For a moment, imagine that COVID-19 has never happened. Kavindra Mishra, CEO and Managing Director, House of Anita Dongre, would start his day with a 45 – 60 minutes run, followed by a healthy breakfast. He will catch up on his reading through the one-hour travel that he takes to reach work. During the first crucial 30 minutes in the office, Kavindra would plan his day and the things that need to be achieved by the end of it. Then he jumps right into reviews, meetings, design presentations and so on. “The day flies by at the office, and I typically end up leaving office by 7:30 – 8 PM and reach home by 9 – 9:30 PM. My evening drive home is usually spent reviewing the day’s sales numbers. Then a few hours with the family, including my dog and that concludes by day,” shares Kavindra Mishra.
Now the routines have changed. Kavindra’s workday is around virtual meetings from home. However, as a leader who has been a part of the industry for over 21 years, Kavnidra’s attitude remains unaltered. He still tries to learn new things, continually challenges himself and adapts to the changing consumer trends. “I sincerely believe that the true test of a leader’s skill and character comes out only during a crisis. I am a very people-centric person, and this has been a great opportunity for me to bond with my team and other members of the organisation and take the spirit of camaraderie forward,” shares Kavindra.
During this time of the pandemic, Kavindra regularly manages to have one-on-one sessions with his team and ensures that they are in a positive state of mind and motivated. He says, “The ‘mind’ is the single most powerful thing and my effort along with other leaders of my team has been to inculcate positivity in spirit and action in the organisation. Frequent interactions help me gauge the overall morale of the company.” As a result of Kavindra’s efforts, the teams at the House of Anita Dongre are in fantastic spirit right now, and he believes that they will come out of this crisis much stronger than most of their peers.
Tackling the ‘COVID’ Storm
“The COVID-19 crisis has been an unforeseen event for the world and has impacted everyone. When the pandemic began, no one was prepared for what it would bring along and how it would impact our lives,” states Kavindra. As an organisation, the first and topmost priority of the House of Anita Dongre was to be with their teams and ensure their safety. He adds, “Our organisation has always had a People First approach, and in these adverse times we have gone an extra mile to ensure that everything we do in the coming months is towards safeguarding our employees.”
Setting up a core team that would identify various practices and projects and drive the business requirements innovatively to adapt to the new normal was the next thing they did. The House of Anita Dongre’s approach was to keep the consumer at the centre and identify their behavioural pattern. Through this, their next priority became digitisation to provide the right consumer experience in today’s scenario. “Finally, we have also looked at optimising our resources. All our spends have been minutely scrutinised to ensure maximum effectiveness on minimum spends. We are also working closely with all our partners to work out solutions which can lead to a situation where everyone wins!”, pinpoints Kavindra.
A deeply spiritual person and an avid reader of the Gita, Kavindra feels the learnings have helped him remain calm and gain a detached perspective on things. Having been in the retail career for so long, store visits have become a part of his DNA. “I make it a point to visit the stores at least two days a week. Interacting with the store managers and observing the consumers have laid a foundation for my growth in this industry. It is essential to have a ground root reality of your industry”, opines Kavindra.
The brands under House of Anita Dongre have great leaders who have excelled in a lot of good practices. As the MD and CEO, Kavindra is mainly focusing on setting up more strategic and long term plans, strengthening the merchandising strategy, creating a more robust channel mix to further grow the brands, digitalising the organisation to be ready for the digital revolution, and mentoring the teams to ensure a seamless and swift working environment.
House of Anita Dongre is a fashion house that pioneers in premium women’s fashion. The fashion house has very inspiring founders who have always been open to newer ideas and improving the way of working. Kavindra shares, “It was a great opportunity for me to learn and work in the women’s wear market and address its needs. At the House of Anita Dongre, I had added advantage of working with great promoters and one of the best teams in the industry. Taking up this role has been a complete win-win situation for me.”
The past experiences have given Kavindra an understanding of consumer needs and their behavioural dynamics, which helps him in identifying the need a brand must fulfil. “Strategic thinking ability, understanding the channel play, the ability to create and launch new categories and develop new markets along with my understanding of the eCommerce business due to my own experiences as a co-founder of Zovi.com has helped me immensely,” explains Kavindra.
A Journey of Ups and Downs
Completing his schooling from Mahanagar Boys Inter College in Lucknow, graduation from DAVV, Indore, and post-graduation from IIM Bangalore, Kavindra was a hard-working student who believed in studying and preparing well for his exams. A quality which he follows even today in his life and career, Kavindra ensures that he is well prepared and gives his 100 per cent when it comes to putting effort. “Everyone expected me to crack my Engineering exams and get into IIT, but I didn’t qualify. While I was disappointed about it, it also made me realise that at times despite putting in the best of your efforts, we might not succeed. I could have gone into a negative zone after this, but I chose to forget about it and look for a new path. I learnt to move on from my failures, be positive and overcome the challenges ahead and succeed”, says Kavindra.
Starting his career in retail in 1999 after completing his post-graduation from IIM Bangalore, Kavindra has crossed some significant milestones. In 2006, Tommy Hilfiger was launched in India, where Kavindra was the Vice President Retail. He led the growth, which made Tommy Hilfiger one of the first leading international brands in the country. In 2009, Kavindra drove the profitability and growth at United Colours of Benneton as the Commercial Director for India Business. Unlocking the brand potential by changing the business model, UCB grew exponentially after that in the country under Kavindra’s guidance.
In 2011, he co-founded Zovi.com with a small team that was able to achieve many highs, along with being the first Indian e-commerce brand to be funded by Saif Partners and Tiger Global. Joining Pepe Jeans India as their CEO in 2013, Kavindra was soon promoted to the MD’s role. “My journey at Pepe Jeans has been extraordinary. Under my leadership, we transformed the India business and made it the No. 1 country in terms of business for Pepe Jeans Global leading to launching many global initiatives from India. There were many category and business expansions like the launch of Pepe Jeans Kidswear, Pepe Jeans Innerwear, expanding into Indonesia market, setting up a Global Sourcing office in India to cater to the global needs. These achievements were a result of a great team which was equally motivated and passionate about the shared goals,” reminisces Kavindra.
Learning from Mistakes
It is said that, when leaders are honest about their shortfalls and can learn from their mistakes, they earn respect and along the way, create an environment of transparency. Kavindra says, “There have been many stumbling blocks, hits and misses during my professional career. You learn more from mistakes than from your successes, and it has been the same case with me.” Understanding the importance of taking the team together in your growth journey has been the most significant learning during Kavndra’s career. He adds, “It is especially important to be aware of the stress level of your team and their morale. You are only as strong as the weakest link in your team. Hence it is important to first strengthen your team before taking that big leap.”
There is a time and place for everything which Kavindra learnt the hard way. He opines, “Patience is a virtue which we often talk about but how to apply it in real stress situation is something which all of us need to practice. Hence it important to be patient and wait for the right time, whether its launch of a new product category or our own career move.” Today, Kavindra finds himself to be truly inspired and influenced by Mr Shoaib Faroqul, his mentor at Madura Garments. “He taught me the values of being compassionate and supportive and the ability to pass on the knowledge. He made me believe early on in my career that good people always succeed. It is this value that I have been carrying on and following till date”, recalls Kavindra.
Currently focusing on coming out of the crisis with a strongly motivated team and build better-connected brands for their consumers, Kavindra aspires to grow multi-folds over the coming years and drive sales and profitability of each brand in their portfolio. “In many ways, we are the flagbearers of the sustainability movement in India and the vision of the founders and the whole management team is to make this the biggest sustainable fashion house in the country”, concludes Kavindra. Continuing with the same vision of sustainability Kavindra is also going to be a part of the sustainability working group in the CII Committee on Retail and looks forward to driving this in the policymaking and suggestions at the highest level