RAJEEV GOPALAKRISHNAN – Managing Director BATA
Describe your business in 10 words or fewer.
Fashion retail is very interesting, its both a science and art.
What is the big idea behind your business?
Customer Delight – We’re a brand with great visibility, consumer trust & unparalleled legacy. Also, the marketplace is evolving and the consumer is getting younger. Given these complexities, a brand with Bata’s kind of legacy has to re-invent far more frequently than the others. Over the last decade and a half we’ve reinvented our stores, our customer service and most importantly our merchandise. All these variables and more, are the pillars of our business and help us give satisfactory service to our consumers. We are constantly working on improving our services and the customers experience in our stores, taking our brand to a delightful level.
It’s often said that leaders these days must operate in an environment of extreme volatility. Do you agree? How does that affect the way you lead?
Of course, As I mentioned above, the complexities are ever increasing. However, I am also a firm believer of the fact that basics have to fall in place. More often than not, with information over load we tend to get tied up in non-productive and low yielding tasks. Personally, I like to look into large impact tasks and ensure the basics are covered. Increasingly, new areas of digital growth and mobility are something which we’re building as future high-yield projects. To a certain extent we have to anticipate the volatilities of our business and keeping ourselves abreast with the emerging trends and forecasts always helps.
How do you have the confidence to know the right choice is to zig when everyone around you is telling you to zag? If I may ask you to share an incident
The thumb rule is to
work as a team, we live in a highly-democratized world. Customers today, give the final mandate. Organizations’ true assets today, are the people and their shared experience. We work in a very cohesive environment; we discuss issues and plans on a platform across departments and everyone pitches in. This is makes us creative and inclusive. At the end of the day our objectives are shared, and my 25+ years’ experience always comes in handy if the team needs a course correction or a mentor to guide them.
What was your first paying job?
I worked in a shoe company in Chennai, India, as a production planning Engineer. This job was the stepping stone of my career, as getting my hands dirty and learning the trade greatly helps me understand the various fine details of running the Bata market of South Asia – the largest market of the European footwear major.
Do you have a formal mechanism for making sure you stay in touch with employees and customers on the organization’s front line?
Our frontline is the most important part of our team. It is the only team which is consumer facing and also the team that is fighting the competition in the trenches. I’ve always kept in touch with our frontline staff and know a lot of them personally. They have an assured direct access to me if the need arises. I personally visit over 20 Bata stores every month, a task that is more important than checking the reports and going in to details.
I focus on the mood in the store, the morale of the staff and the challenges that they’re facing. This has been the most enriching experience of my over-all career. You get to know the pulse of the market from the horse’s mouth. I have always believed that we at the head office are more like service providers to our store managers and staff. We treat them like consumers and try to help them with their jobs.
What is the best business advice you’ve ever heard?
Take care of your people, trust them with responsibility, expect accountability, and they will deliver their best!
What has surprised you about being an entrepreneur?
The vast untapped potential of the young Indian market. The nature of young consumers of our developing country challenges me immensely! To engage our younger customers it is imperative to use social media interestingly and also continuously be involved in the consumer experience, wants and needs. I thoroughly enjoy growing and learning with Bata’s focus on the youth market.
What was the most difficult lesson you have learned as an entrepreneur?
To be Customer Centric, or else you are going to miss the point of it all. I have now learned to base my strategy on consumer insights as opposed to reacting to competitor’s moves.
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