I write, review, rant, rave, on a variety of personal things. Call it Mindcasting. The written word has been my long time friend – jotting down thoughts based on what I read, heard, saw or recording my own experiences for later reference.
I have been fortunate to meet people who inspired me; exchanged ideas and views that helped me learn, mature and grow both personally and as a professional. The blog is my way of passing that knowledge and continuing the tradition of sharing.
If you are here looking for ‘Gyan‘, this blog might disappoint you. This is a platform for me to share my experiences, my personal thoughts on a wide variety of subjects – some of which I have nurtured an interest in over decades and some that are transient.
What I hope you find in this space are thought starters and action drivers. I try to keep things simple. I talk about food, travel, people, brands, consumers. I hope you find something of interest here and that you would leave a comment on what interested you, and tell me more about your own experiences.
‘Entrepreneur by Attitude, Employee by Choice’ is how Anaggh Desai, a business veteran with over 25 years of experience across industries, describes himself.
The Indian retail industry has seen the most dramatic changes over the last decade and is among the most challenging businesses thanks to fast changing consumer preferences, choices and expectations; diverse market landscape; high rentals; and interest rates. Anaggh Desai is among the few retail veterans who have seen it all at close quarters.
Ask him what ails the retail sector today and what companies are missing, and he points to the cookie cutter approach many adopt and the over optimism with which brands set up shop in India. A strong advocate of consumer evangelism, Anaggh Desai says “I cannot emphasise enough the need to listen to consumers and turning that learning into creating delightful consumer experiences”. He is also quick to add, “But the biggest challenge for brands entering India is to innovate bearing in mind not only is the country and each of its state different, but consumer dynamics change every few kilometers. Innovating for these diverse groups of consumers without losing the focus on margins will differentiate the men from the boys.”
It is his experience talking. Having worked across industries ranging from hospitality, logistics, travel, ecommerce and retail in his 25-year career span, there is little Anaggh has not seen.
His is an inspiring story of growth and leadership. Anaggh’s career began with Elbee UPS in 1987 after completion of his masters degree and post graduation in Marketing. His brand building capabilities and fantastic people skills saw him rise from a marketing executive in Baroda to being the youngest head of a regional zone. This was the beginning of his leadership journey and he continued reinventing the way business was managed wherever he went.
As Vice President Corporate Planning & General Manager at Cox & Kings, Anaggh restructured the organization to enhance its brand equity. This included cross-integration of businesses and launch of unique products like travel cards, supported by seamless alternative channels of distribution and relationship building mechanism. This eventually led to what was perceived to be a slumbering British company to be recognised as one of the top travel brands in India.
His other success stories include his role as Executive Director & CEO of ICICI Venture Portfolio companies that included the first ever OTA Traveljini, where he was instrumental in making it one of the most recognized and successful online brands. He conceptualised and successfully integrated a” Click & Brick’ Model managing the Cost to Revenue Model transformation when most of the dot com world was focusing on the ‘Cost Model’. This foresight resulted in a changeover of multiple companies, which were sold off to recover investments and improve profitability.
Later in his career as Group President for Gitanjali Gems Limited, Anaggh led the group companies’ activities with special emphasis on brand positioning and consolidation; restructuring sales and distribution; introducing systems and technology, backed by innovative HR practices. This resulted in boost in productivity as well as business expansion including an IPO.
As Executive Director and CEO of Damas India, Anaggh orchestrated the entire set-up from conception. This included building a 100+ strong professional team, rolling out 14 stores in less than a year to establish a strong national presence in record time. Always the one to focus on margins, his efforts led to the company benefiting from a higher ROI compared to the industry standards.
His last stint was with The Bombay Store as Mentor and subsequently CEO where he was instrumental in restructuring the company to bring strategic business units into its fold to enable focus on key growth areas and improve revenues. He further helped revitalise the brand image by adopting an aggressive digital strategy and a more robust and futuristic IT platform for the company. In line with his consumer focus mantra, he also helped in product expansion and led the launch of a new brand ‘The Elephant Company’ and introduced the company’s first ever loyalty program. These efforts contributed significantly to increasing the store’s topline by 22% year on year.
Not surprising that Anaggh has been dubbed the turnaround specialist by many of his peers with one of his senior colleague calling him the ‘best turnaround artist ever seen’. Besides being a restructuring expert and scale-up star, he is also known and respected for his strategic insights, deadline beating capabilities, team building efforts and visionary thinking. Some also criticise him for his risk-taking attitude, relentless chasing and ‘bullheadedness’.
What sets Anaggh apart from most other CEOs is his participative leadership style and inclusive attitude. Despite working with some of the top business leaders in the country, Anaggh firmly remains a consumer friend. This is reflected in his popularity on Twitter – where he is among the top influencers on retail – which cuts across genders, sectors, age groups and geographies. Contrary to many top executives’ attempt to maintain a serious aura on Twitter, Anaggh can often be seen tickling his followers’ funny bones with PJs; blending with the younger groups by indulging in fun hashtag games, or passionately discussing food and single malt with fellow foodies. This down to earth, ‘bindaas’ attitude has endeared him to his thousands of followers.
He is also among the early adopters of social networking and digital media platforms, and stays hooked to the digital medium to spot trends and glean consumer insights. He is also extremely well versed with the medium and has used it innovatively for marketing as well as social campaigns.
Anaggh brings to the table what most MBAs don’t: real world, street smart and sharp business acumen, all of which he serves with a large dose of on-ground reality.
While Anaggh has mostly been there and done that in the world of retail, what continues to excite him is the creation of something new; and giving shape to dreams. It is this enthusiasm that draws many youngsters to him to seek his advice for their start ups. In a bid to pass on what he has learnt, he also periodically gives away his time on Twitter to discuss new ideas with start-ups over a cup of coffee.
If you are a brand seeking to do business with Anaggh, you can write to him at email
If you are someone with a bright spark of an idea but not yet in a position to engage him professionally, follow him on Twitter and check when the next ‘coffee with Anaggh’ session is scheduled. When you meet him, you will get to see why Anaggh is not only an ‘Entrepreneur by Attitude, Employee by Choice’, but also a mentor by nature.
(This profile was written by Surekha Pillai who knows Anaggh Desai closely)
Contact: Email me