This is the official blog of the Landmark Group with insights
and stories from the people behind our many brands.

Landmark Group raises over AED 710,000 to beat juvenile diabetes

LFC_logo_IDF.jpgIn keeping with our commitment to spreading diabetes awareness, in May of this year we launched a month-long fundraising initiative in support of the International Diabetes Federation's "Life for a Child" (LFAC) programme, in the UAE. We're pleased to announce that, with all your support and the hard work of Landmark Group's retail staff, we managed to raise over AED 710,000 - far surpassing our goal of AED 500,000.

Landmark Group's outlets across the UAE invited customers to donate as little as AED 5. This small amount can help support the entire spectrum of diabetes management for an underprivileged child for a day, including medication, tests and diabetes education.

Road 29.jpgAlthough each brand and store had a considerable impact on the success of the campaign, the Centrepoint store in Bawadi, and the Babyshop store in Korfakkan, stood out as the top performing outlets. Centrepoint Bawadi raised the most funds, while Babyshop Korfakkan had the highest customer-to-donation conversion rate.

Congratulations and sincere thanks are in order as we continue in solidarity to do our part for an issue that's close to our hearts.

A breath of fresh air - the art of holistic breathing

dreamstime_l_15740593.jpgAs humans, we can survive for short periods of time without food and water, but breathing is a must-do function for all of us if we want to continue living.

We may all breathe, but do we breathe well? Take a few seconds to observe your natural breathing pattern. Do you breathe through your nose? Is your breath deep, slow and long?
Do you inhale and expand your chest and abdomen? For most of us, the answer is probably "no".

From a yogic point of view, breathing correctly is of supreme importance. Doing so helps us lead a life virtually free of stress and disease. The benefits of good breathing include:

  • Adequately supplying oxygen to vital organs, which is essential for the efficient functioning of the brain, nerves, glands and internal organs. An improper supply of oxygen causes, degeneration of vital organs, mental sluggishness, negative thoughts and depression, and eventually affects vision and hearing.

  • Naturally expelling waste products and toxins from our body.

  • Rejuvenating the skin and preventing premature ageing.

  • Improving lung capacity, thereby relieving respiratory problems.

  • Producing internal heat through specific yogic breathing exercises to increase metabolism, improve digestive function and burn fat.

  • Cooling the body with other yogic breathing techniques to maintain body temperature during summer.

  • Preventing the entry of pathogens and dust into our respiratory passages by breathing through the nose.

shutterstock_27366433.jpgBreathing correctly when we exercise is especially important. At the gym, in an aerobics class or while walking or running, our attention is usually on the music, TV or our instructor, but not on our breath. Although there are many benefits of exercising like this, in the long run we might be depriving our muscles and organs of the extra oxygen they need, leading to reduced lung capacity, lethargy and muscle spasms. In yoga, great emphasis is placed on maintaining the postures with correct breathing. This allows your body and mind to relax and stretch to the maximum without feeling as tired.

Try turning your attention to breathing better in your daily life and when you exercise - you might be pleasantly surprised by the results. Breath is life, and good breath is good life.

Make your business count with Social media: part 1

Businesses have always depended on proven, measurable marketing methods, which is one reason why some marketers are skeptical about social media. I have a different perspective.  

I see now that most of the social media platforms are exploited as just an additional communication channel. Social media is too often explored just for the sake of exploring and there is no clear attention or importance shown towards it, but what if we establish clearly measurable metrics for social media, which is worth taking seriously.

Measure business using social media

That aside, lets remember that social media is the only platform that breaks the long-standing wall between companies and their customers. How can this platform be considered to be just an additional communication channel?

Beyond its fundamental importance to communicate with customers, we can measure its effectiveness by using it as the sole source of some offers. All you need to do is make some of your communication only through Facebook or Twitter and track the responses. You will be able to measure your social media success with ease and  achieve much better results than you'll get from larger marketing spends.

While there is no fully structured way to do social media, which is still very new compared to other types of media, it shouldn't stop us from forming structured processes as we move forward and learn from our efforts. There's a lot to be gained - and a lot of your competitors are creating social media success stories.

You may also want to read through an interesting article via allfacebook.com & Comcore.com: http://bit.ly/MQSH7K

Strike a healthy balance between diet and exercise with yoga

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Healthy eating and regular exercise are two of the most important considerations for your overall health. They're like two sides of the same coin: if you don't eat the right amount of healthy food, you won't have enough energy to exercise. Without exercise, you run the risk of developing high cholesterol, obesity or any number of other modern lifestyle disorders that are so prevalent.

Over-exercising, on the other hand, can lead to injuries (thus disrupting our regular exercise routines). Excessive eating or craving sugary foods or junk foods can result in vicious cycles of guilt/shame and indulgence/punishment.

For many of us, striking a healthy balance between diet and exercise can be a challenge. Enter yoga: its regular practice not only brings physical benefits, but also helps balance our emotions, keeps us grounded and virtually eliminates stress. It is rigorous enough to yield tangible results, yet gentle enough to be practiced every day. 

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Combined with Ayurvedic concepts of the trigunas and tridoshas (bio-energies), yoga also helps us have a better attitude towards food. It teaches us that the cause of most disease is through under- (ajjeranatvam), over- (atijeeranatvam) or incorrect (kujeeranatvam) digestion. We also learn about our approach to food, the kinds of foods that suit our specific body type and the importance of timing and moderation in diet. In time, yoga reduces harmful cravings in the body, which makes a healthy diet more enjoyable.

Overall, yoga offers a sustainable, holistic solution to the problems associated with balancing diet and exercise. A combination of modern nutrition, yogic practice and Ayurvedic thought can do wonders for our health and longevity - and there's no better time to get started than today.

Have you experienced better health through yoga? Share your experiences with us here.

Welcome to your online Lifestyle

Following the Web Team's recent successful launch of the new Babyshop site, we are delighted to announce yet another addition to our online portfolio -- the much anticipated new website for Lifestyle, one of Landmark's most dynamic concepts.

Specialising in fresh and contemporary home décor, designer furnishings and personal accessories, Lifestyle is a brand that fashion-forward consumers, and women in particular, trust and love.

Our focus for the new site was on creating a user-friendly experience, that is easy to navigate, has clean design and clear labeling. One key challenge was to create an online personality that represents what Lifestyle is all about, as it's important to retain the look and feel of the off-line stores to some extent, so that existing Lifestyle customers can associate with the new web presence.

As with our other successful site launches, this adventure began with an immersion session that allowed the team to get a feel for the brand. We visited the flagship store to study the diverse product range, look at the store layout, observe the types of customers shopping in the store and gain an understanding of the key similarities and differences with their competitors. Our observations were then put into our creative blender, ideas were tossed around, and out came a workable structure or framework for the site and some great looking designs. Add some creativity, a lot of hard work and careful planning, and the net result is a great looking website. Don't take my work for it, see for yourself:

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As a relatively new member of the Web Team  - I'm now entering my third month - it's a great feeling to get my first project delivered to the launch deadline. Having produced 100's of websites in my career, this one is special as it's the first I've worked on outside of the UK. Like all projects, we've faced challenges, but having a great team together, working in unison, is a recipe for success. Working in partnership with our design and development partners, and a very enthusiastic marketing team within Lifestyle, under the leadership of CEO Sachin Mundhwa, we've put together a site we're all proud of and the experience has been thoroughly enjoyable.

With the Lifestyle site now live, this is where the adventure really begins; we're already working on improvements to the site to keep things new and exciting for our customers to visit and re-visit.

Bringing up Babyshop

As a relatively new member of the Landmark Web Team, I am proud to share our latest effort, the website for Babyshop, which specialises in fashion clothing, baby basics, toys and nursery furniture for newborn babies, toddlers and children up to 16.

It was our aim to ensure the new site had user-friendly navigation, clean design and clear labelling to showcase the diverse range of products. We also had to make sure that certain elements - the store locator, information about brands, offers and more - were consistent with other Landmark sites so users understand they're within Landmark Group.

As is the case with revising all our sites, this journey started with an immersion session in which our design partners were introduced to the brand. The two-person team visited Dubai and spent time with Rahul Saxena (Head of Marketing) and Sai Talwalkar (Marketing Coordinator), who told them all they needed to know about Babyshop.

Following this session, we developed the site framework, also known as its architecture, which involved organising and labelling product sections so we could better understand and define the site's content. Once approved, the structural elements were interpreted into a design; we based the colours, which you will notice throughout the site, around the current logo - a subtle but necessary requirement. 

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Our main challenge was making products look great within the layout. We had to consider horizontally and vertically oriented images so we needed another photo shoot and used all our photo-editing skills to make sure the images looked right. I can speak for us all when I say this was an invaluable learning experience for everyone involved.

I cannot express enough how important it is to create great assets. It's a critical part of the process because we're determined to make the concepts' sites as visually stimulating as possible. To do this, we require assets that translate well online; if necessary, we'll create assets that meet our requirements. Although this can be challenging, we're determined to make the user experience memorable.

Working on all websites is a challenge, but I can honestly say that everything we develop in the Web Team is evolving. There are lots of ground-breaking enhancements already in the pipeline so watch these spaces... www.babyshopstores.com, www.juniors-stores.com and www.mothercarestores.com.

Joining hearts to help beat juvenile diabetes

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.

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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?

A Life of Happy Motoring for Home Centre's CEO

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.

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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?

Now, comfort. I was invited to a track day at Yas Island to drive the Ferrari California and took four or five laps of the track, which was a lot of fun, but the car isn't very comfortable.

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.

Three Years of Web Love (and Counting)

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.

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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.

Healthy Indian Food

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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.

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  • 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 healthier alternative.

  • 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.