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Firms gearing up to meet sanitisers, masks demand

E-commerce platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, Big Basket and Grofers have not had stocks of frontline sanitiser brands at several locations. Chemist shops in several cities said they are not getting any fresh supplies of sanitisers from Tuesday, while face masks, too, were almost sold out.

Last Updated: Mar 06, 2020, 09.16 AM IST
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Some mask manufacturers are also cashing in on virus terror by jacking up prices.
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Kolkata | New Delhi: As Covid-19 patients continue to surge in India, sanitisers and masks have started to disappear from shelves with several stores and chemists in larger cities selling the coveted items at 2-3 times their price to panicky buyers.

E-commerce platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, Big Basket and Grofers have not had stocks of frontline sanitiser brands at several locations. Chemist shops in several cities said they are not getting any fresh supplies of sanitisers from Tuesday, while face masks, too, were almost sold out. Several people took to social media to express their shock on black sales.

Hindustan Unilever, makers of Lifebuoy hand sanitisers and hand wash, said while certain pockets may witness a shortage due to sudden demand, the company has adequate overall stock of hand sanitisers and is geared to meet increased demand. “We have redoubled our efforts to ensure consumers have access to products that keep them safe,” a spokesperson said.

Some mask manufacturers are also cashing in on virus terror by jacking up prices. “Price of a surgical mask, which was earlier selling for ?1, has skyrocketed to Rs 15,” said Kailash Gupta, president of All India Chemists and Distributors Federation.

Large retail chains like Reliance Smart, Reliance Fresh, Big Bazaar and Spencer’s Retail said they have sanitiser stocks and are moving inventory to Delhi-NCR, Kerala, Jaipur and Hyderabad, where demand has jumped multiple times in the last few days. These retailers said sales of hand wash, too, have spiked.

“Heightened awareness coupled with social media is making consumers conscious of personal hygiene,” said Spencer’s Retail MD Devendra Chawla. “Sales of sanitisers in the last three days have tripled and the segment has been growing by more than 100% in the last one month,” he said.

Future Group president (food business) Kamaldeep Singh said while there is stock, there is pressure in pipeline for sanitiser. “Brands have to ramp up production. We are confident to meet the demand for hand wash and moving stock of sanitiser from other markets to cities where demand is huge,” he said.

Industry executives said sanitiser manufacturers like Reckitt Benckiser and Himalaya Drugs are expanding production. Himalaya Drug Company CEO Philipe Haydon confirmed production hike, saying sales is up ten times following the outbreak. ITC spokesperson said there is “adequate supply” of Savlon hygiene products.

Grofers CEO Albinder Dindsha said he expects the frontline sanitiser brands to be back in stock soon. He said Delhi-NCR and Hyderabad together witnessed a five-fold surge in demand in the last three days, which is the highest increase in sales in any category in over six months. Big Basket CEO Hari Menon said the company still has no visibility when stocks will be back.

Reliance Retail CEO (grocery) Damodar Mall said whenever there is uncertainty of this kind, customers tend to trust organised supermarkets since they know there will be no change in pricing.

Reckitt Benckiser, Amazon and Flipkart did not respond for request for comment for this story.

Hand sanitiser has been a small category in India, at about Rs 110 crore, which hitherto was growing at 15% per annum.
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