With 12 years of experience, Ashwin Sawhney has seen VM in the Indian retail industry start up. She started her career as a Visual Merchandiser with the Bombay store and then worked with Shoppers Stop as a store VM. This was followed by being the nationwide VM of Future Group for ladies and kids wear section. She then joined as VM Manager with Madura Garments. Then after migrating to Australia in 2010, she joined Myer as a Visual Merchandiser and recently she has been appointed by “The Nuance Group", Sydney Duty Free as a visual merchandiser. Ashwin strongly believes that career progression reflects recognition for creativity, initiative, commitment and clear ability to provide leadership and manage tasks, assignments and teams efficiently.
What inspired you to become a visual merchandiser?
Initially when I started off in Pune, not much was known about VM as a calling and I remember explaining the prospects of VM for people to identify it as a job and not something else. It was at that time I saw a career in a booming industry which was still getting formalized. Therefore, for an individual like me with a creative mind, Visual Merchandising was certainly my calling. The aesthetics satisfy my creative ardor while tracking of sales and analysis, bring in contentment’. I loved working hands on in ‘The Bombay store’ as an in-store visual merchandiser and can proudly claim to be as devoted in the job as every other thing that I do.
With every role I have learnt and grown so much which I would say keep me grounded and motivated. Hence, this yearn keep me moving and there is no looking back.
Do you have any role models in your design and creative philosophies?
Since the start of my career I have loved Martin Peglar and have loved the insights he has shared on visual merchandising over the years and in every edition on his books called 'Windows'. Besides his inspirations my design philosophy is 'Less is more, 'Retail is detail' and 'Visual Merchandising is a Science'.
Please give a brief gist of your career milestones and learning at each milestone.
As an acting area VM with Shoppers Stop I learnt the skill of Multi – Site VM supervision combined with the business acumen. Going to the second level, while working with Future Group as a National Category VM, I learnt the national impact of VM on individual brands combined with sales tracking. While working with Madura Garments as a National VM Manager helped me in developing the retail identity of ‘Trouser Town’. Last but not the least Myer, where I understood how VM is executed in a developed country followed by learning of a few more essential skills.
What has been your biggest achievement and what impact did it have on the business and your repertoire?
I believe my biggest achievements are still ahead of me. However, I would like to mention that being a part of the redesigning of a retail format of ‘Trouser Town’ in 2007 till date was one of my biggest accomplishments. And I have also contributed to Standard Operating Procedures for 3 companies.
What was the most enticing project you across? Please describe the experience.
The most fun project was redesigning the retail identity of trouser town and planet fashion. Above all working with different materials experimenting, sourcing etc. was a huge learning experience.
What do you think are the advantages and challenges in the scope of VM in the Indian retail scenario? Any instances where you have changed a challenge into an opportunity?
The advantage in India is definitely the adequate availability of labor and its cheap turnaround time for most jobs for VM. Hence, VM in India can focus on their key Skill sets like design instead of actually doing the work themselves like painting window backdrops, installing fixtures themselves. Whereas challenges would be the standard of VM across the Industry needs to be made much higher for global recognition. The retail industry in India needs to market its advanced retail technology and design to the world for increased awareness. Though I do feel a lot of companies in India are delivering VM of international standards, but in the pockets of the industry and not as a whole. I see a huge potential for marketing excellence in VM design and execution to the world. Since I have been in the Indian retail industry and I have seen that the industry is far advanced even compared to most developed countries in areas such as VM technology, state of the art store signage, POP materials used, Mock shop for merchandise presentations, excellent fixtures to name a few