A Guiding Hand

by Liz O’Reilly

Mon, 31 December 2018

A Guiding Hand

Renuka Jagtiani, chairwoman and CEO of Landmark Group, talks about her role in the business and what drives her.

How did you first become involved with the family business?
I have been very fortunate to have had a great mentor in my husband Micky, who started the Landmark Group business, in Bahrain in 1973. Together, we have stood the test of time and overcome challenges to turn them into opportunities over the last four and a half decades.

You were the driving force behind the creation of Splash, which has become a byword for affordable, up-to-the-minute fashion across the region. Where did the inspiration for the brand come from?
Listening to the customer and catering to their needs has always been the essence of our business. So, back in 1993, when we started Splash, we wanted to bring to the Middle Eastern market a fast fashion brand at very competitive prices. Being abreast of the market trends and customer needs helped us deliver a homegrown fashion brand like Splash.

Splash has now grown to over 200 stores across 14 countries worldwide and it gives me immense pride to see that the brand has evolved to become one of the most prominent high-street fashion brands in the region.

How involved are you in the day-to-day business of the brands? Or are you more involved in areas such as e-strategy and corporate affairs?
Over the last 45 years, Landmark Group has grown extensively, both in retail and hospitality. We have an extremely efficient and empowered team of leaders in the group who head each of our businesses and corporate functions by leading from the front.

I work closely with all our business heads to strategise and direct the business, leading them to deliver on our vision of bringing exceptional value to our customers in every way.

Over the years, we have transformed our organisation from being a traditional retailer to a leading omnichannel player that caters to the modern customer and offers them the convenience of online shopping.

Omnichannel is definitely a big focus for us over the next couple of years. We are looking at reaching all our customers on every platform through which they want to shop with us.

You’re also credited with guiding the group’s corporate strategy and expansion into new countries – can you tell us a bit about this and any plans for the future?
As a group, we have worked very hard last year on expanding our footprint across the region, and in Southeast Asia, and extended into new categories.

Max Fashions, one of the largest value fashion brands of Landmark Group, has recently announced the launch of the brand in Indonesia with two new stores.

We also launched Max and Babyshop in Malaysia last year and both brands have received a very positive response.

This year we launched a unique concept for the region: VIVA – a retail food discounter with 30 per cent cheaper pricing than other groceries. We launched with four stores and are now at eight stores in the UAE.

Despite having left Bahrain for the UAE during the first Gulf War, Landmark is still very much involved with Bahrain through its subsidiary ARG. What keeps the group’s ties to the island so strong?
Landmark Group was born in Bahrain and expanded to the region. We have always been proud of our heritage and of being a homegrown company

It’s a happy coincidence that our official launch event also marks 45 years of Landmark Group and our partnership with Al Rashid Group (ARG) in Bahrain. Our partnership with ARG solidifies our bearings in the Kingdom and our ties go back a long way. 45 years ago, when my husband started our business with a small toy store, it was right here in Bab Al Bahrain. So, our roots run deep in the Kingdom.

Now with our latest venture here – the Oasis Mall Juffair – it feels like we have come full circle, celebrating four-and-a-half decades of business at the same place where it all began.

You were in Bahrain for the official opening of the new Oasis Mall in Juffair. Can you tell us what drove this development and how this mall will differ from others in the area?
Coinciding with the 45th anniversary celebration of the Landmark Group, the new mall represents what the group always looks to bring to its customers: convenience for the community in a great shopping destination.

Set in an area of over 58,400sq/m, the multi-storey Oasis Mall in Juffair will host several of the group’s home-grown brands such as Centrepoint, Home Box, Max, Shoexpress, Fun City; international favourites, Steve Madden, Carpisa and Koton as well as offerings like a Carrefour supermarket

The mall will also feature Cinéco Cinemas, the largest cineplex chain in the country, in addition to new format stores of Centrepoint and Home Box. 

What do you feel gives ARG a demonstrable edge in the Bahrain market?
A: When we started our partnership with ARG here – we had a clear vision for the business, right from the start. We believed in bringing value to our customers, in every way possible. And, as the years went by, our business grew and diversified into various retail categories, and we always focused on the one vision of creating exceptional value across our brands and businesses.

Your family is quoted as having helped shape the UAE, how does this make you feel?
We have always been fully aligned with the UAE Government’s vision and have always partnered with them through the years in every way possible. The vision of the UAE is to create a sustainable and happy environment for businesses, making the UAE an attractive business destination.

We are thankful to the UAE leaders for their vision and are committed to supporting the community in every way. Most recently we have been chosen as the exclusive retail partner for the Global Dialogue for Happiness.

We try to lead not only with our business but also with our commitment to the community with CSR initiatives like Beat Diabetes – a programme dedicated for the last 10 years in creating awareness about the illness and living a healthy lifestyle to manage and beat diabetes. Over the last decade, we have had over 100,000 people join our annual Beat Diabetes Walk and we have engaged over 700 schools and corporates in actively participating in this drive. All the money we raise through registrations is donated to our official charity – Al Jalila Foundation – for diabetes research and care.

And, with that in mind, what do you see as the future of the region given the tensions and business pressures both local and international?
We are optimistic and excited for the years ahead and growing the entrepreneurial spirit, the Landmark Group is founded on. We have worked for all these years to build homegrown brands in the region. And it all began here in Bahrain. We owe our success and growth in the Kingdom to the Bahraini community that has supported us right from the start, till this day. We are who we are today because of the love and loyalty we have received from Bahrain. And for this reason, Bahrain, will always be special.

You were featured in Forbes 100 Most Influential Women recently. How did this make you feel?
I am grateful to the jury who nominated and conferred on me this prestigious recognition.

Women mould our society, culture and homes. Leadership in business is seeing very successful women’s participation. It makes me proud to be a part of such an incredible journey for women in the region.

To what do you attribute your and your family’s success?
My husband Micky shared his vision and mentored me to be a self-achiever. I’m very thankful that my children share our passion for the business and are today an integral part of the Landmark Group – looking at key aspects of the business.

Aarti, our eldest daughter is a director for the Home Division. Rahul, our youngest son, heads strategy for our ecommerce and omnichannel business along with heading our Loyalty Programme. Nisha, our second daughter, leads the business with her biggest passion – people. She drives people engagement for Landmark Group and is the leading force behind the Landmark Happiness Movement