been very challenging for a lot of designers and brands that champion sort of conscious clothing and sort of sustainable organic. It’s never been an easy one. It’s never been an easy one for them to actually convince. You know, they’re always overtaken by the bigger brands or, you know, a different approach.

And I think now is their time, because I do seriously and sincerely hope that people do. And I’m certain they will start to reconsider their investment. You know, like you said, first and foremost, it’s living. We have to live. We have to eat. We have to take care of our health and, you know, take care of our wellbeing. And then secondly is what is that need? And it’s you know, we realise that the need after this is going to be very, very different. So it’s a great opportunity for all of those brands that have been championing, you know, fashion, sustainable fashion and conscious clothing, it’s going to be hopefully for them their moment.

Saty

I think if you will put it in a broader perspective. I think the more important thing is the entire retail sector will have to reinvent itself and make itself relevant to the customers. Also, I think in the given circumstances where you’re seeing that how valuable life is, people will start looking at things in a very different perspective. And as you said, rightly the most important thing is, first, their own health and wellbeing. The rest will follow later.

Asil

True, well, it’s wonderful to speak to you, Saty, and thank you so much for giving us your time and your very valuable insights. And we wish everybody in India and everybody in the world, all the health and all the safety and hashtag, stay at home people. Take care of yourselves. 

Saty

Thank you. 

Asil

And take care of you. Saty, all the very best.

Saty

 Thank you Asil, thank you, it was lovely speaking to you. And stay connected. Thank you. Take care. 

Asil

Thank you. Take care. Bye bye

Good friend and Industry Expert Satyendra Shukla, a dynamic sourcing and manufacturing expert with 20 years expertise in India and the Global markets talks to the Turban Thinker about his view on the Global standstill, the challenges facing the industry and his take on consumer behavior post the crisis.