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

The Power of Play

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With increased pressure to perform, achieve and compete at earlier ages, many of our children are missing out on an ingredient critical to their cognitive and emotional development: play.

We know that all work and no play makes for rather dull boys and girls. What we may not realize, however, is that what seems like light-hearted horsing around is, in fact, essential for children to grow up into well-adjusted, compassionate and capable adults.

Although given little attention earlier, understanding the importance of play now spans several scientific disciplines including psychology, biology, behavioural ecology and ethology. Through play, therapists get valuable clues about a child's emotional development and are better able to assist behavioural and emotional problems.

Through play, children bond emotionally with each other and their caregivers, developing a sense of trust, community and empathy. Regular play fosters intelligence, curiosity, a sense of discovery and adventure, problem-solving capabilities and other more complex adaptive activities. Play is also an important outlet for natural creativity - we've all been bowled over at some point by the unpredictable beauty of a child's imagination. Plus, sharing joy and laughter with others is fun!

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Four-year-old Lily Nicol loves to play at Fun City. "My favourite Fun City is the one with the popcorn and the big slide (Oasis Centre, Dubai) - I love popcorn. My little sister likes the baby play area as it has lots of colours and lots of toys, the helpers are nice and she can get messy with the paints. I would like it if there were baby animals to play with; my favourite animals are baby tigers."

We'll let the baby tigers live in your imagination for now, Lily, while you discover the many avenues of playful exploration. We're glad our work is child's play!

How do you make sure your child gets enough playtime? Share your experience with us here...

Walking to Beat Diabetes

The Landmark Group's annual Beat Diabetes Walkathons have come a long way, from 5,000 people in UAE in 2009 to over 35,000 people walking together in 2011 across different countries. This steady increase in the number of participants is a testament to the huge success of the event.

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This year, the walkathons kicked off with the UAE and Qatar walks on Nov 18, followed by Kuwait on Nov 19, India (Bangalore) on Nov 20, Saudi Arabia (Riyadh) on Nov 23 and Oman on Nov 25, 2011. Dressed in blue t-shirts, caps and wristbands, the supporters walked together with a unified mission to spread awareness. It was indeed a sea of blue!

Over 40,000 people benefited from the free blood glucose testing organised during the walk in different participating countries. Free testing was also organised across various Landmark Group outlets during the month of November, World Diabetes month.

Supported by local government authorities, health authorities and medical partners & suppliers such as Johnson & Johnson, the walkathons witnessed the participation of enthusiastic citizens eager to spread the word on the importance of 'taking the test', and stressing the need to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Celebrities such as Wasim Akram, former international player and international spokesperson for diabetes - and other stars from the television and film fraternities also participated in the various walks.

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Each year the initiative has grown in reach. The Landmark Group will continue to extend the campaign across countries to generate greater awareness about this condition which has no cure, but can be managed with diet and exercise.

Let's all pledge to Beat Diabetes and live a healthier life!

What are you doing to Beat Diabetes? Share it with us here...


Treating Diabetes Traditionally

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In the ancient healing system of Ayurveda, diabetes is known as "Madhumeha" (sweetness) or "Prameha" (excessive urination), and is considered to be a type of urinary disorder. According to Ayurvedic principles, an imbalance in kapha dosha (dominated by earth and water) and vata dosha (dominated by space & air) due to improper food, lack of exercise and an imbalanced lifestyle leads to Diabetes Mellitus.

Ayurveda for diabetic neuropathy

What is diabetic neuropathy?
Diabetic neuropathy is a complication of Diabetes Mellitus in which nerves of the body get affected due to high blood sugar levels over a prolonged period of time. As a result, nerves are slow or unable to carry messages to and from the brain to different parts of the body.

What are its symptoms?
Symptoms of diabetic neuropath include numbness, loss of sensation, loss of balance and co-ordination, pain in the feet, poor digestion and loss of appetite. The legs and feet are usually the first to be affected; other areas such as the arms, abdomen, etc. are affected only rarely.

How can it be managed by Ayurveda?
Ayurveda aims to manage diabetic neuropathy by treating its root causes. To restore balance of both kapha and vata doshas in the body, Ayurvedic approaches include a well balanced diet, massages, specific exercises, yoga, pranayama, and detoxification, rejuvenation and panchakarma therapies.

Therapeutic massages and treatments help activate and nourish the nerves, improve the loss of sensation, reduce numbness, lend more mobility, reduce pain, cool and relax the brain and regain an active life style.

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The benefits of yoga for diabetes
Yogic wisdom also addresses diabetes, and prescribes specific asanas effective in impacting the intestinal muscles near the pancreas in order to stimulate insulin secretion and reduce glucagon levels, both of which are essential to maintain balanced blood glucose level.

Yoga helps manage Diabetes Mellitus in many ways:

  • By increasing the production of insulin. Yogic exercises that promote blood circulation in the pancreatic region are believed to stimulate pancreatic function, thereby increasing insulin secretion.

  • By reducing the secretion of Glucagon. Glucagon is a hormone secreted by the pancreas which raises blood glucose levels, especially during stressful times. Yoga effectively reduces stress, thus regulating glucagon levels and likely improving insulin action.

  • By increasing physical activity. Yoga as a form of low-impact exercise can help manage diabetes through muscular stretches, which leads to greater sugar uptake by muscle cells and thus lower blood sugar levels.

  • By helping to maintain a healthy lifestyle and diet. Yogic practices help prepare your mind and body for a change in your lifestyle and diet.

Balance Wellbeing 360 and diabetes
At Balance Wellbeing 360, we combine the best of traditional Ayurvedic and yogic practices in modern therapies to restore the balance of doshas and increase physical activity, thus assisting in the effective long-term management of diabetes.

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Our goal is to offer a full change our clients' lifestyle by helping to control diabetes, which is the root cause of diabetic neuropathy. On-site Ayurvedic doctors offer a detailed consultation and chalk out a personalized plan. This includes therapies, a nutritionist-supervised meal plan (served by Balance Café), yoga, pranayama and expert-customized exercises all under one roof.

Whatever you choose, know that there are several alternative approaches to help in the long-term management of this condition. Now go out there and beat diabetes!

Have traditional or alternative methods helped manage your diabetes? Share your experience with us here...

7 ways to Beat Diabetes

We all know that exercise is a great way to lose weight and get fit. But for a diabetic, regular exercise can lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases and lower blood sugar levels, too.
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Diabetics should be careful when exercising - even a small medical problem can hamper your ability to exercise safely. So remember to consult your doctor and a fitness expert before starting any kind of exercise program. Make sure you don't have any symptoms of cardiovascular problems or evidence of retinopathy, neuropathy, or nephropathy. And follow these seven tips to help you Beat Diabetes!

1. Monitor your blood sugar levels. Exercise lowers blood sugar. If you're diabetic, keep a regular check on your blood sugar levels before and after you exercise - hypoglycemia can occur during exercise or up to 12 hours after. Ideally, you shouldn't cross 250 mg/dl; if your levels are lower than 100 mg/dl, make sure you eat a workout snack before you start. If you feel faint, dizzy, weak or confused, stop exercising right away and drink some orange juice or other source of quickly digested sugar.


2. Join a gym. Or take a walk.
It's a good idea to start in a gym if you can, as the personal trainers there help you understand your body and make exercise a part of your life. But if you can't, just start walking. And yes, it's free. Wear a pedometer and add 10,000 extra steps each day.

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3. Thirty a day. Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week. Start by doing 5-10 minutes a day and add five or ten minutes each week until you reach 30. It's better to build your stamina slowly than burn out after a single, tiring session. Also, allow five minutes to warm up before and another five to cool down after your workout session. This allows your heart rate to return to normal when you're done.

4. Take a friend, make a friend. I don't like to walk alone. If you can't find a workout buddy, make music your partner and stop procrastinating. Regular exercise is a lot easier if you do something you really enjoy - for instance, take up dance if you like it. That way, you get your exercise, have fun and make new friends all at once.

5. Stay hydrated. Being dehydrated can raise blood sugar levels. Drink 8-10 glasses of water every day, and always make sure to drink enough liquid before, during and after your workout. If you use insulin, make sure that you inject into your abdomen, not your leg or arm muscles when you exercise.

6. Watch your feet. Most forms of exercise - except swimming - can affect your feet. Keep an eye out for sores or blisters when you work out. Make sure your workout shoes fit well and are comfortable. Wear soft, absorbent socks. If your feet suffer from poor blood circulation, opt for exercises like swimming, yoga or Tai Chi, as they don't pressure them.

7. Get involved! Connect with your local community for support and advice. And learn more about all the things we're doing to Beat Diabetes.

Has exercise positively affected your diabetes? Share your story with us here...


Beat Diabetes 2011: Come walk with us

As we inch closer and gear up for the Beat Diabetes 2011 walkathons, I am filled with a sense of pride at the success of this initiative across all the countries.

Walk_BD.jpgFrom the launch of the initiative in November 2009 in the UAE, we have today spread the campaign across 7 countries, reaching out to millions of people in the process. We have also partnered with the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) earlier in the year, making the Landmark Group, one of the first corporate retail supporter partner to the IDF.

The support of our customers has been integral to the success of the campaign and I look forward to this continued support in the coming years as well.Micky Jagtiani, Chairman, The Landmark Group

As the first Walkathon of 2011 flags off on Friday, November 18 in the UAE followed by others across different participating countries, I am extremely optimistic that many more people will join our hands to spread awareness about diabetes.


Registrations are ongoing and I hope all of you have registered yourself and your families for the walk. If not, you can still register at your nearest participating outlet and pledge your support for the cause.

As someone living with type 2 diabetes, this campaign is very close to my heart and I want to thank each one of you for joining hands in spreading awareness.

- Micky Jagtiani

Are you ready to Beat Diabetes?

We certainly are! The Beat Diabetes initiative - launched by the Landmark Group in 2009 - is all set in its third year to continue raising greater awareness about diabetes. Preparations are in full swing as we leave no stone unturned in the battle against this condition; we're sure that the 2011 edition of the Walkathon will generate even more awareness than before and inspire many more people to adopt a healthier lifestyle.BeatDiabetes Blog.JPG

Wasim Akram, cricketing legend and international spokesperson for diabetes, will champion fans to support this cause when he joins the first Walkathon in the UAE on Friday, November 18, 2011 at the Oasis Centre, Dubai. Other Walkathons in participating countries will follow, so we encourage you to participate in a Walkathon near you.

There's already a lot of buzz about this initiative in the media: print ads, radio talk shows and heavy social network traction. We've gotten an overwhelming amount of support on our Beat Diabetes Facebook page with more than 9,000 'Likes' in just a week from its launch. The page offers tips and helpful information about diabetes and its management.

Registrations for the Walkathon have begun in all participating countries, and are rapidly gathering momentum. If you haven't yet registered yourself or your family for the event, rush to any of the outlets below today and sign up. It's free, fun and for a good cause!

UAE
Oasis Centre, Centrepoint, Home Centre, Max, Fitness First

Qatar

Centrepoint (Asmakh Mall), Plaza Mall, Barwa Village

Kuwait

Centrepoint, Max, Home Centre, New Look

India (Bangalore)
Lifestyle (Adarsh Opus, Oasis Centre, Mantri Square)
Spar (Mantri Square, Bannerghatta Road)
Bossini (Indra Nagar, Church Street)
Splash (MG Road)
Fitness First (Eva Mall)
Polynation & Gloria Jean's Coffee (Oasis Centre)
Max (Commercial Street, CMH Road, Oasis Centre, Jayanagar, 100ft Road, 100ft
Ring Road Banashankari, Royal Meenakshi Mall,Phoenix Market)

Oman

Ruwi, Al Khuwair, Muscat City Centre

As we observe World Diabetes Day on November 14, let's collectively pledge to do our bit to spread awareness about diabetes amongst our family and friends. Remember, awareness is the first step in the battle against diabetes.

What are you doing to help Beat Diabetes? Share it with us here...

Citymax SuperChef Robin Gomes

Group Executive Chef Robin Gomes is a hard man to miss. Beneath his ebullient exterior - twinkling eyes, expressive hands, infectious enthusiasm - lies a man of fierce passion and tireless determination, a man responsible for the authentic flavours and fresh, innovative cuisine of each of Citymax's many food outlets including Max Music Bar & Grill, Claypot, Sizzling Wok and our newest addition, The Huddle Grill.

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Chef Gomes comes from a family of chefs; indeed, an entire village of chefs: in his hometown of Habibpur, East Bengal, every home boasts of at least one professional chef. All of Gomes' eight brothers are chefs so, although he always wanted to be a singer, it seems his fate was inevitable.

He worked his way up the food chain, as it were, starting off as a humble waiter in a Delhi hotel. Irked by the slow pace in the kitchens, he began helping the chef whenever he could, picking up enough culinary skills to be promoted to chef himself. When he came to Dubai back in 1978, he started from the bottom again, this time as a "commies cook" - the lowest rank in the kitchen - and carved his path to where he is today.

He continues to experiment playfully in the kitchen, creating unexpected combinations of flavours and textures that surprise and delight. But he's also mindful of simplicity: he encourages people to try his dishes at home for a five-star experience (see our SuperChef Coco-Trilogy)

A senior member of the culinary Guild, Chef Gomes has also appeared on live cooking shows for Ajman Channel, Zee TV and others. His philosophy? A good dish, like a successful life, doesn't need a lot of ingredients - just a lot of love, discipline and honesty. It's a recipe that's worked wonders for Chef Gomes.

What's your favourite Citymax dish? Share your feedback with us here...

Beat Diabetes 2011

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has always been an integral part of the Landmark Group. With the launch of the 'Beat Diabetes' initiative in 2009, the Group's mission was to help create a fit and healthy society. In 2010, the initiative was extended to five new countries - Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and India. This year, this initiative will further extend to KSA.

Diabetes is often considered a matter of little concern by most people. It's a silent killer that has no cure, but can be managed by making lifestyle changes. Landmark Group's mission is to create awareness through the Beat Diabetes walkathon and encourage people to adopt a healthy lifestyle. This initiative is very close to our hearts and we've put our full force behind it.

Building on the success achieved since 2009, this year the Beat Diabetes campaign will begin with a walkathon in each of the participating countries in November 2011, starting with UAE and Qatar on November 18, followed by Kuwait on November 19, India (Bangalore) on November 20, KSA (Riyadh) on November 24 and Oman on November 25.

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Legendary cricketer Wasim Akram, who flagged off the 3.1 km walk last year in the UAE, has once again extended his solidarity and will participate in the 2011 edition of the event and lead the walk at Oasis Centre, Dubai. Open to all age groups, participation in the walkathon is free and all walkers are given complimentary t-shirts and caps. Blood Glucose tests are administered free of cost and awareness pamphlets will be distributed to educate everyone about diabetes.

Awareness is the first step in the battle against this condition. We urge you to save the date and be part of the movement we call 'Beat Diabetes'.

Have you been part of a Beat Diabetes walkathon? Share your experience with us here...

The Web Team launches the new Home Centre website

I met Savitar Jagtiani, the man leading The Web Team at Landmark Group, back in January 2011. He introduced me to the company, their presence in the Middle East and how they were planning to tackle digital. The strategy was incredible and it was apparent that it was taking shape very quickly. Six months later, we launched the new Home Centre website.
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Honestly speaking, not everyone may appreciate where Landmark Group is heading, as most companies in the Middle East don't really understand digital very well. I personally have lived and breathed digital projects for over eleven years now, starting my career as a Designer, Front-End Engineer, Producer, Project Manager and now Senior Project Manager.

I know a thing or two about digital, and have met a lot of people who like to throw their opinions around, guessing in which direction it's headed and what methodologies and tools should be used. For me, "digital" has become a buzzword for people who haven't been in the industry long enough. What most people don't realize is that digital is another cog to a much larger wheel. Just as how distribution, human resources and customer service have a role to play, so does digital. Not taking this into consideration in any project will ultimately lead you down a strategy which just doesn't support the growth of any business.

When I work on a digital project I always focus on two areas: direction and execution. Direction for me is about stepping back and understanding where the business has come from, what it is doing right now and where it intends to move forward. Execution concerns how you go about it, by focussing on communication, the calibre of your team and being incredibly sensitive towards user experience and design. This will lead you down a path aligned with where the company needs to go.Homecentre_innerpage_1.png

With Home Centre we did exactly that. We deeply understood what journey the company had been on, what it was doing right now and where it was planning to go, and created a strategy that was unique to them. The real success was in how we executed the project. We handed all communications via 37 Signal's Basecamp, kept an incredibly close eye on the user experience and design, and - most importantly - the real magic came from the team. Home Centre supported us completely and with an amazingly passionate design, copy and technical team we were able to transform the strategy into something really stunning.

It is the start of a new journey for Home Centre digitally, and, moving forward, we'll be listening, strategising and supporting Home Centre to help that wheel run just a little bit better.

Growth 2: "Top Guns" - Splash's Internal Training & Recruitment Programme

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An old Chinese proverb says, "If you want one year of prosperity, grow grain. If you want 10 years of prosperity, grow trees. If you want 100 years of prosperity, grow people."

At the second instalment of Growth - the Landmark Group's cross-brand knowledge-sharing session - high-street fashion brand Splash presented "Top Guns", a one-of-a-kind employee training & recruitment programme spearheaded by Splash CEO Raza Beig and I.

With a light-hearted nod to the popular film of the same name, Top Guns combines best practices from HR, training and development into a comprehensive programme that readies Splash employees for internal recruitment. Through Top Guns, we project that up to 75% of the brand's growing human resource needs can be met by internal recruitment alone. Employees that participate in the programme get several benefits, including:

first priority for promotions
a motivational badge and certificate identifying them as part of the talent pool
a gift voucher
a structured opportunity to prove their potential
a chance to fast-track their career

Programme structure

Top Gun's 4-stage structure begins with an Enrollment process, followed by the Entrance Test (aptitude test, industry-related quiz and interview), Flight School (training for the next level; on-job training) and the final Combat Mission in which individual or group assignments are made. A 5-tier "Air Wing" module clearly defines promotion levels from Sales to Senior Sales, Supervisor, Assistant Store Manager, Store Manager and Area Manager. 

Top Guns lasts for 6 months apiece and runs twice a year. At the end of each programme, the graduates ("Air Marshalls") will have been rigorously trained, equipped with the right skills and personality and form a ready talent pool to fill emerging recruitment needs.

Brand benefits

The brand itself benefits in several ways from training programmes like Top Guns, such as:

reduced recruitment costs
capacity-building in a changing environment
increased employee morale due to increased transparency
energised, committed employees
a robust talent pipeline
a culture promoting "Life Long Learning"
reinforced reputation as an "Employer of Choice"

Since Top Guns premiered at Splash, we're already seeing a tremendous growth in the morale and aptitude of Splash employees across all territories, and Landmark's HR team hopes to implement similar programmes for other brands. Standby for more case studies from our Growth sessions!

What does your company do to motivate & train employees? Share it with us here...