ITC Ltd. said the Covid-19 crisis was far from over as the distress caused by the pandemic continues to be a concern for lives, livelihood and economic growth. Still, the Indian economy holds promise.
“During the second wave, the local lockdowns and restrictions once again posed challenges. The recovery over the last couple of months is encouraging, though the possibility of subsequent waves creates near-term uncertainties,” Sanjiv Puri, chairman and managing director at the owner of Aashirvaad and Sunfeast brands, said at its annual general meeting on Wednesday.
The pandemic, he said, has made digital and sustainability as prominent megatrends, and the cigarettes-to-hotels conglomerate would continue to explore opportunities on the basis of these two trends.
ITC has seen its sales through e-commerce channels more than double in FY21 as consumers are opting for contactless shopping and home delivery amid fears of contracting the virus. The company has strengthened its own online portal ITC e-store, now available in 11 metro cities.
In the FMCG division, the company is looking at inorganic opportunities to expand. Previously, it has acquired Savlon, Nimyle and Sunrise Foods.
ITC’s cigarettes business had recovered to nearly pre-Covid levels towards the end of FY21. But with the onset of the second wave, the business was again affected by local lockdowns and restrictions, Puri said. “The week-on-week improvement in market conditions consequent to easing of restrictions augurs well for a pick-up in the recovery momentum.”
In the agri business, the company has worked with farmers to develop value-added segments such as food safe IPM (integrated pest management) chillies, organic mango pulp, specialty coffee certified for fair trade and end-se specific wheat flour, he said.
ITC has set up a subsidiary — ITC IndiVision Ltd. — to manufacture and export nicotine and nicotine derivative products for the U.S. and EU markets.
Its hotels business is among the worst-hit because of the pandemic. The company has come up with offerings such as “Gourmet Couch” and is also in the pilot phase to offer more out-of-home cuisine services.
Shares of ITC were trading 0.60% lower as of 3:20 p.m. on Wednesday compared with the 0.04% gain in the Nifty 50.