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The Case of Odel


LECTURER : MR. DEHAN -21587513

It is said that if a man does not know what port he is steering for, no wind is favorable.
Organizations are seldom an exception. Even the best product or the very best service
offering will be of little or no use unless otherwise a sound corporate strategy is present. This
is mainly because without an effective and efficient corporate strategy the business entities
or the organizations find it difficult to plan for the longer term and to achieve goals and
objectives which is key to strategic planning. A formal corporate strategy allows a company
to focus on multiple resources on single objective. In the absence of a clear corporate strategy
companies lose sight of their core objectives whilst falling behind the drive to focus on a well-
designed corporate strategy.

It is also visible that a corporate strategy provides the management of an organization with
a bench mark to measure the success or failure of a company. This is well evident by the
statement made by Peter Drucker, the well-known management guru, where he states that
“What gets measured gets improved”. A corporate strategy which is well thought out allows
companies to create plans and methods which will allow the company to grow despite the
ups and downs in the economy and the market.

In light of these facts this paper aims to create a closer look at the corporate strategy used
by Odel PLC which is a well-known high end fashion chain within the Sri Lankan market
which has shown a flourishing growth over the years reaching out to customers beyond Sri
Lankan geographical boundaries with a tremendous success.


THE COMPANY…………………………………………………………………………………………………….…………3


LEADERSHIP ………………………………………………………………………………………………………..………..7





History of ODEL runs as far as 1989 at which point the proprietor and the first CEO of the
company, Otara Gunawardena made the first sale of fashion clothing from the boot of her car
to family and friends. Being well aware of the potential of the market the boot sale business
was reestablished as a brand in 1990 giving birth to today’s well known premium quality
trendy fashion brand ODEL providing an opportunity for the consumers to experience a
novel yet innovative shopping experience. The position of the business today is inspiring
with national and international affiliations and expansions being one of the most innovative
fashion brands within the country which is sought after equally by the fashion savvy Sri
Lankan consumers as well as the tourists who are visiting Sri Lanka.

Being the first department store catering to the Sri Lankan market offering an unmatched
premium shopping experience the competitive advantage derived the brand is extensive.
The present product portfolio of the company includes ladies wear, kids wear, men’s wear,
books, jewelry cosmetics, perfumes, toys, hoes, handbags and fashion accessories etc
covering both local and international brands. The strong and effective logistics management
has resulted in long term sustainable relationships with global suppliers who supply designs
by world renowned designers resulting in a major customer attraction.

Given the nature of the business and the product portfolio the company’s target consumer
segment consist of those who are with higher disposable income and seek for trendy,
innovative fashion experience resulting in high level consumer satisfaction. It is also
noteworthy to mention that the flexible and adoptable internal culture within the
organization has been a strong support to the organization to reach towards right decisions
at the right time enhancing and maintaining a strong relationship with the stakeholders.
(ODEL, n.d.)


In a resource oriented business strategy the management of the company considers the
assets of the company as the primary source of overall strategic planning hence using it as
the direction to identify the way in which competitive advantage can be derived through
combining rare resources. In order to transform short run competitive advantages to
sustainable long term competitive advantage it is a must that these resources are
heterogeneous and not perfectly mobile. In other words a resource driven business required
the resources possessed by the company either cannot be imitated or substituted unless
greater efforts are put. (Anon., n.d.) (Day, 1999)

On the other hand a company which is market driven focuses on delivering products or
services which is designed in line with the needs, wants, desires and requirements of the
targeted consumer segment in addition to the basic requirements of product functionality.
As stated by J Jaworski and Ajay K Kohli in their article in Journal of Marketing. Marketing
orientation can be identified as the organization wide generation of market intelligence
which includes identification of changing trends, tastes and preferences of the consumers as
well as monitoring competitor actions and reactions on a continuous basis covering both the
present situation and the changes predicted for the future. (Day, 1990)

In evaluating the business strategy of ODEL, given its historic evolution it is visible that from
inception market driven strategy has been the core of the business strategy of the company.
The boot sales business was initiated in an era where readymade garment industry for local
consumers was low key and the increasing employment of female members of the society
was giving rise to limitations in time available to fulfill the clothing requirements for the
family via sewing at home. Hence the new business not only tapped an emerging need in the
society yet provided latest and trendy fashions creating customer delight. The first store
opened in the prime location of Colombo 07 not only catered to the clothing needs but
extended to home wear, fashion accessories, toys, books, movies, sweets and foods etc as a
result of effective identification of the changing life styles of the targeted consumers and
their emerging needs. With many of the other fashion stores entering the industry the next

significant market orientation step forwards by ODEL was to expand market reach through
establishment of stores in major towns creating customer convenience. This is in addition to
the initiatives taken by the company to setup a user friendly virtual store for the
international customers to make purchases online as well as the “you buy we deliver” facility
dedicated for foreigners visiting the physical stores where they can make their purchase in
store to get it delivered to a preferred local or international address by the company.
(Webster, 1994)

These can be identified as the main features which are visible to the outer world providing
evidence of the market orientation strategy of the company. However the strong market
drive is seeded, grown and supported through the following internal and external business
elements which are stringent within the company driving the business placing it well ahead
of the competition in the market.

 Shared value – From top to bottom of the organizational hierarchy at ODEL customer
is considered the king and the top priority. All internal business processes and the
internal organizational culture is designed and maintained and also new recruits are
oriented towards this shared value whilst maintaining the superiority in product and
service offering.
 Internal organizational structure – It is significant that at Odel bureaucracy is the last
thing that the management wish to maintain. Hence the organizational structure is
maintained flat with few layers providing a clear cut vision to the consumers.
 Business strategy – It is evident that marketing strategies and promotional campaigns
are designed and developed in congruence with the overall organizational business
strategy. The marketing strategy of the company is long term and incorporates the
future demands and needs which are flexible and participative.
 Market research is considered a top priority – For the market orientation to be
effective it is a must that emerging consumer trends are monitored and addressed as
an ongoing activity. Therefore it is a prima facie fact that market research is carried
out as a top priority.

 The value of long term business planning is recognized and the long term plans set
are evaluated from time to time and amendments are made accordingly to be aligned
with the market trends.
 Change is identified as inevitable and the flat organizational structure which is
flexible allows the company to make/change decisions as and when required with
minimum lead time.
 High stakeholder involvement – Company considers the inputs of the stakeholders
are of high value hence use participative decision making at all times which has
proven effective in keeping the company ahead of the competition during the past.
 Takes effective steps to create knowledge on the customer perspective of the
company – the company welcomes customer feedback at all times via customer
service hot lines, suggestions/ complaints box as well as face to face interactions in
store enabling the company to identify customer perceptions on the company so that
any proactive corrective measures could be takes prior to any adverse consequences.
 Analyze SWOT on a frequent basis – Odel considers reviewing its strengths,
weaknesses, opportunities and threats on a frequent basis so that such information
could be effectively used in mapping the future direction of the company.
 Encourage team effort – Compared to most of the competitors in the industry Odel
seek to encourage team efforts within the company extensively and value young
blood with the belief that creativity in product and service offering would enable the
company to serve consumers better creating higher consumer satisfaction and
 Evaluates marketing efforts continuously – When a new product range is introduced
or a promotional campaign is launched the company takes steps to evaluate the
effectiveness of the activities through identifying the incremental sales/ profits in
order to identify how well the activities of the company has created customer
attention and has satisfactorily fulfilled the needs and wants of the consumers.

From the level of success that the company has generated it is visible that the market based
strategy has worked well with Odel creating business growth and sustainability.


In today’s intensively competitive business environment creativity is no longer an option but

a necessity. Creativity is no longer limited to product design, but extends towards business
strategy implementation and business leadership applying to all aspects of business
strengthening companies to stay ahead of the competition creating a higher customer
attraction. In the context of Odel and its success it is visible that the contribution made by
creative strategic decision making and leadership could never be underestimated.

As per business theorists strategy refers to the means through which organizational goals
and objectives are achieved. However in an industry which is competitive unless the
business strategies become creative enabling the venture to stand out from the crowd it is
seldom likely that customers find a reason to switch from competitors or purchase the goods
and services of the company at all. (Adair, 2007)

In light of the above thorough evaluation of the strategic planning and designing process of
Odel provides sufficient evidence for the creativity in strategic implementation carried out
which at all times have placed the company at a competitive advantage. The commonly found
evidence are as follows; (Spitzer, 2000)

 Novelty in all strategic aspects – Creativity and innovation is considered a prima facie
part of strategic design at Odel. This is mainly because in the event strategic choice
does not contain sufficient innovation and creativity the company will be exposed to
higher risk of competitors possessing a detailed knowledge of the strategy employed
by the company.
 Secretly devised – It always include some confidential elements which is only known
by the management. This is employed mainly to keep the competitors away and
curious and overwhelmed. (Jeff DeGraff, 2002)
 Intelligence – the strategic decision are always well thought out and clever and
implemented in a smart manner.

 Deceptive – Strategies implemented at Odel involves elements of deceive with the
ability to cheat the target audience in an ethical manner. However it is always taken
care not to go beyond the limits cheating people in an unethical manner.
 Cost effective – Cost effectiveness in strategy implementation is of high importance
as it directly impacts the bottom line of business as well as the future growth and
sustainability. It is the norm of the company that strategy implementation is well
blended with creativity to ensure that any new product lines are break even during
the short terms resulting in return on investment.

Just like in the case of strategy implementation creativity plays a major role in directing the
leadership at Odel. It is visible that the senior management team of the company possess
extensive creative leadership abilities with a strong capacity to guide the direction of the
organization through pains and corporate renewal. It is visible that the creative leadership
of Otara has enabled the company to grow creating entirely new markets going beyond the
Sri Lankan geographical boundaries.

Following can be identified as the main characteristics visible within the company’s
leadership which provides sufficient evidence for the extent of the creativity involved.

 Involves higher level of rebellious characteristics – The characteristics of rebellious

is found to tend to be uncomfortable with traditional rules and conventions. This is
mainly because the senior management team of the company always seek to do new
things or old things in new ways which in many instances has left the competitors
 High ambition – It is visible the high ambitiousness of the management influences
teams within Odel driving them towards success and recognition.
 High focus – When the creative leadership of Odel focus their minds on some dilemma
they become imaginative and result in a nonstop flow of creative ideas which would
likely to leave many wondering whether they are serous. However the way things are
designed, planned and implemented within the company provide sufficient evidence
that the management at Odel is extra brilliant.

 Seek for details and details – It is natural for creative people to search for more and
more details which will be put together to fill in any gaps in the idea which would
ultimately help the company to solve some burning issue.
 High mental stamina – It is visible that the leadership is of high mental energy
allowing them to focus on something for an extended period of time until it is ensured
to succeed.

In light of the above it is visible that the leadership of the company has used an effective
blend of intuition and logic in driving creativity within business clearly identifying what
would drive business growth and lead towards competitive advantage.



The rapid success and growth demonstrated by the company is a result of nothing less than
their enthusiasm to create strategic opportunities by breaking the rules and thinking out of
the box. It is well visible in all strategic decisions taken by the company moving away from
the conventional frameworks followed by the other players in the industry. The first best
example could be provided in Odel’s decision to establish a department store which provides
all in one solution to the consumers compared to the “clothing only” concept used by other
players at that time. The out of the box business concept enabled the company to create a
significant level of customer attraction towards the brand compelling the other players too
to follow the foot prints at a later stage. The second best example is the company’s decision
to target high end local market and the foreigners visiting Sri Lanka. Targeting the average
local consumers with the intension of driving sales volumes would have been an easy
solution for the company compared to the demand in the local market and the performance
of competitors. However moving away from the conventional competitive strategy Odel
designed its store front targeting the premium quality and premium price with high end local
consumers and foreigners in mind, the product portfolio included local as well as
international brands as well as world renowned designer brands which are extremely high
in price. This thinking out of the conventional wisdom enabled the company not only to

create high profit margins through premium pricing but to take Odel brand to international
markets becoming popular amongst the international community as well. (Mike Vance,

During the era in which Odel launched its virtual store front with technology back bone to
facilitate secure online payments, online shopping was a concept raising concerns of many
of the individual consumers. When it comes to fashion industry it raised even bigger doubt
as the consumers always sought to touch the product, fit it on and then make purchase.
However taking the risk, Odel launched its virtual shopping portal which became a huge
success within local and international markets prompting other players in the industry too
to invest in a virtual store front to create an extended market reach. (Mattiske, 2010)

The “you buy- we ship” model is yet another example for the company’s out of the box
strategies where the consumers are given the opportunity to do their shopping in store and
get the goods delivered to a preferred address, locally or internationally.

The art of thinking out of the box at Odel not only limits itself to business strategy designing
and implementation but has extended to many areas within the company including the sales
promotions and marketing. It is evident that the adverting and sales promotional activities
carried out are intensely creating and non-conventional which is a mirror image of the
overall position of the company as a company with an out of the box vision, mission and goals
and objectives which always drive towards creating and unveiling strategic opportunities
breaking the conventional rule yet successfully placing the company well ahead of the
competition ensuring long terms business sustainability. (Atkinson, 2014)


As a fashion destination which has ensured a strong footing within the local and
international markets it is visible that the success at Odel is no mistake. With a high market
orientation since inception the company has deigned its entire business model with the view
of serving the consumers better each day with a high level market focus. However it should
not create the impression that the company did not given any consideration to its resource
base, rather it focused on the market view whilst creating an effective balance with resource
focused view. This is heavily fueled by the company’s out of the box thinking strategy, its
creative strategic business decision making as well as the creativity and talent at the
leadership. With the right blend in intuitive and logical characteristics of leadership the
management has directed and motivated the teams whilst remolding the internal business
culture to be aligned with the consumer needs with the understanding that consumer is the
top priority and without consumers who are delighted there is no business or Odel in


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Available at: http://www.odel.lk/corporate-odel
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