Piper hosts 8th networking lunch

Piper hosts its eighth networking lunch, focused on the direct and e-commerce sectors.

Piper hosted its eighth networking lunch to discuss the challenges of growing direct and e-commerce based businesses. Guests included senior managers and owner managers from a number of highly successful companies within these sectors.

The speaker was Ajay Kavan, Vice President, Consumables at Amazon, where he is responsible for building businesses in large market segments (including Mother & Baby, Health & Beauty, Pets and Grocery) as well as for customer experience and strategic initiatives such as ’Subscribe and Save’. He previously launched the online businesses at Littlewoods and B&Q and was on the board of Homebase for several years.

In sharing his experiences of launching multi-channel retail businesses in the UK, Kavan argued that one of the keys to help drive innovation is to broaden benchmarking exercises outside of the retail sector and focus more on customers than competitors. He recalled how, by looking to the US airline industry, Littlewoods pioneered the first retail IVR execution in the UK in Index stores allowing customers to check stock in their local stores before the advent of the internet.

He also highlighted the importance of long-term thinking. He spoke of Jeff Bezos’s mantra “Be stubborn on vision but flexible on details” and explained how it led to the birth of Amazon Marketplace – initially in the face of much resistance. “Today it is one of the key drivers of our business model,” said Kavan.

Another useful tip for fast-growth businesses is to develop a strong set of principles. As Screwfix underwent massive expansion, Kavan told how a simple selection principle was established.

“They decided they would only sell tools and materials that tradespeople would use regularly on a job,” he said. ’So if a buyer suddenly got a big offer on thermoses, they knew that they didn’t need to engage. No meetings, no conversations.

“Principles like that empower teams in an organisation and are critical to support fast moving and resource constrained businesses.”