Diversified Indian conglomerate ITC Limited's sales through the e-commerce channel in the last financial year saw a threefold rise over FY 2019-20 levels, taking the channel salience to 7 per cent.
In its recently released annual report, the company revealed that it collaborated with leading e-commerce platforms on all aspects of operations, including category development, marketing, and supply chain and customer acquisition. This was augmented by the development of exclusive and relevant pack assortments, driving digital-first brands, and enabling platform discoverability through jointly curated campaigns.
ITC's multi-channel distribution network, which facilitates the availability of its products in nearly 7 million retail outlets across India, was further strengthened in 2021-22 with the addition of new markets and outlets to its direct servicing base. "Market and outlet coverage were stepped up to appx. 1.4x and 1.1x respectively over the previous year," the company said in its annual report.
To cater to the vast rural consumer base, ITC continued to roll out market-specific interventions to enhance direct coverage on the basis of socioeconomic indicators and market potential to achieve growth rates higher than the industry average. "Direct reach enhancement in rural markets was supported through a hub and spoke distribution model with the expansion of rural stockists network to 1.4x over the previous year and collaborations with rural-focused eB2B players," the company said.
By executing over 110 new product launches, ITC unlocked new routes-to-market through several strategic partnerships to deepen capabilities catering to specialised segments, including 'on-the-go' consumption, direct marketing and QSRs. The company's business with modern trade continued to grow on the back of a format-based assortment approach catering to the needs of a diverse set of shoppers with category-specific sell-out strategies.
During the year, ITC's Trade Marketing and Distribution (TM&D) vertical demonstrated a high degree of agility and responsiveness to mitigate the heightened uncertainty and market disruptions caused by the second wave of the pandemic. "Concerted actions, including realignment of distribution infrastructure, deployment of innovative delivery models, strategic partnerships, enhanced usage of digital technologies and focused approach to accelerate growth in emerging channels, were taken to ensure efficient market servicing and availability of products," the company said in its annual report.
Several other interventions were also undertaken by TM&D during the year to enhance operational efficiency and productivity in order to drive structural competitive advantage. These include delayering of operations through direct shipments to customers, smart buying including efficient freight procurement and supply chain and network optimisation.
ITC also scaled up UNNATI, an app-based anytime ordering system for retailers, along with the eB2B platform to cover nearly 3 lakh outlets in 2021-22. It further strengthened VIRU (Virtual Salesman), a technology solution to enable contactless ordering by retailers and direct communication with trade, especially during times of limited mobility or absence of salesforce, using Machine Learning for hyper-personalisation.