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

Keeping Baby Safe: Essential Accessories

A child's safety always starts with good parenting - but it doesn't hurt to have a little help along the way. Here is a list of 11 safety accessories we consider important at Babyshop to put an extra level of security into your child's daily life.

11 Essential Child-Safety Accessories

  1. 1st Grooming Kit. This all-in-one kit takes care of your child's grooming and wellness, and is ideal when you're travelling.

  2. Multi-purpose Latch. Here's a deterrent to keep inquisitive kids out of harm's way. The Multi-purpose Latch is perfect for fridges, microwaves and dishwashers.

  3. Knee Protector. Knee protectors help protect your toddler's knees while crawling.

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  4. Corner Edge Cushions. These are ideal for sharp corners of table and shelves, which toddlers often bump into.

  5. Child Harness. These "baby reins" are a comfortable way to keep your child close to you when traveling in crowded areas or busy streets.

  6. Finger Pinch Guard. It prevents small fingers and hands from being pinched or crushed in doors and door hinges


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  7. Expansion Swing Gate. This handy gate prevents toddlers from accessing stairs. The plastic safety rail eliminates openings on top, and a one-hand release latch makes it convenient for adults to operate.

  8. Secure Sleep Bed Rail. Kids are notorious for rolling off beds in their sleep. This safety rail makes sure they sleep peacefully without going 'bump' in the night

  9. Fridge Lock. This gadget helps prevent children from opening refrigerators, and has a unique childproof press-lock that's designed for repeated use.

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  10. Push 'n Snap Cabinet Lock. Use this to prevent kids from accessing cabinets that are within their reach. A SecurTech locking system and push-button release ensures freedom from mishaps.

  11. Spring 'N Release Latches. These locks seal off cabinets and drawers from the prying hands of curious children. They come with a spring-loaded feature that makes them more durable and long-lasting.

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Pick up our handy ABC ("Always Be Careful") booklet at any Babyshop outlet or download it here as a useful reminder of how to make your child's life a little bit safer.

Are there other safety accessories you consider essential for your child? Share them with us here!

Thoughts on building a Web Team

Taking a $3.8 bn retail and hospitality behemoth online is no small potatoes. As the head of Landmark Group's new Web Team, Savitar Jagtiani has some exciting challenges on his plate. He shares some of them here.

What was the need for an in-house Web Team?
We needed to raise the quality bar of the Landmark Group's web initiatives, which include design/redesign projects, project/product management & marketing, online marketing and more. 

When and how did you begin?
It all started in April 2009 with a four-fold mission:
  1. Redesign, develop and promote Citymax Hotel's online booking site
  2. Redesign the Landmark Group's corporate website
  3. Redesign the group's employee Intranet
  4. Design a loyalty website for the Landmark Group's 1.5 million loyalty card members

Before/After
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The first promise was delivered in August 2009 with the redesigned and purely informational Citymax Hotels website (before/after screenshots above). Its transactional phase launched in April 2010 (our Hospitality division's first eCommerce site) along with the property launch of Citymax Al Barsha. 

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The next 3 promises were all delivered in 2010 itself with the rebooted, 150+ page corporate site (before/after screenshots above), the new socially-networked, Enterprise 2.0 Intranet for thousands of our Middle East team members (before/after screenshots below),

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and a clean, simple and country-specific loyalty website for our many Shukran members (new design below). As a bonus, we even rolled out the official Landmark Group blog.

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Sounds like other businesses could use Web Teams too. Can you share some of your methodologies, beliefs and values?
We're big fans of design, usability and thought leaders like Apple and 37signals. The latter's 'Getting Real' philosophy is immensely useful and essentially our bible on how to approach project and product management. Some of the tricks we've learnt and practice include:
  • Building the user experience first. The user experience is the product.
  • Less is more (eg: less mass and less features = more focus, less code, less cost and less time to production).
  • Iterate, iterate, iterate!
  • The devil is in the detail.
  • Design precedes development - always.
  • Design, and products, are never finished - Kaizen (a Japanese concept of continuous improvement) drives freshness and innovation.

We're also huge believers in collaborative software like Basecamp (see our case study on 37Signals' Product Blog). Basecamp is our communication backbone and keeps us and our global network of partners both organized and connected.

What excites you most about your work?
First, there's no set formula to getting the web "right", so figuring out how to crack it is incredibly exciting. Second, I work with a great set of web professionals which is both awesome and a privilege. Third, knowing that we have the opportunity to make a profound impact on the web for millions of our users, our many businesses and the region at large, is a trip by itself.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?
Hiring. Finding and recruiting high quality web talent isn't easy; we're constantly on the lookout for fresh talent and eager, brilliant minds.

Where do you see the Web Team three years from now?
By 2014, I hope to have at least 30-40 people in our growing Web Team, a major expansion in our Product Management team, and new focused units for specific functions like e-commerce, social media and mobile products.

What's the best web experience you've had as a customer or business owner? Share it with us here!

Landmark Toastmasters: Conversation, Confidence & Camaraderie

Public speaking can be a private nightmare for many. Conquering that beast is a challenge laden with rewards both professional and personal: with improved public speaking abilities come better communication and leadership skills, increased confidence, accelerated career success, a positive attitude and more eloquence in expression.

I've always been interested in improving my abilities to address an audience, so I was thrilled to learn that the Landmark Group - as part of its initiatives promoting excellence and growth - nurtures its very own chapter of Toastmasters International, a voluntary "learn-by-doing" club in which participants are encouraged to hone their speaking and leadership skills in a friendly atmosphere.

Area-Contest.pngThe Landmark Group Toastmasters - "LMG TMs", for short - meet regularly to share prepared and impromptu talks on assigned topics; encourage, exchange and help develop each other's presentations; improve grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation; and generally loosen our ties (and tighten our public speaking skills) in an environment of shared camaraderie where everyone is welcome. There is no instructor; instead, we take turns in facilitating meetings and documenting minutes, which allows us to be on equal footing and experience various roles. Group members include colleagues, co-workers and employees across brands, territories and job functions, so being a part of Toastmasters is also a great way to get to know each other on a more personal level.

Club-Contest1.pngI never thought I could enjoy learning about a topic as seemingly dry as Supply Chains before a humorous speech on the subject (which managed to incorporate witty anecdotes and Hollywood movie references), or be deeply inspired in under 5 minutes by a talk on how key decisions have the power to affect us all. As my own speaking skills have improved, I've seen close bonds developing with fellow Toastmasters and I find myself looking forward to the next meeting. Getting over cold feet and stage fright has never been so much fun.

Do you have a memorable public speaking experience to share? We'd love to hear about it here!

Keep your cool: chillout drinks for body & mind

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With the mercury rising rapidly, it's common to want to cool off quick with a glass of chilled water or off-the-shelf carbonated drinks over ice. These are temporary fixes, but you're actually doing your body more harm than good. 

According to the Ayurvedic principles that form the basis of our holistic treatments at Balance, cold or iced drinks disrupt our digestive system - controlled by the Fire element - just as cold water douses a fire. The body then has to work harder to digest and absorb nutrients, causing our pitta (metabolism) to become imbalanced. The result is heat intolerance, mood swings, irritable bowels, increased aggression or heartburn. For more balanced solutions to the heat this summer, put that iced soda on hold and try these Ayurvedic ideas instead.

AYURVEDIC TIPS FOR A COOLER SUMMER

  • Drink at least 7-8 glasses of ­room temperature water every day, including a couple with pitta-pacifying fresh mint, a tablespoon of fresh lime juice or a teaspoon of rose water. Yoghurt-based drinks (like lassi or buttermilk) are highly effective, as are those made from raw mango (panna). Cutting back on ice-cold drinks help your stomach to feel less bloated, and you'll notice you're able to handle the heat better.

  • Fresh fruit and fresh fruit juices (not canned, frozen or from concentrate) are particularly beneficial. Watermelon juice, fresh cucumber juice, lettuce juice and tender coconut water are best. Drink at least one of these juices several times a day and note your tremendous increase in heat tolerance.

  • Cooling herbs like fresh mint, fennel, cilantro (green coriander leaves) and watercress can be juiced or pureed into chutneys to further balance pitta. Alternatively, steep them in boiling water in the morning, cool the drink to room temperature and drink the infusion throughout the day to stay hydrated while benefitting from the herbs' healing qualities.

  • Favour cooling spices like cardamom, coriander and fennel seeds in your food. Use organic rose water or rose petal conserve as a cooling food supplement or an addition to summer drinks.

  • Certain fruits like strawberries and peaches tend to irritate pitta and are known to cause rashes or allergic reactions in particularly sensitive people. If you must eat them anyways, try poaching them with a bit of sugar and cardamom instead. Serve the poached fruit with a bit of pitta-soothing fresh whipped cream as a stand-in for ice-cream, or blend with grape juice for a refreshing summer drink.

Try some of these suggestions and tell us how you felt!

Scent Sense: How to Pick the Perfect Perfume

I always knew that perfume was powerful, but it only after joining Beautybay that I started to understand the science behind the magic. Why were certain perfumes intoxicating on some people and barely noticeable on others? Was there a reason the same scent smelled different on me at different times? How could I get my favourite fragrance to linger on me for longer? Time, testing and observation helped me make some sense of this heady art.

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A question of chemistry
Every person has their own distinctive body chemistry, which depends on hormones, diet, overall health and the skin's pH balance. Perfumes mix with the body's natural aroma in a chemical reaction, resulting in either an enhanced smell, a neutral one or, in some unfortunate cases, an unpleasant one. The body's smell also varies by environment and mood, which is why the same perfume can smell different on you at different times. Oily skin tends to retain scent longer, while it easily dissipates on dry skin.

To determine whether a perfume's a good fit for you, spend enough time choosing it. Spray a small amount on the inside of your wrist, don't rub it, and wait. "Top notes" will unfold immediately, "heart notes" reveal themselves in 10-15 minutes, and "base notes" are those that remain after 20-30 minutes. If the perfume stays on long enough for you to detect the base notes, it's probably a good fit for you.

All-day fragrance
Follow these tips to ensure you smell good through the day:
  1. Bathe thoroughly before applying any fragrance to your body.
  2. Layer your perfumes before putting on your clothes or accessories - first use a matching body lotion (or an unscented one) to help your fragrance last longer.
  3. Lightly spray your perfume on "pulse points": the wrist, neck, cleavage, inside of the elbow, behind the knees and on the ankle. These points are where blood vessels are closest to the skin, giving off more heat and acting like mini fragrance pumps.
  4. Avoid spraying too much scent directly on your clothes - besides staining your garments, the scent can stick to the fabric, conflicting with different perfumes you plan to wear on other days.
  5. Don't overspray - the perfect perfume works best in small quantities, mixing with your natural body odour to create a balanced scent. 

Smell good this summer
Summer means heat, sweat, and - quite often - body odour. Don't try to mask body odour with copious quantities of perfume, as it can just aggravate the condition. Instead, bathe regularly (multiple times a day, if possible and necessary) to keep offensive odour-causing bacteria at bay. Wear clean, fresh clothes (soft fabrics like cotton are best) to stay cool and dry, and layer small quantities of perfume to smell your best. 

Light, bright fragrances in eau de toilette or cologne formats are best for the summer; keep the heavier parfum and eau de parfum concentrations for colder months. Fresh floral and uplifting citrus scents are optimal for women, while aquatic, citrus, and gentle woody notes work best for men.


Way to Becoming a Leader

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When I first joined the Landmark Group in 1994, I was put in charge of finance at Splash, the fashion retail concept then in its infancy. I am a Chartered Accountant by profession, and apart from limited experience with a small fashion brand, I was new to the field of garment retail. I found myself faced with many aspects of the business: dealing with contractors, coordinating with architects and project teams, warehouse and retail coordination, staffing, work permits and more. Learning it all practically at the same time gave me tremendous exposure.

From those early beginnings to my current position as CEO of Max, I have looked at every challenge as an opportunity to learn and improve skills. Leading a business is like climbing a mountain: the journey isn't primarily about experience, but more about faith and conviction, trusting one's instinct and staying on the path no matter what. Here are some of the truths that helped me to get to where I am today, and that will undoubtedly help many to become leaders in their field.

Communicate a clear vision
For a team to work together towards a common purpose, it's important that they see it clearly. A good leader will have a rational, realistic plan, communicate it consistently and stay committed to it. Empower your team members to take decisions and to be accountable for them - and don't forget to recognize and reward your team for a job well done.

Make bite-sized goals
It is always better to break a long path into meaningful, bite-sized goals - this keeps the team motivated, enables them to measure their performance and makes the ultimate pinnacle less daunting. With the focus on achievable short-term objectives, you will be pleasantly surprised at how easily morale stays high - allowing you to set higher goals and targets.

Share the load
I recall my experience in Kuwait when we opened our store in Al Rai. With a small team of only 40 employees, we successfully opened a large 100,000 sq. ft. store. In order to ensure the team reached its objective, all of us volunteered to share the workload and take up responsibilities which were beyond our key responsibilities. I am happy that some of the key members of that team have grown in the organization today as GMs and COOs.

Strive to continually improve
I believe that besides passion and hard work, one needs conviction and clear vision to succeed and grow. Always learn and improve your skills. This will keep you engaged and driven, and you will always move ahead. Believe that you can do more and better each day than what you have achieved in the past.

Do you have any best practices for better corporate leadership? Share them with us here...

Citymax SuperChef Coco-Trilogy, 3: Buko Mousse

Our coco-series comes to a sweet finish with this enticing and unusual mousse. "Buko" means "coconut" in the Philippines, where the fruit is used extensively in both sweet and savoury dishes. 

At the Claypot restaurant kitchens in Citymax Bur Dubai, SuperChef Tulsi walks you through the steps of making this quick-to-fix, fab-to-eat dessert. Try it - we're quite certain you'll be back for thirds.


Love your coconut? Don't miss our easy Coconut Croquettes and our healthy, delicious Tender Coconut, Ginger & Barley Broth.

Suggest variations to this recipe or share your favourite coconut dish with us here...

Citymax SuperChef Coco-Trilogy, 2: Tender Coconut, Ginger & Barley Broth

In this second instalment of our gastronomic homage to the humble palm, Citymax SuperChef Tulsi (of Claypot restaurant in Citymax Bur Dubai) stirs up a soup you'll go nuts for.

Tender coconut, ginger and barley broth
Coconut water, from "tender" (young and green) coconuts is a naturally refreshing electrolyte that's high in potassium and minerals, free of fat and cholesterol and an anytime-favourite cooler in tropical regions around the world. Fragrant with ginger and coriander and fortified with barley, our coconut broth is a delicious balance of exotic and easy.

Catch Chef Tulsi in action in this video, and try making it yourself from this simple recipe.



Got coconuts on the brain? Share your favourite recipe with us here...

Citymax SuperChef Coco-Trilogy, 1: Coconut Croquettes

At Citymax Hotels, we're as big on taste as we are on value. Go behind the scenes with our SuperChefs, who share with you the simple secrets of scrumptious recipes. We won't blame you if your mouth starts watering - so if you want a quick fix, pop over to any of our restaurants to satisfy your craving for the yummy.

Coconut Croquettes
Citymax SuperChef Frozkhan Buhari serves up aromatic cuisine at Claypot, our authentic North Indian restaurant at Citymax Bur Dubai. In this video, he shows you how to make these tasty Coconut Croquettes - adding a tropical twist to an easy dish. Keep the basic ingredients at hand and whip them up as a surprise treat to impress family, friends or unexpected guests.


Is there a coconut-based recipe that makes you drool? Share it with us here...

Child Safety First: In the Car

As part of our Child Safety First campaign in cooperation with the Road Transport Authority of Dubai, Babyshop brings you this series of ABCs on how to help keep baby out of harm's way.

Most modern vehicles are designed with child safety in mind. However, proper child safety in automobiles requires a little more than simply buckling up. You can increase your child's safety in the car significantly by following these easy tips and procedures.

Picking a child seat correctly
Choosing the right child seat can make all the difference to your child's safety in the car. Remember that kids under 9 must ride in a child safety seat or booster seat, and that children under 13 belong in the rear seat and should be securely buckled in. Child seats come in 4 main types:

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1. Infant seat. Rear-facing only; age: birth to 13 kgs. Backward-facing seats provide more protection for your baby's head, neck and spine compared to forward-facing seats. We recommend positioning these seats at the rear of the car.

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2. Toddler seat. Forward-facing only; age: 1-4 yrs (9-18 kgs). These are also best placed on the rear seat of the car. Move your infant to a toddler seat only once their weight is more than the maximum weight for the infant seat or the top of their head is higher than the top of the seat.

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3. High back booster. Forward-facing only, with or without vehicle belt; age: 4-8 yrs (10-36 kgs). High back booster seats are better for children who are between 96 and 150 cms tall. Some booster seats are designed to be converted into a booster cushion by detaching the back rest.

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4. Booster seat. Forward-facing with vehicle belt; age: 4-12 yrs (15-36 kgs). When using these seats, make sure the seat belt is correctly adjusted and worn as tight as comfortably possible. The lap belt should be over the pelvic region and not over the stomach, the diagonal strap should rest over the shoulder, not the neck, and your child should be able to see the window of the car.

Fitting child car seats
  • It is always safer to fit infant seats in the rear of the car
  • A forward-facing child seat in the front of the car should be fitted as far back into the car seat and as far away from the dashboard as possible
  • Don't place the child seat in the front if there is a passenger airbag
  • Make sure the seatbelt passes through all the correct guides on the child seat
  • If the child seat remains in the car permanently, make sure it is checked regularly and that it is securely held in place
  • Push your weight into the child seat and pull the shoulder belt to make sure the seat is securely held. There should be no slack in the seat belt.
  • Check for any forward or sideways sway once you've secured the child seat in the car
  • Check that the seatbelt buckle is not resting on the child seat frame (this is known as 'buckle crunch')

Safety checks in the car
  • A child's body temperature increases much faster than an adult's. To reduce the risk of heat injury, don't leave your child alone in the car, not even for a short errand, and not even with the windows down.
  • School-aged children shouldn't be allowed to play in or around a parked car
  • To reduce the risk of a child becoming trapped inside the trunk of a car, always keep the trunk closed and the rear seats up
  • Teach children how to use a trunk release mechanism if your car has this feature

Pick up our handy ABC ("Always Be Careful") booklet at any Babyshop outlet or download it here as a useful reminder of how to make your child's life a little bit safer.

Are there other safety measures you use in the car for your child? Share them with us here!