The Impact of Corona on the Fuel Industry

Since March 2020, the spread of coronavirus, followed by nationwide lockdown has had a massive impact on our country’s economy. It not only led to a reduction in industrial activities but also witnessed a slowdown in the oil and gas industry.

Nishit Goel, an entrepreneur and a third-generation petroleum retailer, assesses the health of the industry during the pandemic and forecasts what post-COVID times hold for the fuel industry.

Goel has been part of the fuel industry for many years now. His expertise lies in the field of Marketing, Customer Acquisition and Sustainability, and Public relations to name a few. Currently, he is working as a mentor to the young managing partners at Humsafar, a consumer brand of Samridhi Highway Solutions Pvt Ltd, that offers doorstep diesel delivery services.

Here are his views on the future of the fuel industry -

Q1. Does fuel come under essential services? Is the industry still functional?

Yes, petroleum products come under essential services and the industry is fully functional. The government has issued clear directives for petrol pumps and gas stations to function normally during these times.

Petrol pumps and gas stations are now open round the clock. These COVID warriors have risen to the challenge of servicing their customers during these taxing times. This includes everyone attending to visiting customers, servicing different types of vehicles and refuelling them while travelling to far flung areas, to help those in need. We’ve seen petrol pumps and gas agency personnel adopt proper hygiene standards and their commitment to continue to service their customers is truly admirable.

The industry has come together as one, during this pandemic. It is certainly worthy of appreciation and applause.

Q2. Has the COVID situation severely impacted the supply and demand of fuel?

COVID-19 has brought a lockdown akin to a curfew. Almost all activities including transportation have been affected, leading to a drop in demand for diesel and petrol. However, it should be noted that certain essential services like hospitals and police always have to remain open. Their vehicles have to be on the move at all times, and they do need fuel.

Further, harvesting season has begun for which heavy farm machinery is used and it is not practical for them to bring their machines to the petrol pumps. It is here that Oil companies have risen to the occasion by keeping the supply lines open.

They are also maintaining hygiene protocols for all their crew members, like maintaining social distancing and contactless payment of bills. Such protocols will allay the fears of the family members about the safety of their loved ones. These protocols will be the acceptable norms in the coming future.

Q3. How is the fuel industry contributing during these challenging times?

The fuel industry has contributed enormously in these trying times. Foremost, the Government has walked the extra mile and set the stage when a decision was taken to service Ujwala Connection families with LPG refills and money was put into their pockets. This, I believe, set the tone for that Nationalist selfless service attitude to refill empty supply lines in Ujjwala. LPG supplies sustained effectively and Delivery personnel ensured LPG was delivered to every household. Petrol pumps are open 24/7, to service hospitals and other essential services.

Diesel door services have ensured continuity in delivering to their customers when lockdown and anxiety of infection did not let customers venture out. They’ve also helped address the needs of customers to refuel their harvesting machines, thus helping farmers yield optimum output. This has been one of the important contributions by the Diesel Door Delivery Industry during COVID times. And, it has given us lots of satisfaction by pioneering this.

The petroleum industry has also contributed financially to the PM Care Fund and has ensured that employees are fully paid for their services. On the grounds of humanity, many of the service providers are helping their crew members by providing them daily meals and funding meals for those unable to afford it.

Q4. What does the post-COVID era look like? Will things remain the same or will they change?

The lockdown period has brought three big developments :

  • Hygiene has become the most important requirement in the industry.
  • App-based e-commerce has emerged as a popular choice for essentials. It helps people meet their requirements without venturing out or taking undue risk.
  • Digital payments increasingly preferred to reduce physical interaction.

At the moment, it doesn’t look like there’s an immediate cure for COVID-19. However, overtime economic activity will gradually resume. These major developments will continue to shape the industry even after things return to normalcy. Doorstep delivery will be the most accepted way of doing business as customers will see the economic benefits of this type of delivery. Doorstep delivery has cost savings advantages of up to 20-50%, making it a desirable choice for consumers.

With increasing demand for doorstep delivery, the government/Industry will be encouraged to open up the sector further thus making it easier for all concerned.

We can safely conclude that doorstep delivery and digital payments in the fuel industry is here to stay and in fact, flourish.