Tools for Smart Omni Channel Retail Strategies
What’s your story?
I have been practicing music since the age of six, reaching some of the highest levels in my field. Music has had a major influence on both my professional and personal life! It not only taught me discipline but also diligence and perseverance. I have been working in the creative industry sector for almost 20 years. I have led a wide variety of projects in contemporary arts before taking a new turn and exploring the world of fashion and the know-how of excellence. I worked as Strategy and Business Development Consultant before becoming Managing Director of a French consultancy firm specialising in retail strategy and skill development for the retail business. Five years in that role gave me the opportunity to work with some of the biggest luxury brands and international retailers out there.
In 2018, I decided to relocate to Singapore and set up my own agency – Bienvenue Factory. Asia has been a place for me to experience and understand better the retail world of tomorrow, from innovative digital concepts to client experience.
What excites you most about your industry?
Retail is a very diverse industry which not only needs vision but most importantly, common sense and pragmatism. I enjoy this balance which forces me to always keep my feet firmly on the ground.
If you come and spend a day in a store, you will be surprised by the sales teams, their versatility and extreme agility. It can feel like watching a choreographed ballet. Each one of us puts on our costumes, just like in theatre.
An encounter with a client is the result of a process of sharing, feeling, knowing and making decisions. No one can work in retail without loving people. The act of selling is all about generosity.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I first discovered Asia during a study tour in 2009 which took us to Hong Kong, Shanghai and Shenzhen. It was a real shock. Whilst Europe was in the middle of the 2008 economic crisis, Asia and its young populations had vast possibilities ahead of them. Upon my return to France, I promised myself to move there one day.
I like the way people think in Asia, their relationship to time and life. Asia teaches you humility and patience. And, as a cherry on top, I can finally be a bit superstitious here!
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
My ‘love at first sight’ was for a trio of cities: Singapore, Shanghai and Seoul. Their ways to approach retail, as a whole, are very different and complementary. Singapore is the ideal platform to develop your business as it continues to evolve in a very dynamic environment with a regional impact. Second, Shanghai is bustling with life and learning opportunities concerning digital practices and frameworks which can then be utilised in Europe.
Finally, Seoul has hypnotised me by its innovation potential and its preconceived and uncompromising ideas on aesthetics. These three together are my very own winning tierce.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best advice I know actually comes from a famous quote from Théodore Monod. French scientist, naturalist, biologist and explorer. He is one of my favourite authors.
“Utopia is not what is unachievable but rather what has yet to be achieved.” In times of intense activity, this quote motivates me to surpass myself. And in times of doubt, it reassures me.
Who inspires you?
Women of course! And especially, Anne-Sophie Pic, Michelin-starred chef. She managed to establish herself in a male dominated world and create her very own culinary art, full of emotion and sincerity. There is also Michelle Obama and her ability to federate initiatives and invest in a better world. Her “supernatural” strength is contagious!
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I recently met with Frédéric Tardieu, winner of the Asia-Oceania Innovation Award for the work he has achieved with his Sulubaai Environmental Foundation on Pangatalan Island,Philippines.
With his wife and marine biologist,Thomas Pavy, they have come up with an innovative way to reconstruct the coral reefs to preserve the marine world. Today, the island has become a marine protected area dedicated to scientific research. Researchers from all corners of the world travel there to witness it and learn more on ocean protection methods.
In the current fight against climate change, this island is a symbol of hope for future generations.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would go for a more hands on profession, such as floral designer or pastry chef; and I would open an art gallery, just for the love of beauty.
How do you unwind?
I am an avid reader and podcast addict. I also practice cyanotype, a photographic printing process that produces a cyan-blue print. In this digital world, there is beauty in getting back to basics.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
A slice of heaven a few hours away from Singapore. But it’s a secret…
Everyone in business should read this book:
“Deep Work: Rules for focused success in a distracted world,” by Cal Newport
Shameless plug for your business:
I love reutilising content, already amplified and meaningful. It stimulates my imagination and helps me discover new concepts. “Nothing is lost, all is transformed.”
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connects’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder and CEO of MBH Corporation PLC. He is the author of three best-selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’, ‘Agglomerate’ and ‘Entrepreneurial Investing’.