Simone Tata [pic] Contents 1. Personal and working life…………………3 2. Struggle……………………………………. 5 3. Achievements………………………………. 7 4. Future plans…………………………………. 8 5. Reference…………………………………….. 10 1. Personal and working life | |Simone Tata, Chairperson, Trent | | |Reticent, shy, soft are the words that come to your mind when you meet Simone Tata, the 72-year-old chairperson of Trent — one of the | | |fastest growing retail chains in the country. | |Behind this soft cover is a stoic woman, who has been a pioneer of sorts, a trend-setter and the key driver of fashion and beauty in the | | |country. Simone Tata has several firsts to her name – the first businesswoman to introduce cosmetics to Indian consumers, the first | | |businesswoman to start the practice of beauty salons in the country, the first to introduce a 100 per cent private label store in the | | |country. And all these achievements have been the outcome of a very clear and deep understanding of the consumer. | |Says an ex-employee of Trent (formerly Lakme), “Nobody can ever make out from her knowledge of the consumers that she is not an Indian. It| | |is only her style and the way she conducts herself, that makes you realise her foreign upbringing”. | | |Born in Geneva, Switzerland, Simone’s early childhood was deeply influenced by the events of World War II, which created hardships and | | |insecurity in this small country. This is perhaps the genesis of the kind heart and loving personality that her employees and people who | | |come in contact with her claim are her biggest assets. | |Her association with India started when she was working for Air-India and developed a keen interest in the country. Her marriage to Naval | | |Tata in 1955 further fortified this association. | | |French to the core in her love for the perfectly made-up look, Simone Tata started India’s first indigenous beauty company, Lakme, in | | |1962, which went on to become synonymous with high quality, affordable products that were international in appeal, yet oh-so Indian. | | |She honed her entrepreneurial skills on Lakme, and was appointed as its first MD in 1964 and also assumed its Chairmanship in 1982. | |Simone is credited with the introduction of several product categories, which were unheard of in India, like pencil kajal, hair removing | | |lotion, winter care and sunscreen lotions. | | |Over the years, Lakme became India’s premier cosmetic company with the highest brand recall amongst women. The company also developed | | |powerful export markets in Russia and Eastern Europe. | | |Despite such acclaim, Simone has always taken care to see that her customers get the best quality at the right price – and under no | | |circumstances has quality been compromised upon.
Adds another ex-employee, “If it was a choice between cost and quality, she would go for | | |quality at any cost”. | | |It is due to this undeterred devotion that Lakme grew in leaps and bounds. From a turnover of about Rs 11 crore in 1981, in 1996 when the | | |company was sold to HLL, Lakme managed a turnover of close to Rs 150 crore in a difficult market like India. | | |For industry observers, her exit from Lakme was a signal of retirement – but not for Mrs Tata. She was ready for more challenges.
Her | | |Lakme experience had apprised her of the difficulties consumers faced due to lack of proper displays in the stores and lack of knowledge | | |of the products. | | |This in many ways was back to square one for a person, who was at the helm of affairs of a flourishing business. But it did not deter her. | | |The Westside store chain was her answer to the problems faced by consumers. | | |In just three years, Westside is opening its eighth store shortly. Says an employee, “Our biggest strength is that we keep refining | | |ourselves and improving our offering. | | | | | |Simone has never believed in resting on her laurels. Under the aegis of her astute stewardship, the company also introduced the latest | | |retail management techniques like balanced scorecard, effective merchandise and sourcing techniques and forward looking HR practices. | | |In March 2002, the company achieved a turnover of Rs 91 crore and a profit of Rs 10 crore. The company is now looking at rapidly expanding| | |the Westside model to other cities.
It wants to cover most of the big cities – metros and mini-metros of the company. In the next | | |financial year itself, the company has planned three new stores with the total of 36 stores already located in major cities around india. | | |Next, Trent plans to enter food retailing by the end of this year. | | |But this incisive businessperson is also a very kind woman. Says an employee of the company, “as a leader she is not only knowledgeable, | | |but also open to all discussions and debate. Her respect for her colleagues is what draws us to her.
Even when she is giving negative | | |feedback, she will say it so politely, that no one feels hurt. Finally she also involves herself and goes out of her way to solve any | | |problems her employees face. ” | | | | | |As also the level of empowerment she gives to her employees. Continues her colleague, “She gives us so much freedom, that it really gets | | |the best out of us”. Perhaps this is the main reason, why Simone has een able to develop such wonderful teams, who have been the secret | | |behind her success. | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | 2. Struggle | | | | | |Mental make-up | |Glass ceilings and male-dominated corporate enclaves could not stop Trent chairperson Simone N Tata from making a distinct mark on the Indian business landscape |
Simone N. Tata’s pioneering contribution to the cosmetic business in India is reflected in the enduring appeal of Lakme, a trailblazing creation in more ways than one. Lakme is no longer in her care, but Simone Tata continues to display her innovative brand of leadership with Trent, the company that owns and operates the highly successful Westside chain of lifestyle stores. Simone Tata speaks to Christabelle Noronha. When you first came to India, how different was the milieu for women here from what you had seen in the country of your birth?
There was a big difference in the role of young women in Switzerland, the country of my birth, and their counterparts in India when I first came to this country. When I left Switzerland in the mid-1950s, most of the young women there had a job or were studying, especially before marriage. It was not the norm for Swiss women to stay at home and do nothing. In India the situation seemed different. Most young girls and women were at home, apart from a few who went to college. But, interestingly, a few women had entered professions such as medicine, teaching and law.
On the other hand, women in Switzerland did not take up these professions 50 years ago. What was it like to break the stereotype and start a business in India? I never had the feeling that I was breaking the stereotype when I joined Lakme, which I joined by accident. I did not ever intend to have a professional life, but it has turned out to be a very happy development. When I joined the board of Lakme in 1962, it was a limping company; I don’t think anyone knew what to do with it. Also, Lakme was far removed from the mainstream activities the Tatas were into and quite small in comparison with the Group’s other businesses.
I took over as managing director of Lakme in 1964, when it was a 100-per cent subsidiary of Tata Oil Mills (Tomco). My biggest challenge was to direct a company without having had any past business experience. I had no clue on how to read a balance sheet even, and my knowledge of other aspects of the CEO function was limited. This was at a time when no business schools existed; there were no tools in terms of education, there were no conferences and seminars which one could attend to learn the finer aspects of running a business.
Fortunately, life was certainly less hectic those days and you had more time to learn. The important thing was never to despair. I always believed that seldom can one be an expert in every field of management and hence one has to surround oneself with people well versed in their particular field, be it finance, law or anything else. Delegation, thus, becomes extremely important. You should do it without diluting the vision and goals you set for the company and for yourself. I delegated a lot of work to managers, those I found good, responsible and knowledgeable in their own fields.
Since my forte was knowledge of cosmetic products as also developments in the cosmetics industry worldwide, I was in a better position to forecast the market and the future needs of the company. The interesting thing is that the cosmetics industry did not exist in India then. We created it at Lakme. It was an arduous task, since there were a lot of social taboos on the use of cosmetics and this meant the market itself was extremely limited. Were there a lot of women in senior positions at the Tata Group when you joined? How did you feel being a decision maker?
There were quite a few powerful women in senior positions in some of the Tata companies when I joined the Group. Tomco had women in senior positions, Mrs Vesuga was in charge of the JN Tata Trust and there were several others with a strong character and personality. Each one of them was quite knowledgeable in her field and was capable of taking independent decisions. I hope the Tata Group will have such women as decision makers in the future as well. How much have things changed since then for women leaders? What further improvements do you foresee?
Things have changed a lot. Women today are more educated and you find women in senior positions in marketing, advertising, banking and communications. But if you look at the main Tata businesses, such as steel, automobiles and telecommunications, they seem to be populated by men. Do women have to work a lot harder than their male counterparts to achieve leadership positions? Given that both men and women are equal in their educational qualifications and equal in their intellect, I don’t believe that women need to work harder than their male counterparts.
If women are better at a job, they don’t have to go out of their way to prove it. The best way to achieve something is to have clarity of thought and purpose and not to lose oneself in details. Thorough knowledge of the discipline is also important; this ensures that no one can find fault with you. Can you illustrate the influences and circumstances that helped you grow into a leadership role? I started at the top in a non-existent industry. I had the great privilege to build the organisation the way I wanted to. The important thing is to have a vision, clarity and the ability to mould people.
It is also important to delegate enough so that people feel they have something worthwhile to do. Last, but most important, you have to encourage the teamwork ethic. 3. Achievements Mrs. Simone Tata honoured as “Visionary Of the Year” Mrs. Simone Tata, chairman of Westside, was awarded visionary of the Year Award at the 3rd Images Fashion Award. She has worked out an uncomplicated equation to ensure the success of Westside, the chain of lifestyle stores the company set up in 1998. Commenting on receiving the award, Mrs Tata says, “It is a great honour for me to receive this award.
Images Fashion Awards have become the most sought after awards by the apparel industry and a great achievement for the industry as also for the country. ” IFA, The Images Fashion Awards, instituted by Images Magazine, the sole voice of India’s brand-driven fashion retail market, felicitates the country’s most admired fashion brands, companies, stores and professionals for their outstanding achievements. With recognition from the government and the trade, Images Awards are regarded as the highest accolade in the business of fashion. |Simone Tata conferred with Lifetime Achievement Award | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |Indore Management Association (IMA), one of the fastest growing local management associations in India, awarded Mrs. Simone Tata with its | | |prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her significant contribution in the field of management. The award was presented | | |to Mrs. Tata at a ceremony held during the IMA National Convention 2005 on February 18, 2005 in Indore. | 4. Future plans
Simone Tata, chairperson of Trent Ltd, the Tata company that owns the Westside brand, shares her vison for the future of the business with Christabelle Noronha. The Tatas have come up with yet another winner with their entry into the retailing business: Westside. This chain of exclusive retail stores, now operating in five cities in India, has all the ingredients of success – plush interiors designed for beauty and comfort, an ambience that exudes warmth and caring, and departments that cater to the needs of the entire family. Modeled on the lines of international stores such as Marks & Spencer and Sears, Westside offers customers an international shopping experience.
The latest outlet, which opened in Pune on August 21, 2000, has, like the other Westside stores in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and Mumbai, attracted an enthusiastic response from customers. The trendy lifestyle chain now plans to open five to seven new outlets by the end of next year. Behind the success of this ambitious venture is the poised, elegant and impeccably dressed Simone Tata, chairperson of Trent Ltd, which owns the Westside brand. She brings to the enterprise her many years of experience with Lakme, the Tata company that was hived off in the recent group restructuring. Excerpts from an interview: Christabelle Noronha: With e-commerce taking off in a big way, do you think the Indian consumer will still want to physically shop? What shape do you think retailing will take?
Simone Tata: E-commerce or e-tailing, has, according to recentreports in the newspapers, turned out to be a losing proposition worldwide; and I do not see too much hope for e-tailing in India either. The propensity for most Indians is to go shopping. Indians love to shop. I don’t believe that customer confidence can be built over the net. When buying apparel, people would like to feel, see and try on the clothes; this is not possible over the net. (Smiles) Would you buy your clothes over the net? At Westside, we offer the consumer an international shopping experience not just in terms of ambience but service standards as well. Each of the stores covers an area of 10,000 – 20,000 square feet, stocking apparel, home furnishings, cosmetics, toys and tableware. Other than cosmetics and toys all products are sold under the Westside brand.
Ultimately, what drives sales is the complete product experience. CN: How many retail outlets does Trent have? How many do you plan to have by the end of next year? ST: We have five Westside stores and intend to have 10-12 by the end of next year. The plan is to set up Westside stores in Calcutta and some city in north India next. CN: How is Westside different from other retail outlets such as Shoppers Stop or Crossroads? ST: At Westside we are not retailing any other garment brands. We stock only our own store brands. This means that all the stuff available is made or sourced by Westside itself and therefore the store label ‘Westside’ acts as a product label.
Only in a few categories such as cosmetics and toys are brands other than Westside present. Those are categories that complement the Westside range. We have positioned Westside on the ‘fashion at affordable pricing’ plank. By retailing our own Westside brand we are able to eliminate intermediaries and therefore offer better prices. Westside is unique with its own brand of merchandise, which is trendy and individualistic. We cater to the shopper who values not just the product but the total shopping experience. To cater to this need, Westside has its team of in-house designers who design exclusively for the store. All merchandise passes the stringent quality standards that befit everything that carries the Tata name.
The products at Westside are not just of high quality and reasonably priced but are contemporary and stylish as well. The stores are divided into many departments — menswear, womenswear, kidswear, household accessories, gifts, cosmetics, perfumes and other accessories. For women, there are casuals, formals and chic Indian wear. The range has great depth spanning from basic clothing to very trendy wear. Unlike a lot of stores, the range at Westside caters to a wide age group and takes into account differing tastes and requirements. We offer accessories as well, such as handbags, jewellery, scarves and hair accessories. In menswear, the range goes from formal to casual and sporty. And, pricewise, it extends from the value to the premium segment.
Kidswear at Westside is designed to follow international trends; it is uniquely styled, whether you opt for the dressy, smart or casual. The household section is extremely contemporary. Westside is open on all days of the week. CN: withh a large number of international brands available in the market, why would Westside want to create its own brands? ST: Most international brands are expensive. Westside felt that there was room for an Indian brand based on international fashion. Another reason was the increasing popularity of readymades, which offer greater convenience, more choice in designs, style and originality. The most important reason is to make fashionable products available at affordable prices.
Everyone is exposed to fashion but not everybody can afford it, so we decided to satisfy the middle class markets’ fashion needs. CN: How effectively is Westside using information technology? For instance, are you using bar codes and scanners in billing? ST: We are using IT extensively in every area of our business operation from stock management to making products available to the stores in time. At any point of time we have a total of 20,000 different products in each of our stores and we add approximately a minimum of two new products to each of the sections every month. CN: What are the challenges you encounter in building a Westside brand?
ST: The challenges have been many. Firstly, to develop sources ofsupply as well as securing the right real estate to anchor our stores. Considering retailing in India is a new business, there are no trained people available hence we had to put together a meaningful management team. CN: How do you ensure quality in your merchandise? ST: We have quality control inspectors at every location. All merchandise has to pass stringent quality standards. CN: Finally, the Indian consumer is most concerned about getting value for money. How do you address this top-of-the-mind concern? ST: By offering the right price, ensuring quality and providing the latest styles.
By offering our own brand we are able to offer better prices, as we get rid of profit earned by intermediaries. We buy the best fabric available in each product range and we develop our own styles. Our sales pattern has shown that we have a large number of repeat customers. Our customers return to our stores, on an average, once every month. 5. Reference http://www. thehindubusinessline. com/2002/01/05/images/2002010500660501. jpg http://www. tata. com/company/Media/inside. aspx? artid=Sz7a6ZWcevI= http://www. tata. com/article. aspx? artid=ivCKuWMihdk= http://www. tata. com/company/releases/inside. aspx? artid=/tqGwSxOpv8= http://www. tata. com/article. aspx? artid=yQe2ttlTbos= http://www. tata. com/article. aspx? artid=+3X1JiWrcr4=