By Tanya Agarwal
After 160 years, the $41 billion company Aditya Birla Group has appointed its first ever woman Chief Executive Officer (CEO), with Pantaloons Fashion Retail appointing Ms Sangeeta Pendurkar as the CEO. They did so on 16th January 2018, in what can be labelled as a revolutionary step. She is the former Managing Director (MD) at Kellogg India. Pendurkar’s background and experience make her the right candidate to be the CEO of Pantaloons. She has more than 25 years of experience in marketing products in banking, food and FMCG industry.
Pantaloons began in 1997 as a Future Group company. It has constantly sought to equip the emerging Indian middle-class with an indigenous fashion retail format. Consistent with the times, the model was a discount fashion retailer. Post-acquisition by Aditya Birla Nuvo Limited in 2013, Pantaloons is the fastest growing large format retailer in the country today. It retails over 200 licensed and international brands, including 24 exclusive brands. It has been losing its presence in the competitive industry as domestic brands, e-com retailers and international brands are making their mark. There is an uncertainty about whether there will be any drastic strategic change in the company’s brand positioning.
In June last year, Pendurkar had quit as the MD of Kellogg where she worked in India & South Asia. She has also held senior management roles at Coca-Cola India and HSBC Bank. “She has the right experience in consumer-facing businesses like banking, food, FMCG,” said Santrupt Misram who is the director, group Human Resources (HR), at Aditya Birla Group.
A new start
Pendurkar’s appointment comes at a time when fashion clothing space is getting increasingly crowded with discount-heavy e-commerce players. The competition is getting even stiffer, due to the entry of international retailers such as Swedish firm H&M that entered the country in 2015.
“In the last couple of years, Pantaloons brand is not too visible in the market,” an industry insider said. “The fact that they have hired Pendurkar shows that they are reinventing their brand and strategy. It is her core strength. A very interesting hire, I must say,” the person said. Pantaloons’ previous CEO, Shital Mehta had quit in September last year. He joined Landmark Group as CEO of Max Fashions, another value retailer.
Pantaloons Fashion Retail, a unit of Aditya Birla Fashion Retail Ltd, looks to refresh its branding and marketing strategy. This move has come in the face of unabated competition from cash-rich online marketplaces and offline value fashion retailers.
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