LEADING FROM THE HEART
How do you react when adversity hits you when you least expect it, not once but twice. Well, if you are Raza Beig, you turn it into an opportunity and become a famous and fashionable CEO of a major fashion retailer in the Middle East. Addressing the IIMA PGPX batch, the charismatic Mr. Beig, CEO of Splash and Iconic and Director of Landmark Group, and a “man of heart” by his own submission, afforded gems of insights into the heart and mind of a CEO and the global retail industry.
Mr. Beig’s key advice to the PGPX 16-17 batch was “Understand your consumers, understand what they want, manage what they want and deliver it each and every time”. He explained how everything at Splash was about the consumer and how this mantra helped him, even without any prior experience in retail, achieve success from early on. Several interesting stories followed, keeping the audience glued to the edge of their seats. He talked about strategic decisions – ranging from merchandising to shelf management to sales – that he was faced with when expanding into a new geography. He also shared his learning about peculiar consumer purchasing behaviors that one may see in retail, such as, one where an unexpected high demand of polyester blouses, a bizarre choice given the heat in Middle East, forced him to come up with an innovative sourcing solution. Later, in anticipation of changing fashion trends, he would be faced with a dilemma of how to remove these polyester blouses from the shelves. He said, “Take the opportunity but keep reflecting on it to understand if it is still relevant”. With Splash starting their franchise business in India, he also talked about his experience in the Indian fashion retail industry and the unique set of opportunities and challenges it presents.
In what was a highly interactive session, while addressing a question from the audience, Mr. Beig talked about what he called as the 14 year game plan for growing a business, first seven years of ‘learning’, being that of fast paced growth and decision-making without any time to analyze, followed by 7 years of more balanced execution as an ‘expert’ with still a flavor of random execution and learning but focus on reflection and Brand Building turning you into an ‘authority’. In the last 10 years, he has focused on efficiency at Splash; now, 100% of Splash’s designs are created by 50 in-house designers. With 250 stores worldwide and 23 years of like to like growth, Splash has remained true to value of being ‘all about fashion at a price that is not stressful for the customer’.
Mr. Raza’s vivid and candid recollection of events from his past during the IIMA PGPX Speaker series kept the participants mesmerized and gave a true glimpse of what all managers, from leaders to entrepreneurs, must gear up to face. Mr. Beig’s reminiscence of accidentally stumbling on teaching as a vocation and growing a small tuition center with a class of 2 into a successful commercial ‘Raza’s classes’, followed by his stints in shirt manufacturing and building a successful business in the home cable TV industry gave pragmatic insights on how to grow and manage a business. It was however, his personal journey that truly inspired this young batch of budding leaders. A tragic incident where he lost his father at the tender age of six and that thrust the responsibility of fending for his mother and five sisters ensured that childhood was never the same for him. “Those were truly difficult times” Raza recalled. Working as a milk bottle delivery boy for his neighbors, a Sari salesman and any job that could give provide him with money to survive, Raza learnt the tricks of the trade on the streets of Mumbai. Unfortunate incidents once again ruptured his settled life, destroying his shirting and cable programming businesses but instead of giving in, he started his journey to the post of the CEO of Splash.
Witty, pragmatic and smart, the session soon turned into a dialogue between the participants and Mr. Beig, with questions ranging from Splash’s marketing and business strategy for the Indian sub-continent, tackling the disruptive threat of e-commerce to personal questions on handling his employees.
Mr. Raza Beig’s final message to PGPX was something truly close to his style of leadership. Something he has imbibed as a virtue.
“Lead from the heart, you will always have great technology that will aid you. What you will not always have is a great team unless you nurture it. Lead from the heart and the world will be at your feet”
Now that was a Friday evening well spent!!!
– A.Krishna Chaitanya
IIMA PGPX Class of 2017