Transformation is the essence of fashion. The mere act of dressing is to transform: a new outfit is a new you.
So too can a new President or CEO make for a new company. Fresh faces at the top is one of the primary methods of transformation, as newcomers bring new ideas and strategies.
When the appropriately named Trans Fashion Indonesia found itself in need of such a change in 2017, the company was in the midst of great turbulence. An explosive period of expansion had begun a decade earlier, leaving the fashion retailer and subsidiary of Indonesian conglomerate CT Corp in need of some guidance from above.
"The basic foundations of the company were not developed enough to keep up with the pace of the growth," says Ayesha Aziz, President Director of Trans Fashion.
When Aziz was offered the opportunity to join the company in late 2016, it hinged on one crucial condition.
We understand we aren’t living in a static world. It’s always changing. We have to lead, adapt, empower and optimize if we’re to stay on top.
"The Chair of CT Corp asked me to transform the company," she says. "This meant working on the foundation of the company as a company, analyzing its sustainability and then bringing the company back to a more profitable situation. In its core philosophy, Trans Fashion is a capital inductive kind of a business, so I took on the challenge as a leader for change and transformation."
Starting with the team
The first point of order for Aziz was to assess the Trans Fashion team.
"When you’re transforming a company that’s part of a big conglomerate, you have to start with the people," she says. "There are two elements there: those facing external customers and those who essentially are internal customers."
How these two functions operate together to deliver the company’s promises is the path to success, so Aziz says her journey began by creating a shared understanding among internal customers regarding why the transformation was necessary.
"External customers were not satisfied, and that was because our teams weren’t aligned on how to deliver the best value," she recalls. "They were going in different directions, they had their own silos. So breaking those silos and bringing them together under one vision, one objective, that was the biggest challenge."
Even bigger than selling the idea of an 18-month transformation to Trans Fashion’s shareholders.
"It sounded like an impossible task, but by mid-2018 we were in a situation where we could stand on our own two feet," Aziz says. "It felt like quite a milestone."
Focus on customers
And then came the philosophy that Trans Fashion had to become a customer-centric organization.
"As a fashion retailer, we need to invest in people and build partnerships that can lead to long-term success," she says. "I call it the magical triangle: landlords or malls or any brick-and-mortar store in which we face the customer; partners, most of whom are in Europe and don’t deal firsthand with Indonesian customers; and then the customers themselves."
But the kind of customers Trans Fashion enjoys are chasing a more luxuriant, premium experience than most of the mass market.
"They have higher expectations," Aziz says. "If they go into a Valentino store, they want a certain experience, service, product and after-sale service they believe should come with the purchase of a Valentino product. They think they deserve it."
For Trans Fashion, meeting those expectations meant building new partnerships on a foundation of transparency and trust.
In a position like ours, the key focus is how we can maintain customer centricity.
These include with contractors such as Target Teguh Perkasa Mandiri and Kingsment.
"These are very important business partners," Aziz says. "They work with us every day, and we’re in constant contact about materials, projects, inflation and the exchange rate, supply shortages."
Then there are the freight forwarders and logistics companies; the landlords in shopping precincts such as Plaza Senayan and Park One Group; and the IT companies helping Trans Fashion along on its path to digitalization; all of whom have combined to make Trans Fashion one of the most significant fashion players in Indonesia.
"In a position like ours, the key focus is how we can maintain customer centricity," Aziz says. "We have to stay in touch with our customer base through IT innovations and social media, so our technological shift will go in that direction over the next few years."
The ecommerce experience, she says, is just as important as an in-store one. "Even if the customer is making the purchase when they’re sitting at home, we want to provide the best possible experience for them."
Brands make the fashionista, however, and Trans Fashion will continue to work with some of the biggest brands in the world, including Hugo Boss, Aigner, Furla and Geox.
"Geox is an interesting case because it’s not so much about fashion but innovation," Aziz says. "There’s a massive innovation element in the shoes they make, so we don’t want to go just for an event, we want to market them to particular demographics."
In such specific cases, Trans Fashion will find the right communities in which to highlight these standout brands.
"We connected Geox with Femina, the Indian women’s magazine, because that’s the right customer base for them," she says.
It’s this kind of influence that, as part of a larger consumer group, Trans Fashion is able to enjoy.
We have to invest in brands that can remain relevant for several years, and that’s a challenge.
"It’s a huge competitive advantage," Aziz says. "We can take advantage of a massive consumer base all linked to companies within CT Corp. If we launched a new brand, there’s the possibility that within six months, 50 million people would become aware of it."
And a majority of that population are now Millennials and gen Z.
"Young people are very economy-driven. Brands fall out of relevance quickly," she says. "We have to invest in brands that can remain relevant for several years, and that’s a challenge."
It’s all a part of Trans Fashion’s long term vision, which Aziz is determined to realize as leader.
"Expansion is important, and while doing so, we must enhance the brand image and the reputation of the company," she says. "We must develop our talent and retain our best people. We must carry on our digital transformation even with the constant acceleration of innovation.
"We understand we aren’t living in a static world. It’s always changing. We have to lead, adapt, empower and optimize if we’re to stay on top."
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