Today we are sharing the inspiring professional journey of Ratna Widhani a retail footwear expert to an amazon expert & eCommerce business consultant. I hope this interview inspires you to start your own eCommerce business.
Garima Taneja: Hi Ratna, Let us begin with your unique story, could you please share that with us?
I am Ratna Widhani. I am a mother to a 9-year angel who thinks I am from the stone age and wife to an IT geek. I am A Bcom (Hons) Graduate, IIM Ahmd certified turned into a Footwear retail expert and now an Amazon expert & an eCommerce business Consultant
Well, that’s a very short version of my life and there has been an interesting journey behind all this which is filled with experiences, challenges, and learnings.
I finished my graduation and at 21 I did not have a direction nor the clarity in terms of what I wanted to do. We did not have the internet at that time to help us “Google search “and answer our questions. I wanted to be a CA and also a dancer at the same time but I ended up being none. Overall, I was a very confused and shy kid, stammered while speaking English, and was basically compared to my elder sister all the time who was clearly an EXTROVERT.
My dad was a footwear industry veteran and he suggested that I sell shoes in the Nike Southextn store and I took the plunge, struggled to do my target in the store as in 1999 people in Delhi would be surprised to see a girl putting on shoes to customers as it was considered inauspicious. Well with 3 years of struggle I learned every aspect of retail and moved on in the merchandising world to work across groups like RPG, Reliance Brands, Tata International across footwear-centric brands like Nike, Timberland, Caterpillar, etc.
The next phase of my life was game-changing for me as a person, as it pushed me to come out of my shyness and I moved on to become a more confident person. My first public presentation was to a group of 45 retailers in an India Caterpillar sales conference in Mumbai Taj Hotel where I completely froze and the conference ended up being a disaster – all credits to myself. This incident was life-changing as post this I was miserable and so I worked very hard for the next 6 months to build my presentation skills and I became one of the few people in Bata India to always present to the Global Bata CEO Jack Clemence and Mr. Tomas Bata during their India visits.
So far so good … But I realized while I was getting international exposure of meeting people, working across credible brands, I felt bucketed into very tight areas like “footwear” or “brand management “ and I was not adding value to myself
The Internet and Ecommerce boom happened to us in the year 2011 where I was still completely ignorant of the change it could bring to the consumer business. It was only in the year 2016 that I was exposed to this side of the world and I took up the challenge to actually jump into the well to understand what this is.
Trust me it wasn’t easy to suddenly change a 13-year-old traditional retail perspective to an eCommerce consumer business mindset and also understand the importance of digital marketing.
Well after 6 years of learning and especially post COVID I realized that there were companies, SMBs, start-ups struggling with the same challenges of perspective and thought process of building the online portfolio. So I quit my full-time job and decided to build my firm and support SMBs, start-ups, brands, labels to address their eCommerce business challenges and support them to grow. Today I have consulted for Royal Enfield and I am also associated very recently with the Baidya Nath group.
What describes you? What do you have to offer to people?
Well, I would describe myself as a very passionate, driven, hardworking and empathetic person. It’s been over 20 years in the consumer business and the leadership teams and my colleagues would describe me clearly as a workaholic and a person who does not take a “No” or “ “Impossible “ as an answer.
My principles in life are –
- Always have Plan B in case Plan A does not work
- There is always a solution to a problem
- If you believe you can make it happen – it will surely happen as “it’s all in the mind”
- Success is always a team effort!!
- Lead from the front – Show how it’s done and the team will follow.
- Every roadblock is an opportunity to learn, make mistakes, and GROW
My colleagues and subordinates consider me more as a support pillar and a friend for guidance and advice than a superior because I have always been there for my teams not just professionally but also when there have been personal issues.
At every stage of my career, I have taken risks and explored the unknown which has given me the opportunity to learn new things and I continue to do so.
I am a rare combination of retail & eCommerce expertise built from the Ground Up across large groups like Tata, Reliance, RPG for brands like Nike, Caterpillar, Bata, now founded my eCommerce consulting company OCC where we help SMBs, start-ups, new brands/labels build and grow their online business portfolio.
I want to keep making a difference with my 20 + years of retail and eCommerce expertise because I strongly believe that the only thing that is constant is change and in today’s rapidly changing times it’s important each one of us add value as individuals, leave our comfort zones and share our knowledge, learnings to help build a roadmap to success for everyone.
According to you, what’s the best way to start the day?
I strongly believe a strong and clear mind is responsible for a strong & healthy body hence my day starts with meditation which helps me stay positive and focus during the day. An exchange of love and a smile from my 9-year-old angel is my booster that gives the added energy topped by a nice cup of refreshing Jasmine green tea.
Who is or has been your inspiration?
Well, each day and as we grow, we get inspired by people big or small who have been successful in their own big or small way or have become entrepreneurs after a lot of challenges or how in COVID times a different thought process helped people remain relevant. My inspiration comes every day from each of these small and big stories which help to keep going and be thankful to God for choosing me to make a difference.
That Eureka Moment, when you got your first 2 big clients
It was truly a Eureka moment when I got an opportunity to do a short-term Ecommerce Operational Optimisation Engagement with Royal Enfield Gear and a long-term Brand Building Engagement with Age Ayurveda (BaidyaNath Group) in the eCommerce segment. It is an honor to be associated with them as these are such iconic brands. They also add a lot of value to me personally considering there is a wide exposure in cross categories like Biking accessories and Ayurveda and networking with new people in the segments.
What makes digital marketing different from traditional marketing?
The major difference between digital and traditional marketing is the medium through which a marketing ad or message reaches the consumer. In the world of the internet when every individual is on social media and the internet, digital marketing becomes the easiest medium to reach out to your consumers. Also, in these tough times of the pandemic, it has left no choice for business owners to go digital.
While in normal times there needs to be a balance of both in a marketing strategy, digital marketing comes with its own benefits: –
- Measurable results as data can be captured and analyzed
- Optimization friendly and Precise targeting based on the consumer profile
- Better ROI
- Wider reach
What are your three favorite digital marketing tools?
There are different tools for different kinds of activation. For Keyword research and SEO Google keywords, Answer the Public, Ahrefs, Amazon seller app. For Design and creatives, Canva is a good tool. For marketing automation and lead generation, Mailchimp and Lead feeder are good.
How would you define success in your career?
There is no Success without a Grind and success is subjective as it can mean different things to different people. For me, there has been no shortcut but pure hard work, willingness to learn and experience new things, and the courage to accept failure and rise up again.
What is your biggest dream in life?
To be famous and addressing a large group of new and small business entrepreneurs and sharing my success stories.
What’s worth spending more on to get the best?
In today’s dynamic and changing times it is worth spending on updating and adding value to
oneself to ensure we always stay relevant to the demand in the market. It is always good to diversify
into areas that have potentially provided there is enough interest and inclination to learn and adapt.
Lastly, would you like to say something to our readers?
Staying positive and motivated is the biggest challenge in these tough times. All I can say is tough times bring the best out of us. So –
- Keep going
- Involve in an activity that keeps you focussed
- Stay in the company of positive people
- Be grateful for what you have today
Most Important – Stay Safe & Stay Healthy!! If you are healthy today you can look after your family tomorrow.