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No layoffs so far but surging COVID-19 cases in some states cause for concern Bata chairman

Kolkata:Bata India Chairman Ashwani Windlass on Thursday said it has not laid off any employee so far, but admitted that there is not much clarity on "where the footwear major is heading" amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic.

As of March, the company had 9,762 employees across functions and locations, of which 4000-4500 are on third-party contract, he said.

"There is no layoff till date. Bata has friendly HR policies," Windlass told shareholders at the 87th annual general meeting of the company.

"I don't think we have complete clarity about where we are heading. Intermittent lockdowns and the surging pandemic in some states is of concern for us. At the end of the current quarter, we will be better placed to analyse and calibrate our strategies," he said.

The management has taken a number of measures to safeguard and reopen stores, while according top priority to employee and customer safety, company officials said.

"Actual demand recovery shall be concurrent with the overall recovery of the economy, which is inching up now.

Complete reinstatement of pre-COVID state of affairs is still sometime away," the chairman said in his address at the virtual AGM. Bata India has achieved 35-40 per cent of the pre- COVID business levels, he said.

"Moreover, the RBI moratorium will help bolster the huge supply chain for Bata," Windlass told PTI.

Of the footwear major's 1,500 stores across the country, around 85 per cent are now open, he said, adding, the manufacturing units are also operating smoothly, while adhering to health and safety protocols. The top company official, however, admitted that some of its frontline sales persons had tested positive for COVID-19, including a fatality at the Batanagar unit.

On the road ahead, Windlass said with the upcoming festival season, Bata India expects increase in footfall at stores. "Our omni-channel home delivery covers more than 900 stores pan India. We are continuously ramping up our online presence. We have also realigned our products to cater to the open footwear and washable categories," he said.