It’s a perfect storm in the consumer goods sector, says Godrej’s GambhirNeha Kshirsagar
Update on the Indian Equity Market:
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Excerpts from an interview with Mr Vivek Gambhir, MD & CEO, Godrej Consumer Products Ltd (GCPL). The interview was published in Livemint dated 16th December 2019
- For packaged consumer goods companies, rural growth slowed to a seven-year low in the September quarter, according to market researcher Nielsen India.
- A general gloom in consumer sentiment and stagnating wages continue to impact sales of daily goods in India’s hinterland said, Mr Vivek Gambhir.
- The slowdown has been persistent for the last three or four quarters according to Mr Gambhir. GCPL saw the first signs around October 2018. Over the last few quarters, along with the slowdown in demand, they have seen liquidity pressure in the channels (wherein traders and distributors have limited access to cash or credit from the market). Similarly, over the last three to six months, consumer sentiment has also worsened. So, in some ways, what the Company is seeing currently is a perfect storm in the FMCG sector with the confluence of slowing demand, channel liquidity pressure and weakening consumer sentiment which has been exacerbating the situation.
- Reasons for the slowdown: Data on real wage growth in the rural sector shows that real wages have been flat or declining over the last one or two years. According to him, what consumers do is, once certain products are within their spending basket, they spend on them for a while. Then they start dipping into their savings. Even savings rates have come down in India recently. But when sentiment becomes sour, then things start affecting the sector.
- GCPL has seen such a similar kind of situation in its first couple of quarters. They have seen a volume growth of 6-7%, which is not a bad volume growth. Volume growth is not translating into value growth because of consumer incentives and offers. He believes that is the right call to take as the P&L is quite healthy. GCPL is sitting on attractive margins. The need of the hour is to stimulate demand. Ideally, GCPL would like to be at double-digit volume growth and the efforts going forward will be to get back there.
- In a slowdown, home and personal care get impacted more than food, according to him. The indulgence categories like beauty products and chocolates continue to grow as consumers like some ‘feel-good” factor even in a slowdown. The slowdown has been quite pervasive and has impacted most categories, particularly in rural India. Within the home and personal care, discretionary categories such as skin creams, conditioners, hair oil, hair colour get impacted. But more items are considered as discretionary for rural consumers given their lower income levels.
- In the last two or three months, both staples and discretionary have been impacted quite a bit; that is consumer sentiment has worsened. People had very high expectations post the elections. Since they did not see any improvements, the mood seems to have worsened.
- Views on changing goods and services tax (GST) slabs again: At this stage, trying to do too much with GST rates will be a mistake in his opinion. Companies need time to let the GST rates settle. There are a lot of implementation issues that need to be addressed. The Companies need to continue to work with various stakeholders, particularly small businesses and, in GCPL case, channel partners, to help them deal with what has been one of the largest tax reforms in Indian history post-independence. At this stage, trying to do too much with GST rates to drive short-term collections may not be the right strategy. It is important to stay the course, rather than to make rate changes that are currently being discussed.
Consensus Estimate (Source: market screener website)
- The closing price of Godrej Consumer Products Ltd was ₹ 677/- as of 17-December-19. It traded at 43x/37x/33x the consensus EPS estimate for FY20E/ FY21E/ FY22E of ₹ 16.0/18.6 /20.7 respectively.
- Consensus target price of ₹ 753/- implies a PE multiple of 36.4x on FY22E EPS of ₹ 20.7/-.