At Landmark Group, we are serious about our commitment to the wellbeing of our community. Our socially responsible activities include raising diabetes awareness, an issue that's especially close to our hearts.
This month, we've launched a nationwide initiative to raise AED 500,000 in support of the International Diabetes Federation's (IDF) Life for a Child programme to beat juvenile diabetes. The fund-raising drive runs across our 332 retail and hospitality outlets in the UAE during May 2012 and complements Beat Diabetes, our ongoing campaign to raise diabetes awareness.
The Life for a Child programme supports diabetes centres in developing countries by providing essential clinical care, medical supplies and education for children with diabetes. The IDF Diabetes Atlas states that the incidence of Type 1 diabetes among children is increasing at an estimated average of 3% per year across the globe, and currently nearly 65,000 children in the MENA region alone are affected by this condition - a substantially higher percentage than the global average. That's a sobering statistic indeed, and one that calls for serious action.
As part of our participation in the programme, we are encouraging customers to donate AED 5, or multiples thereof, when shopping at any of our retail outlets in the UAE. To maintain optimal transparency, a specialised barcode system will record the amount donated by every shopper as well as the amount collected every day.
Customers can include their contributions in their bills at Landmark brands including Centrepoint, Babyshop, Shoe Mart, Splash, Lifestyle, Iconic, Emax, Home Centre, Q Home Décor, Candelite, Max, Shoexpress, New Look, Koton, Reiss, Lipsy, Steve Madden, Foot Solutions, Pablosky, Kurt Geiger, Ecco, Fabi, Mango Tree, Max Restaurant, Balance Wellbeing, Zafran, Fun City and others.
Our goal is to raise AED 500,000 by the end of May 2012 - a tall order, but not an impossible one with your support. Will you join hearts with us to help beat juvenile diabetes?
It was a twist of fate and a lack of parking that led Home Centre CEO Jon Jagtiani to his vehicular pride and joy: an ultra-rare -- only 553 were ever made -- 2008 Bentley Brooklands Coupé.
The handcrafted British motoring masterpiece is at once massive and imposing, graceful and elegant. The automobile enthusiast shares his thoughts on his exquisite machine and his vehicular adventures.
How did you come to own such a rare car?
I was trying to go to the Land Rover dealer and I couldn't find a parking place, so I went farther and saw this car in a showroom window.
What stood out?
It's gorgeous and it's substantial. It's quintessentially British and it's very, very comfortable. It drives like an old American car; it has a very quiet, isolated, floating feel, but when you switch it into sport mode, it has a proper growl. It's amazing how well a two-and-a-half ton car handles.
What was the first car you drove?
I inherited half a Morris Marina, which is to say I had half use of it. It was pretty dire, but when you're young, any car is fantastic.
Did you have a first dream car?
A turquoise Mini, the original Mini, which they stopped making a number of years ago. The funny thing is that all these years later I could get a turquoise Mini, but I'm not a teenager so it's too small and low to the ground for me.
What was the first car you bought?
A Triumph Spitfire, a little British convertible. It was a lot of fun, but I think I replaced everything in that car. A friend had one and we learned how to do all the repairs, but so much of the time with the car was spent on repairing it. We used to joke that we couldn't get through a tank of petrol without having to fix something and it wasn't far from the truth.
Sport or comfort?
Has your success as a businessman affected your taste in cars?
It's affected what I'm able to afford, but more than anything, my taste has changed with age. It's taken some time to get where I am and if I had been one of these internet millionaires in my 20s or something like that, I probably would have bought a Ferrari.
Do you have a dream road-trip?
I'd love to drive across the USA in a convertible: along through the south; drop in on New Orleans; through Texas and Arizona, the desert and the beautiful sites there, Route 66, and California.
What's your favourite piece of road and why?
Any road that's wide and doesn't have many cars on it! This is a big car and it is extremely comfortable so it's very nice to drive it on an open road with no cars around.
Any advice for the budding motoring enthusiast?
Get whatever you love. Just go out and get it. Don't wait around.
Today I finished my third year at Landmark. While time's flown by absurdly fast, it's been an intense journey and one that's clearly getting better over time.
When I joined the Group on April 5th, 2009, there was no "Web Team". In a behemoth conglomerate with over 31,000 employees at the time, there was no dedicated unit that focuses on building superior digital experiences with obsessive views on values like simplicity, cleanliness, user-friendliness, speed, polish, sophistication, standards compliance and so on.
Three years later, I'm beamingly proud to say that's all changed -- big time.
From a lonely figure of one, we're now a band of 17 passionate web professionals and practitioners of everything I mentioned above. From ideation to launch, we don't just care about processes like Information Architecture, Design, Development, Content Management, Copywriting, Quality Control, Product Marketing, Project Management, Product Management, Product Strategy, E-commerce...we love this stuff. It's our bread and butter. We've launched 7 major websites in 36 months and, if data is king, our analytics are showing a significant amount of improvement in the consumption of our sites.
What's happened now is that we've gotten better at doing what we do. We've detected patterns from project to project and created templates to expedite things wherever possible. We've started laying processes down along the way and iterating them with lessons learned from where we burnt our fingers in the past. We've seen where we're struggling, thrown experts at problems, and witnessed how they've turned potential disasters into winning scenarios. Yes we've made mistakes, like most teams do at some stage, but we've acknowledged them, openly discussed issues and risks amongst ourselves, our stakeholders, and know what to look out for the next time around.
We now have a network of great partners who we work with. They span three continents and a whole bunch of time zones. We use a bevy of simple and powerful web-based services that allow us to collaborate and communicate both internally, internationally, economically and reliably as if we were sitting in a park, around a picnic table and having a go at it. We have a dizzying number of Basecamp projects (we love Basecamp, and 37signals, no seriously), which we prune every now and then to ensure they're active and haven't fizzled out. On a lighter note, our team's even starting to look like a Benetton ad, with team members hailing from India, England, America, the Philippines and one bright spark from Romania, with swagger and a sense of humor to match.
In terms of office space, we've literally grown like a weed through other departments, clamoring for a free desk here and there until our numbers have helped justify our own turf. I clearly remember day one, or make that year one, when I was working solo on my first 5 projects. My cabin was lovingly nicknamed "solitary confinement" until the rest of the team started coming together from year two onwards. We were based in our Corporate Office for our first 31 months, where we borrowed space from the Projects & Architecture teams. We grew one by one until we ran out of room, so we moved to Oasis Centre for the last 5 months and occupied unutilized area from our friends at Fun City. But from next month onwards, we move to our first dedicated Web Team office in Dubai Investment Park. Our new headquarters are simple, clean, open, beautiful and reflect those web ideals we care so much about. There's tons of natural light and high ceilings, both of which make such a difference. We promise to share photos soon.
So like I said, we're getting better.
Now strangely so, after everything we've done so far, we still have no shortage of work cut out for us. Here's where we can't forget the epic size of the Middle East's largest retailer. All of our many businesses desire, and deserve, outstanding web experiences. Expectations are high and patience is low. So we need to grow both quickly and carefully. We need to keep working at building better and more innovative products, while supporting our stakeholders and exceeding customer expectations.
None of this is easy, but with the kind of team and environment that we're building, it's become a whole lot of fun. I feel privileged to work with my incredible team every day, confident that we will deliver on all our promises and eventually make a deep dent in our corner of the web universe.
Indian food is often perceived to be spicy, overly rich and ultimately unhealthy. I differ from this opinion, however, as I know that, prepared correctly and thoughtfully, Indian cuisine can be a delicious way to take care of all your health needs.
Try these ideas for making Indian food that's as good for your body as it is for your palate:
- Healthy samosa. The samosa is a
delightful evening snack consisting of a flaky pastry casing
traditionally stuffed with potatoes and deep-fried. Up the health
quotient by stuffing these with broccoli, raisins and nuts. Broccoli is a
superfood full of phytonutrients and antioxidants, and also works well
stir-fried with coriander, ginger and chilli and filled into a samosa.
To reduce the fat content significantly, try having your samosa baked
instead of fried.
- Tandoori food. Another healthy option
for Indian cuisine is the use of the tandoor, or clay oven. Tandoori
food is grilled, but not doused in heavy sauces. Meats are traditionally
marinated with aromatic spices and yoghurt, then grilled at high
temperatures to retain the moisture, flavour and nutrients of the food.
- Saag. Saag usually refers to a variety
of seasonal leafy green vegetables like spinach, fenugreek greens and
mustard greens. Dig out those tasty, long-forgotten saag recipes to add
some extra fibre and dietary bulk to your meals.
- Green chillies. Use fresh green chillies more
than dried red chilli powder - the capsaicin (the volatile oil that
creates the sensation of spiciness) in fresh green chillies is more
readily absorbed by the food, giving that pleasurable tickle to the
tongue instead of the uncomfortable burning feeling in the stomach.
- Extra-virgin mustard oil. Try cooking with extra-virgin mustard oil - like olive oil, it has monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and a high density of lipoproteins (HDL)
or the "good cholesterol", and offers similar health benefits with a
flavour that's better suited to Indian food. Mustard oil is good for
tempering Indian spices, stir-frys, stews and sautéing.
- Unrefined sugar, honey and jaggery.
Complex/refined sugars hit the liver faster and harder, and their
excessive consumption is linked to obesity, heart disease and type-2
diabetes. Unrefined sugar, honey and jaggery (unrefined whole cane
sugar), in limited amounts, are healthier sweeteners - they have a lower
sucrose content and are absorbed more slowly and steadily by the body.
Choose these sweeteners to make Indian desserts like kheer.
- Roti over naan. Opt for roti (unleavened whole wheat flatbread) instead of naan (leavened, refined wheat flour bread) as it's easier to digest.
- Spices. Most spices used in Indian cuisine have
certain medicinal properties attached to them, and are included in
traditional recipes for both taste and health reasons. For example, both
ajwain (thymol seeds or bishop's weed) and cumin seeds aid digestion;
turmeric and ginger are known antiseptics.
- Fresher is better. Choose fresh seasonal ingredients wherever possible. As with any cuisine, fresher is always better for Indian food.
- Skimmed milk. Substitute skimmed or low-fat milk for whole milk in recipes.
- Tofu. Many Indian recipes call for paneer
(homemade whole-milk cottage cheese). Try substituting low-fat tofu as a
- Less oil. Tempering spices actually requires quite a small amount of oil, but many restaurants load food with oil because it speeds up cooking time. Try using less oil (and a little bit of patience) for Indian food that's lighter on the arteries.
It just takes a few minor modifications and thoughtful choices to be well on your way from heartburn to good health. Happy eating!
Do you have ideas for healthy Indian food? Share them with us here.
As the Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant at Balance Wellness Club, I like to work in an environment that soothes the senses. My office serves as an inner sanctum, where the subtle aroma of scented candles permeates the air, and the relaxing softness of melodic background sounds produces a general air of calm. This sense of balance is the essence of what we are trying to achieve with the Wellness Club.
The Club has the distinction of being the only one of its kind in Dubai. Unlike regular spas that are concerned only with water treatments, the Wellness Club takes a more holistic approach. The same treatments are available as those in spas across the region: steam bath, sauna, ice machine, hydro bath, Vichy shower, etc., but here we take things further by combining treatments and therapies with a balanced healthy diet and a dedicated exercise programme.
We were one of the key participants in the recent Oasis Wellness Festival, held between 15-29 February 2012 at the Oasis Centre. One of the central aims of the Festival, from my perspective, was to encourage people who were unfamiliar with the Balance Wellness Club and its work, to visit and learn more about us. This aim was more than fulfilled by the stream of new clients that descended on the venue, each keen to try any one of a diverse programme of events -- including yoga sessions, exercise classes and lectures.
The Wellness Festival was a great success, with many of the sessions full to capacity. I found it personally very rewarding to witness the enthusiasm with which our visitors embraced the classes, treatments and lectures. We certainly succeeded in raising their awareness of the Club and the services it offers. This in-turn has laid the foundations for a stream of new visitors: ranging from 40-60 year old people with weight issues embarking on a life-changing detox treatment, to busy 20-30 year old's simply seeking some exercise.
The reasons for attending no doubt differ for each visitor, but it seems clear that people enjoy coming to our "sanctuary for the self", enough to give it a try and to keep coming back for more.
If you have any wellness tips or life leveling experiences to tell, we would love you to share them with us.
Splash and Shoe Mart customers represent a completely different prospect to the Home Centre audience, they're more style-conscious and fashion savvy. We've tailored both sites to suit these customers, but instead of focusing on promoting products, we've tried to inspire them instead.
For Splash we've created an innovative "look-book" to showcase the latest fashion trends; for Shoe Mart we've designed a simple interface so customers can easily browse through this season's key styles. Both features help fashion-conscious shoppers find something unique, visualise their look, and imagine themselves wearing the clothes and shoes prior to visiting our stores.
With another two websites under our belt we're looking firmly towards the future. Building a web presence is just the beginning, now comes the hard work of keeping the content fresh and continuing to improve the website experience for visitors.
Bringing new websites to life is no easy business and we faced multiple challenges along the way. If you've been involved in launching a website from start to launch, it would be great to compare stories and see if the same issues came up, why not share your experiences with us here.
In this instalment of Growth - our series on better HR practices - we turn to Fun City, where work is play. Being a family entertainment centre (FEC), it's essential that every Fun City employee is highly creative, energetic, spontaneous and service-oriented. So how do we go about finding the right people?
Enter Fun Gauge; Fun City's recruiting framework is designed to evaluate potential employees on its core competencies. We start by shortlisting resumes and giving selected candidates an overview of the organization and the potential for growth. Then for some serious play: we use an audition process in which candidates go through creative group introductions, role plays and a personal interview to determine whether they fit the bill. The selection at Fun City is done in 3 stages:
- Group introduction: Applicants are split into groups and then
asked to introduce themselves to the group in an innovative way that
distinguishes them from the others and presents them as uniquely
qualified for the job. This process familiarizes them with the group and
tests creativity and spontaneity. We also evaluate body language and
the overall confidence level of the candidate, although there is no
shortlisting done at this stage.
- Team role play: Candidates are then grouped into small teams, each
provided with scenarios to plan and enact in fifteen minutes. They are
encouraged to be as creative as possible and are allowed to use any
props available to make their role play more realistic &
interesting. Candidates are evaluated on their coordination, team
work, communication, creativity and enthusiasm at this stage. Candidates
are shortlisted based upon their team and their individual scores.
- Personal interview: In this final stage of the Fun City selection process, all shortlisted candidates are interviewed individually by our panel. This stage covers aspects of the candidate that may not have been visible in other stages.
Candidates are encouraged to ask questions and clarify any concerns they might have about the job. A final selection is made based on the combined scores of the role play round and the personal interview.
We've found that this framework not only gets us the right fit for the job, but is a more enjoyable process for both applicants and interviewers. We get to see more of the "real" person in action and get a more realistic idea of how they'd perform in the role. Fun City encourages employees with unique talent: magicians, jugglers, balloon benders, clown and party hosts form an important part of our talent pool
Most importantly, this method helps us build trust with our potential new employees, which is critical to our work culture of honest, direct and transparent communication. Let the fun begin!
Does your organization have an interesting approach to hiring the right people? Share your ideas with us here.
In these days of fast food, fast cars and fast living, it's reassuring to know that there's a place you can go to get away from life's stresses, strains, aches and pains.
Now into its second week, the Oasis Wellness Festival is responsible for the transforming air of calmness, relaxation and rejuvenation that has descended on the Oasis Centre over the past week.
So what is a wellness festival you may ask? It's a two-week celebration of healthy living that encompasses yoga classes, fitness sessions, cooking groups, health talks, competitions and a host of other initiatives, all aimed at improving people's health and general wellbeing.
We're all guilty of overdoing things at times: long days at the office, driving instead of walking, eating the wrong types of food. This is your opportunity to kick back, relax and let your body know that you care about it.
Supported by Beat Diabetes, Medical Partners and Zuleka Hospital, the festival runs from 15-29 February at venues throughout the Oasis Centre Mall. Fitness First gym has sessions aimed at beating the bulge, fighting the flab and generally giving excess weight a hard time. The Balance Wellness Club offers yoga sessions and guest speakers to instill a sense of harmony into our hectic lives, whilst the Balance Café focuses on food, food, food, all prepared in a healthy and wholesome way of course.
The Wellness festival classes and lectures are free, yes absolutely
free! It's the perfect opportunity to find out how to make a great
smoothie, or take advantage of family fitness sessions. You can delve
within yourself to rejuvenate through the power of the subconscious
mind, or put on some dancing shoes and Zumba till you drop. There are
even free glucose checks, so now there's no excuse to neglect your body.
Here are some simple tips for healthy living on the go:
- Enjoy an early morning pint of water - It rejuvenates the body's cells, replacing the oxygen lost through the night
- Grab some fresh fruit on your way out - They're full of essential nutrients, vitamins and sugars
- Avoid the lure of junk food - Fast food is full of "empty calories" and unhealthy fat. Go for the salad every time
- Exercise on the go - Don't be a couch potato, get your blood
flowing by taking the stairs instead of an elevator, or leaving your
desk for a walk now and then
- Drink herbal teas - They're good for you! Try to replace caffeine with your favourite herbal infusion
- Snack on a handful of nuts - A late afternoon mouthful of almonds,
cashews, pecans and raisins increases energy and productivity
- Say yes to freshly squeezed juices - boost your energy, body health and vitality with an intake of fresh fruit juice
- Make time for deep breathing - Inhale for 5 second intervals, hold then release: at your desk, in the car, when cooking food. It's great for your blood cells.
Does the mere mention of Valentine's Day strike terror into your very soul, leaving you hot under the collar at the prospect of getting things right on the big night: the flowers, the chocolates, the perfect restaurant? We asked three top Foodmark chefs to share their expert tips to help make this Feb. 14th a night to remember - for all the right reasons.
Andrew Kloss, Chef, Wild Ginger)
It's important that a romantic evening is fun for both of you, so try to keep things simple by preparing the food the day before - just pop it in the oven to make the big night a stress-free affair. Whether you're cooking as a couple or presenting a meal to your partner, a low-key supper is always a safer bet than an elaborate multi-course meal that leaves you feeling stressed.
Things are unlikely to go to plan if you don't have a plan, so be sure to do your homework. Prepare something that you both enjoy eating and that can be shared. A favourite of mine is steamed fish, served whole, that's big enough for two. The heady aromas of the marinaded fish, once cooked, are certain to impress your dinner guest.
Paul Kennedy, Chef, Mango Tree
Valentine's Day shouldn't be all about red roses and lovey-dovey expressions of undying love. If you want to discover the true path to your partner's heart, put some love into your cooking - it's the secret ingredient to any romantic meal.
Ensure the food is simple to prepare and full of flavour. Quality ingredients may cost a little more but, if you're really out to impress, they're worth the expense. Romantic favourites include: oysters, prawns, lobster, crab, fillet steak, corn-fed chicken and rack of lamb. Special occasions like this are a good opportunity to be adventurous and try recipes you wouldn't normally prepare; your efforts definitely won't go unnoticed.
Of course, an easier way to attract your partner's attention is through the universal language of chocolate. Try dipping strawberries in it, making a fondant out of it, or a delicious mousse - if in doubt, cover it in chocolate. Whatever your decision, try to spend the evening with your partner rather than in the kitchen.
Ankur Chakravarthy, Chef, Zafran
If you're looking to add a little spice to a romantic meal for two, Indian cuisine is the perfect way to woo the one you love. There are so many spices to choose from, each offering a different taste sensation - many Indian spices also have medicinal properties.
Great food requires only the freshest available ingredients. Choose wisely and always use the best quality, which will be reflected in the finished meal. Nothing says "I love you" like seafood: consider using caviar, oysters or fresh lobster. It's a good idea to light a scented candle throughout the cooking process to avoid those lingering sea smells through dinner. Other romantic flavours include saffron, quail, asparagus and fresh berries.
Whatever you decide to cook, it's best to keep it simple. Concentrate on basic flavours and good presentation. Put some passion into your cooking - it'll show once the food reaches the plate. Another good idea is to serve your intimate meal on bigger plates that are made for sharing - in Indian culture, we believe that sharing food increases love and affection.
We hope these hints help to make your Valentine's Day meal a resounding success. If you have any Valentine's tips or advice, feel free to share these with our readers. Happy cooking!
From Bhilai to Dubai
The move from Bhilai to Dubai was a long transition. I moved across various cities and countries with a strong motivation to enhance my career. After qualifying as an Accountant, I got an offer from Indian Oil in Delhi, where I also met Pushpa, my wife. Our combined aspirations and goals then led us to Mumbai, a city that provided vast opportunities for qualified professionals. From there, we moved to Nigeria, where I was offered the position of Finance Controller at one of the leading groups in the country. However, I was always very concerned for the safety of my family, and after four years moved back to India. I had enjoyed working in Nigeria and continued to look for opportunities to work abroad and that's when Landmark Group was hiring and I grabbed the opportunity.
One of the best decisions of my career
My early days with the Landmark Group were a great learning experience. Having previously worked with companies such as Indian Oil and Castrol, my retail experience was very limited. However, retail was a growing industry and, I decided that this industry shift was necessary for me - I strongly believe that this has been one of the best decisions of my career. The Landmark Group had built a strong name for itself as a leading retailer. The sound financial strength of the Group and the reputation of successfully nurturing the career of promising employees prompted me to pursue my career here. The guidance provided by my superiors and the faith bestowed upon me by the Directors has been instrumental towards my growth in the company.
When I first joined Landmark Group, I was responsible for Internal Audit and was based at our RNA offices in Jebel Ali, Dubai. I still distinctly remember Vipen Sethi calling, while I was in an audit meeting in Riyadh, to inform me that I had been moved to the Corporate Office to handle Corporate Functions. Vipen bestowed a lot of responsibilities on me and also empowered me to take important decisions. I also cherish all the walks which I had with Group Chairman Micky Jagtiani. He used to share with me his vision, goals and aspirations for the Group on these walks. I have had the honour of witnessing many of Micky's visions becoming successful businesses, and these are my fondest memories.
Motivated by responsibility, committed to success
My biggest motivations are the responsibilities entrusted to me. Throughout my career, I have strived to learn, and to take on new responsibility. It has been my goal to challenge myself on a regular basis and push myself to achieve success constantly. Based on my own experience, I believe that commitment to your work is the most important key to success. Though you may be highly qualified, without a sense of commitment and ownership you are likely headed for failure. I encourage young professionals to stay updated about your profession. Enhance your portfolio by taking executive courses to nurture leadership skills, management skills, people skills, etc. Follow these simple tips and you're on a sure-fire path to a solid career!
Do you have a career success story? Share it with us here...