What we are today is because of a culture of continuous innovation: Kanan Khimji

March 15, 2023 | By Rupkatha B

In an exclusive interview with RetailME fifth-generation business leader and Director of Oman headquartered Khimji Ramdas Group, Kanan Khimji spoke about what innovation means to her and the business.

Innovation isn’t something that should occur occasionally, she emphasised. It can be a series of smaller insightful improvisations which help change behaviours and customer preferences over a period of time.

Encouraging entrepreneurship, driving employment

“Today, SPAR supermarkets [part of Khimji Ramdas Group] have 24 stores across Oman, up from just one in 2014. As we speak, we are in the process of identifying new locations and partnerships to extend the network. We are what we are today because of a culture of continuous innovation and not just a few good ideas,” Khimji added.

“Ones I’m particularly proud of is this collective idea to expand not only for us but to also move with the community and empower youth. We are in the process of sub-franchising the SPAR brand to young aspiring Omanis who want to become entrepreneurs and have their own businesses.”

Since SPAR is an international brand, there is no dearth of learnings and experiences which can be extended to these budding businessmen. However, the Group soon realised that there are several areas to be understood and tackled including cash flow management, quality control etc. “So, we decided to manage the business for two years during which time we will train the young entrepreneurs to run a retail business and become independent.”

“Another change that I’ve pushed internally is to encourage and prioritise women-led SMEs in our supply chain ecosystem to encourage entrepreneurship and drive employment. Micro innovations like these have really helped us create a stronger connection with local communities and not just exist like another business with commerce at its core,” Khimji shared.

Entrepreneurs not employees

Khimji Ramdas Group works very differently from other family-owned businesses, she observed. “It is one of the reasons that we’ve been able to keep a consistent business performance all these years. All our business clusters are professionally managed. It is the amount of entrepreneurship that we’ve been able to inculcate in the operational heads that always pushed them to run the businesses like entrepreneurs and not like employees. This has led to some path-breaking business decisions which worked out very well for us. Whether identifying a new vertical to invest in or taking transformative decisions on existing ones our spirit of autonomy has always given us positive results.”

In summation, asked about a leader who inspires her, Khimji said, “It will have to be Jacinda Ardern, ex-Prime Minister of New Zealand who embraced leadership as ‘we’ much more often than using ‘I’. She talked about people who she was fortunate to work with and those she served, which embodies a servant leadership style. Another point that inspires me about Jacinda Ardern is that she is aware of her strengths but also acknowledges her weaknesses, acknowledging where expert advice and support are required. Listening attentively and then acting on that advice with commitment are signs of a great leader. One of her favourite quotes I love is – leadership is not necessarily being the loudest in the room, but instead being the bridge.”



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