Property consultant Cushman & Wakefield is facing explosive evolution.
As part of an industry which is ever-relevant and in-demand, the company has experienced huge levels of growth – most significantly in Asia. India tops the list of nations which have enjoyed the biggest boost, with Cushman & Wakefield expanding its employee numbers in the nation by at least 500 in 2017, enabling it to focus on project management and leasing transactions. There are already 11 offices across India, housing an ever-increasing team of 2,800.
Of course, any company operating in the properly sector requires a complex logistical system that demands the highest levels of organisation and talent. Head of Procurement (India), Sanjeev Singh, is no stranger to the complexities inherent in the supply chain industry; after nearly 10 years serving as a Major in the Indian Army, Singh delved into the corporate world of logistics, and has spent another decade focussed on that.
Based in New Delhi, Singh is responsible for heading up the supply chain management sector of Cushman & Wakefield, presiding over contracts and compliance, and as a member of the Governance Council he is in charge of representing the facilities and property management side of the business within India.
The ongoing tasks Singh faces are numerous and wide-ranging, truly bolstering what the business offers. He must provide strategic direction and leadership for his team, continuously build up a network of suppliers, and partners, ensure the most effective delivery structure, and work closely with all relevant alliances.
“We talk about this sphere of influence,” he says. “It’s really about how we prioritise, how we put our stakeholders first, but also how we think about supporting our company. We really introduced this as being the most trusted business advisor, and while making an attempt to realise this we also have to take up the guardianship responsibility. And if you’re not guardians of the company, you’re not really being a trusted business advisor, either.
“To be able to perform basic tasks fast, we have to adopt and develop the technology side of procurement, so we embarked on the journey of creating a managed marketplace platform. Like it or not, digital technology is taking over our lives and business processes – digitalisation is here to stay. Technology is transforming the way we work, discover, connect, and collaborate with our trading partners. It allows access, insights, and intelligences that enable us to make better or more informed decisions.”
The importance of employees
Singh attributes the success of Cushman & Wakefield’s procurement team in India to various necessary qualities, starting from within. Hiring the right people is vital, he states, and is part of what has changed the game for the business. “People are as critical to procurement as the customers. It is people, not computers, that drive strategies.
“First you have to build a strong team, and then create a strong delegation matrix which gives all members both freedom and a purpose,” he explains. “This matrix style of organisation with financial limits, high competency, and uniform processes allows employees to make decisions quickly and efficiently.”
Cushman & Wakefield goes out of its way to hire the absolute best and best-fitting staff, offering the finest training and workshops available to ensure staff are up-to-date on industry trends and the relevant requirements for their job roles.
“For training and skill enhancement, I believe in cross-functional exposure, which involves working collaboratively with stakeholders,” Singh states. “We also send employees to industry forums on their specific subjects; these things are key for skill enrichment. Freedom and flexibility at all levels with the team, empowerment, and what we call ‘external breathing’ are pivotal. The collaborative relationships we have with our staff bring everyone closer together.”
For Singh, organised and streamlined in-office processes allow for an organised and streamlined supply chain operations.
“The supply chain management functions depend hugely on the supplier and manufacturer community outside the organisation,” he says. Logistics is built up of many streams and moving parts in many directions, and in Singh’s words, “Procurement is the heart of the organisation and to the supplier community, so it’s all about the win-win partnership for and with them. Therefore it becomes imperative for us to be very agile.
“Everything in the procurement and logistics world moves very quickly, and people have to know how to prioritise and manage the dynamic environment. They need to be able to work as a team as well as alone, have the ability to stand up for themselves, and challenge themselves.”
The importance of suppliers is paramount for any business, but for Singh and his team, suppliers are considered partners, and collaboration between them is sacred.
“The clients you are servicing are so important, and suppliers are an extension of your team,” he says. “Good suppliers will quickly be identified by how capable they are, and they are the ones we keep close for the entire journey of supply chain management.”
Sanjeev is openly passionate about this part of his job: acquiring and keeping close the best suppliers, treating them with a respect often only reserved for customers, and forming a trusted network. For a business like Cushman & Wakefield, the significance of a strong logistics network cannot be underestimated. Singh believes that bringing suppliers close, looking closely at industries, and moving ahead with added value in the end result “makes Cushman & Wakefield very strong and very different from the competition”.
Procurement as a business
Clients, customers, and stakeholders continue to raise their bar on expectation, which is continuously evolving and redefining the role of the procurement officer.
In today’s dynamic business world, the procurement officer holds a role that is focussed on business enablement. Procurement is evolving at breakneck speed, thanks to technology; transformation is the order of the day, as enterprise procurement organisations are no longer just tactical teams focussed on cost reduction, but strategic entities that drive enterprise-wide value and fulfilled compliance requirements by contacting a handful of suppliers through a tendering process.
What makes this recipe successful is treating the procurement function as its own business, rather than simply an additional cost line. Shining a spotlight on the supply chain has only been a boon for Cushman & Wakefield.
Product vs. service
While it is easy to define the factors that drive the cost of a product such as materials used, components, overheads, labour, and transportation, analysing the cost of a service is more complex as it involves a deeper understanding of the supplier's process. This can however be achieved by:
- Mapping the supplier process through a detailed breakdown of the system
- Allocating costs to each activity with a combination of information from job boards and indicators of labour prices
- Considering the overheads gleaned from annual reports
While it’s true that the information gathered is not fool-proof, it is however a handy estimate of productivity.
“We work with suppliers as business partners, invest time in innovation & technology adoption of new ideas, and all of that enhances supply chain management as a business,” Singh says. “This cost becomes a business liver for an organisation, and when that cost gets placed where it’s supposed to be, your business can move onto the next level.”
2017 is shaping up to be a great year for Cushman & Wakefield, according to Singh. He is expecting big changes in the procurement delivery process and perspective, and to create new market strategies for target industries.
In terms of technology, the company’s most recent innovation, which is now ready and set to create huge value in the business, is the managed marketplace named MarketC&W: a one-stop shop solution platform for Cushman & Wakefield’s clients and customers.
“We have built an extensive catalogue with over 100,000 products across 100 product categories from more than 500 brands,” Singh explains. “It allows us to see the best cost efficiency, transparency, visibility, and improved turnaround time. It will have everything that the client needs, including business intelligence on opex and capex spend category management, and MIS dashboard across various categories as well.
“This initiative will give our client a huge advantage in consolidating the vendor base, showing real-time analytics, accurate prediction and improved forecasting, transparency of all processes, billing accuracy, and inventory. This solution allows much-needed account and operating flexibility of choice in the system.”
The future of the business and growth engine for Cushman & Wakefield certainly looks very promising. Singh concludes: “The client and the market can expect much more than standard service from us.”