The youngest professional CEO of a listed company Khadim’s Namrata Chotrani on the steps she and her team are taking to revitalise the footwear retail brand
By Anurima Das
Khadim is a known name in the affordable footwear segment. It is especially popular in East India where the brand originated. While the company was established in 1981, its retail journey started only in 1993. Until then, it was involved in the wholesale and distribution of branded basic utility footwear. Even today, the brand continues to operate its distribution vertical alongside retail.
While the distribution business has a strong network of 544 distributors, its retail footprint covers 23 states and 1 union territory through 799 branded exclusive retail stores. It has the largest presence in East India and is among the top three players in South India. The company is entering a new phase of reinvention and growth spearheaded by its CEO Namrata Chotrani, who holds the distinction of being the youngest professional CEO of a listed company.
An alumnus of the INSEAD Business School, France Namrata comes from a background in M&A consulting and private equity. In her formative years, she learnt about retail from her father’s leather shop.
Since joining Khadim in 2019 Namrata has successfully led the turnaround of the company by consolidating the business while growing its footprint with a focus on profitability and building a strong corporate culture. A consumer-focused leader, she has led the transformation of the product portfolio, the in-store experience and rejuvenated brand identity. A strong believer in inclusivity, her tenure has seen rising participation from women in the company workforce.
Before joining as the CEO, Namrata was associated with the company in various roles including as a non-voting observer and nominee director, representing Fairwinds Private Equity and as a non-executive, non-independent director of the company.
Before Khadim, Namrata worked with the Fairwinds Private Equity investment team, focusing on mid-market companies in the consumer, healthcare and industrial sectors among others. Before Fairwinds, she has also been associated with KPMG for 4 years in the M&A Advisory team.
Namrata holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from INSEAD and a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce from the H. R. College of Commerce & Economics, Mumbai University.
Namrata shares her vision and plans for the brand’s journey ahead and the course of action the company is taking under her leadership to stay closer to its customer base at every step.
Tell us about Khadim’s reinvention. Was it prompted by the pandemic?
We started doing a lot of work to reinvent ourselves even before the lockdown. It continued post-lockdown as well and we have developed an internal vision to be the largest and the most successful affordable footwear fashion brand in the country. To achieve this, we have adopted a 7P model, for both our businesses ‑‑ retail and distribution.
Could you elaborate on the model?
The 7 Ps stand for product offering, people, partners, policy, process, promotion and profit.
Regarding product offerings, our brand team is working on strengthening our positioning as an affordable fashion brand. We want to make Khadim merchandise young, fashionable, and trendy.
On the people front, we are focusing on hiring the right people across various functions such as sales, merchandise, supply chain, and marketing production. We are also working on grooming people within the system to take up larger roles.
We refer to our partners as the ‘Khadim Parivar.’ We are working on improving the relationship with our partners on all levels and ensuring that associating with us is a win-win for all of them.
Next comes policy…and we are an organisation with strong SOPs. The systems are a reflection of a strong backbone.
After that comes Process. We have aggressively started using a data-driven approach for most decisions taken across various functions. We have implemented the Theory of Constraints, which has helped us improve our stock efficiency, which in turn has had a positive impact on the entire working capital of both our business verticals.
On promotions, we will consciously increase investments in this area. We will also work on lead campaigns, moment marketing, and more to make the brand more appealing to the youth.
Then comes profit. The focus has transitioned from only sales to Profit First. Every possible lever is being worked upon to ensure it is profit accretive. Some of the initiatives are focused on product gross margin suprememisation and rationalizing inventory purchases. The data-driven approach has helped us on this front. Every decision is being taken keeping in mind profit.
How do you fare on the e-commerce front?
We are focused on enhancing the omnichannel experience. This means that if today a customer walks into our store and fails to find a product in terms of size or colour, it will be delivered to him in the next couple of days from the nearest store where the product is available. This facility is activated for almost all of our computing outlets. We’re also trying to implement this at our franchised stores.
We are also working towards finding the serviceability of e-commerce orders from marketplaces. The idea is to help us improve service timelines and consumer experience, reduce logistic costs and improve working capital efficiency. So we are working on improving our online experience regularly. Online is a platform we intend to capitalize on.
What initiatives are you taking to engage your customer?
We have implemented CRM and are on-boarding an agency to help us with it. I believe it will help us to engage with our existing and old customers. We are back with campaigns, which have increased our average billing value and units per transaction. While different campaigns focus on different ideas, the larger perspective is to keep engaging our customers and bringing them back. This is because the cost of acquiring new customers is higher than the cost of engaging with existing customers. That is something we believe in monetizing.