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

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.

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...

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...

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...

Landmark celebrates its 1000th outlet

landmark1000stores_final.jpgI still remember the time when we just had one Babyshop outlet in Bahrain. Today, as we celebrate the opening of 1000 outlets, I am filled with utmost pride and optimism to surpass many more milestones in the future.

Our phased expansions into different countries have kept the momentum of the organization growing. Today, the Landmark Group has a thriving, extensive network of outlets that boasts rising numbers of footfalls every year.

As part of our growth strategy we've been investing heavily in structured diversifications into sectors including health, food, clothing and malls - all of which are performing extremely well.

Reach out, give back

With the Landmark Group's reach extending across 15 countries, we have been lucky enough to give back to society through charitable projects like the 'Beat Diabetes' campaign and other environmental conservation, community building and empowerment campaigns.

The common thread that binds together all our diverse brands is the Group's mission to deliver great quality products at exceptional value for money. Our concepts across retail and hospitality segments compliment each other nicely catering to people from diverse backgrounds.

Listen, adapt, deliver

The cornerstone of our philosophy is to listen, adapt and deliver exceptional value. What sets us apart is a strong and dynamic culture of working towards this common goal which is understood and enthusiastically shared by the entire workforce of over 35,000 employees. This is truly an encouraging sign for the future of this company.

I would like to take this occasion to extend my heartfelt gratitude to all our customers, the wonderful people who work here and everyone else involved in creating the empire that is the Landmark Group.

Have you had an exceptional experience with the Landmark Group? We'd love to hear from you!

Get up and go: quick-fix travel refreshes body & soul

Travel can be sublimely refreshing for the busy professional, and it needn't come in the form of long, expensive or international trips. Discovering a new place - even if it happens to be in your own back yard - is a sure-fire way to recharge both body and soul. During a recent short trip to Ananda Spa (rated the world's best) in the Indian Himalayas, I spent a blissful few days experiencing the serene majesty of the mountains, which compelled me to look inwards in quiet reflection. Even a hectic string of work meetings right after couldn't steal the peace I'd found.
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Quick Fix
I make it a point to fit regular "quick fix" travel refreshers into my packed schedule. A two-day getaway to London's countryside, a side trip to Marseilles or Belgium, a long weekend in the French Riviera are instant recipes for an inner recharge. Even touristy activities are energizing: whale watching in Boston, visiting the Statue of Liberty in New York, meandering through the Louvre in Paris. And to combine a little business with pleasure, I check out current trends in the retail industry wherever I go (Selfridges has the most amazing store window displays). On my wish-list of places to visit next: Vietnam, Australia and South America, particularly Machu Picchu.

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Solo & Easy
Solo travel is a must-try for anyone, at least once. I'm addicted (one fine day my husband's going to up and leave me!) - it allows me the personal space and time so vital to my well-being. Travelling light allows me to get up and go at a moment's notice, and, though strictly vegetarian, I'm not fussy about food - a simple sandwich while exploring rural Britain, fresh croissants in France, a Margherita pizza almost anywhere if uncertain about the cuisine or language.

Unforgettable Memories
I don't hoard souvenirs (except for the occasional fridge magnet) or even take many photos - after a major hard-drive crash a few years ago, I realized how transient life is and became peacefully detached from collecting memorabilia. So what stays with me at the end of a trip? The memory of an experience that's all my own, the feeling of getting to know myself better through a new place. Bhuvana_trip_3_resized.jpg
Top Travel Things

1) Blackberry. I no longer carry a laptop, iPad, or anything else. But friends have to remind
    me to leave the BB behind when we go out, or I'll be on it non-stop.
2) iPod. Instrumental lounge music for the mornings, soft melodies in any language through
    the day. 
3) Books. At least two, ranging from business biographies to new-age spirituality. 
4) Wet wipes & hand sanitizer to stay healthy & clean wherever I go.

What do you do to recharge your batteries? Share it with us here...

Better Careers at the Landmark Group

One of the chief mandates of the Landmark Group's Web Team is to keep improving our existing presence on the web. Our latest efforts have been directed at our Careers page, which was in need of an upgrade. The old page, though complete in information, lacked the punch to inspire energetic, talented people to consider working at Landmark.

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We wanted a better, brighter page that reflected the Landmark Group's attractive work environment and the diverse, exciting opportunities it offers. Being such a large company often means being mistaken for a nameless, faceless organization, which we're anything but - so on the new Careers page, we included a candid Q&A section with some of our top executives describing their career paths and their experience at Landmark. 

In order to showcase the people who work at Landmark, we also decided to plump up the page with a video featuring various Landmark Group employees. Have a look for yourself and tell us what you think!


What do you think of Landmark's new Careers page? Share your thoughts with us here...

Growth 1: The value of internal knowledge-sharing sessions

As a multinational conglomerate spanning various industries, the Landmark Group encourages certain key values across all its many brands. One of these - and the focus of this series - is growth.

At corporate HR, we see growth as a direct function of knowledge and experience. The beauty of such a large organization is the abundance of knowledge and experience that individual members of our diverse family bring from elsewhere or develops on the job. To best leverage these dynamic learnings - and bring people from across Landmark together to help each other - we've developed a monthly internal knowledge-sharing session we call, simply, Growth.
Instead of applying the traditional top-down management approach, we find greater value in an entrepreneurship-based model of business. The idea behind the Growth series is to identify new ideas and innovative processes developed within brands, and to share these best practices across the organization. Learning from each other's experience helps us build a strong central knowledge storehouse, enabling us to replicate success from one pocket of excellence in another.
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Says organizational learning guru Peter Senge: "Sharing knowledge is not about giving people something, or getting something from them. That is only valid for information sharing. Sharing knowledge occurs when people are genuinely interested in helping one another develop new capacities for action; it is about creating learning processes".

In the coming months, we'll be sharing:

- an initiative to identify middle
  managers by our fashion retail concept
  Splash

- a practice to increase retention rates
  of new employees by our kids'
  entertainment concept Fun City

- a morale-boosting motivational
  programme by our footwear concept
  Shoe Mart

- ... and many more.

Stay tuned! Does your company encourage internal knowledge sharing? Tell us your experience here...

Follow your art: choosing your career with passion

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Painting has always been my passion. I had sketched and doodled informally since I was a child, so when it came to choosing a Saturday hobby (required by my school in Mumbai), my art teacher - renowned Indian painter R S Nikumbh (portrayed by Aamir Khan in the film 'Taare Zamin Par') - suggested I choose art.

Though I was just 11 years old at the time, he paid special attention to honing my talent. I excelled academically, though, so, as the son of a traditional Gujarati family, becoming a full-time painter was never a serious consideration, and instead I followed a more conventional career path.

Keeping the art alive
Decades later, as the CIO of the Landmark Group and a family man, there is little time to pursue my passion. But the painter in me is still alive, and, as a classic Virgo (an emotional perfectionist), I find ways to express myself: I insist that tables and charts be coloured and laid out just so, sketch presenters or admire hotel lobby art during long conferences, and would rather be outside in nature drawing trees or plants than socialising at a cocktail party. And I've recently dedicated my Saturdays to painting again - I'm currently working on a portrait of my daughter, who's persuaded me to restart my art.

Leap of faith
At the age of 50, I often wonder about enrolling in an art college and fulfilling my dream. But the most practical thing I can do now is to encourage my own children to follow their hearts and turn something they really love into a viable career. My son chose to study Chartered Accountancy in India (instead of engineering in the West, as I'd thought) and is doing well for himself today. My artistically-inclined daughter is shaping her hobby and career in computer animation and fashion design, which will allow her to balance work and family life. Both have chosen fields they love, and I'm happy they've followed their hearts.

I know my art will always keep me good company. Whether your passion is meant to be a hobby or your life's work, I encourage you to take that leap of faith to find out. You might just discover you have wings.

Have you found a way to do what you love? Share your story with us here...