Rajinder Singh, who has been running a medical equipment firm — Pechtherm Pvt Limited in Ludhiana — for past many years, had no idea how to sell his on-site oxygen and nitrogen generators to hospitals and laboratories after lockdown was imposed.
All these years, he had done his work by personally visiting the site and getting installation done, apart from training staff on how to handle the equipment later on.
“Soon after janata curfew was imposed on March 22, I joined a short -term digital marketing course to learn how to better market my trade. This course helped me upgrade my website so as to do business online. I installed oxygen plants in private hospitals located at Jalandhar, Amritsar and even at Srinagar as well. Through the knowledge gained, I organised webinars with the doctors to sell my product and even conducted 15-day online training for their staff after the plant was installed at hospitals. Hence multiple visits was avoided and extra expenditure on both sides could be saved. Now, I am finding working online a comfortable way through which I can do business as well as give time to my family. However, several clients have now started asking us to visit them personally”.
Komal Chopra, an IT engineer who trained Rajinder, works at the College of Computer and Information Technology in Ludhiana. She said, “I taught a batch of 15 persons soon after country went under lockdown. One of the trainees was from the USA, who is now doing real estate work after learning new skills during this course. Another student from Singapore is working as a travel consultant. The lockdown gave wide exposure to people as they all did courses under one platform while sitting in different countries.”
Not only Rajinder, even Satnam Singh Namdhari, who runs a Nature Fresh vegetable store in BRS Nagar, discovered how to start selling the greens online during the lockdown.
“I get my fruits and vegetables from Bhaini Sahib where organic farming is being done by many farmers. During lockdown, I created WhatsApp groups and used to post PDF files everyday with rates of fruits and vegetables. People used to place their orders and 8-10 staff in 4-5 vehicles used to deliver the products. Now that we are moving ahead with Unlock, people are finding it comfortable to order stuff online. Even now, 80 per cent of the orders are booked online. I will now operate through my app, which is in the making,” he said.
Gurcharan Singh, senior manager from Namdhari Farm Fresh at Bhaini Sahib, added, “We are also getting a a mobile app created. Not only exotic fruits and vegetables, we can also sell organic products like rice, wheat, barley, jaggery etc. as per people’s demand. Lockdown taught us new ways to sell our products.”
While Satnam and Gurcharan will be selling vegetables through apps, Preet Chandoke, a software engineer has his hands full.
“During lockdown, we made two school uniform manufacturing units from the Delhi NCR region go online while a law firm in Singapore and Malaysia went online for digital signatures and few other features. Not only this, my firm developed a missing kids app using facial recognition and AI for Ludhiana police, an online portal for selling Covid kits also came up during lockdown while we guided health and fitness leaders as to how they can go for virtual fitness training and diet sessions without meeting their customers physically,” he said.
Though there had been layoffs during the lockdown, jobs in the online sector have increased.
Big brands are also focusing more on their digital marketing section. Onkar Singh Pahwa, CMD, Avon Cycles, said, “We have our website since long and our products are also displayed there. However, during lockdown, our digital section turned aggressive. We are offering 20 per cent discount if sale happens via digital portal. Our digital marketing manager ties up with clients, shows them designs. Though the response is luke warm, it is still encouraging as in the cycle industry, people love to visit the store to explore the product before buying it.”
Pankaj Munjal, CMD, Hero Cycles, said, “Hero Cycles have sold via both online and offline channels and continue to do so. Traditionally, consumers prefer buying bicycles offline after a trial. However, the coronavirus is pushing a behavioural change towards greater online purchases across industries and sectors. Increased awareness has also resulted in a trend of customers, conducting most search and discovery online, which has further increased appetite for online buying of cycles. While we already have a wide presence on e-commerce platforms, we have in recent months focused on creating attractive marketing campaigns to engage consumers and draw them towards making purchasing decisions.”
Sonu Nilibar, proprietor of Nilibar store on Mall road, Ludhiana, said, “Now our staff is busy doing ‘Face Time’ via smart phones rather than meeting customers face to face. Every day, we update our website with new designs, new slogans, new ideas. Almost all our staff members carry shortlisted clothes to clients’ houses (within Ludhiana) to help them select while sitting at their homes. In fact, our online sale in June this year was 400 per cent more than in June 2019.”
Many industrialists are doing short courses in digital marketing. A batch of 33 industrialists have started a four weeks’ digital marketing course from July 2 till July 31 in Ludhiana.
The course has been arranged by the Chamber of Industrial and Commercial Undertakings (CICU) at a cost of Rs 4,999 per person.
Upkar Singh, president of CICU, said, “We were expecting only 25 industrialists in a batch, but the response was overwhelming and more industrialists who are keen to do the course will be entertained in next month’s batch. They are being taught by trainers via Zoom classes. This way, they can sell their products, place orders, arrange meetings with clients online as people are avoiding travelling from one part of the country to another. Amazon had also conducted a session for our exporters.”
Data science in digital marketing Komal Chopra, trainer at CCIT, said, “Apart from digital marketing, now data science is also taught to clients where deeper marketing insights can be drawn. Power of data science is huge and it helps in using data techniques effectively to understand customers. You can understand the target market and work accordingly. Hence, we are empowering people with data science as well.”