Future of Sourcing Digital is excited to continue our popular series “Women in Global Sourcing.” This series highlights, celebrates, and acknowledges women who are pioneers and leaders in the industry and who have been influential in moving the industry forward. It is our pleasure to feature Aditi Pany this week.
Aditi Pany is a highly accomplished senior executive, thought leader and founder. She has a decade of experience in retail across brick-and-mortar and ecommerce. An MBA graduate from Stanford, Aditi served as Chief Operating Officer of ajio.com, a leading ecommerce site with over $300M in revenue and was a Board Member at Reliance Lifestyle Holdings. Previously, Aditi worked at Ashoka, a global non-profit that supports the world’s largest network of social entrepreneurs. Most recently, she launched her own start-up aimed at redesigning the global supply chain for artisan goods.
Tell us about your career path. How did you get into this field? Was it purposeful or by accident? Would you follow that same path again if you had the choice?
I grew up in a small town in India, in a home where my mother used our garage as her workshop and our house as her showroom. She has been designing and developing furniture from when I was little and has been an early proponent of crafts and design, now serving as a member of the Orissa Crafts Council. I believe that subliminally nurtured my interest in the artisanal space.
I was a somewhat idealistic student out of undergrad and worked with innovative social enterprises in education and healthcare at the intersection of business and social. I then decided to switch sectors to understand how to scale organizations and strengthen my business fundamentals. I had the opportunity to pursue an MBA at Stanford with a full scholarship.
I continued my pursuit of business and worked in fashion retail for eight years, firstly at a billion-dollar brick-and-mortar business then at corporate startup ajio.com as its first employee and Chief Operating Officer. This gave me a 360-degree view of retail and the ecommerce business from inception to scale.
I then quit. Eager to affect more direct social impact, I married my experiences from the social and business sectors to build my current company.
It is a digital wholesale platform connecting artisanal, ecofriendly, or organic brands and producers from South Asia/South East Asia with small to mid-size retailers and boutique owners worldwide. The company enables a reliable and convenient global sourcing supply chain. My vision is for the organization and its partners to be pivotal in driving sustainable and meaningful consumption around the world.
What has been the single most significant development to impact your profession or area of business during your career and why?
I believe there have been three significant developments. Their convergence has made cross-border digital sourcing of artisanal, ecofriendly products timely and relevant today.
- The evolution of ecommerce from B2C to B2B
We have seen ecommerce become increasingly pervasive in B2C retail, thanks to the likes of Amazon, Shopify and even Instagram. We are now seeing digitization make meaningful entry into B2B commerce across industries. The pandemic has further accelerated the need and experimentation with digital alternatives to trade fairs around the world.
- Diminishing market information asymmetry
Again, thanks to the likes of Instagram, Pinterest, and Google and affordable internet penetration that has democratized information, suppliers and buyers around the world have access to product trends, prices, consumer likes and so much more at the click of a button. One can, now more than ever, make products anywhere in the world that are relevant to customers anywhere in the world. Using technology, we can also provide end consumers with information about who made it and where it was manufactured.
- Rising consciousness around sustainable consumption
This lends itself to traditional, artisanal practices of manufacturing (handmade), traditionally used materials (natural, local and eco-friendly) and sustainable lifestyles across cultures (reduce, reuse, recycle).
What’s the biggest challenge facing your industry today and how do you plan to solve it?
The key challenges (and opportunities) I believe facing our industry are:
- making cross-border trade amongst unknown parties reliable;
- simplifying the process of exports/imports across logistics, documentation, compliance, taxation and more; and
- using the tremendous amount of available digital data to support better buying (and manufacturing) decisions to help small businesses compete effectively.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement career-wise?
My greatest achievement is yet to come, as I believe that I have recently embarked on my “life’s work.” I am proud of having built an ecommerce company from scratch to a $200M company in a few years.
What’s your biggest (as yet) unfulfilled ambition and what are you going to do to achieve it?
My personal biggest unfulfilled ambition is to revive and revitalize the vast range of traditional manufacturing and consumption practices from cultures around the world. I want to do this in a way that is convenient, affordable, and accessible in a very modern context and hence relevant to the global economy. I believe achieving that is a powerful way to make both social and environmental impact at scale, and to do so sustainably.
What three words do you think your colleagues and peers would use to describe you?
Passionate, committed and feminist, perhaps.
Finally, what advice would you give young women starting their careers in the field of sourcing, outsourcing and procurement?
This might sound like a cliché, but I urge women to simply believe in themselves to take on leadership positions wherever an interesting opportunity presents itself, even if you have a million doubts.
I was the first woman to be elected president of the students’ union when I was an engineering college student in India at one of the premier institutes. It was completely unknown territory that scared me at many levels, but I’m forever grateful to have had that faith in myself then, as it set the foundation for many more such bets on myself, and none that I have ever regretted. Each one has made me more confident and more fulfilled.