It was unlike any other Monday morning. The 20th of May, 2019 marked the beginning of a new chapter in my career and life. And life at Lowe’s has certainly kept me on my toes. From a seamless onboarding process, meeting my peers and participating in a Townhall to ending the day on a flight to Mooresville. Day 1 certainly set the pace!
I confess I was anxious. After a veritable lifetime at Target, where colleagues had become friends and then as good as family, change was not easy. And yet, it was exciting.
As I headed to the Mooresville office on Wednesday, our first quarter earnings were announced.The results weren’t great and our stock took a beating. This was going to be an uphill task and I clearly had my work cut out for me!
However, the following day at the Officer’s Quarterly Meeting, Marvin’s (Marvin Ellison – CEO) leadership and clarity of thought set my mind at ease. The openness and transparency of discussion, honest accountability at the highest level and clear articulation of how we were going to turn this around and transform the business, gave me all the answers I needed. With Seemantini (Seemantini Godbole – CIO) spearheading the technology transformation, there was no question that Lowe’s was on the bridge to the digital future and scaling fast. I have to say, the energy in that room was palpable! I spent the next couple of weeks in a flurry of meetings and before I knew it, I was back in Bangalore at the helm of Lowe’s India.
I envisioned the role as one that would transform the India office from a cost arbitrage centre to one of value creation. From data science and analytics to integration of omni-channel retailing to building enterprise scale platforms that serve e-commerce and store requirements, my mission was to harness digital, technology and talent to help drive Lowes’ vision of a digital enterprise revolution.
Driving such a vision requires a robust team and the fact that the right people were already in place, helped accelerate the process immensely. Their enthusiasm and appetite for risk and change is what moved the needle from being a delivery-centric team to a world class one that ideates and builds end-to-end product, engineering, data and operations capabilities. Our aggressive hiring enabled us to build the leadership team from 15 to about 60 in just a year!
Having spent over two decades immersed in every aspect of tech this was second nature to me. But, in retail, ‘home improvement’ varies significantly from ‘general merchandising’. As a hands-on person, I thrive on large scale business challenges and believe in sustainable, profitable growth. In line with this, it was imperative to also build our non-technology expertise from business operations to finance to supply chain, store planning and marketing.
The re-launch of Lowe’s Innovation Labs brought into focus the capabilities which will define and power tomorrow’s retail such as robotics, computer vision and spatial computing, and accelerated experiences through advanced visualization tools like augmented and virtual reality.
As we headed into the final leg of 2019 with increased momentum, Q4 kicked off with a bang, with the holiday season. Teams worked around the clock to ensure all our tech systems were in place to maximize the return on sales during this crucial time of the year. All hands were on deck and the results were phenomenal!
Of course, absolutely nobody could have ever predicted 2020 and how it would fundamentally alter the world and the way we work. This global pandemic has crippled many a business and has brought companies to a grinding halt. As a leader, guide and mentor, I needed to act swiftly to deal with what we now call the ‘new normal’.
While agility, automation, digitization and staying on top of information security will keep us in the game, it is my deep belief that being compassionate during these troubled times, both to our colleagues and to society at large, is by far the most important thing if we are to come out of this strongly.
My priorities are to deliver a world-class experience and to build an organization with strong product and technology capabilities, powered by an honest, open and courageous culture. I am firmly committed to doing anything and everything necessary towards achieving that end.