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Prakash Menon -  Creating Future Leaders

What He Knows

Retail Supply Chain Mastery   Retail Leadership And Innovation   Career Transitioning

Retail Supply Chain Mastery

Prakash Menon has had significant corporate careers across two continents where he fast tracked his career to the top. As a former board member and Director Of Supply Chain at MYER - Australia, a $3.2 billion retail giant, adding $25 million to the profit in just 10 months and a whopping $290 million to the profit over the next 3 years.

“There is an old saying which goes like this: A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Nothing can describe the importance of supply chain more aptly in a retail organization. If the supply chain crumbles, it can topple the foundation of the organization. A weak supply chain can cause losses of billions of dollars. It can drive away its customers to the competition. And, a retail organization cannot simply afford it. Every single penny counts. Every single customer matters.”- Prakash Menon.

The face of supply chain management has changed drastically in the recent decade. From disparate functions such as procurement, production and logistics, the supply chain has moved to a more complex system that calls for an integrated and holistic approach. The reasons for this shift can be attributed to a set of new market dynamics such as change in customer preferences, acceleration of technologies such as big data & cloud computing, fierce competition among e-commerce players, cross-border business expansion and the growing use of social media & digital marketing tools.

Now, while retailers are making every effort to build their competencies and adopt a sustainable supply chain model, they are struggling to source the right talent who can lead this strategic transformation. A global survey ‘Sustainable Supply Chains: Making Value The Priority’ conducted by PwC and APICS Foundation revealed that the biggest barrier to the success of a company’s sustainable supply chain practices was a lack of leadership support. This fact clearly indicates that retail organizations need to create a role that can alter the direction of the retail game in their favour. In my opinion, a Supply Chain Director fits this role perfectly. He can become the game changer for his organization in the new millennium.

Supply Chain Directors can bring the focus, discipline and accountability in the entire supply chain management of the organization. They think beyond the obvious and their functional expertise. They formulate a strategy that interweaves supply chain with every business function to deliver the maximum business impact in terms of profits, revenues and customer satisfaction.

Most businesses are either already transcending the geographical boundaries, locally and / or globally. This calls for transformational capabilities, integrated planning and collaborative efforts across the organization. Supply Chain Directors not only strive to achieve operational excellence, but also work with the mindset of a CEO. Apart from possessing technical skills and know-how, they display a fine sense of business and financial acumen. They can speak as enthusiastically about the organization’s balance sheet and return on investment as they can about their core areas of expertise - logistics, inventory, sourcing and production.

Technology challenge in supply chain is another area that Supply Chain Directors can handle deftly. According to the Accenture Global Operations MegatrendsStudy ‘Big Data in Analytics in Supply Chain: Hype or Here to Stay’, many organizations are realizing the importance of new age digital technologies such as Big Data and Predictive Analysis to build sophistication and efficiency into their supply chain. However, implementing these technologies is a huge concern owing to a number of factors, including lack of in-house human resource who can act like a data scientist. Supply Chain Directors can come to rescue here as they are very tech-savvy and can leverage data to obtain real time information, predict trends and enable better decision making.

Supply Chain Directors have an experience across cross-functional and cross-organization challenges. They can pull all resources efficiently and effectively to implement an integrated value supply chain and provide end-to-end solutions. They are people who can bring the pieces of a disintegrated puzzle together and integrate them to create a complete and bigger picture.

If a Supply Chain Director isn’t in your boardroom yet, you need to act fast. Or else, in all probability, you may earn yourself a tag of a loser instead of a game changer.

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Buy Prakash’s Book - Supply Chain is Sexy

Retail Leadership And Innovation

“I am a diehard fan of Ninja movies. In fact, Seven Samurai is my all-time favourite, and in spite of having watched it umpteen of times, I never grow tired of it. Well, if you are into Ninja movies, you will understand, what I mean.
Now, Samurai and Ninja are different, though people tend to confuse them a lot. While both samurais and ninjas are Japanese warriors, their mindset and modus operandi differed from each other. A samurai warrior belonged to an elite class who was attached to a powerful political figure and adhered to a high code of honour called Bushido. A ninja, on the other hand, was a low class mercenary infamous for his sneaky ways, could be hired by anyone to kill. He didn’t follow any rules or codes. He was non fussy and didn’t worry himself with who did what and why. He would simply go and execute seamlessly working as a specialist, yet be effective and efficient in his approach and come out clean without leaving a trace.
Now, being an experienced player in the field of Retail, I could not help but draw a strong analogy between samurais and ninjas and the roles of leaders today.”

- Prakash Menon

The samurais are the leader of the past, who are old school, rigid and go by the book. They believe in drawing their power from their position, authority and title. They lead and manage using tried and tested processes and collect accolades and applause for victories that involve little or no innovation. Their every decision needs to be politically validated and motivated. While, this may have proved to be successful in the 80s and 90s, if you want to be a leader in the 21st century, you need to shift gears. You need to be a Ninja.

Ninjas are not worried about the politics of the organization or the bureaucracy. They come in, do the job stealthily and exit without attracting unwanted attention to themselves. They are restorative and proactive. They do not attempt to be super heros who sweep in when there is panic, but rather foresee the problem even before it occurs. It means they move stealthily through the oragnization, sealing the leaks and filling in the cracks that go beyond the boundaries of their role. If there is a challenge, problem or something that needs to get done, they can and will do it. Their reward comes from their work and their work speaks for them.

Today, as organizations continue to expand their global reach, they need more Ninjas, and NOT samurais. However, our hiring strategies and our development plans still prefer to select and churn out more and more samurais. Organizations are, in fact, willing to compromise and settle for the cheapest samurai instead of hiring a professional ninja. This needs to change, if we are to survive in an environment that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguos (VUCA); we need Ninjas.

A retail ninja would need to have the following attributes:
A retail ninja has a global perspective. A retail ninja understands how the business world works on a global scale in order to make strategic decisions for the company. He has the ability to manage business using the best people from around the planet. That ability stems from the experience of networking at the highest levels in global boardrooms.

A retail ninja is a systems thinker. A retail ninja goes beyond his functional areas of expertise; i.e apart from his expert field of finance or marketing, he knows about supply chain, logistics and operations as well. He has an in-depth knowledge of the ‘whole system’ and how each component interacts with and affects the other, so that he know how his one decision can set the reaction in the entire system in motion.

A retail ninja is inspiring and influential. A retail ninja inspires and influences a team of people. He is able to clearly and succinctly express himself. Apart from strong verbal and written communication skills, he possesses masterful oratory skills.

A retail ninja is technology savvy. Technology empowers people and offers new ways of doing old things, or coming up with entirely new things, largely in the interest of the organization and its stakeholders. In this era of technology era, a leader has a good understanding of technology and and how it can affect the organization.

A retail ninja has very strong business acumen. He has a good knowledge and undersanding of the key drivers of growth. He knows how to make sense of complex situations and can take decisive actions keeping in mind the implications arising out of them for all the concerned parties.

In the highly challenging and complex retail world, global leaders might not wear all-covering black outfits or brandish swords, but they fiercely work like ninjas. They are the game changers in retail to help organizations not only survive, but also thrive.

Prakash Menon has had significant corporate careers across two continents where he fast tracked his career to the top. As a former board member and Director Of Supply Chain at MYER - Australia, a $3.2 billion retail giant, adding $25 million to the profit in just 10 months and a whopping $290 million to the profit over the next 3 years.

Sign up for the Black Belt in Retail Program and Retail Ninja Program

Prakash Menon has written a number of Retail Education and Business Transformation Books
• Rocketing Retail Profits – With Excellence in Merchandise Planning
• Pump Up Your ROI – From Good to Great Buying in Retail
• Power Up Your Retail – Powerful Financial Excellence for Retail Store
• Good Buyer, Great Negotiator – Fact-based Negotiation in Retail
• Checkmate in Retail – Dynamic Strategy for Retailers in a Volatile Retail Environment
• Winning Formulas in Retail – 108 Retail Formulas for Retail Mastery
• Supply Chain is Sexy - Harnessing the Retail Revolution
• Inspiration - The How to Guide For Future Leaders to Achieve Victory

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Career Transitioning

The modern world is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, well coined as ‘VUCA’ by industry experts. With the traditional barriers of geographies, industries and expertise shrinking to form a seamless working world, there are bound to be cross-overs from one traditional area to another. 

People are transitioning across levels, roles, countries and even industries. Such transitions are unavoidable. Assuming that the past expertise will automatically translate into success in the transitioned domain would be foolhardy. In fact, there are almost 25% cases of failures while transitioning across levels, and 40%-50% failure rates for cross country or industry transitions.

Ensuring a smooth transition, especially for a leader is all the more important, since the entire team’s fate rests on that one person. A leader under transition is likely to undergo various phases during the transition process (refer to the diagram below). These feelings are perfectly natural, given the circumstances. One may experience anxiety of being unable to cope with the changes or feel excited because of the change. There may even be a sense of uncertainty, giving rise to fear at the change and its impacts. Then there may be guilt for taking the ‘dreaded’ step, or a feeling of threat that it seems impossible or tougher than anticipated, leading to depression, disillusionment at the very change or even denial. A number of people ultimately resort to tackling the change with a hostile vengeance of trying to make things work, treading along the path of sure-shot failure, since their attitude is detrimental in the first place.

What is important is to identify the changes, take them in one’s stride and gradually accept the new situation. Only then can one move forward in the right direction and at the right pace for a successful future.

There are 3 qualities that a leader in transition must exhibit:
1. Instill confidence from fear
2. Provide clarity from confusion
3. Mobilize, motivate and inspire the team in pursuit of a better future.

Here are 5 key imperatives during leadership transitioning that can ensure that one is on top of things:
1. Invest in yourself
One learns on the job all the time. It is extremely vital to have an attitude towards continuous self-improvement. As a thumb rule, you should reinvest 20% of your earnings every year to improve yourself and stay relevant in the changing times. Inability to upgrade yourself and keep up with th changing environment can spell doom for you because you will stagnate and finally reach a point of decline.

2. Practice mastery
A golden statistics suggests that a minimum of 10,000 hours of practice leads to mastery. It is very important that one focusses and learns new things, practices them, becomes an expert and then gives it back by teaching it to others. This will generate respect in your and others’ eyes, as well as enhance one’s own abilities to lead by example.

3. Instill a sense of urgency
“When things get tough, the tough get going.” A leader must not procrastinate; rather learn to fight back with a resilient spirit, a positive attitude and a reenergized zeal to make things work. This will help bring out oneself and the team from the dumps, with a high morale and zest to bounce back with a bang.

4. Get a mentor
Learning from the experiences of someone who has been on the journey before, whose guidance can help one gain valuable insight, is a wise idea. Investing time and effort in learning from a mentor does not mean one cannot learn by self, it simply means one can Fast-track the pace towards success. A sound mentor can help you avoid pitfalls, as you learn from his/her mistakes and achievements and apply them to yourself.

5. Stop people pleasing
Listen to all, heed to yourself. A leader should not worry about what others say. Let them not drive you, rather follow your own instinct, your own state of mind, your own vision. A stable and focused state of mind is very important for self-clarity and to be able to lead others, especially in the process of transitioning and even beyond.

Having the right attitude and aforementioned key imperatives in mind is crucial for a successful leadership transition in the 21st century. The opportunities to let failures slip by are getting lesser in this increasingly competitive world. Keeping one’s focus and learning to quickly overcome the negativity will help a leader surmount challenges and extend the past glorious success into the new role.

Prakash Menon has had significant corporate careers across two continents where he fast tracked his career to the top. As a former board member and Director Of Supply Chain at MYER - Australia, a $3.2 billion retail giant, adding $25 million to the profit in just 10 months and a whopping $290 million to the profit over the next 3 years.

Join our elite Career Transitioning Program - The Retail Millionaire Program

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What Others Are Saying

“ I first met Prakash (PK) Menon during the private equity purchase of Myer, incorporating extraction from Coles Myer. I came on board as CEO in 2006 and PK, for a fiveyear period, was a highly involved, important member of the Executive team. Over the years, I have come to experience not only his strong business acumen, but also his baring wit, wisdom, and his ability to tell a good story. All these are demonstrated in PKs memoir, making for a fascinating and entertaining read. ”
{tag_title} Bernie Brookes
CEO, MYER Stores Ltd