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

Life in the Balance

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.

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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.

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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.

The Web Team launches Splash and Shoe Mart sites


Six months after Landmark's Web Team launched the new Home Centre website, I'm pleased to announce the launch of the latest two sites that we've been working on: the Splash and Shoe Mart websites.

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.


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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.


Hiring is "Serious Fun" at Fun City

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?

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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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

An Oasis of Wellness

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.

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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.

Come along and join the festivities and treat yourself and the family to a wellness boost. For more information visit www.oasiscentremall.com or follow us on facebook.com/oasiscentremall.

Valentine's day saved by Foodmark experts

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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

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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!

Commitment to your work is the key to success

SK Pic for spotlight.jpgI come from the steel city of Bhilai Nagar in Chhattisgarh, India. In my early academic days, I wanted to be an engineer. However, I soon realized it was not the right choice and decided instead to follow in my father's footsteps and became an accountant.

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...

The importance of employee recognition

"People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily."

This motivational quote is an inspiration to Shoe Mart's Employee Recognition (ER) programme. Research has shown that a timely, effective ER can benefit the company by:Shoe Mart.jpg

- improving sales and boosting bottom lines,
- motivating employees,
- reducing absenteeism,
- creating an enjoyable working environment,
- making employees feel appreciated, and
- improving organizational productivity.

Our employees are vital to our success and growth, and a happy, motivated employee makes for a better customer experience, too. We believe in investing in our staff's job satisfaction and use a number of approaches to achieve this.

Employee of the Month, Quarter and Year

Every month, our Store Managers help recognize outstanding workers by assessing their staff daily on job performance (top sellers, highest-value sales), customer service, work discipline (absenteeism, punctuality, sick leave) and grooming.

Employees that score the highest each month, quarter and year are gifted with attractive rewards including certificates, badges, vouchers, cash prizes, airline tickets, hotel stays and dinner with the CEO.

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Best Store of the Quarter
To foster teamwork and healthy competition, we also track performance at the store level. Our Best Store of the Quarter award gives Store Managers an incentive to improve their staff's performance and create camaraderie and a sense of belonging amongst employees.

ADZAP
ADZAP is a programme that fosters creative selling skills, spontaneity and humour. Participants are divided into small teams, given an irrelevant or imaginary product to sell and just a few minutes to come up with a unique, effective way of marketing it. It's a great programme to get employees to think creatively, bond with each other and stay productive at their jobs.

Coffee with HR
We organize regular "coffee meetings" between store staff and our HR team so that employees get to share feedback, air grievances and help identify areas of improvement directly in a casual, friendly atmosphere. These interactions give employees a sense of empowerment and ownership in the company, and allow us to fine-tune policies and procedures for a better working environment.

Don't just pay them - praise them!
As part of the Landmark Group, Shoe Mart's biggest asset is the power of its people. Through our Employee Recognition programme, we've found that our employees feel proud of what they do and look forward to building a career with us. They're more willing to go the extra mile, interact better with customers and colleagues, and appreciate having open channels of communication with senior management staff.

We've also seen improved recruitment rates and are better able to identify and solve staffing problems. Paying an employee might get the job done - but praising their good work gets the job done well.

How does your company recognize its employees? Share it with us here...

Every child has the right to have fun

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Having fun is every child's right. At Fun City, we've teamed up with Volunteer in Dubai - along with the support of the Senses Centre - to launch an initiative that aspires to brighten the day of children with special needs.

The "Fun Day Sunday" initiative, held on the first Sunday of every month at Fun City in the Oasis Centre, the Arabian Centre and Lamcy Plaza in Dubai and Marina Mall and Dalma Mall in Abu Dhabi, invites children with special needs to spend the whole day letting loose and enjoying themselves. Our hearts warm to see the kids having fun with a host of activities including soft play, a drop tower and interactive games, plus puppet shows, singing, dancing and art contests to make sure there's never a dull moment. Even our staff has a ball playing with the children and serving them refreshments and gifts.

Volunteer in Dubai was founded in 2008 with the purpose of bringing together any charity, organization or cause with residents that are eager to volunteer their time and give back to the community. Charities and non-profit organizations rely on volunteers to keep overheads at a minimum, thus ensuring that every penny possible goes to those who need it most.

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As a business entity, the Landmark Group is firmly committed to the wellbeing of our community, society and environment, and we strive to play an active role in making positive changes around us. Through the Fun Day Sunday initiative, we've had the honour of doing our small bit in bringing about something money can't buy: the smile of a child.

May every day be a fun day!

Do you have ideas on how to brighten up a child's day? Share them with us here...

Challenges offer powerful career lessons

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Challenges and change have played an essential role in my life. Though my early childhood was spent in South India, my family moved a lot, so my formative years were spent across different cities in India. Living in Chennai and Hyderabad helped me understand different cultures and broaden my outlook towards life. Later, I moved to Delhi to complete my education and take up Chartered Accountancy, which also fuelled my passion for travelling as I traversed the length and breadth of India for audits, including visiting tea plantations in remote regions of Bengal and Assam.

After completing my Chartered Accountancy studies as an "all-India rank holder", I was offered a host of promising jobs. I joined HCL Corporation as a Senior Management trainee, and was placed in their fast track programme. I grew very quickly within the organization and was promoted five times in three years.

When the going gets tough
The story of how I moved from HCL to Landmark Group is an interesting one. While on a holiday in Dubai in 1994, I had an opportunity to meet with Group Chairman Micky Jagtiani and we discussed some possible roles for me in the Landmark Group. However, I never heard back for nearly a year and a half. Then, in early 1996, I received a call from the Group and joined in April that year as Finance Manager at Jebel Ali, UAE. I soon moved to Home Centre as Finance Manager for the UAE territory. A year and a half later, I was in Cyprus as the Territory General Manager. Heading Cyprus was particularly difficult as we faced severe challenges in the country, and this period was perhaps the biggest low point of my life. But I remained confident in my own abilities, keeping in mind the saying "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."

In 2002, I moved back to the UAE for a brief stint before heading to Qatar as General Manager, where I put many of the lessons learned in Cyprus to good use. Having led the Qatar operations of the Group for nearly seven years, I recently moved back to the UAE as Chief Executive Officer of Hotels & Wellness (I currently head Citymax Hotels, Fitness First & Funcity).

Lessons for work - and life
Most of us find it hard to see the value and powerful lessons that can come from challenges. What matters is how you transform your challenging experiences into a force for the betterment of your company and yourself. We are defined by the choices we make, and being responsible for the outcomes of our choices - no matter what they may be - is one of the great lessons we can learn from our experiences.

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My advice to upcoming entrepreneurs? Work hard and work smart. Do whatever it takes to stay sincere and motivated. Learn from your mistakes, be responsible for the decisions you make and - most importantly - believe in your own abilities to achieve, succeed, innovate and overcome.

Have you faced a challenge that helped you professionally or personally? Share your story with us here...

Better Winter Health with Ayurveda

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For those living in hot climates, the onset of winter often means welcome respite from the blistering sun and oppressive humidity. What we don't always realize is that the transition to cooler weather can affect our body and mind. Ayurveda - the oldest existing system of medical practice aimed at spiritual, mental, and social well-being as well as physical health - provides valuable tips on how to look and feel your best during the winter months.

When temperatures drop, the air turns cold and damp, the skies gray: it is the season of the elemental energies kapha and vata (two of the three doshas in our body). Kapha represents Earth and Water out of the five elements of the universe, and is situated in and around the chest and throat area. Likewise, Vata represents Ether and Air, and is situated in the lower extremities of the body.



Maintaining a good balance between the doshas brings about good balance between the body and mind. Follow these handy Ayurvedic tips to stay healthy and happy this winter.

Rise & shine
1) Wake a little later in the morning (around 7am, or when the sun rises). Scrape your tongue to remove accumulated dead bacteria and yeast, and to improve circulation to the visceral organs.

2) Brush your teeth using an herbal or Ayurvedic toothpaste containing warming herbs like cinnamon, clove, bilva, peppermint or haritaki.

3) Drink a glass of warm water (optional: add the juice of half a lime) to promote bowel function.

4) Apply warm sesame oil or Ayurvedic medicated oil to your entire body - especially on the scalp, ears and feet - as this helps heat the body and stimulate circulation. Leave the oil for 5-10 minutes to be absorbed well through the skin, then shower with hot water and exfoliate your skin.

5) Finish your morning with yoga, pranayama and meditation. Opt for poses that open the chest cavity (fish, boat, bow, locust, lion and camel poses are good). Shoulder-stands and headstands, if you can do them, are excellent to eliminate mucus and clear congestion in the chest.

6) Don't forget to eat a healthy breakfast! Skipping this important meal tends to dry up bodily tissues and increase vata. Try porridges made from oatmeal, barley, cornmeal or rice flakes (poha). To increase your digestive fire, an hour after breakfast have a cup of hot water spiced with fresh/powdered ginger, ½ teaspoon cinnamon and a pinch of powdered/ground clove.

Keep fit
Cold weather may invite you to curl up in a corner and sit still, but it's a better idea to keep the body active to remain healthy. If the weather outside permits, try a brisk walk, run or bicycle ride. If it's too cold outside, join a gym or fitness class, try a workout video at home or simply hop onto the treadmill to boost circulation and balance the doshas. Soak in some sun if you can, too - early morning or evening light is best - to improve the mood and promote healthy sleep cycles.

Eat & drink right
Appetites tend to increase in the winter months. Opt for more proteins - beans, legumes, tofu - and eggs, chicken, turkey and fish if you're not a strict vegetarian. Incorporate whole grain yeast-free breads, buttermilk, cottage cheese, steamed vegetables, hot soups with ghee (clarified butter) and spicy foods into your diet. Use warming spices like cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper to promote digestion. Avoid cold drinks - they aggravate kapha and vata - and choose hot water, hot tea and, occasionally, hot cocoa or chai. Avoid excess coffee or other caffeinated products as far as possible.

Stay warm

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Steer clear of cold drafts, choose warm clothes, and remember to cover your head with a hat or cap - more than half the body's heat is lost through the head alone. Covering your ears and neck helps keep kapha in balance, and wearing socks on your feet helps in balancing vata.

Cure that cold
According to Ayurveda, common colds are considered a kapha-vata disorder. An excess of cool/moist kapha qualities leads to congestion and a runny nose; excess vata brings about chills and poor appetite and digestion. Here's help:

1) Dried ginger is the best remedy for colds. Put it in tea, infuse bath water with powdered ginger and baking soda (1/3 cup each) or try a ginger steam treatment to relieve congestion: boil a teaspoon of powdered ginger in a pint of water, put a towel over your head and inhale the steam through the nose for about 5 minutes. You'll feel a whole lot better.

2) Vitamin C provides excellent defense against colds and improves the immune system. Include lime and other citrus fruit - all natural sources of Vitamin C - into your daily diet.

3) To reduce nasal irritation, congestion and sneezing, drip 3-4 drops of boiled, cooled mild salt water into each nostril. For an itchy, sore throat, gargle with warm salt water with a pinch of powdered ginger twice a day before meals.

4) Warm water, drunk at regular intervals throughout the day, removes toxins from the system and improves your recovery time from the common cold.

5) Reduce dairy products and avoid milk while you have a cold, as they increase mucus and congestion.

Has Ayurveda helped improve your health? Share your experience with us here...