Brands Should Realign Their Media Spends In Favour of Virtual Platforms: Ashwani Arora, MD & CEO, LT Foods

. Digital presence and engagement have seen brands creatively leveraging the platforms to ensure targeted messaging says Arora.


In recent years, the fortified foods sector is growing as demand is rising with each passing day. It has been said that the major reason for the growth is because it is helping people to improve their health and condiments with key micronutrients.

In an interview with BW Applause and Everything Experiential, Ashwani Arora, Managing Director (MD) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of LT Foods, spoke about entering the fortified food segment, its benefits, and more.

 What was the thought behind entering the fortified food segment?  

The Government has been implementing food fortification on a large scale and it has been identified as one of the key strategies to achieve the target of ‘Kuposhan Mukt Bharat (Malnutrition Free India) by 2022’. During the recent budget as well, Government has restated the importance of food-fortification through rice, which is one of the key staple foods of 65 per cent of the Indian population. In India, it reaches the most vulnerable and poorer sections through programmes like Mid-Day Meal, Integrated Child Development Services, and Public Distribution System.  

Keeping in mind the national drive of ‘Kuposhan Mukt Bharat (Malnutrition Free India) by 2022’, LT Foods launched ‘Daawat Sehat’, the fortified everyday Basmati rice which stands for health and nutrition with iron and vitamins. Daawat Sehat is one of its kind in the current offerings across packaged Basmati fortified with Iron, Folic Acid, and Vitamin B1, B3, B6, and B12. Made with a special process, the nutrition of Iron and Vitamins remains intact, even after washing and cooking. One bowl of Daawat Sehat has the nutrition equivalent of 2 glasses of milk or one bundle of spinach.  

Assessing Consumer needs and preferences is always at the core of all product development initiatives at LT Foods and Daawat Sehat is one of its kind healthy Basmati rice fortified with all the goodness of Folic acid, Iron, and Vitamin.   

This introduction is in line with the Strategic intent of LT Foods to curate consumer-centric, future-ready products that offer the benefit of health, convenience, and nutrition. 

How did LT Foods grow and expand the brand ‘Daawat Sehat’ in the last 16 months? What are the factors that have contributed to its growth and popularity? 

LT Foods’ has flagship brand “Daawat” holds 20 per cent share in the market and has a well-entrenched distribution network across all channels and the Company has leveraged the brand equity of Daawat and its distribution network to market Daawat Sehat, the fortified rice at the value price point in India.   

The Company used an innovative approach to generate trials by launching small 1 kg packs which generally is not a norm in this category. Gradually, as the movement opened post lockdown, ample visibility was ensured in the stores through soft POSM material like Posters, banners, etc. 

Daawat Sehat was initially launched in Delhi NCR. It received encouraging levels of trials & repeats and was thereafter extended nationally. With consumers confined indoors during the COVID-19 lockdown period, we noticed a significant shift in the media consumption pattern. They were spending more time on their digital devices, especially smartphones to consume content online. We were quick to leverage this shift by re-altering our media spends & mix. We went heavy on News websites and Social Media such as Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram.   

A digital campaign for Daawat Sehat glorifying the nutritional benefits was rolled out in Oct 2020. Social Media platforms such as FB, Instagram, and Youtube ensured that the brand achieved the desired reach, OTS & engagement in the targeted customer base. In fact, the brand received over a Million views/impressions! 

With the gradual easing of the pandemic and life returning to normal ways, we also launched a Brand Campaign for Daawat Sehat in the mainstream TV media.   

How did you manage to reach out to distributors and educate them on the product, especially during the Pandemic when traveling and interactions were restricted? 

The Daawat Sehat was launched in Delhi by conducting multiple retailers meets across various zones in Delhi and Daawat Sehat was launched with special launch offers etc. Similar plans and offers were also set for other states. Since most of the planning and execution of the Daawat Sehat launch took place in the first phase of Pandemic and lockout, the remote calling tools were leveraged extensively. The most important tool used to educate the distributors and retailers was through digital modes which helped us in gaining traction.  

Where are all the products available today? And how do you plan to expand your market further? 

After gaining enough insights and encouraging product acceptability, Daawat Sehat was launched beyond Delhi in June – July 20, starting with NCR cities like Gurgaon, Noida, and neighboring states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. It was launched in India in September 2020 with about 500 distributors and about 48000 stores. This expansion also included presence in new channels like Ecommerce (Grofers, Amazon, etc) and Modern retail (Reliance, More, etc). 

Daawat Sehat gained very good traction in the eastern states of Bihar and Jharkhand too. 

Today, Daawat Sehat is available across the country at all major outlets across channels like Modern trade, General trade, and E-commerce. 

What are your marketing plans for this year? 

 We will continue to promote Daawat Sehat nationally on Television with periodic bursts during the year along with certain region-specific media including Radio, Outdoor, and activations which will be used for the focus markets like Mumbai, Patna, Jamshedpur, etc. Simultaneously we will keep promoting Daawat Sehat through Digital Medium as well.  

 How has covid changed the marketing landscape in your view? 

The COVID-19 has been one of the unprecedented, and “Black Swan” events that have altered Business Practices & priorities. In the last 18 months, the FMCG sector had to significantly readjust its business models taking into account lockdowns, demand volatility for products, frequent interruptions in the supply chain including impediments in the physical flow of goods in the manufacturing & distribution chain. 

The industry has moved towards optimizing its product portfolio so as to manufacture brands that have strong consumer demand. This has led to a revamped manufacturing structure that is not only leaner but also demonstrates enhanced efficiencies in product portfolio management.

The Go market programs have seen a greater degree of decentralization, and localization so that brands can be present in the consumer vicinity. To beat the lockdown blues, the Industry has been quick to embrace digitalization programs that ensure timely & precise flow of information across the supply chain both from a manufacturing & availability perspective. This not only helps in a faster turnaround but also ensures optimal fill rates in the distribution ecosystem. 

With the traditional distribution channels in disarray, the Industry was equally quick to forge partnerships and alliances with e-commerce firms including DTC Food Delivery platforms such as Zomato and Swiggy. 

With consumers confined indoors, brands have been agile in re-altering their Marketing spends in favour of digital media. Digital presence and engagement have seen brands creatively leveraging the platforms to ensure targeted messaging & visibility to ensure that brands continue to remain salient in the consumer consideration set.  

Are brands ready to spend big on virtual platforms? 

Today brands have no option but to build strong visibility and engagement over virtual media. Since the advent of COVID-19, there has been a BIG transition towards consuming content on digital media. In our judgment, brands should be prepared to reassess and realign their media spends in favour of virtual platforms. It is estimated that the FMCG industry shall increase its advertising expenditure on digital channels by 7 per cent per year till 2023 and the digital advertising expenditure will rise from $12.3 billion in 2020 to $14.9 billion in 2023.  

Brands will also look to support and expand their e-commerce capabilities, channelling consumers to DTC (direct-to-consumer) operations or retail partnerships. 

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