When the Pen is mightier! With Puja Jain, ED, Luxor

luxorlogo1.gifManaging the brand leader in the Indian writing instrument industry with a turnover of Rs 300 crore, comes easily to Puja Jain, the Executive Director of Luxor Writing Instruments Private Limited. A graduate from Delhi’s Lady Shri Ram College, Pooja went on to study International Business from the London School of Economics. She joined the family business under the guidance and support of her father Mr. D.K. Jain, Chairman and President, Luxor Group. Under her pioneering approach and innovative streak, Luxor has broken new grounds. She was instrumental in setting up the company’s B2B division which has brought a new vigor to its institutional sales practice.   Her ability to forge strategic marketing alliances has debunked the myth that marketing is men’s domain. She managed to successfully launch Parker Vector in India and was instrumental in getting on board Mr. Amitabh Bachchan as the brand ambassador. This has given the brand the necessary stimulus to establish a significant mindshare in the Indian consumers. As General Manager, Marketing, Puja was responsible for bringing the super premium luxury brand ‘Waterman’ in the country by entering into an alliance with Newell Rubbermaid.  Her insightfulness has led the company to capitalize on the recent boom in the retail sector in India which  has launched its first exclusive store ’Luxor Signature’ at Shipra Mall, Ghaziabad. But breaking new grounds has become customary for Puja, who in a span of nearly eight years grew from being Product Manager to Vice President (Marketing) through sheer hard work, dedication and the drive to succeed to finally take over the reins of Luxor Group as the Executive Director in 2006. Master and jack, all in one, Puja has many other feats that she has successfully mastered. She also assists her father in an advisory capacity in the group’s other businesses like hospitality and real estate. But for this ambitious and magnetic 29 year old, high on business as well as classical music, this all comes as just another day’s work.

Training with the Trainer: In the words of Mr. Raj Bowen, CEO, Dale Carnegie, India

home_logo1.gifQues) How important is employee orientation and training in the fast food services sector according to you?

In the services business and more specifically, the success of the business is impacted by (a) the quality of the consumables on offer (b) the location, ambience and customer friendly infrastructure (c) the price or rather the value for money equation (d) the image and equity of the brand and (e) the actual ‘CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE’. In an intensely competitive scenario, which is currently seeing the iceberg’s tip in

India for this industry, the only long term DIFFERENTIATOR is the last one- the CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE. The others are all easily copied and do not really represent a SUSTAINABLE COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE. To make this happen across a chain becomes even more of a challenge since there is a brand promise exposed at so many different points, with different stakeholders. To make this a seamless experience, the issue is not really how important is employee orientation and training- it is non-negotiable! In this situation, in this business, you have no choice- you have to spend on training- today for doing it, tomorrow for not doing it- take your pick!!!   

 Ques) What are the long term benefits of providing comprehensive training to employees in industries where the attrition rates are high?

In order to do justice to this point, it is important that ‘attrition’ must be first defined in its context, which will vary across industries, companies, jobs, locations, levels. As an example 80% of the poor performers exiting from a company within 2 years of joining could be ‘healthy’ whereas 25% of the best performers leaving a company within the same period could be an issue to worry about. Having said that, the decisions about training or not training employees irrespective of attrition is influenced not so much by internal boardroom imperatives but by what I would like to call ‘Customer Mandates’!In a competitive, multiple choice scenario ( which India is fast becoming, but was not, earlier), untrained and inefficient employees could cause irreversible damage to the brand’s very existence which will be of a magnitude much higher than what it would have cost to train them. So the mandate has clearly been issued by a demanding customer- you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. As far as attrition is concerned, unfortunately the choice is sometimes ‘between the Devil and the Deep Sea’- you train your employees and sometime they could leave your company OR (and this is where you need to think) you decide NOT to train them and they actually don’t leave your company….stop some time to think which is a better option! Fortunately all the research available today continues to prove that companies which invest more on employee learning and development are the ones who also have relatively lower  (unhealthy) employee attrition, higher productivity, more satisfied customers, better profitability and… better performance on the stock markets. The verdict is clear.

Ques) How has corporate training for entry level staff evolved in

Corporate India can learn some of its best lessons in training entry staff from the omnipresent Udipi fast food South Indian chains and the famous Rajashthani wholesale market traders. Both these businesses build their successes through the continuous nurturing and development of the customer facing staff that they employ, all of whom come into the trade with absolutely zero business exposure. The core of the orientation (and at times, indoctrination) is focused around(a) the value systems of the proprietor/owner (b) the criticality of ‘serving’ the customer (c) the ownership of the role and (d) the constant up gradation of skills. No wonder, the successful ones in these chains see extremely low employee turnover and significantly higher employee loyalty, commitment and customer satisfaction.Corporations must realize that the phrase ‘entry level’ is actually a misnomer- this may be the entry level for employees but most often, this is the ‘exit level’ for clients and prospects who could have become clients! Having had to evolve from a seller-dominated market mindset, most companies tend to naturally invest more in training & development of senior levels and miss the whole point- sometimes realizing it too late- that the highest exposure of the brand is with the employees who are in closest contact with their customers- for the services business, these are usually the frontline employees. The companies that are really committed to their own long term vision of sustainable growth are the ones who have realized this and are investing appropriately at all levels- to close out the ‘exit levels’!

As told to Preeti Chaturvedi

The Long Tail: Chris Andersen

“The Long Tail” was first published as an article in the Wired magazine in October 2004. It soon became the magazine’s most cited article. The book explores how niche businesses if aggregated can account for a significant market. It examines a scenario where “the bottlenecks that stand between supply and demand start to disappear and everything becomes available to everyone.”

Anderson records the data from the entertainment industry to show that if the 20th century was about hits, then the 21st century will be dominated by the niches.

Anderson examines the huge potential of this long tail of business saying that Google makes most of its money not from the big businesses but from small ones.Critical in this regard, is of course the new Internet economy. The book argues that “the web simply unified the elements of a supply chain revolution that had been brewing or decades.”
Anderson goes on to say that the long tail extends everywhere from PR and sports to ads and technology. Open source software projects like Linux ans Firefox are the long tail of programming, even as offshoring taps the long tail of labor.

Anderson also examines the new blog economy. The book argues that blogging has unearthed the long tail of publishing. A few years ago, I would have struggled to get my reviews published in a journal of repute but blogs have given us the much needed creative freedom and platform for expression that the long tail of writers struggled with all these years.However, despite being a path breaking research of sorts, where the book does fall short is in its excessive focus on the entertainment industry. So the result is that while the other industries are touched upon, they are not dealt with at length. The other critical area that is left untouched is the prognosis on how will the monetisation take place in case of the long tail aggregators like Google, for instance. Will these modes of free expression like social media platforms like Youtube and Blogger shed their free status and become paid?These are some of the questions that continue to irk the reader even after finishing what one would call one of the better books of our times.