A multi-award-winning global fashion and lifestyle conglomerate based in Dubai, UAE, Apparel Group today has operations across the GCC. In this interview RLI spends some time with Sima Ganwani Ved, Founder and Chairwoman of Apparel Group to discuss the growth of the company and how it has evolved to become a world-class leader in the retail sector.
The Apparel Group story began in 1996 when Sima Ganwani Ved and her husband Nilesh Ved realised there was a gap in the market for international brands in the GCC region and the company has achieved mercurial growth ever since by introducing world-class labels from around the globe to the region.
“Just like the city we are based out of, our vision since inception keeps evolving. At one point it was about number of stores. Now, it is about our presence in this region and beyond, the consumer journey and ethical business practices which will help us leave the world in a better place,” explains Sima Ganwani Ved, Founder & Chairwoman of Apparel Group. “Of course, we do all this whilst enhancing our revenue through the adoption of technology. The Apparel Group functions at its best when we are able to instil an entrepreneurial mind-set. As we restructured, the idea was to move into an era where teams self-manage and everyone has responsibility and accountability.”
The motto behind the company is Exceed Expectations Everyday and this applies to their employees as well as the customers. The business strives to create an immersive and memorable shopping experience that goes beyond just selling products. This vision drives them to constantly innovate and seek out new and exciting ways to enhance their offerings.
From the 6thstreet Phygital store to lighting up the Burj Khalifa with Tommy Hilfiger, they are always looking for ways to push the boundaries of what is possible in the retail industry. This commitment to innovation and customer satisfaction is at the heart of everything they do at Apparel Group.
Being a first-generation family business gives them the ability to be agile in dynamic situations. This was never more evident than last year when they opened a new store every day of the year, adding a further 365 stores to their portfolio which now stands at more than 2,025 stores across more than 80 brands in 14 countries.
“Our current focus is on our e-commerce business, adding new brands, new territories and developing the sustainable side of our business. There are many more exciting things we are developing in the F&B space as well. Having just opened the 250th store for Tim Hortons, we know well the potential of this segment in our region,” Ved explains.
Apparel Group recently opened their first sustainable brand called F5 Global at the Dubai Hills Mall and this particular brand is an important one for Sima as it was opened by her daughter. They also launched the regions first Phygital store at the same mall which will be a game changer for retailers. Another of their brands, Beverly Hills Polo Club opened its 100th store and they recently launched Victoria’s Secret in India.
“The Apparel Group has grown in its popularity as a regional expert. Hence, we are constantly seeking to take on more brands in various industries. My husband is known for his keen eye for locations and this has made us a success along with various other best practices that we have implemented. Knowing “how” and “where” to sell is so fundamental, that the “what” becomes secondary once you have mastered the former two aspects. We are currently in fashion, beauty, footwear, entertainment and food and beverage,” Ved highlights.
When discussing omni-channel and its importance in the company’s operations, Sima explains that it is the only way forward. She explains that a customer wants the option and ease of buying and returning and that having offline stores to support the 6thstreet.com shopping experience gives them a major advantage.
Their recent joint venture with Nykaa is an example of their focus. This partnership aims to set up an omni-channel beauty retail platform in the GCC, enabling customers to shop for a wide range of beauty products both online and offline. It is a commitment of Apparel Group to bring innovative retail experiences to their customers and provide them with seamless access to their products and services.
As a leader in the retail industry, the Group recognise the importance of social media in building a strong brand presence and connecting with customers. However, social media goes beyond being just a marketing tool for them. It is a way for them to listen to their customers, gather their feedback and respond to their queries. It enables them to build trust with their audience and demonstrate their commitment to excellent customer service.
Their brands, including F5 Global, Aldo, Steve Madden, TOMS and Skechers are playing their part in promoting sustainability and Apparel Group understand the importance of reducing their environmental impact and promoting sustainable practices in the fashion industry.
“To achieve this, we have implemented various initiatives. The company is leading the way for environmentally-conscious and sustainable lines that are being adapted and adopted across the board,” Ved explains.
As a customer centric company, everyone is a customer to them including their employees who interact with various departments. As an example, Ved says that they consider all their main support functions to be services provided for their employees and hence the later are encouraged to rate and give feedback on their experiences, meaning there is a consistent attempt to improve and self-regulate.
“Our incentives and rewards are what make us an industry leader. Similarly, the entrepreneurial mind-set which we encourage fosters a constant learning environment in which everyone who engages thrives.”
As our time with Apparel’s Founder and Chairwoman comes to an end, she finishes the interview by saying that she strongly believes that perseverance, hard work and staying true to one’s values are crucial for achieving success as an entrepreneur.
“To conclude, I would say that these days it is important to just have that one big idea and believe in it. The entrepreneurial world rewards big ideas and capital will follow as long as you have faith and guts to bring it to light.”