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    Highlights from Darwinbox's HR Changemakers Club Session - MENA Edit

    September 14, 2021

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    Ratnika Sharma
    Written By
    Ratnika Sharma

    Ask any HR professional in the retail sector and they will all nod vigorously if you ask them if the sector is complex and by extension, if managing talent in this sector is tough. And the rapid changes add to the complexities.  

    With the retail industry experiencing a paradigm shift in how people shop today, it is undeniable that people leading those companies must also undergo a change in mindset themselves.   

    The past year has made it abundantly clear that the volatile and complex world of work is serving up change at an accelerating pace. As enterprises navigate the new normal, HR leaders need to reimagine their organizations’ growth strategy for the long run.  

    Be it finding more agile solutions for their employees, transforming their organizations to be adaptable to change, or leading innovative efforts to ensure they are future-ready, the new HR mandate demands it all.  

    We brought together 6 HR stalwarts from the Retail sector in the Middle East region who are building adaptable enterprises with the help of HR tech. The panelists for the session on ‘Leveraging HR Tech: Building Agility & Adaptability for the Long Run’ were - Jayanti Sinha, Head - Human Resources, Max Fashion, Imran Ahmad, Group Chief HR Officer, Jashanmal National Co., Varun Garg, Group HR Director, Gulf Marketing Group, Rita Garg, Group Director – HR, Rivoli Group, Nisha Verma, Chief Human Capital Officer, Apparel Group, Priya Ranjan, Group HR Director, IIFCO Group.  

    The session was moderated by Ashok Kapoor, MD at Organization Pivot and Himanshu Kumar, Director – Customer Success at Darwinbox. 

    Here are a few highlights from the session: 

    Top challenges of the retail sector post pandemic 

    1. Attracting, engaging and upskilling talent 

      While these challenges were prevalent for this sector even before the pandemic, the intensity is much higher now. According to Priya Ranjan, Group HR Director, IIFCO Group, “The ability to attract people to this sector is not so strong. And even if talent pool is available, the ability to screen them and recruit them in a fast and efficient manner is still a challenge”.

      The other challenge is to train and upskill the employees because while technology can help to an extent, it cannot be relied upon completely to reskill the workforce, especially those on the shop floor.
    2. Managing Uncertainties

      Earlier, what could be planned for the whole yearis now in constant flux. Organizations today, and especially the HR teams cannot build strategies for the whole year and hope to stick to it. They need to constantly course-correct, based on the external environment and ever-changing landscape post COVID.  
      As Rita Garg, Group Director – HR, Rivoli Group said, “With travel restrictions and a lot of uncertainty, it has now become difficult to plan for talent acquisition activities. Things are changing fast and that means HR teams have to be better prepared to handle chaos. 
    3. Adapting to being on CEO’s speed dial

      For decades, the HR function has always been on the background, limited to their functions and roles. But with accelerated digital transformation and the emergence of a completely new way of working, the HR teams are now on every CEO’s speed dial. 
      Varun Garg, Group HR Director, Gulf Marketing Group very aptly said, “The expectation from the HR teams now is that they should be able to think on their feet and produce guidelines and SOPs for the business and employees as and when norms change by the government”.  
    4. Sourcing diverse talent

      While businesses have started to pick up, talent is still scarce. Nisha Verma, Chief Human Capital Officer, Apparel Group said, “Thinking that we can source talent from nearby regions is now a distant dream because as the border rules keep changing and now with the nationalization agenda in the region, getting people from different areas has become more difficult and expensive”.  
    5. Agenda setting in a diverse and complex market 

      One may think that the Middle East as a region is homogenous when it comes to buying behaviors but in reality, markets are vastly diverse and are unique to every countryThis makes agenda setting for HR teams, managing different geographies, that much harder to do. 

    Take a look at the infographics below to understand how the HR leaders were solving the challenges at their organizations.  


    The future of work is undoubtedly a well-coordinated dance of talent and technology. How well they tango will determine how easy and efficient HR processes can become while ensuring highest employee satisfaction. As Varun rightly said, “HRs will have to see not only humans as resource but also technology as resource”.  


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