Presently, Melissa claims it treats and reuses 80% of the water used in the production of Melissa and by the end of 2020  it will be able to treat and reuse 100% of retreated water. We use 85% of renewable energy to make Melissa, shares Ruchi Sally – Managing Director, Melissa India- in an interview with S&A done in the backdrop of COVID19.

How well integrated sustainability is to the brand’s operations?

Staying Sustainable is the core of Melissa. Melissa Sustainable Development Policy sets up a series of actions and follows UN sustainable development goals, global effort to build a better future. Being part of the solution, we not only create fashion out of plastic, but we also re-use, recycle and care for resources. Presently, we treat and reuse 80% of the water used in the production of Melissa and by the end of 2020  we will be able to treat and reuse 100% of retreated water. No water wastage. Further, we have reduced 31% of water consumption in the last 5 years. We use 85% of renewable energy to make Melissa. We take sustainable development on three fronts – People, Operations and Products.

Post-Covid, how much has Melissa’s retail strategy changed, and how bigger will be the brand’s reliance on e-commerce?

Business strategy is suitably changed and we will be having more focus on e-commerce and digital channels. We have seen that online sales continued to grow during the lockdown and it is promising for the future.

How the pandemic has impacted the brand’s product portfolio launch? Give us a view.

We are all in this together, and I believe that we must make sure to follow safety rules together to overcome Covid-19. Though, India is partially opening but we still have the responsibility of keeping the situation under control and follow the social distancing rules. Keeping all this in mind and not compromising on safety standards, we are doing the soft e-launch of the product portfolio and collections. It is evidently promising and we will continue to follow digital focus for launches and promotions until the Covid-19 situation is under control.

There is a growing call for brands to manufacture their products locally. How do you perceive this?
It is important to understand basic fundamentals here. I would like to give my perspective in two parts – first is retailing brands in India and second manufacturing products in India. Both are related.

In reference to retailing, India started liberalisation in retail for a reason and in 2019 FDI for single-brand retail was increased to 100% apparently. India opened to the world and I feel it’s the step in the right direction but we have a long way to go. The organised retail is only 12% and there is a huge gap between demand and supply in all fashion segments. While countable home-grown brands are done brilliantly well and could build a brand at a global scale but the contribution to organised retail is still minuscule. The opportunity for local brands to build India retail on a larger scale and grab the untapped growing retail market has always been there. However, opening the market to international brands has not only contributed to filling demand-supply mismatch but changed the overall landscape of retail in India substantially creating more opportunities further.
The local manufacturing of successful international brands that performed well in India is one direct opportunity contributing to the growth of the country.

The world knows that India has its core competency of producing cost-effective products compared to developed markets. It’s a strength and it is fair to play on it. By opening doors of India to the world and inviting international brands to sell in India, it automatically got endless opportunities for growth. Manufacturing is directly related to selling and international brands will only invest in India once they see the promising sales. It is all related and elevates the growth curve for the country.

I support the manufacturing of brands locally but I also support international brands that have taken their fair share of risks and have been instrumental in the growth of India real estate and other industries.

During this pandemic, what kind of social undertaking has the brand done? (anywhere in the world)

Our all operations are centralised for new undertakings. We have used our logistics and supply network to produce and distribute 250,000 kits of medical protective supplies for healthcare workers on the frontline of the coronavirus fight.

If the brand has opened its physical retail outlets, kindly share with us the SOP it has adopted to instil confidence in shoppers.

Our main strategy is safety, empathy and care to everyone involved in the process. Human factor is a key to intensity post the retail stores are operational. Some of the key factors to be followed in the store includes are mentioned below:
1.    It is essential for everyone to wear a mask at the store during the working hours.
2.    All Melissa products, shoe boxes are sanitized before serving the customers, Melissa shoes are cleaned with a cleaning cloth lightly moistened on 70% alcohol solution. All payment machines and cards are also cleaned in front of the customers and placement of sanitizer at different key locations, so that customer can sanitize their hand when they enter the store or at the time of payments.
3.    Store cleaning is done during the business hours and at regular intervals, depending upon the customer entry & exit.
4.    To facilitate hygiene, use of disposable accessories at stores like gloves and masks is used and disposed every 2 hours.
5.    Customers and store teams to maintain social distancing norm and maintain 2 meters space between each person.

What steps would you like the Indian government to take to ensure brands, like yours, concerns are addressed?

Indian government must support international brands by lowering the duties and taxes making it a better environment to do business and running smooth operations.

Give a sense of your understanding of the Indian footwear market now and what are your expectations?

Indian footwear market is one of the most rapidly expanding industries in India and globally. The industry has been growing to CAGR of approx 7% but because of the pandemic, there is a temporary slowdown. It will revise fast and I feel that industry should be willing to invest in technology and sell digitally. I am confident that we will come out of this pandemic situation stronger and will see higher growth once the situation stabilises.

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