Exclusive: Landmark Group boss Renuka Jagtiani on going digital
Keeping pace with the changing times has been key for retail heavyweight Landmark Group even as it continues to expand, reveals its CEO and chairwoman Renuka Jagtiani
When Landmark Group launched in the GCC in 1973, the retail landscape was wholly different – not just in the region, but also globally. Shopping meant brick-andmortar, with e-commerce still a futuristic concept as the internet was non-existent. In fact, 1973 was also the year that Federal Express (now FedEx) was created, paving the way for the logistics supply chain that now forms an integral part of the online shopping experience. Hence the fact that Landmark is still here today – and has not just survived but also thrived to become one of the largest retail organisations in the Middle East and India, has meant the group has had to constantly reinvent itself and its offerings. “We started with a single store in 1973 in Bahrain and now have over 2,200 outlets across the region with a strong online offering across all our brands,” explains Renuka Jagtiani, CEO and chairwoman of Landmark Group.
“My husband Micky Jagtiani started Landmark Group with a belief that listening to our customers across the region and constantly adapting to answer their needs would always keep our brands relevant. We stay true to his vision by focusing on bringing value to customers and reinventing our offering with the times – by scaling up our technology, logistics and digital initiatives and ensuring better customer experience in-store and online,” she says.
The company’s brands include the likes of Centrepoint, Babyshop, Splash, Shoemart, Lifestyle, Max, Home Centre, Home Box, Emax and discount outlet Viva. The group has also diversified into the leisure, food and hospitality segments with Citymax Hotels, Fitness First and restaurant division Foodmark.
More recently, Landmark also ventured into pure-play e-commerce with a new
brand called Styli, focusing primarily on the Saudi market. Offering over 30 brands including private labels and external sports brands such as Nike, Puma and Under Armour, Styli targets the kingdom’s burgeoning youth segment, and has served more than 375,000 customers since its launch in November 2019. “We observed how fashion-forward the Saudi youth was with an online-first consumer behaviour,” says Jagtiani.
Roughly 70 per cent of Styli’s customer base is under the age of 25, with women’s clothing the best performing category in its first year of operations. In line with that, the entire Styli customer service team in Riyadh is staffed with Saudi women.
“At Landmark Group, gender is not a differentiator. We have a 40 per cent women representation at the senior-most level and close to 50 per cent of our retail store staff are women. The last few years have been very positive for women in the region with the government supporting and driving initiatives to support women at work and in entrepreneurship – especially in Saudi Arabia,” says Jagtiani, who has been at the helm for more than 20 years.
ALL IN A CLICK
While e-commerce was already on an upward trajectory, Covid-19 provided a massive boost. The e-commerce sector in the GCC is set to reach $50bn by 2025, a recent report by Kearney Middle East found, with a strong growth of 20 per cent CAGR forecast between 2020 and 2022, reducing to a CAGR of 14 per cent until 2025.
The same growth that was expected to occur prior to the pandemic has now accelerated, and consumers, who have adapted to online marketplaces, will associate this as the new normal during and postCovid, the report stated.
“In our last e-commerce outlook for the GCC in 2017, we forecasted growth of 35 per cent CAGR, which was essentially more than a four-fold jump in value for the sector between 2015 and 2020,” said Adel Belcaid, partner at Kearney Middle East.
“By the end of 2019, it was worth just short of $18bn, with signs of maturing growth and intense market competition. However, Covid-19 caused an unforeseen push and gave a new, accelerated lease of life to the sector, in line with what we have seen in global markets. This is due to a rapid change in consumer behaviour, with unprecedented adoption of e-commerce by all population segments, spurred, to a large extent by the new normal of social distancing, lockdowns and reduced capacity in physical stores,” he added.
The retail sector in the region has navigated and responded to new regulations and guidelines, states Jagtiani. “Our investment in technology, supply chain and e-commerce for the past few years had a significant positive impact in allowing us to rapidly change our ways of operating to stay aligned with our customers new needs and behavioural shifts,” she explains.
Styli specifically received an impetus during the lockdown last year, when most consumers were forced to shop online. “Styli grew exponentially during 2020. But it also put tremendous pressure on supply chains – both in sourcing products from our vendors as well as in delivering orders to customers,” states Jagtiani, adding that the group’s infrastructure and its ability to leverage economies of scale helped them keep pace with demand.
To keep up with its growing e-commerce and omni-channel capabilities, Landmark also opened a massive Dhs1bn fully-automated logistics and distribution hub at JAFZA in Dubai in November 2019. Claimed to be the MENA region’s largest such privately-owned facility, it operates under the brand name of Omega Logistics and features advanced technology and processes.
“Our solid logistics and infrastructure capabilities allows our brands to scale up and respond with speed,” says Jagtiani.
Looking ahead, the company will continue to expand brands like Styli while also growing its reach geographically. “While it is Saudi-focused, Styli has now expanded to serve customers in the UAE and Kuwait. The group is very committed to making Styli bigger and in 2021, we will expand our presence to Oman, Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt,” says Jagtiani.
“2020 has taught us to adapt better and to make decisions faster. In 2021 we will continue to focus on e-commerce, growing our business in South-East Asian markets and strengthening our supply chain infrastructure,” she adds.
As the regional retail landscape evolves rapidly, the chairwoman and CEO is making sure that the group remains relevant – for now and the future.