Hi Beatrice, so what do you do and what brought you to Asia ?
My name is Beatrice Leistenschneider and I’m IM&T (Information Management and Technology) Business Partner for APAC at Givaudan, the global leader in Flavours and Fragrances, based in Singapore. I have been working for Givaudan for nearly 18 years on three continents: France, USA and Singapore.
My company creates fragrances and flavours for all types of customers and markets. We also aim to inspire and engage consumers all around the world. We serve roughly 25% of the market!
I am leading the IT community in Asia, partnering with key business stakeholders, aligning Business and IT strategies, and delivering services and solutions.
This opportunity came at the right moment in my career. I really wanted to discover Asia and learn more about all the different cultures in this part of the world. I am married with a Dutch National and I have always had a thirst for adventure!
What are the tech trends that could impact the Flavours and Fragrances industry?
Fragrance and flavors are amongst the most important components of consumer goods because they have a huge influence on purchase intent. “Scent is a primary purchase driver in personal care & household categories” Mintel 2015. We have to be very close to consumer trends and expectations to anticipate our clients demands and drive creation accordingly.
Some of the current consumer or technology trends have a big impact on our customers and by extension us. For example transparency, traceability, robotics and automation, Artificial Intelligence and Analytics to support creation, consumer trends and social analytics. The trends we see today in the consumer expectations are forcing our customers to shift their position and strategy. This is why partnerships and win-win relationships with our customers are key to our success!
Here are some examples of challenges we face:
- The rise of e-commerce
E-commerce of fragranced products is increasing rapidly in every country (Global online FMCG sales grew by 20% in 2018). This is primarily done via mobile purchase in Korea and China for example (Kantar). In Korea almost 20% of sales are done online compared to France (5.6%) or the US (4.4%). This can have a huge impact on us. How do you smell or taste something you buy via e-commerce?
The rising demand for product traceability, transparency on ingredients’ origins, and data on environmental impacts is transforming our way of designing products and choosing raw material but also our infrastructures. For example our latest plant in INDIA is a zero liquid discharge factory to ensure no pollution is released in the environment – Source.
I guess your industry needs to innovate not only to meet customer needs but also internal needs
Trends combined with globalization implies an ever changing pace in our development and production processes. So you are right it has a huge impact on our internal organization.
It is not just a matter of understanding people’s needs. It is about creating products differently, being agile, and engaging with the world especially long term investment. Being a historical leader and having the best experts in this industry are great assets but our greatest asset is our resilience and our ability to innovate.
On top of process changes, we are looking at modernizing production capabilities, investing in robotics, IoT, Analytics and automation to name a few. We are deeply committed to embrace this transformation and we started it way before the emergence of Industry 4.0 .
For example we started automating our factories 20 years ago which was pretty avant-gardist in our industry: robotics in the factory to support the production of Fragrances and Flavors, heavy integration with SAP capabilities.
We also quickly understood the value of Data quality and consolidation. The next challenge for us is to use more analytics and big data predictions. We want to be able to anticipate raw material price evolution while securing critical raw material price with local suppliers. If you look at vanilla for example, the price has been increasing drastically over the last few years to reach peak price. It is heavily influenced by external conditions (source). The ability to anticipate price variations is our core competitiveness.
How do you enable/support digital transformation?
One of my key responsibilities is to advocate and raise awareness on new technologies and opportunities they can offer:
- new ways to engage with customers using digital (eg customer feedback collection)
- secured mobile app to share key information about products, perfumes or flavors…
- interactive experiences with consumers to better understand the market (collect instant feedback via automated terminals in malls and supermarkets – Source)
- collaboration tools, videorooms in all main sites, collaboration booths – 2 rooms sharing live video stream…
- assisted creation and selection (latest digital pilot Media Coverage here) – integrating A.I, digital touch, micro lab capabilities and extensive knowledge about ingredients and their physicochemical properties in one tool that Perfumers and Flavorist can use to create new combinations that they didn’t think about initially.
We also launched earlier this year a Digital Factory in Paris to accelerate projects and our digital transformation. The model of projects in the Digital Factory is based on teams of experts from various sources: Business Experts, IT and Digital and external partners (start-ups) working together on a business opportunity. The idea is to incubate 2 or 3 ideas at the same time for a short period (3 months for example) to assess the viability of the idea and business case. And there are a lot more to come!
In collaboration with the Head of Digital Strategy, and based on my expertise, I’m also spending a lot of time and energy on advocating and communicating on our digital strategy, programs and pilots towards our managers and employees. The goal is to connect the Business with the Innovation teams as well as IT teams, and align our development.
Moreover I also have to balance investments on projects that will ultimately bring new capabilities to the Fragrance Commercial Teams. This covers “traditional” projects as well an innovation pilot integration in our overall Information System.
As a business partner, I also help and support the definition as well as prioritizing innovation pilots.
Basically my job is at the crossing of all stakeholders. It is very exciting and challenging to be sitting on this linkage. And I do see my impact when the top management recognize our proactiveness in anticipating their demands.
Could you please give us an example of tech-enabled change you foresee in the future?
Consumers influence on brands and huge corporations strategies is growing and has tremendous impact on every single industry. Thanks to social media and a growing number of people connected to the internet from anywhere in the world, people now have access to FMCG companies’ core. It is in some sort a balance of power that has so far being unidirectional. Before, advertisements were leading the dance. Consumers would buy into it if it sounded credible.
The global rising awareness on climate change is putting sustainability at the core of all businesses. It is especially true for consumer goods. Ultimately I find this new balance of power very healthy. It is the 5th power. It will benefit everyone and society as a whole as education and awareness is leveraged. Tech and new ways of communications are the root cause of this change. And I believe this has only just begun.
How “Dare you” to be a woman in tech?
In my opinion, if we want to have more women in strong influential positions we will not succeed by focusing on the difference between men and women but we need to create a working environment that promote and value differences.
People need to embrace their differences and set of skills instead of trying to conform to the norm.
If I look back as how I progressed in my career, I stayed very loyal to my values and my personality. I think that winning as a team and making sure to collaborate and share is always paying off in the long run.
I make my professional and personal choices based on the impacts it would have had on me and the people around me.
Daring to be a woman in tech is about keeping it real and not change to “mimic” behaviors only because you think they will take you further.
How do you bring more diversity?
Within our Management team, we launched last year a discussion regarding cultural diversity in our design, marketing and sales teams in order to better address customer needs.
I’m also mentoring talents that are younger in their career and I allocate time and effort in coaching teams and individuals based on my personal experience with various cultures.
I’m a strong advocate for a better balance in gender, culture, ways of working as I believe that we need to be diverse to be able to answer to our customers and to consumers. This is done via sharing experiences with others, putting in place new ways of working that attracts other types of candidates (Work-life balance initiatives, use of new communication means instead of traveling…).
I think that if we want to attract and retain as many different profiles as possible, we need to work differently. Even if it may seem uneasy to start with, it would benefit everyone in the end. On a personal note, I am also working on new ways to merge my work life and my family life. I do not want to feel like I am sacrificing one or the other. And most importantly I believe that balance is key to any human being’s integrity.