A Quarterly Newsletter from the UAE and Oman member firms of the PKF International Ltd. network

VOL 16, Issue 3 July 2014

Interview

Vipen Sethi heads the corporate function of the Landmark Group. On completion of his bachelor’s degree in commerce, Vipen continued his education in India as a Chartered Accountant which gave access to numerous large businesses and enabled him to take on management experience while still in his early twenties.

In 1990, Vipen embarked on his first Gulf voyage to join the Landmark Group in Bahrain overlooking all aspects of the territory business. He moved to the Dubai office in 1996 as Director – International Operations, spearheading the Group’s entry into new markets, businesses and operations. It was at this time the Group decided to enter a new market, India, and in 1998 opened ‘Lifestyle’, a highly successful department store chain today.

Vipen become Group Director – Finance in 2002 and, following a string of high-level appointments, is the CEO of the corporate office today, involved in driving all corporate activities across the various markets where Landmark Group has a presence. He spends a sizeable percentage of his time overlooking the various businesses of the Landmark Group and recommending strategies to support growth. This multi-faceted role also requires his full involvement in the development of new business opportunities, HR and marketing initiatives.

Vipen is known for his credibility, commitment and passion at work. A people’s man and an avid golfer with a handicap of 5, Vipen never misses an opportunity to take time to tee off. He believes that “a little competitive spirit is always good for the soul”.

Vipen Sethi is also a Board member at the Landmark Group.

Q. How does it feel to be a part of the biggest growth story of the region – the Landmark story?

A. Being a part of the Landmark Group has been a great experience. I have been fortunate to be a part of a business journey that started from humble beginnings to become one of the largest retail and hospitality conglomerates. It is truly amazing, when you get an opportunity to work in an environment where no two days are alike. Every country we entered, every brand we launched, brought in challenges and learning in equal measure and I have enjoyed every minute of it.

Honestly though, the best part has been the people I have had the privilege to work with. We have a great team at Landmark and they have truly made every day memorable.

Q. What has been tougher, manning this ship while the waters were rough in the years of recession or riding the crest in the years of rapid growth?

A. The tough years always bring with them great lessons. It makes you stronger as a business, because those are the times you have to make decisions that define you as an organization. During the recession, we realized that it was extremely important to stay true to our core beliefs – be customer centric, adapt to market changes, constantly innovate and build on our operational and people strength. This worked well for us and we continued to grow even during the difficult years.

For any organization good growth is great news, but with it comes the responsibility to make prudent decisions that are sustainable over the long run and that is a real challenge.

Q. How has the increase in the overall disposable income of residents, expanding population base and constant influx of tourists impacted the Group? Do these factors pose any challenges?

A. Growing disposable income, increased population and influx of tourists are all positive indicators for retailers. With the announcement of the EXPO 2020 in Dubai, we have noticed an increased positivity in the market and this has worked well for our business.

Q. So what is the buzzword or mantra for the Group in the ever changing and constantly expanding fields of retail and hospitality?

A. Our mantra has always been – be customer focused – delivering exceptional value to all the lives we touch.

This simply means that every single day we focus on offering an overall exceptional experience to each one of our customers.

Q. Does the 2020 Expo being held in Dubai have any bearing on the Group’s plans in the near future?

A. We are very excited about Dubai’s EXPO 2020 win and believe that this will further enhance the investment in the Emirate thus leading to overall growth in the economy.

The EXPO has reinforced Dubai’s reputation as a centre of commerce in the region and will significantly boost the number of tourists to the city annually.

Our retail and hospitality brands are sure to experience considerable growth, giving us scope to expand our foothold in the region, and invest in new, innovative opportunities. We see the next few years as extremely formative and essential to sustaining growth.

Q. As a parting shot, which is your favorite Landmark brand? The first name that comes to your mind!

A. All our brands are my favorite, choosing one is really difficult, but if I must it will be Babyshop as it is the cornerstone from where the Group began. Today, Babyshop still remains one of the largest contributors to the Group’s numbers and records a healthy growth, year on year.

Q. What is the message you would like to give to young budding entrepreneurs?

A. Start today, it is the best time and don’t be afraid of failure, it teaches you the best lessons