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Team BT     August 5, 2019

Harkirat Singh, MD, Aero Club (owns footwear major Woodland), entered the family business in 1993/94, scaled up the brand to Rs 1,250 crore and ventured into new categories. Its sub-brand Woods emerged as a disruptive lifestyle package with a standalone retail chain and global presence, growing at 15 per cent YoY and accounting for 25 per cent of the group's annual turnover.

Q. The biggest challenge in your career

A. When I took the reins, customers wanted us to create a product line for formal and party wear as they appreciated the quality of Woodland products. The domain was different, and eventually, we launched Woods, a sub-brand with its roots in London fashion, instead of diluting the outdoor integrity of Woodland. Creating a formal-cum-fashion brand away from our core product was the biggest challenge.

Q. Your best teacher in business

A. I would say Steve Jobs. He has always inspired me to focus on the product before anything else. The product makes the brand, and nothing else matters.

Q. Key lessons for young people

A. I believe in three key lessons. Develop an innovative, world-class product that will make you a disruptor. Then you can push marketing to create awareness and generate demand. Second, be patient and prudent when you are taking a risk. Finally, invest in teamwork and believe in your team.

Q. Two essential qualities of a leader

A. Creativity and innovation should come first. Ours is a tech-led outdoor brand that combines innovation with safety to empower explorers. With that in mind, we ask our people to share their wildest imagination. That is how we have developed products such as anti-microbe or warm-grip shoes or hands-free brollies. Leaders should also delegate and empower. So, we have cross-functional brainstorming where any department can come up with ideas for another - marketing can contribute to design or sales may have suggestions for factories.

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