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Leaders & Innovators

Leaders & Innovators

Author: Ajay Aggarwal

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Join Ajay Aggarwal, a global retail professional in weekly conversations with the global leaders of the Retail, Technology and Consumer industry sharing their journey of making an impactful contribution to the industry. Inspirations & lessons from their stories and experiences to empower a new generation of professionals and entrepreneurs.
Ajay has spent over 48 years in the retail and technology industries as a leader, entrepreneur, evangelist, mentor and advisor!
20 Episodes
Early in January this year, Retail’s big show NRF predicted Retail Media as one of the emerging technologies in the retail world. The opportunity is sized at around US$300 BLN for 2024. Tom has pioneered the Retail Media space since 1994 as an entrepreneur and kept innovating this space through series of his ventures. Tom Burgess is the President of Snipp Media Networks and a Serial Entrepreneur. Acquisition of his first venture, Eco Media by Soft Bank in 1998 not just inspired him but made him hungry for more and he just kept building businesses and creating value for other larger entities. Having exited from 4 of his retail media ventures, he now strategically guides the growth of Snipp Media Networks. --- Send in a voice message:
2023 was the first full recovery year for the retail industry after disruptions due to the pandemic. In this year-end episode of Leaders & Innovators, we thought let's invite a few leaders from different sections of the industry and discuss with them the overall status of how things have recovered, what has changed permanently, and what remains to be addressed! Also, what do they think 2024 has in store globally for the industry? --- Send in a voice message:
In India, we have some commonly known brands like Bajaj, Wipro, Cipla, MDH, Haldiram, and many more which have continued to stay true to their fundamentals over the generations and evolved to their customers and market needs over these years. Their continuous success & growth have been inspiring for many new brands to emerge in the same space. Nilesh Gupta is someone who has not just taken his father's legacy forward in true spirit but also set up trends on how CDIT retail is carried out successfully in the Indian market. He continues to be a role model for many new brands to set up shops in India.   --- Send in a voice message:
Attending the Pathshala during my formative years exposed me to the illuminating tenets of Jainism such as Ahimsa – Aparigraha – Sweekar – and Anekaantwad. Ahimsa is non-violence, widely known and practiced in India, thanks to Gandhiji’s pervading influence. Aparigraha espouses selflessness and detachment from results and material life. Sweekar, the acceptance of adverse outcomes and uncontrollable events in life, is critical to a mind that seeks to endure and progress with equanimity. Sweekar views hurdles and building blocks in the path to the future. I think I owe many of my successes to Sweekar because it gave me the grit and acceptance that is so essential in business. Lastly, Anekaantwad is special to me. Anekaantwad embraces multiple truths instead of just one. There can be varied reasons behind the existence of multiple truths. It could be a limitation of words, language, thinking, logic, emotions or senses. It is special because it became the kernel of my life, and it helped me resolve personal and professional dilemmas. --- Send in a voice message:
Both Pankaj More and Vishal Kapil are seasoned technology executives with extensive global experience in driving digital transformation within the Retail and CPG industries. Pankaj, with his background in leadership roles at Walmart and GE, brings a wealth of experience in spearheading technology-driven initiatives across diverse regions such as Africa, India, and the United States. Similarly, Kapil's tenure at companies like Marks & Spencer India and Adidas & Reebok India & Emerging Markets has seen him lead transformative IT projects across multiple countries in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Both Pankaj and Kapil share a passion for leveraging technology to enhance business operations and customer experience. They excel in driving strategic initiatives and building high-performing teams to achieve organizational goals. However, they differ in their specific areas of expertise and leadership styles. Pankaj's focus lies in digital strategy, product management, and data engineering, while Kapil specializes in technology leadership, change management, and solution architecture. Additionally, Pankaj's career spans across various multinational corporations, while Kapil has a strong background in consulting and system implementations before transitioning into leadership roles within retail giants. Despite these differences, both Pankaj and Kapil share a common commitment to driving innovation, fostering cross-functional collaboration, and delivering tangible results in today's rapidly evolving digital landscape. --- Send in a voice message:
A passionate leader with a reputation for delivering, Anna Berry has over 34 years of retail experience. As Head of Category in Home, Anna was responsible for a team of sixty and over £450m in sales for John Lewis. Anna also built the General Merchandise ranges in Waitrose. Anna is strategically agile and sees opportunities to respond to customer needs with creative new propositions and experiences to transform business. Commercially astute, skilled at identifying new commercial opportunities and creating compelling omnichannel customer propositions for retail businesses now as a Retail Consultant. She delivers excellent results by leading the innovation of new products and the creation of memorable and personalised experiences. Commercially she is clear with her priorities ensuring her focus on achieving the highest results never wanes. With experience across many categories from fashion, beauty, home and technology - Anna is now supporting businesses as a consultant - delivering on Strategy and retail delivery, training and mentoring. Collaboration and strong stakeholder management are vital skills which allow her to deliver success to others. The values of the Partnership are incredibly important to me - I truly believe it is a “better way of doing business.” Integrity is crucial, my honesty and openness are often commented on. I believe passionately in the power of mentoring and coaching and do this at all levels taking real pleasure as I see the number of careers I have helped develop. I led on Diversity and Inclusion in Trading believing we need to find ways to shift our culture to respond to new ways of working - and if we are to remain relevant for our customers. A passionate and committed individual with products and people at the heart of what I do. --- Send in a voice message:
Himanshu joined Snapdeal in Nov 2021 and is currently the CEO of Snapdeal and Stellaro Brands. Building Snapdeal 2.0: A pioneer of Indian e-commerce, Snapdeal exclusively serves India’s value commerce segment, with quality products designed to meet the requirements of mid-income, price-conscious buyers. Snapdeal’s focus is on providing excellent levels of quality, convenience and predictability associated with branded retail to purchase decisions beyond the world of well-known brands. It consciously works with a curated base of reliable and quality sellers, who have a high bar on product quality, to deliver delightful experiences to its customers. With the help of the young stellar Snapdeal team, Himanshu is re-building Snapdeal into a high growth profitable value lifestyle e-commerce leader. He is a B.Tech from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, post which he completed his Post Graduation in Marketing & Finance from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. Himanshu is an experienced industry leader with experience in FMCG, retail and fashion. He also has significant exposure to technology solutions and e-commerce during his stints in retail and fashion. Himanshu’s previous assignments pan over Arvind Fashions, The Mobile Store (Essar), Trent Limited (Tata Group) and Lakme Lever (Hindustan Unilever), to name a few. --- Send in a voice message:
Danial has more than 30 years of experience in the Lifestyle industry with a focus on apparel and Accessories. With strong analytical skills and expertise in the whole value chain (BD, design, production, distribution, communication…), He is able to take a 360° approach to the lifestyle business. He is also extensively experienced in creating, motivating, and managing teams of highly talented professionals. He founded DNA Group in 2008. DNA is a group of multicultural boutique companies dedicated to building and developing lifestyle & fashion brands across Asia, America, and Europe. DNA provides holistic solutions for improving production chains, product range expansion, brand portfolio, right distribution channels, or marketing the brand in an engaging way. Their services are tailored to the different needs and growth requirements of each business. They help Western brands to get access to Asian markets and Asian companies to get into the West. Before founding DNA Group Daniel held leadership roles with various brands across South America and Europe. --- Send in a voice message:
Ms. Nina Lekhi, the Founder MD and Chief Design Curator of Baggit, is an accidental entrepreneur, who pursued her creative hobby of designing bags for the No. 1 Ladies' Handbags brand in India. It all started with Rs 7,000 borrowed from her mother after she failed in her first year of college. Baggit is perhaps the only leading Brand to persist with the difficult task of making completely in India, rather than importing from China as most competing brands do. This commitment and execution of strategy has been demonstrated to a number of consumer product companies that India can compete and beat Chinese products in India and internationally too, after building a dominant presence in India. Nina recognizes the fact that employment opportunities for unskilled labourers with very little education are the primary need for the development of weaker sections of the Indian population. Her determination to make it in India at all costs is arising out of this primary concern. She is willing to sacrifice easy profits for herself by importing from China like other competitors, but unwilling to waver from making in India for the last 35 years, whereas “Make in India” has become fashionable only in the last 5 years. Nina has always supported responsible fashion consumption and to that extent, Baggit offers classical fashion designs that are high quality, highly durable and ever-lasting rather than trendy fashion styles that come and go every season. In addition, the company is launching “Maatii”, its 3rd brand targeting evolved consumers looking for bio-degradable and sustainable fashion products. Protecting mother earth is the key promise of “Maatii”. The company has also launched “Enoki”, a highly durable mass brand addressing the biggest “ value for money” market segment. This brand will demolish the myth that quality branded products have to be necessarily expensive and reduce the burden of discarded products of poor quality, unsustainable and cheap products currently being bought by the mass segment. Nina Lekhi has faced many ups and downs in the business over the last 35 years and resilience is one. of her significant personality trait. Her biography, titled “Bag it All, " inspires women to follow their dreams and be resilient. The key message of the biography is that “if I can do it, so can you”. She is a role model for countless women entrepreneurs and other ordinary women who anyways are doing extraordinary things in life by balancing their work and home lives. In fact, the Baggit brand celebrates such ordinary women and encourages them to follow their hearts and dreams and be resilient. Nina is transforming Baggit from a promoter-driven company to a professionally managed company with aspirations to be a responsible global fashion company. From controlling every aspect of the business to delegating authority and learning to manage through an inspirational style of management has not been an easy process for her. However, her commitment to follow through on the difficult transformational journey is inspirational for other promoter-driven companies that are struggling to scale up, because of the changes required in leadership style. Nina can be called the most experienced and valuable Designer of Ladies' handbags in India with significant winners over the last 40 years. She loves visiting the stores selling Baggit merchandise every weekend and interacting with customers. Baggit brand incorporates all the customer wants and needs to be gleaned through personal interactions with thousands of customers over the years. Customers vouch for the Quality, Durability and satisfaction of possessing and using Baggit handbags over the years. However, the Brand captures the specialness of the “Atrangi” personality trait of Nina Lekhi. --- Send in a voice message:
Ramesh has rich cross Industry, and cross-geography experience of over 25 years across high complexity, intensely competitive industries such as FMCG, Retail and telecom and now Media. He has been in leadership roles across companies such as Hypercity Retail, Future Group, Airtel and Spencers leading change and transformation in mostly turn around and start-up situations. Prior to re-joining HT media recently as the CEO for the Radio and digital audio businesses he was group CEO at food and beverage startup Wingreens farms. He has also been the CEO, Small Format Retail with Future Group and held held senior management roles at Pepsico, Colgate Palmolive and ITC. With a proven ability to drive businesses through conceptualizing and evolving strategy, people and cultural transformation, digital innovation and augmenting & streamlining traditional and new age Go to Market Strategies. He is very good at adapting to new situations and business environments and struggling with legacy issues. He looks at technology and innovation as the key growth tools, making him click with the young and energetic teams around him. --- Send in a voice message:
Arun is a first-generation IT entrepreneur with almost 50 years of association with the industry. After completing his engineering in Computer Science from IIT, Bombay was selected to the elite SMT program of DCM Group in 1974 and then he went on work with them to build India’s first IT company DCM Data Products till 1983. After leaving DCM Data Products as the Regional Head of Western India He joined International Computers India Manufacturers(ICIM), an Indian subsidiary of International Computers Limited, UK as Vice President, Marketing. Arun founded and served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of ICIM International Inc. (Zensar Technologies) building it from scratch in 1991. He developed lower-cost offshore resources, leveraging economic and global development cycles to ICIM’s benefit, thereby consolidating the parent company’s leadership role in outsourcing services. After leaving Zensar in 1999, he started his own venture, iCelerate Inc. in 2000 as President & CEO. After iCelerate’s acquisition in 2007, he helped a few other ventures in the valley to scale and grow. In 2009 he launched Runa Inc. which was acquired by Staples in 2014. After supporting few other startups in the valley till 2017, he has been working with few not for profit organizations in advisory capacity. Apart from achieving success in his own career Arun has been instrumental in helping hundreds of young professionals in shaping their careers through his mentorship and leadership.   --- Send in a voice message:
With over thirty years as a corporate executive in the retail industry, Evelyn has broad-based international experience in luxury, mass and speciality retail; product and business development across the spectrum of the fashion, food and retail services.   She is the founding partner and President of Retail Resource Partners Inc., an independent boutique advisory firm working with both niche and global brands considering entry into the North American Market.  They evaluate opportunities, thorough comprehensive research, market analysis and if required, the development of sales and marketing strategy.  The group's extensive network allows them to build strategic partnerships supporting company growth.   Her passion is idea generation and innovation; identifying opportunities that connect like-minded individuals and businesses; creating opportunities and destinations that drive traffic and memorable customer experiences.  She has worked with such notable companies as Marks & Spencer, in the UK and Canada, Holt Renfrew (Selfridges Group) and The Hudson’s Bay Company where she was a Senior Merchant as well as leading the business development team, introducing some exciting new business ventures.  This included multiple innovative pop-ups and concessions, including the launch of Kleinfeld Bridal in Canada and the development and execution of both the Food Halls and restaurant strategy for Hudson’s Bay and Saks Canada. --- Send in a voice message:
Ranjan Sharma has been working with Bestseller India since August 2012 as CIO and Head of Supply Chain and has over 26 years of experience. He started his career in June 1996 with Futurecom as Product Manager and was responsible for handling IT infrastructure sales to Corporate Houses of brands like IBM, Compaq and HCL. He was also responsible for developing a team for sales and support. In July 2001 he moved to Vishal Retail Ltd. as Store Manager and became Zonal Operation head and subsequently Head of IT. Here he was responsible for setting up long-term IT and Supply chain strategy. In his last stint before joining Bestseller, he was working with Future Group. He has worked at various profiles like Head of SAP Practise, Head of Packaged applications and Head of IT and was responsible for - Building SAP Retail team.   He also worked on a whole bunch of strategic and tactical initiatives. He worked extensively on warehouse automation to achieve higher efficiency. Ranjan is an alumnus of the American International University of Management & Technology and IIM Kozhikode. --- Send in a voice message:
Mark is a career retailer who spent his formative years with Marks and Spencer in the UK. In 2008 he was given the opportunity to spend time in India to set up Indian operations. What followed was a six-year journey, firstly with Marks and Spencer and Reliance and then with Hypercity and the Rahejas. “The experience was far better than any business school,” and India left a wonderful lasting impression not just on Mark, but the whole family. A stint with Alshaya in the Middle East followed and today Mark is working with a PE-backed supermarket chain in Egypt and other consulting roles.  His leadership style has been to empower those closest to the customer, to focus on clearly understanding a customer’s needs & relationship with a brand and then to build a profitable retail operating model. “So often in retail, the customer and the business basics get lost, until it’s too late.”  “Retail is a simple business, but a complex process, just ask any Kirana owner”. --- Send in a voice message:
Piyush is a digital evangelist with a passion for transforming businesses with the use of technology. With over two decades of experience working with global consumer and retail companies, he has an excellent track record of delivering results and creating value across organizations. His vision is to create innovation-focused digital strategies to maximize today’s opportunities and prepare organizations for future disruptions. His passion for working with startups and innovation-led companies has given him the edge to create digital assets for organizations with the use of the latest technologies like Analytics, Cloud, and Artificial Intelligence. He has been a widely recognized leader in digital transformation and has been a much-wanted speaker at over 100 global events. He is an avid writer and his thought leadership is published in multiple magazines and portals. --- Send in a voice message:
BSN is one of the first leaders of modern retail in India who went on to build one of the leading retail conglomerates and inspired and guided generations to take up retail as a professional career. He led the creation of the Retailers Association of India (RAI) to bring the industry together and create effective representation in govt policy-making and recognition as an industry sector. He founded TRRAIN, Trust for Retailers and Retail Associates of India, dedicating himself towards improving the lives and livelihood of the retail workforce in India. He shall continue to be the guiding force for generations to come across this industry.   --- Send in a voice message:
Vishal Kapil has played a very important role in the technology transformation journey of Indian retail in many ways. He has now decided to move to another brand outside India for newer experiences and challenges!  The key lesson Vishal learnt during his sales stint was to listen to his customer’s needs with empathy and understand their needs! This helped him to understand the connection between business needs and technology. He still carries that habit in the leadership role and this is what makes him one of the progressive CIO of the retail industry --- Send in a voice message:
Bijou Kurien brought in his learnings from his Unilever experience of creating demand in rural India to build a brand like Titan from scratch from 1987 onwards. Following the success of Titan watches, he grew Titan as a powerhouse of lifestyle products during his two decades with them. Following that, he rolled out the overall strategy for the lifestyle retail business at Reliance Retail from its inception. He is an exceptional keynote speaker at Retail events, He has been awarded Retail CEO o the year 2013 by ET Now and Retail Leader of the Year by World Retail Congress in 2021.      --- Send in a voice message:
Vikram started his retail tech journey with a project on Air India in 1990 and since then he has had a hands-on approach towards all transformation projects undertaken by him. He is a Business-oriented CIO with a demonstrated ability to improve the performance of businesses through systematic technology investment and measurement of returns. At Landmark, he will focus on driving technical innovation, customer experience enhancement, delivering high-quality products, and implementing large-scale technology initiatives. · A look ahead post pandemic interviewed by Ashna Sharan, Portfolio Director, MAPIC India organised by Reed Exhibitions India. · The Joy of Running  --- Send in a voice message:
Kumar started his career with India’s first modern retail brand of departmental stores in 1993 and took the reigns of the Retailers Association of India in 2009 with a deeper understanding of the industry over the last 16 years. Since then he has empowered RAI to be recognized as a guiding force of the industry for govt bodies as well as other associated eco-system to recognize the industry as a major contributor to the country’s growth. --- Send in a voice message:
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