In the midst of all the discussion about leadership, the best development that the world is currently witnessing is the outstanding surge in gender diversity across entrepreneurial and senior leadership roles in the business and corporate worlds, and that deserves to be admired. Whatever the industry or sector, women who have broken free from the constraints of social structures have made significant progress. They are now prominent contributors to a company’s generation of effective, creative, and profitable business ideas. They also lead their organisations in such a way that it attracts a talented workforce and encourages long-term business growth.
With over 30 years of experience in supply chain management at the country, regional, and global levels, Deepika Rana is a strategic and analytical executive who thrives on the challenges of the future. Deepika is the Chief Operating Officer of Li & Fung, the world’s largest Supply Chain orchestrator. Her key focus in this role is to leverage Li & Fung’s scale and integrating its diverse services to create a keenly focused customer-centric offering. She is also responsible for defining strategic goals, championing innovative solutions and driving business growth for Li & Fung and its customers and vendors.
Li & Fung is a 116-year-old company with a global footprint in 40 economies. Headquartered in Hong Kong, it continues to adapt, grow and thrive in today’s everchanging environment. Deepika joined Li & Fung in 2003 and throughout her career, she has witnessed major changes in the industry, from the shifting geopolitical landscape to technological advancements and changing consumer behaviours. She was promoted to Executive Director to lead the teams in the Indian Subcontinent and Sub-Saharan Africa in 2014 and oversaw US$2.2 billion in turnover across nine production countries. Her goal as Chief Operating Officer is for Li & Fung to be the anchor in the supply chain ecosystem by enabling growth, profitability, and risk mitigation for its stakeholders as the company navigates a disrupted and volatile future.
Deepika has supply chain management experience at country, regional, and global level. With India as her home country, she possesses strong knowledge from a country perspective and understands the value of having boots on the ground.
This is critical in today’s environment as the centre of gravity shifts towards to production countries in global sourcing. Deepika began her career in J.C. Penney’s Purchasing Corp. in India after graduating from the University of Delhi in India with a Master of Arts degree in Business Economics. Prior to joining Li & Fung, she was the managing director of May Department Stores in India. She recalls the past when Indian executives who have dominated the global scene were predominantly in the IT and consumer sectors, and she is proud to be representing India in the apparel and sourcing industry. In her role, Deepika is always exploring innovative solutions and value-added strategies to support the business, customers, and vendors.
Li & Fung
Li & Fung’s aspiration statement is “To deliver value in global supply chains by living our values around people, partners and planet.” The company’s core values are: Humility, Entrepreneurship and Family.
Li & Fung has been managing global supply chains in over 50 markets for 116 years. The company stands out for having the highest level of scalability and flexibility in the sector. Its on-the ground presence as well as its deep relationships with local vendors, government regulators, and business communities help mitigate some of the risks so present today for both customers and vendors. “Our flexible global solutions give us direct and real-time insights and have enabled us to pivot quickly to new geographies as soon as we perceive risk and disruption,” says Deepika. With a transparent and digitised supply chain, the company can share data across the entire value chain to make smarter, faster, and more effective decisions for its customers.
Adapting to Change
For Deepika, working in the supply chain sector has never been monotonous. She has worked in supply chain management for 30 years and has seen significant changes in the sector. However, the business has been dealing with more dramatic and turbulent situations in recent years. The pandemic has taught us that disruption is a constant, which is one of its most important lessons. Deepika believes that to help Li & Fung and its stakeholders navigate these disruptions, the only way to overcome them is through strong, resilient, and courageous leadership. She observes that the current tsunamis of overlapping economic and geopolitical disasters, are impossible to predict and have shaken not only the foundations of retail profitability but also the foundations of the supply chain, and these are not times for the fainthearted. She states, “To navigate and lead in these times requires leadership grit, courage, and the foresight to rebuild for a sustainable future.” She further mentions that challenges do come with opportunities, and the only way one can overcome them is to tackle challenges head-on and overcome them by discovering the opportunities that lie beneath.
Potential for a Leading Global SME Industry in India
The COVID-19 outbreak severely impacted India’s economy. SMEs were given major relief measures, however many of these were short-term financial and monetary aid. According to Deepika, in order to improve India’s global competitiveness in the sourcing landscape, Indian SMEs will require more sustained support.
Deepika believes that India has the chance to go on a high-growth trajectory in the upcoming years. The country is a rapidly developing industrial nation with access to vital resources including land, water, power, and labour, as well as favourable regulatory environments for the growth of the textile and garment sectors.
With a very youthful, mobile and agile population, India has built a very strong and highly skilled workforce with competitive labour rates. Its presence at all levels of the manufacturing value chain (from fibre to finished goods) gives India the full potential to grow. She proudly mentions, “India is my home country, and I am proud to represent and raise awareness for India’s huge growth potential as I continue to build in this leadership role at a global supply chain company.”
Leading with Transparency and Determination
As a leader herself, Deepika’s advice for upcoming leaders is to always keep in mind that change is constant. She asserts, “You have to continuously review your business model to make sure it’s fit for purpose and has the flexibility to adapt to the constantly changing environment.” She also adds that trust and transparency are critical between one’s employees, customers, and other stakeholders, so always maintain clear and honest communication. She believes in conducting businesses that strike a balance between making profit, representing underserved communities, and protecting the planet.
Critical Importance of ESG
Deepika envisions that the future will place a greater emphasis on ESG. The retail and the supply chain industry as a whole have experienced waves of economic and geopolitical upheavals in recent years. Climate change issues are becoming more prominent as a result of extreme and unusual weather phenomena. The necessity of creating a more inclusive society and workplace has been highlighted by social movements. A growing number of businesses are demonstrating their dedication to creating a sustainable and inclusive future – and Li & Fung will continue advocating for robust economies, societies, and ecosystems.
Deepika believes corporate leaders must rise to the occasion and take on this critical issue.