More than tech: How Lowe's India is building and strengthening capabilities in Business Services!

In a conversation with YourStory, Reena Sofiya, Senior Director – Business Services, Lowe's India discussed the opportunities in the business services team within the company and how associates can constantly learn, grow, and upskill themselves.
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Since its inception, Lowe's India has been leveraging emerging technologies to create a frictionless home improvement experience for customers. The company’s 3,600+ associates work across categories – such as technology, analytics, business operations, finance and accounting, product management, and shared services – to help build the retail technology of tomorrow.

To know more about the opportunities at Lowe's India, especially in the business services space, we spoke to Reena Sofiya, Senior Director – Business Services at Lowe's India. With a journey that started in finance to now leading various retail functions, Reena currently leads the Merchandising, Marketing, Supply Chain areas at Lowe's India.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

YourStory (YS): Lowe's India is known for its technology, yet you played a key role in building its Business Services side. Can you tell us more about it?

Reena Sofiya (RS): Till 2018, the Business Services function was a small representation of the broader Lowe's India team. By understanding strategic priorities for each business function, then finding ways to drive towards those priorities by leveraging the right talent from India was how we got started. We started multiple small pilot projects across Merchandising, Marketing, and Supply Chain to demonstrate the possibilities. During this time, we hired the best talent for those roles, streamlined operating models, and established the right processes as well as metrics. Our global partners and leaders appreciated the talent we were bringing on board and the value that talent was driving paved the way for us to gradually build and grow those teams. The team has grown significantly over the last two years, and we will continue expanding the depth and breadth of the work we do.

YS: You lead various portfolios at Lowe's such as merchandising for stores and online, private brands, inventory, vendor compliance, marketing, supply chain and operations. How do these verticals help in scaling the business for Lowe's?

RS: Business Services is a culmination of multiple business groups such as merchandising, marketing, and supply chain.

1. Merchandising is all about the product we sell. Teams in Business Services play a key role in getting our item content right and optimally presenting them. They help onboard our vendors as well as hold them accountable for their service to our end customer. Our team ensures our packaging design is representative of our private brands and also manages demand planning.

2. Marketing is about acquiring and retaining our customers. The marketing teams in Business Services help with design and copy across various marketing mediums, assist with customer insights, as well as measure effectiveness of marketing campaigns.

3. Supply chain is about moving the product as optimally as possible. Our team identifies ways to reduce supply costs and optimising our network.

All of these are integral to running our business and the capacity created through this team aids us to support the growing business.

YS: From finance to leading diverse verticals at Lowe's, what made you choose retail?

RS: Even though I started my career in finance, I didn't want to be in a comfortable space for too long. In my six-year stint with Hewlett Packard, I must have done at least nine different roles and each role excited me due to the learning that came with it. And it was not always tied to a promotion. I took a lot of lateral moves to build on my skills and acquire knowledge in new areas. I would say it’s the same quest for learning that brought me to Target and my exposure to retail started with that. I quickly realised that it is very rewarding to see the impact of my work on the end consumer and that kept me glued to retail. I am excited to continue my journey in retail with Lowe’s.

YS: An employee-first culture prevails at Lowe's. How essential is it to have opportunities of all kinds for employees? How are you facilitating that?

RS: At Lowe's, we always keep our associates at the heart of everything we do by supporting their holistic well-being. We introduced several policies for our associates during the pandemic, including various forms of reimbursements and financial aid, additional leaves for COVID, caregiver leaves to take care of someone ailing with COVID, digitized OPD benefits, consultation via telemedicine, among others.

We have used technology extensively through this pandemic to ensure our teams have a strong sense of belonging, irrespective of where they are working from. Our mediums to communicate may have shifted but the communication stayed intact and frequent to bring our teams together.

There is a strong emphasis on continuous learning to ensure our teams have the right opportunities to learn and upskill themselves. Our ‘Retail 360’ programme is a series of leader-led functional learning sessions for teams across Lowe’s India. We also have self-paced learning modules across all business functions with varied levels of depth to support different learning requirements. Additionally, curated learning interventions based on the job grades and leadership training that cater to aspiring leaders, first-time leaders and experienced leaders, ensures a continuous learning culture.

Lastly, we encourage our associates to take career mobility opportunities, aligning with their aspirations, within our group or outside, to help them advance towards their career goals.

YS: What is the operating model in the Business Services team at Lowe's India?

RS: We have established a strong global operating model, which enables us to build a team in India that feels like an organic extension to the business functions back in the US or Canada. So, every team in Business Services has an invested leader/partner in the US or Canada. Ensuring that the team’s goals and priorities are a natural subset to the broader business priorities and the metrics/measurements are aligned to the business metrics are simple but effective ways of sustaining this operating model. This is truly how we've been able to drive a sense of engagement and purpose in our teams.

YS: Can you take us through some of the opportunities in your team?

RS: We are growing in almost all areas across Business Services, so there are great opportunities across Space Planning, Enterprise Item, Vendor Management, and Packaging design. There are functions that we are building where we will establish teams such as demand planning, inventory replenishment, and JDA support. We are also looking at candidates with a strong digital background for multiple roles such as Category Experience, Brand Advocates, Online Business Solutions, SEO, and other positions within marketing across integrated media.

YS: Associates are a significant part of Lowe's and its productivity. What do you look for when you build a team? And what advice would you give to those looking to join Lowe's?

RS: In addition to functional skills, we always look for individuals who can help move our business priorities forward. In a team, we look to hire diverse and complementary skills, so they are solid as a team when they work together. Having a strong sense of accountability along with an insatiable desire to learn is something that we truly value.

For Lowe’s aspirants, bring your expertise and make a difference, have the openness to unlearn and relearn when required in order to stay relevant and rightfully solve complex problems of the home improvement business.

Interested in building a career in the business services domain with a certified Great place to Work?



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