March 30, 2017
The global retailer is at the forefront of the digital revolution in terms of ‘Clubcard’, the loyalty programme, and their innovations in grocery home shopping. Tesco Bengaluru is leveraging India’s expertise in analytics.
When you meet 57-year-old Glen Attewell, CEO of Tesco Bengaluru, you assume that he is one of those CEOs who is going to talk about the achievements of the group, and what India means to the $67.8-billion global business. But then he looks at the reporter and asks the questions like, ‘Do you know how operations research came about?’ For curiosity’s sake, the reporter entertains the thought, and there it begins – a tale that began with World-War II and went on to privatisation of big infrastructure in England and birth of new-age technologies that changed retailing across the world.
But Attewell maintains that the only thing that is fairly consistent amidst global upheavals in retail business and the convergence of technology is “how a person or company interprets data gathered from operations for the business to benefit.
Here are the excerpts of the interview with the CEO who wears his working-class roots on his sleeve, and is now spearheading India’s progress to become the centre of innovation for Tesco globally in analytics and research.
YS: Now that you have got us curious you have to tell us what operations research is and why it is necessary in retail?
GA: Now all that I am going tell you applies to retail. Operations research was born in World War II when the British got scientists, physicists and geographers together to figure out the precise movement of German airplanes. The research objective was to reduce the anti-aircraft artillery, which was reduced by a third, and be as effective in shooting down planes. The same principle was applied to determine the colour of planes that could track and destroy U-Boats. Remember, the U-Boat was not the classic submarine; it surfaced every few hours. So research showed that planes painted black were easier to spot than those painted white. Back then most bombers were painted black. But data collected from the number of U-Boats hits made between black or white planes turned research in favour of white painted planes. These look like simple problems, but there is a lot of study and parameters that go into determining the objective. Now let us look at the present; this method was used by British Gas to distribute gas between pipelines during peak load and non-peak load. By apportioning gas from one pipeline to another they could utilise existing gas—in the pipelines—instead of pumping gas from the central plant. This avoided wastage. I started my career in British Gas after a garnering a degree in Mathematics and Operation Research. This helped me build a career in retail. I had an affinity towards numbers and I have used data to create new revenue streams for Tesco and execute processes.
YS: How does this apply to retail?
GA: Operations research is the heart of retail. When I joined Tesco in 1985, big supermarkets—spanning more than 50,000sqft—were just about becoming popular. So Tesco had the problem of finding the best sites to set up a retail store. So they instituted a team of data scientists and engineers who would determine, with linear regression models, competition, consumer travel time, population density and the potential spending patterns of the consumer. This is how Tesco bought freehold property. This was crucial, and still is if you are to understand the consumer. The only added metric is that today we have to understand consumption patterns on smartphones.
YS: They say you went from being a data engineer to becoming a store manager; what did managing stores teach you?
GA: Yes, I asked for a transfer myself and headed a store in Essex. You have to remember that to work in a store in England you really have to know the culture of the people that you are going to be working with. University graduates never came and ran a store. Here I was running a store and people thought I would have a tough time managing the place. But my roots, which is from working class Nottinghamshire, helped me.
I just went to a normal state school and my influences were my parents who supported me. My mother worked in the textile industry, and my father was a weaver who then worked for John Player, the tobacco company – normal guys who worked hard and spent time and effort raising their kids well. I couldn’t have asked for a better start in life. So this helped me manage a couple of stores culturally.
But I was also able to do a couple of things, which is make the stores efficient with the use of data on what was selling and what wasn’t. I made sure reporting of data was robust. I went to manage a store in Middlesex too. My research background helped me in my next role at Tesco, which was to manage private label products that could become premium products. I was part of the team that was entrusted with the task of turning around a business that was generating £ 80 million in revenues by retailing premium products. I began to build affluence scorecards and began to study the product line ‘Finest, which at the time was selling to one percent of the shoppers. I began to identify gaps in product range, which could be upgraded and offered to aspiring population groups. In less than two years, in the early nineties, we converted the business into a £200-million business.
YS: So retailing is about the details?
GA: It’s about building trust and relationships. You build relationships with consumers and manufacturers. If you’re persuading a supplier to invest millions of pounds in a factory, he has to be able to trust that you’re in it with him. That takes time and the right kind of behaviour from the whole team. Tesco was at the forefront of the digital revolution in terms of ‘Clubcard’ – the loyalty programme, and our innovations in grocery home shopping. We own our own data analytics company, Dunn Humby, and continue to invest and innovate in this area. Whilst we had a headstart, there are now some major heavyweight competitors, so we can’t rest on our laurels.
India is therefore an important location for us; it is moving away from being a backend operation. The centre is focussing on high analytics for the global teams, and technology developments are being done here. Yes, there is more to be done for the Indian region and how it can become a prominent centre for the world.
YS: You have worked in South Korea and other Southeast Asian regions. What is the role of the CEO in managing global teams that are today being connected because of communications technologies?
GA: You have to understand the culture of the region and the individual. You have to build on capabilities, culture is a challenge but you must strengthen relationships. Look at the way people have adopted to retail. From the 1900s to 1960 Europe and the US were filled with neighbourhood stores. After that the big box retailers emerged, and now you see the Internet used as a powerful sales channel. It’s a world that evolves and leaders evolve by learning from culture, technology, consumers and management, Tesco, like many other companies globally, is focussed on innovation, and India is a centre where we are going to build knowledge capabilities.
Great Customer Offer – The Economic Times
Big Data Analytics -Taking a Deeper Dive, Financial Express
“Is internal comms about to get interesting?”, PR Moments
Training Gen-Y employees to be leaders by Nick Williams, Human Capital
Madhu Menon – CFO, Tesco HSC Participates In Bloomberg India CFO Summit 2014
We are investing more in tech as digital property is the way forward: Tesco CIO, the Economic Times
Company Encourages Employees to Go Green, The New Indian Express
Business Women Get More Opportunity, DNA
In Pursuit Of Happiness_The Hindu Business Line
The Future of Big Data in Retail, Images Retail
Garden away those corporate woes – Bangalore Mirror
Hackathons Morph Into Recruiting Vehicle, The Hindu
Tesco HSC Steps to Clean Karunashraya Lake, Bangalore | CSR Vision
Is Diversity Your Company’s Most Resounding Mantra? by Anju Sethi, Head, Learning and Development, Tesco HSC | CXOtoday.com
Oh Baby! Why women can’t break the IT ceiling | Bangalore Mirror
Decade-old Tesco captive still strong, Business Standard
Glen Attewell Interviewed On NASSCOM Website’s Face 2 Face Column
IndiaCSR: Tesco HSC Launches Sustainability Initiatives For Greener Future
OUR AIM TO PLANT TREES
Plan to protect dwindling wetlands of Bengaluru
NEW LIFE TO PLANTS IN PARK: Eenadu
In Retail, Domain-specific Skills Must For Effective Customer Servicing – TimesJobs.Com
Cos Now Hire Storytellers to Mentor Staff – The Economic Times
Training The Managers, The Tesco Way – HR Katha
Every Bit Counts – Human Capital
Lay The Foundation of IT With Agile Technology – CIO Review
For Children Of Migrant Worker – Bangalore Mirror
When change is the only constant – Times Ascent
Staying power of the new workplace
From Nottingham To Whitefield, Metro Life – Deccan Herald, October 5, 2015
Tesco HSC Announces Corporate Name Change to Tesco Bengaluru
From Seeing The Dawn Of Windows To Being The Director Of Technology For Tesco, Bengaluru, Vidya Laxman’s Journey – YourStory.com
Expat’s Diary: For Tesco Bengaluru’s HR-Head, ‘Passion’ And ‘Relationship’ Hold The Key To Indian Work Culture: HR Katha
Boss’s Day: Be a leader, not a ‘boss’ – Timesjobs.com
Gender Diversity’s Good, But Where Is It? – CXO Today
5 Ways To Appreciate An Employee – The Economic Times
Technology Consulting – What Does the Future Hold? – Consultants Review
Tesco Bengaluru Partners With Lithium Urban Technologies to offer a pioneering and emission-free transportation experience for its employees
Tesco Bengaluru Partners with Lithium Urban Technologies to offer emission-free transportation employees: India CSR
Eco-friendly Cars: Samyuktha Karnataka
Emission-free Transportation : Eenadu
Tesco, Lithium Urban Joins Hands: Deccan Herald
Tesco Bengaluru opts for green transportation with Lithium: The Times of India
Need to Reassess Traditional Approaches: People Matters
Marathon Mania: The Economic Times
Women techies log on to trendy, soft wear – Bangalore Mirror
How Retail Giant Tesco Handled The e-comm Onslaught – The Hindu BusinessLine
Investment In People Makes Good Sense: CXOToday
Deck the halls – Deccan Herald
Seminar on M-commerce Held – The New Indian Express
Looking inside contemporary application architecture – Silicon India
Employee Volunteering is a key element in Tesco’s CSR efforts
Press Release: Tesco Bengaluru Wins Best Practice in Data Analysis Strategy Award
Tesco keen to work with Indian start-up ecosystem – Business Standard
TechGig: Women Achievers: It is important for women in technology to be seen, heard and leave an impact, says Tesco Bengaluru tech director Vidya Laxman
New Indian Express: Women Had a Blast
Bangalore Mirror: City Team Feeding UK’s Hungry
Economic Times: Whitefield Builds a Kingdom of Its Own
Hindustan Times: Want the job? Here’s why you should ditch the professionally-written CV
IndiaCSR: Tesco Bengaluru celebrates World Environment Day
Silicon India: Making Your Organization the Best Workplace
Company CSR: Tesco Bengaluru Supports Sankara Eye Hospital To Enable 430 Free Eye Surgeries
CSR India: Tesco Bengaluru supports Sankara Eye Hospital to enable 430 free eye surgeries
Tesco Bengaluru Plants 6500 Saplings Together with Local Communities to Increase City’s Green Cover
Prajavani: Tesco’s Tree Plantation Drive
TimesJobs.com: A Fresher’s Guide to The Technology Industry
Press Release: Tesco Bengaluru hosts Technology Day – Ignite 2016
Tesco Bengaluru bets on agile market push
Tesco Bengaluru installs e-toilets in Whitefield
Tesco Bengaluru Extends Maternity Leave to 22 Weeks
Forbes: Big Data At Tesco: Real Time Analytics At The UK Grocery Retail Giant
Human Capital: Technology At The Very Helm!
CSR Mart: Eco-friendly Transportation for Colleagues
Mint: Lithium Urban Tech paves the way for EV revolution in India’s cab market
ETRetail: Dev-ops adoption in retail in India
Human Capital: Creation of Measurable Goals
Press Release: Tesco Bengaluru renews its commitment to serving Tesco shoppers and colleagues at dedicated shared service centre
Outlook Business: Ride to rejuvenate
Be Grateful, Positive And Strong Urges Deepa Malik at 2017 IWD Event
ET CIO: Tesco Labs has up to 50 projects on the go at any one time: Tesco Bengaluru’s Priyadarsanie Ramasubramanian
Deccan Herald: Keeping a close watch
Deccan Chronicle: Corporate sector leads way in implementing new maternity bill
The Statesman: Path of progress
YourStory: Tesco’s Glen Attewell: ‘My father was a weaver, mother worked in textiles, they pushed me to succeed’
Press Release: Tesco Bengaluru appoints Sumit Mitra as CEO
ET Retail: Retail supply chain planning and optimization
Financial Express: Maternity Benefit Bill, 2016: From Anand Mahindra to TeamLease and Paypal: Will this hurt employment of more women? Here’s what they said!
World HR Dairy: Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 increases paid Maternity Leave to 26 weeks in India | Major Highlights and Industry Reaction
TheDrum: Apple, Google, Lego, Tesco and BMW top UK’s most loved brands on social media
Economic Times: Bye-bye corner office: It’s one team, one space
Press Release: Tesco Bengaluru reinforces commitment to sustainable practices through World Environment Day activities
Business World: We Go Beyond The Mandated 2% For CSR: Aniisu Verghese, Tesco
Economic Times: Here is how companies are learning from millennials’ mistakes
Deccan Herald: Rise of AI redefining retail
Financial Express: Tesco Bengaluru CEO Sumit Mitra: We believe in driving a culture of innovation
Economic Times: 5 ways to delegate decision making
The Economic Times: To bridge gender gap, companies going big on innovation
Dr. Sumit Mitra wins ‘CEO of the Year’ at the Future Leaders Summit and Award 2018
Tesco in Bengaluru collaborates with Indian Institute of Science for a technology fellowship programme
Tesco Leaders at NASSCOM Product Conclave 2018
Securing mobile apps – Preventing MiM attack
Bengaluru goes from technology capital to talent hub as e-tailers hunt for IT skills
Tesco establishes a Business Services Centre in Budapest to serve its Central European operations
How to make an organisation an awesome place to work
We are a Great Place To Work® certified organisation.
Applied data scientists – A natural evolution for software engineers?
Tesco Business Services – UK Receives Process Improvement Award at the Engage 19
Tesco collaborates with NASSCOM Foundation to set up its first Nook in Bengaluru
Tesco, Nasscom to improve employability
My First Job: Sumit Mitra,CEO, Tesco Global Business Services
Read interview of Sumit Mitra; he is CEO of TESCO Global Business Services
Shiva Chinnasamy of Tesco on the evolving role of a technology leader
Top 5 Key Skills A Good Data Scientist Should Have
Bengaluru is central to how we run Tesco, says CEO Dave Lewis
Dr. Sumit Mitra – CEO, Tesco Business Services & Tesco Bengaluru is now on Confederation of British Industry (CBI) advisory board for India
NASSCOM Leader Talk: Interview with Dr. Sumit Mitra, CEO – Tesco Business Services & Tesco Bengaluru
Business Today: Tesco Bengaluru Helps Over 320 Underprivileged Youth Stand Tall Through Life Skills and Vocational Training and Job Placements.
TimesJobs.com: Leader’s talk: Sumit Mitra, CEO, Tesco Business Services
Economic Times: Develop The Habit of Collaboration
Entrepreneur India: Make Your Employees Feel Like the Founder
Tesco announces launch of community-based clean water programme in rural Bengaluru
Entrepreneur.com: Why Innovation in Hiring Has Become the Need of the Hour
Tesco Bengaluru appoints Sumit Mitra as CEO
Tesco Bengaluru reinforces commitment to sustainable practices through World Environment Day activities
Tesco Bengaluru renews its commitment to serving Tesco shoppers and colleagues at dedicated shared service centre
Tesco Bengaluru hosts Technology Day – Ignite 2016
Tesco Bengaluru Wins Best Practice in Data Analysis Strategy Award
Economic Times: Companies go liberal in giving time off to new dads
Analytics India: How Tesco Bengaluru Is Working On Using AI, VR And 3D Modelling In Retail Industry
Tesco Bengaluru Participates in Women – Only Hackathon
Tesco Bengaluru inaugurates first community career development Centre in partnerhsip with NASSCOM Foundation
Delivering The Most Compelling Offer For Customers
Tesco Business Services is recognised as one of the top 20 Most Admired Shared Services Organisations in the World by SSON
Waste food to Plant Wealth: Tesco helps farmers with compost
Sustainability Practices at Tesco
Business services of the future: More digital, more intelligent
How Bengaluru kept UK’s Tesco retail ops going during Covid-19
Vidya Laxman, Director, Tesco Technology: A bag full of opportunities will soon overflow with AI
Refuelling India’s Tech Economy
Top skills companies will look for in the post COVID era
How Analytics Is Shaping The Retail Industry In India
BCP PlayBook: Tesco put people at the heart of its COVID-19 resilience plan
Tesco Business Services receives four awards at the ‘Impact Annual Awards Asia 2020’ organized by Shared Services & Outsourcing Network (SSON)
Tesco Bengaluru appoints Ramamoorthy Rajagopal as Finance Director
Tesco Bengaluru Appoints Nimmi Sebastian as Head of Communication & CSR