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Nissan Joseph: Man with a plan

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Shiv Joshi
Shiv Joshi
An editor with over 20 years of experience across industry verticals and content formats from tabloids to magazines, he is the Deputy Group Managing Editor at Images Group.

Armed with two decades of experience, Nissan Joseph, chief executive officer of Metro Brands Ltd. is helping the company stride into its next phase of growth. He speaks about his first steps and key focus areas…

New Delhi: Nissan Joseph took over as the chief executive officer of Metro Brands Ltd. (MBL), in July 2021—a time when the company was at a crucial turning point. It was a period when the company was realigning its focus in response to the pandemic-led changing market dynamics, while also preparing for its upcoming Initial Public Offering (IPO).

MBL went public in December 2021, six months after Joseph joined.

While there were many positives on the business side such as good sales per square foot, positive EBITDA percentages and profitability, it was still the middle of the pandemic with no end in sight…All in all, not the best of circumstances to be in his shoes.

However, Joseph took on the role with a vision to capitalize on the company’s years of financial discipline and operational rigour.

He came armed with 22 years of brand management expertise across 20 countries including the US, Australia, South Korea, and India leading various retail brands like Foot Action, Payless Shoes, Crocs, and Planet Sports. And he was happy to join MBL when he did.

“There are only four types of companies that CEOs come into; a startup, a company that needs a turnaround, one that needs acceleration and one that needs transformation,” explained Joseph who joined MBL from MAP Active Philippines where he was the chief executive officer.

“Fortunately, Metro Brands was a well-run organisation that was a best-in-class operation. With the lack of having to do a turnaround, I could focus on the acceleration of the business. Once you start that, you realise the business simultaneously needs to transform. So, it was a combination of acceleration while keeping the transformation pieces ready to go, as the business evolves,” he added describing his focus when he joined.

First steps

One of the first decisions Joseph took after he took over was to exit the Walkway shop-in shops (SIS) in D-Mart. “I was clear that we wanted to be a retail company where we run full-blown stores and not SIS. That was not the model I thought was the best for us.” explained the CEO.

The other thing was optimising technology utilisation—ensuring the effective use of prevalent technologies, seamlessly integrating them while at the same time getting ready for scaling up from the 500 stores it had at the time.

The technology piece also included ramping up MBL’s digital capabilities by stepping up its investments in digital to become a digital-led company—a pandemic-induced imperative.

The digital angle

Before the pandemic, about 2% of MBL’s sales were from digital channels. “As we came out of COVID-19, we were trending more in the 8% range—so we had quadrupled our e-commerce business as a percentage of our overall business,” shared Joseph.

At the backend, that meant integrating supply chain and data flow systems to facilitate becoming omnichannel.

Furthermore, the whole technology shift was not only from an e-commerce perspective but also from a marketing perspective to become digital-first because many consumers started their digital journeys during that period.

With regards to scaling up its online business, Joseph clarified that although there is a scope for growth, physical retail will always remain a significant part of the company’s business because of the nature of the footwear category, where fit is of utmost importance, requiring a physical trial of products.

Fit issues often lead to high return rates—almost 30% of the company’s products sold on e-commerce get returned, which increases return logistics costs and impacts customer satisfaction.

The brand’s key focus therefore remains expanding its brand offerings, offline presence, and relevance.

Focus areas as a CEO

  1. Aligning with strategic aspirations

For the CEO, being in line with the company’s strategic aspirations is his main focus, followed by measuring against that strategic aspiration. Whether it’s Fitflop, which is a relatively small business for the company with four stores, or Metro Shoes, which is the company’s largest business with approximately 300 stores, he focuses on ensuring that decisions align with the company’s strategic aspirations. 

2. Ensuring talent and technology are in place for future growth

“Talent and technology should be in place for where we want to go, not where we’ve been or where we are. It’s about being ready to be ahead of the curve because you can only lead from the front,” Nissan Joseph said.

3. Prioritising key strategic initiatives 

“This involves listing things that I wanted to be held responsible for and the capital allocation decisions that come with it,” said Joseph. “Right now, we have the integration of Fila on our hands. So, it’s worth my time and is a priority for me,” he added. 

With his infectious energy, clarity of vision and a solid plan in place, Joseph is helping MBL take measured but confident strides into its next phase of evolution.

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