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WHEN SUCCEEDING IS THE ONLY OPTION

May 22, 2018
Cvent CEO Reggie Aggarwal is a certified phoenix who has brilliantly risen from the ashes of failure. He tells us his story to never back down… Rajeev or Reggie Aggarwal’s life is worthy of being made into a movie by a film director like Mira Nair who likes to dabble with different subjects and stories. But it’s not going to be a too good-to-be true tale full of Bollywood masala. It’s a story of patience, passion and perseverance and a well-deserved victory. His parents immigrated to the US in 1965. His father went to Kansas State University for a Master’s in Mechanical Engineering followed by a job at the Department of Commerce. His mother, a Masters in Sitar, became an executive with the US Government after moving to the States. Reggie has two siblings — a sister called Manjula; she worked at Cvent for 15 years as Senior Vice President, Client Services — and his brother Sanjeev is a cancer specialist. While still young, his family moved around a lot and lived in seven to eight different cities before settling down in Alexandria, Virginia, where his parents still continue to live. Growing up in the US was initially difficult for the family. “My father came to the US with very little money and went for his Masters. To make ends meet, my father worked at a fast food restaurant and my mother cleaned houses and sold Avon door to door. It was tough living during our first decade in America. But once my family adjusted they got more professional careers and ended up working for the US government,” says Aggarwal. The Aggarwal household was a middle-class environment that gave all three siblings a happy childhood despite the struggle. From the beginning, their father was involved with them and ensured they played a lot of sport including basketball and soccer. Since Reggie was slightly shy as a kid, he challenged that through debating; it instilled confidence in him and enabled him to truly enjoy academics. It also gave him the self-assurance to become the student body president. That’s also the time he started to develop leadership skills. “I became comfortable with who I was. As I grew older and went to college, I began to embrace being Indian and began to understand the Indian culture. It came full circle when I graduated from law school and became president of the Indian American Bar association, met my wife at the network of South Asian professionals and started the Indian CEO Technology Council. I fully embraced my Indian heritage and maybe went overboard,” he recalls. It seems like he was born with an entrepreneurial streak. He learnt how to cook at the age of seven and started engaging in small businesses from removing snow, lawn mowing to painting when he was all of 14. “I was always entrepreneurial,” he says. During college breaks while all other students headed for internships, he would run businesses with his friends. As a Finance major from the University of Virginia,

Turning the Tide

January 18, 2018
Ananth Narayanan came to Myntra with little experience of fashion but he is well on his way to making the online retailer a force to reckon with. In 2015, when Flipkart hired Ananth Narayanan, then a 38-year-old director from McKinsey, to run its newly-acquired fashion retailer Myntra, the young CEO set up a herculean task for himself: To make Myntra India’s  first profitable large e-commerce company. At a time when the top e-commerce companies in India, be it Amazon, Flipkart, or Snapdeal were bleeding, such a proposition sounded quite far-fetched. Discounts to lure customers and keep sales volumes high were piling up losses for most e-commerce players. Myntra wasn’t an exception. A little over 2 years later, Narayanan’s mission, while not achieved yet, looks well on track. In August 2017, the company declared its private label business, called Myntra Fashion Brands (MFB), profitable. MFB makes for 23% of the company’s business. Myntra now expects to turn EBITDA pro table soon, perhaps in a month or two. “We are ahead of target in turning EBITDA positive and will announce that soon,” says Narayanan. How did Myntra’s young CEO manage to get his company on track? He certainly got his initial priorities right — to cut costs, streamline processes, and shift the focus on higher-margin businesses. Through careful inventory management, Narayanan was able to cut discounts and supply chain costs by a few percentage points. While discounts were slashed on popular products that customers were willing to pay full price or near full price, supply chain costs were brought down by increased use of technology and economies of scale. A big boost to profitability came from Narayanan’s drive to reinvigorate the private labels business. The company owns 13 in-house brands, or MFB, whose margins are higher than those of third-party brands. In the past, these brands contributed a decent 14% to the platform, but weren’t scaling up. Narayanan felt their potential was not fully tapped and there was room for growth. “One reason they weren’t growing was lack of importance. The moment you declare them important, people pay attention to them. Shining a light on MFB was one big reason it started growing. Second, we genuinely improved the products,” he says. MFB is today a profitable business and the company expects to grow it to about 30% of sales in the days to come. The strategies Narayan implemented at Myntra have been geared to the rapidly growing e-commerce market. “My initial objective was to build upon the strengths and offer greater value, which I knew would help us have a large set of repeat customers, along with a steady focus on acquiring new customers. I focused on improving unit economics, improving the NPS and bringing more brands, which has helped us on our journey to becoming the first profitable e-commerce company in India,” he says. How does Myntra position itself in the larger fashion space, a burgeoning market expected to grow manifold in the coming decade? “From a macro perspective, brands are
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