After acquiring Pantaloons from Future Group in 2012, Aditya Birla Fashion Retail Ltd was struggling to turn around the fashion retailer in the face of stiff competition from cash-rich online platforms and offline retailers. The choice of Sangeeta Pendurkar, who was earlier Managing Director of Kellogg India, for the role of CEO was a well thought out plan to revive the business. She had a career spanning across five companies in four different sectors - from pharma to packaged foods to banking - before joining Pantaloons in December 2017.
Pendurkar came up with a revival strategy within six months of joining. She introduced new portfolios, including women's ethnic wear, and acquired the Jaypore brand.
The new strategy helped the fashion retailer register organic growth after six years of stagnation, despite the slowdown in the consumer market in the last couple of years. It went up from a negative like-to-like growth (a measure of growth in sales) in 2017/18 to 1.4 per cent growth in 2018/19, and 6 per cent in 2019/20.
Leadership is all about accepting differences with humility, finding a common ground and resolving conflicts objectively and with respect, says Pendurkar, who leads a team of 8,000 people.
"The CEO should encourage a culture of openness and experimentation, so that employees will be confident enough to voice their opinions and collectively building on each other's ideas," she adds.
Pantaloons' profitability has doubled in last three years. The operating ROCE (return on capital employed) has moved from negative to more than 15 per cent.
She is also an independent director on the board of Vistara Airlines, a joint venture between Singapore Airlines and Tata Group.