Simplifiers Interview: Rohit Singh Bhatia, Head of Marketing at Home Centre

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Behind every brand delivering simpler experiences for customers is a leader who recognizes the inherent value in keeping things simple. Here I interview marketing leaders and founders of brands that have performed well in the Global Brand Simplicity Index and/or that we deem as simplifiers based on a review of the brand. In this Simplifiers interview, I speak with Rohit Singh Bhatia, Head of Marketing at Home Centre. (Since 1995, Home Centre is the leading home retailer with close to 90 stores across the Middle East and the Indian Subcontinent).

MM: What does Home Centre stand for, and how does it deliver on that promise every day?

RSB: Home Centre is the largest furniture and furnishing retailer in the Middle East. We are known for making homes beautiful by providing aspirational and quality furniture and furnishings. We stand for the joy of homemaking, and deliver on that every day.

MM: What role does simplicity play in delivering on that promise?

RSB: Since our business spans 10 countries, 40 nationalities, various languages and dialects and differing mindsets, it’s important to be as simple as possible in our communications and the way we connect with our customers and associates. Unlike businesses on most other continents, we start from a place of educating customers on why our products are best, and only then move to demand generation and selling. Because of the diversity of our staff and customers, and the need to educate, our message must be exhaustively simple and easy to understand internally and externally.

MM: How does your organization strive to create simple experiences?

RSB: We’ve put tremendous effort into making the shopping experience convenient for customers by investing in technology. Convenience is the greatest manifestation of simplicity to the customer.

We launched online three years ago in the UAE, and have built an online experience that makes shopping simple. For example, when shopping online, customers have the option of purchasing with their card or paying cash on delivery. Additionally, now you can shop online in some stores or check stock availability, and the online and in-store experience has become seamlessly one. Our efforts are put toward making the shopping experience convenient.

MM: How do you strive to conquer complexity within Home Centre?

RSB: One of our biggest organizational complexities is that we have a diverse staff, which speaks various languages and dialects. It’s imperative that we simplify internal communications so they all understand the way we operate and how we should communicate with our customers. We create our internal communications documents, whether those are about brand mission or strategic intent, for floor staff in a simple and pictorial language. For example, those who speak Egyptian dialect Arabic and those who speak Hindi can all understand it.

MM: What benefits has Home Centre experienced from simplifying?

RSB: There’s a large commercial advantage to being able to manage one diverse team under a single brand across the Middle East. Thanks to the well-thought-out strategy to unify the Home Centre vision and diverse staff under one brand, we operate as one company with one head office. While most companies in the Middle East have different brands in different countries, our simple strategy has allowed us to have one brand that is pan-Middle East and North Africa. Not many other businesses in our sector can do that.

MM: How do you keep things simple for the marketing team?

RSB: In every initiative I tackle, I make sure there’s a clear one-line objective. If the idea cannot be translated into one simple phrase, then it will get lost.

We also include customer-facing team members and retail staff in marketing initiatives. They get involved in the objective-setting, and give significant feedback before any product is launched, which informs our marketing strategy.

MM: Personally, how do you lead as a simplifier?

RSB: I put all initiatives I work on through the formula of why, what and how. And I encourage my team to do the same. If you can’t answer these three simple questions about your initiative, it’s likely not a good idea.

MM: What’s the most recent simple customer experience you’ve had with a product or service?

RSB: The airline Emirates delivers an incredibly simple and exceptional service. Rather than satisfying my needs when I voice them, Emirates is able to predict them. Three days before travel, they alert me about online check-in, luggage requirements and visa requirements. These small reminders make my travel experience simpler.

MM: What do other executives need to do if they want to operationalize simplicity?

RSB: Executives need to clarify their priorities to themselves before executing initiatives. I give the following advice to Home Centre store managers: before the store opens, talk to your employees about two key goals. Prepare these discussion points the night before, and guide the discussion in such a way that you’ll get two action points at the end of the meeting. If you don’t simplify priorities, you can’t operationalize simplicity.

MM: Are there any indicators that simplicity is driving your business?         

RSB: Simplicity helps us by generating customer loyalty. One of our greatest strengths is our ability to connect with customers in our region. We offer services that cater to the specific needs of our particular shopper and, in turn, simplify their experiences. For example, we offer same-day delivery or the option of furniture removal. This helps to make us the preferred business over others.

MM: What is the biggest mistake brands make when trying to simplify?

RSB: Sometimes brands try to do too many initiatives, rather than focusing on one. For example, if waiting at checkout is the most painful part of the experience, then introduce mobile checkout or another solution. There might be five other pain points that are low on the customer’s mind. Don’t try to fix them all at once and risk confusing the customer. Prioritization is important.

Additionally, brands sometimes use processes that have helped them simplify on other continents, and try to replicate them in the Middle East. That doesn’t work here. You must be deliberate about catering to our particular audience.

Simplicity should always have an element of empathy.

MM: How would you define simplicity?

RSB: Simplicity is something that everyone can understand. In other words, it’s articulate, crisp and empathetic. Simplicity should always have an element of empathy.

MM: What’s the top piece of advice you’d give to other brands trying to simplify?

RSB: Simplicity starts within one’s own mind. It’s important that top stakeholders, and specifically the CEO, drive simplicity. If you want to build a culture of simplicity in an organization, it has to come from the top.

MM: Thank you.

This is this an ongoing Simplifiers series. See interviews with SVP, CMO of Aflac,Gail GaluppoSVP and CMO at Cambia Health Solutions, Carol KruseManaging Director of The Nature Conservancy, Geof Rochester, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer of Motorola Solutions, Eduardo Conrado, EVP; SVP, Chief Marketing & External Affairs Officer at Abbott, Elaine Leavenworth, GE CMO, Linda Boff; McLaren Automotive Head of Brand Marketing, Stephen Lambert; Ascension Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Nick Ragone; Hertz CMO, Matt Jauchius; Direct Line Group Marketing Director, Mark Evans; McDonald’s CMO, Deborah Wahl; Jet.com President, Liza Landsman and VP Marketing, Sumaiya Balbale; Target CMO, Jeff Jones; Spotify CMO, Seth Farbman; Ally Financial CMO, Andrea Riley; Gannett CMO, Andy Yost; CVS Health CMO, Norman De Greve; Dunkin’ Brands CMO, John Costello; Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh; Southwest Airlines CMO, Kevin Krone; and Google CMO, Lorraine Twohill.

Know a simplifier or would like to be included in the series? Please recommend an executive for my next interview: mmolloy@siegelgale.com

Margaret Molloy is global CMO and head of business development at Siegel+Gale. Follow her on Twitter: @MargaretMolloy and Instagram:@MargaretMMolloy

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