Consumers in India drive shift to hygiene products, digital payment amid pandemic

21, Jul. 2020

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NEW DELHI, NNA - Consumer preferences in India continue to shift towards health and hygiene products as rising COVID-19 cases prompt consumers to protect themselves against the virus by spending more on fitness and healthcare, while social distancing and lockdowns are driving demand for contactless payment technologies and digital financial services.

“Heightened hygiene is the new normal,” market research firm Nielsen Holdings plc said in a report it released on July 17.

This evolving consumer trend is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, giving an opportunity to manufacturers to align their business priorities to meet future consumer needs in the country, the report said.

After more than two months of a nationwide lockdown that began on March 25, India announced an “unlock phase” on June 1 to gradually reopen its economy.

Safety and immunity will remain embedded in consumer behavior for a long time, which will help drive the sales growth of evolved hygiene categories like liquid toilet soaps as well as immunity-boosting products in the country, the report said.

Contactless payment and home delivery have also emerged as new trends, as Indian consumers prefer using mobile app-based payment mode and shopping on e-commerce platforms to consciously minimize interactions with others and reduce their chances of infection.

Contactless payment systems once struggled to catch on, but are now growing as consumers increasingly seek to avoid exposing themselves to possible disease vectors such as cash and point of sale (PoS) terminals, according to data and analytics company GlobalData.

The local app-based payment services provider Paytm, run by One97 Communications Ltd., revealed in May that it recorded four-fold growth to over 15 billion rupees ($200 million) in payments made to merchants during the nationwide lockdown as many retail stores adopted digital transactions.

Companies in such sectors as fintech, healthcare and personal hygiene have already ramped up their operations to tap into the shifting consumer trends, and companies in other sectors are following suit.

Orient Electric Ltd., a leading Indian maker of consumer electrical products, said last Friday that it would enter the hygiene products segment with the launch of ‘UV (Ultraviolet) Sanitech’, a box-shaped sanitization chamber that uses ultraviolet light to kill viruses, bacteria and fungi on surfaces.

The total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in India crossed the one million mark on July 17, making it the world's third-worst affected country after the United States and Brazil, according to World Health Organization data.