Future CMO Movement

In Conversation with the Director of Engro Eximp

The 2008 meltdown is a difficult point for investors who are stuck in the past, because it will serve to remind them of the trouble they lived through rather than focusing on what has happened since.While the population of scared investors has dwindled as the bull market has gone on, plenty of people have overcome their fears only to a point of dipping a toe back in to test the water temperature; seven years later, the anniversary will remind them of why they won’t believe experts who say “Come on in, the water’s fine”.

I sat down with the Isfandiyar Shaheen of Engro Eximp to learn his take-away’s from the crisis and ideas for prevention of another.

What did the crisis teach you?
Varies for most of us. It has taught me that we need practical wisdom. I engage daily with the world of financial models, KPIs, rules, performance management, deals and board reporting materials. The crisis has taught me we don’t need more rules, we need deeper discussions about the merits of doing the right thing. Because smart people will always figure a way around more rules.

Is there anything that we’re still doing that we should stop?
In completely nerd language, we need to stop adding an IF statement on top of an IF statement to get a model to “balance”. What we need are elegant solutions. The thing with elegant solutions is that they require us to internalize many guiding principles which aren’t necessarily found in the world of economics. By economics I mean the study of resource allocation popularized during the mid 1700’s post industrial revolution. It would be naive to think that more rules will get the job done. Just to drive this point further. In the 1970’s, wild fire fighters in California used 4 guiding principles. This was changed to 48 well defined rules by mid 1990’s. End result was more deaths and poorer performance.

What did the crisis boil down to in your opinion?
In my view, it was a crisis of information asymmetry that was consciously propagated by a few members in the real estate finance value chain. Today the same asymmetry exists around valuation of tech companies. They quote big headline valuation numbers. Which gets used by retail investors to justify pricing when such companies go public. But rarely people talk about the terms of a subscription agreement in private deals. Whether it’s what’s app getting 19 billion or slack getting 1 billion in valuation, no one is talking about the actual terms and protections built in. This asymmetry might hurt some people.

So we’re on the verge of a second dot com bubble?
I’m not saying that, just saying that the crisis has taught us that we need to kill information asymmetry. We must do it because capital allocation should not be the privilege of the few. By engaging more minds in the process of making capital allocation decisions I think we can make better choices and hence access some practical wisdom.

So what needs to be done today?
In the end I think people get pissed off when they feel misled or taken for granted. All financial crises misled someone and someone got hurt. I don’t think we’ve learned how not to do that. We haven’t because we are still thinking rules and regulation. We need to give guiding principles a chance. We need to give practical wisdom a chance. I think more money going into the world of big data will solve that issue though. So overall I’m optimistic.


Further reading:

CEO of Cosmopolitan: “Digital Is The Best Medium”

After food forums exploded with chatter on their diverse breakfast menu, I reached out to Mohsin Ihsan and Danish Ishtiaq, the co-founders of Cosmopolitan , to learn about their quick success.

Of all the names, why Cosmopolitan?
It was a well thought of name. We witnessed a generation exposed to cultures all over the world, be it London, Tokyo, Paris etc. Cosmopolitan is a culture choice, commonly adapted by the fashion centric audiences. The name was suggested by Ahmed Ali Shah, CFO of L’Oreal.

So you’re from well off families. Why did you start the business?
Initially it was the economics. The demand was high of this concept. We haven’t had much entertainment in Karachi. All you can do is go out and eat. In the middle of the project there were major challenges. As of now, we can call it passion and true love. We started the concept in June 2013, with talks with Realtor. This business is people oriented.

What can you cook now?
I can make breakfast, eggs and all 🙂

Doesn’t that backfire?
It has once or twice, but our focus is always on professionalism. We have not compromised on anything in between.

If you could go back to the day you started, what would you do differently?
We always believe in developing the team. We would have done more training sessions for ourselves and the staff. We assumed the staff were versed in team building and its an avenue we would have worked. We would want this to be stable right now then slowly fix our work schedule. We’re balancing between this and our family businesses.

How is this unique?
We want to be the epitome of hospitality. It’s lacking in Pakistan. When we opened up there was just Xanders in this lane. The quality and variations go out the window when you’re hospitable. From back end to front end staff, they should have the guest on their mind.

How many guests do you serve per day?
We average 215 guests per day. Our model was 3 course meals. We started breakfast 3 weeks ago. We planned for breakfast for 30th August, fifteen days after launch. We realized that the market needed something unheard of. So we changed the concept of breakfast completely.

How did you market the business, and what was the logic behind the mediums utilized?
We capitalized on social media, primarily Twitter and Facebook. As three partners, we belong to different backgrounds on affluence, so that helped too. It was mostly digital. For the first 15 days of run, we invited people from various social settings, for a pilot test run and that created a positive buzz. We are currently purely digital and its the best medium.

From a brand strategy perspective, how do you think people feel when they hear the name of your business?
Honestly it was supposed to an upscale eatery, a sort of boutique rest. We want people to feel elevated when they come here. We want them to leave with the experience. We want customers to experience international cuisines, as if they are enjoying them abroad.

There are some food business that use non verbal cues to pressure customers to leave early. Why don’t you use them?
Sure, it hurts our top line, but we want people to experience comfort and ease. We belong to the same social setting that expects an extraordinary dining experience. If people are craving for such experiences, they can always go to BBQ players.

You may have seen the maids issue on KFD. What’s your take on it?
It’s very sad on both parts. Not just by the people dragging their maids along, but also by the eateries that stand by and do nothing. I think its the eateries job to at least ask the customers if they would like to order for the help.

What do you think food businesses can do to ensure traffic law obedience by delivery teams?
Honestly, the food business should but the impact will come to the customers. Then again 35,000 people on KFD bash you for a 20 minute delay.

What is that balance between penalizing for late and rewarding on time?
The right balance is the motivation and encouragement of the staff. We penalize the staff on punctuality. We make sure that if a guest complains about not being looked after. We do not tolerate the idea of a customer leaving unhappy.

What’s your top performing food item?

Breakfast as a whole and the all time favorite is the pamasan chicken since day one. Everyone has it and its normally fried with crumbs because its run of mill. We do it, how it should be – baked and topped with crumbs and pamasan cheese differently. We have greater portions.

A recent post of KFD alleged that food business owners should play a role in improving the area surrounding their outlets. What’s your take on this?
We fixed our road ourselves. The authorities that were supposed to do it were delaying it. We payed a private contractor to get it done. The general issue is the disposal of trash. When you go to the back, you’ll see the area cleared of waste. We have a contract with someone that ensures safe transit of the trash.

What do you think about businesses that opt for positioning under Shariah compliance?
Positioning for the heck of it is something anyone can do. If they follow through with it, then it matters. I think they are doing it just for conversions on that segment. This is Islam of convenience. Music are okay but movies are bad. It’s easy for us to play music but not to serve alcohol. We say no to 45-50 people only because of booze. We want to be focused on our core business.

What’s the most absurd reason someone has given your food a bad review?
Couple of months ago: a group of 35 ladies and their host wanted us to lie to 32 other households about what was and what was not on the menu. Our slogan is “House of Yes”. She threatened to write a negative review on KFD and SWOT if they didn’t comply with her demands.

Any plans for an eCommerce focus or loyalty system?
We’re currently considering a mobile app that allows for ease in transactions and serves as a reservation system.

What’s the growth plan for the next quarter?
Consistency. We would like to retain our guests and provide consistency. We now have ramps for the elderly customers, who are now frequent customers.


Further reading:

In Conversation with the CEO of BeautyHooked.com

At the third Startup Weekend event held in Lahore, Sahr Said‘s idea was crowned the winner. Within a week, she secured an incubation with the LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship and has embarked on a mission to make it incredibly easy for every woman to be beautiful.

We reached out to her to learn about what the company will look like in a year, from the perspectives of  product, people, team, revenue and number of customers added.

How has your mission evolved?
Who doesn’t want to be beautiful? BeautyHooked.com’s mission is to provide ease of discovering and booking the ideal beauty service or beauty product with very personalized product recommendations. To that end, we aim to constantly evaluate our product market fit and refine our offering to best fit the market and its requirement.

Where do you see the venture a year from now?
Within a year, the company’s goal is to bring the very segmented beauty salon and spa industry online, making it more accessible and transparent to the end users. It will provide a simplified online booking process, so members can schedule their monthly maintenance, discover new beauty services and destinations or find a last minute appointment, 24/7.

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What’s the big picture goal?
We envision to be the search tool for all things beauty; where customers can discover vetted beauty spots, read expert editorial reviews, and book appointments instantly with just the touch of a button. The product will allow women to seamlessly search, discover, review and book beauty services in close proximity, saving time and enabling them to make more informed decisions about their beauty needs and choices. At the same time, it will serve as a tool for the beauty services industry to connect with customers, generate traffic, get market feedback and promote their products and services to those women who need and want them the most.

How much are you charging users?
We’ll launch the MVP in mid-July 2015 and it will be free to use for all users so that they will be able to maximize this service at no cost to them. We are in the business of Beauty made easy, and within a year, our goal is to connect our customers with the beauty services they need, anytime, anyplace, anywhere.

Further reading:

Bridging the Agency-Client Relationship

For whatever reason, there is – and has always been – a massive divide between clients and agencies. Creatives and brand managers don’t just sit on the opposite sides of the table in boardrooms, they sit miles apart in terms of expectations, ideologies and understanding of each other’s roles.

Brand managers are unable to harness and direct creative efforts just as creatives are unable to understand the many practicalities, restrictions and real-world risks that come with managing a brand. The solution is teamwork. The best results come when the lines between the agency and client are blurred; when an agency becomes as involved in brand management as a client becomes in brainstorming and ideation.

Brand managers should be as involved in the creative process just as creatives should involved in understanding the dynamics of budget allocation, marketing strategies, and target audiences.

Agencies should spend less time working in isolation and more time working alongside brand managers to understand the brand from its core instead of from a brief – that is of course, when time and resources allow that to happen.

Further reading:

 

Business Design and Transformation process for growth

I have been privileged to be part of some major enterprise transformation processes over the past decade that have taught a lot about how do you actually enable and enforce change for customer centric, holistic, agile and innovative corporate culture. In the business world we are living in today, brands are created with customer experience and corporate culture. The capacity to serve customers in an omni-channel world the way they want to be served is becoming a competitive requirement instead of being an advantage.. This can not be done with silo organisation with responsibility barriers, split budgets, strict hierarchy, fixed roles and waterfall development processes. Those things are true status quo traps that will eventually kill any business sooner or later.

Just like Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden, the authors of Lean UX -book, I got fed up with cases that were perfectly planned but never implemented or the implementation was too far from the plan and naturally didn’t deliver as expected. I’ve also grown out of creating strategies and roadmaps and moved to actual change making. I really love Lean UX. Lean Start-up- and design thinking adjusted to established enterprise environment. Solving real problems, creating customer insights, direct applications and implementing them asap is much more rewarding for everyone involved than just designing the change. Getting results fast accelerate learning, inspire innovation and motivation beyond anything else. The gradual change is also much easier to manage than a complete turnover at once.

The key rules for success are:

  1. Outside-in > understand customers and markets first, then look at your offering, customer interfaces, brand, invoicing, agreement processes, up-sales, cc etc. Be honest and learn.
  2. Bottom-up > The need for a change should be recognized at the board level, however the change learning should start at the bottom – with people who are directly communicating with customers and know their frustrations and understand company’s challenges. Most often they can directly tell you what needs to be changed. Once you know these, you can take it to the board room and be honest again and learn more
  3. Do and learn fast, adjust and improve. Don’t try to get everything right before releasing something. There are no watertight facts before there are real life results. Most things can be tested small before scaling or making major investments before proof of concept. Stay curious and lean even in case of larger enterprise

Based on my experience, this approach works every time:

customer centric management transformationIt is crucial to work you way bottom up in order to obtain actionable insights

Bottom-up strategy creation and implementation

1. Create customer insight. Use customer data, analytics, scoring model, online data, research and any available data sources in order to understand who the customers are how do they behave. If you don’t have enough data, get it, make 1-2-1 interviews or research and mash-up other datasources. Create a customer journey map based on these findings and engage with people who work in direct customer interfaces like sales, retail, call center, research, support, invoicing, credit negotiation, specialists, etc. By connecting these two realities you can see a couple of things:

  1. Who are the customers, what are they doing, how and why?
  2. How does this customer behavior show in your customer interfaces, what are the most important pain points and frustrations customers have and what can you do about it. Once you have the facts, you can see how you can extract painpoints by re-designing the customer journey experience across customer interfaces and how that will reduce costs to serve while also improving NPS. That has a direct bottomline impact. Also, you can recognize opportunities that will help you sell more effectively, improve conversion rates and thus drive marketshare and sales up.

When you have understanding about the customers and you can define Customer relationship-, Customer experience vision, set goals and recognize their impact to revenue and bottomline. The Customer interface and customer analysis becomes the roadmap for better and enables a shared language thru organisation. Everybody can agree with the facts and understand their own role in the customers’ process. The discussion is around customer behavior and going forward, it’s not about blaiming anybody for their decisions in the past. The mandate for change comes frome the customers and dictates what needs to be done. This is why everyone can agree with it and don’t lose face or feel the need to defend prior decisions. In every single case this first part has been capable of igniting inspiration, trust in own capabilities to do meaningful changes and realize them. Insights and understanding create momentum that makes it possible for a company to change fast in a meaningful way. This change is done because people love it and their hearts and minds are burning to make an improvement. It’s not done because management has told employees to change or because the management team has come up with new organisation chart… This route to transformation can be rapidly implemented and the results are quickly at hand. These results justify futher improvement.

It has been interesting to learn, how much silent knowledge, un-tapped knowledge and supressed passion can be found in any given organisation. This capacity can only be realized by deploying the change within the organisation. This is why outsourcing the planning is not a good idea in my opinion. Carrying light inside with a bag doesn’t help, you need to light up the people. Once you release that passion and knowledge in constructive way, it will change the organisation permanently. The way of working will change, it will improve job satisfaction and willingness to push the limits further. At best, it will create a positive cycle for competitive advantage and growth.

2. The next stage is about turning insights and understanding in to systematic Way of Working. This is actually very practical consideration about recognizing responsibilities, ownerships over larger entities, creation of KPI’s and information flows or designing the approach to commercial management in general. Often there are factors like scorecards and conflicting interest in the organisation that need to be fixed, rewarding mechanisms or silo cultures that just need new perspective and solving. Very often dysfunctional organisation has everything in order on the surface, but multiple little things that paralyze the operational engine, innovation, productivity and motivation. Sometimes management isn’t even aware of such issues that could be historical relics that should have been solved ages ago.

What ever there is in the way of working, the new perspective gained in the first stage will help in finding solutions to them. The work is done gradually case by case and the excitement and positivity for change gradually take over the entire personnel. At this point, the company should reach a positive cycle that feeds winning mentality, job satisfaction and capacity to innovate.

3. The first two stages have already revealed the challenges that can be found from systems architechtures and platforms. While the first stage already enables major improvements with UX design and coding, the platforms enable strategic development and automation. This naturally takes more time and is different kind of project, but by this time the needs, benefits and requirements should be selfevident. As the learning has already started at frontend level, the understanding about available business benefits should also be clear for decision making and investment planning.

This kind of change can improve efficiency and productivity very fast without showing anything outside yet. However, when the company is really changing it should also show outside. In my experience advertising is actually very effective mean for internal change communication. The promises that the company gives outloud enforces the internal resolve to follow thru and deliver as planned. Advertising is about communicating the core values and that goes to own personnel, customers and the market. There’s just the question of timing that must be carefully considered. If the advertising starts too early and the personnel hasn’t really got on board, it might have double negative impact:

  1. internal feeling of disconnect between promises and capability to deliver and
  2. customers feeling that there isn’t enough substance behind those promises which could damage the brand and destroy the momentum that would have been available.

Like anything that has to do with people and emotions, these are delicate matters and require consideration. In order to do things successfully you need to have a clear plan but it has to be flexible enough so that it can be deployed in right order.

These transformation stories are truly interesting and educating processes. I’d love to hear your stories and experiences about them. Please comment and share 🙂

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About Author

How GLEE Hospitality Built & Grew Rice Creamery

With an outnumbered Emirati population and growing influx of expatriates, Dubai has had to adopt to fresh imports of tastes, traditions and styles. The latest addition at CityWalk last year came with Rice Creamery, an innovative dine in concept inspired by multiple cultures and preferences found worldwide. We sat with the MD of the food group behind this and other successful ventures.

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How did you get into the food business, and what was the “aha” moment behind Rice Creamery?

I have been in the food business for over 20 years and that’s after having completed my hotel management education. The”aha” moment came when a friend (now partner) in the business had the idea but lacked the “know how” or the where to attain financial backing. The idea went dead for almost a year then I came back to him telling him let’s do it via GLEE Hospitality.

What was the rationale behind the decision to have the flagship outlet at CityWalk?

Finding a prime location for a new brand isn’t always easy especially if it’s not a franchise. Preferences are always given to international brands. The site came available quiet late in the development of the mall and we jumped on it. Being a neighborhood location with relatively reasonable rent was a prime factor, and it faces the kids play area.

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What is your personal philosophy and that of Rice Creamery behind customer satisfaction?

Rice creamery is a simple product which most people are familiar with in one shape or form. The customer most importantly must appreciate and enjoy the product / flavours, after that the rest is manageable. So far the response has been very good, as the flavours have been very well received. In some cases people told us we should increase our prices, which is a good sign of value for money vs quality vs service

How did you navigate the venture capital investment process?

Our financial partner approached us for another project after which we presented RC. She immediately loved the idea, and before you know it we had the location secured and we started the recipes trials

When can we expect to see franchises of Rice Creamery cropping up all over UAE?

For the time being we have decided not to franchise in the UAE. We are about to open Abu Dhabi in Dalma mall and soon in Sharjah. We have franchised in KSA , Bahrain and Kuwait.

Should someone be interested to build their own food business, how can they contact you or your team?

I’m easy to reach and quick to respond. They can email me on aboudisaadi@gleehospitality.com or call GLEE Hospitality’s office on 04 4503775.

From Levi’s Jeans to Dairy Milk – Asian Family Business Diversifies & Thrives

In 2012, Pakistan was producing over 20 billion liters of tradable white milk per year, making it the 3rd largest producer in the world. In 2013, Nestle issued a press release claiming a production capacity of half a billion liters of milk. It is estimated that Pakistan fails to meet local demand by up to five billion liters. So its not surprising that the promise the industry and its returns attracts business families. We spoke to Suleman Monnoo of the Monnoo Group regarding the decision to enter the high demand market, their USP and more recent endeavor to break into flavored milk. 

I’ve heard shoppers say “Bonus wala Surf dedein” and ask “Powder wala Milk Pak hai?”, so we can assume that there exist established players in multiple high frequency CPG categories. How does a textile family gain interested to compete in the most cut throat one?
Anyone with the capital backing is after this space and yes, there are some established players in the mindsets of the masses. So education was our largest concern, as was ensuring product quality at a level that addresses the concerns of our rising educated audiences.

In 2008 we faced a crisis in the textile industry and to counter this, everyone was trying to diversify. At the time, Pakistan was the fifth largest producer of dairy in the world. After reading “I Too Had a Dream” by Dr. Verghese Kurie, my interest in the area was fueled. I learned that New Delhi’s sales as a city are equivalent to our entire country. We studied the category and found it advantageous to become the first in Sindh to enter dairy. Punjab has had it easy because of the processors in place, the drawback for us was the minimum requirement in volumes need to afford the required processors, which when unmet, can result in the product going bad. Our research reflects that 80% of consumption is loose milk. To avoid these issues, we set out to have our own farm.

The kind of infrastructure you’re referring to drives up costs. How did you mitigate this against the existing investment needed?
If market visits to India taught me anything, its that no MNC could beat me if I had the vision, because MNC’s have too many overheads coming with growth. At the moment, Nestle has collection centers in the radius of villages like Sahiwal. Along with Engo and Haleeb, they utilize a contractor system and the incentives rotten the game. So when the demand goes up and the contractor cannot meet it, the product is fabricated with fake shipments.

While studying MBA from IBA, I learned about corporate farming abroad, wherein the incentive’s for fraud is less and contractors are incentivized to provide the right product at the ethical volumes they can create. Demand is therefore generated based on these volumes instead of the other way around. This is evidently not the case here because we are currently the third largest creator and consumer of dairy in the world. The high frequency of consumption encouraged in the demand generation process creates an unnecessary strain on the contractor.

DayFresh

You’re not only competing with large players, but pre-purchased shelf space, a product that lasts longer than yours and an acquired taste to buffalo milk. What was your unique counter?
In this industry, raw material is a game changer. And yes, the local pallet is developed on buffalo milk instead of cow milk. But the cow is more economical and it’s milk is better for digestion. A buffalo eats more and produces less. A business family like ours thinks long term, invests in assets that are longer lasting and efficient. We imported cows from Australia because the local variety are hard to certify as legitimate. We brought in an expatriate farm manager and the corporate farming system (similar to Almarai) to ensure quality assurance and meeting of standards practiced in developed nations. Taimur Butt, the master franchiser of Red Mango, recently visited one of our farms and gained international clearance to use our products to create the his acclaimed frozen yogurt products.

Unbranded milk accounts for three quarters of the current market, so why invest so much in branding when the market is so fixated on tried & tested favorites?
That’s short term thinking and a middle class approach. A brand is a life line, its like a child. We invest in our children and eventually they in turn support us. It’s the same with DayFresh and the overall brand experience. My experience in textile has taught me that if you have the right product and can communicate it, you can sell anything. We also learned (the hard way) to play with price perceptions. Five years ago, milk was PKR 50 per liter; we priced ours at PKR 45 per liter and it backfired because consumers new to our brand considered this to be reflection of quality. Total plate counts (TPC) is the industry standard for measuring milk quality. When it exceeds 100k, it becomes unfit for long term human growth and consumption’s. At the expense of shelf life (one week), our product has a 50k while our competitors measure in the millions. For the retailer, low shelf life is a problem, so we have our own distribution centers and network as well. Luckily, trade level education campaigns have improved the adoption, and the name DayFresh, reflects the brand promise.

You’ve been in business eight years to date. What were your key challenges, and what do you think is driving the sustainability and adoption? 
Like I said, a good product that is communicated well, will sell. We have the right raw material, are small enough to focus and deliver on promising. We are also small enough to respond to consumer needs and its very important in a product like milk. After being exposed to open air, milk goes bad pretty fast. So we pump our cows with automation and chill the milk to 4 degree Celsius to stall further bacterial growth. This commitment to high quality limits to shelf life, and its adoption by retailers is a challenge so we need to invest more in attaining touch point shelf space and our own distribution network.

Based on advertising messaging, we can safely postulate that flavored milk is aimed at children. A glance at local or international trade further shows that international players in the direct and indirect nutrition positioning dominate shelf space. Canteens at major schools and colleges have been branded with some of these for years. So what was the rationale behind entering flavored milk?

We think Pakola has done the best job in this category because they are exclusively focused on flavored milk and research points this to be a small category, expected to reach 20 billion liters in demand this year alone. We sought it out due to our increasing capacity and interest to tap new markets backed by retained earnings from DayFresh. The only downside is that the market is not that developed, and when you’re leading the charge, you’re also incurring costs.

While children are the end consumers, their parents – health conscious and concerned for long term health & safety – can be influenced by our campaigns. We are a trusted brand, so when we launch flavored milk backed with the same high quality infrastructure, parents trust us. Insights from our own delivery network indicate that our products are consumed as a key breakfast item, and chocolate or strawberry milk is more appealing to children than the plain alternative.

Thank you for your time Suleman, it was a pleasure.


Further reading:

 

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