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We are working with Surya, who seeks a Director of Ecommerce and Online Product Management based in scenic Calhoun, GA.

Now in its 36th year, Surya is a home décor brand that has gained wide attention for its innovative designs and high quality home accessories. The firm has partnered with designers such as HGTV-personality, Candice Olson, to create one of the most fashion-forward product ranges in the home accessories industry, and products ranging from area rugs to wall art are sold through Surya’s wide network of global retailers, distributors, and interior designers.

The hard work is paying off: Surya has been named for two consecutive years to Inc. Magazine’s Inc. 500/5000 list of America’s fastest growing privately held companies. According to online interviews with Surya’s COO, the company distributes its products to ~5,000 clients across the United States, Canada and Mexico.

HARRY’S COMMENTS: Surya is a fantastic company located one hour north of Atlanta. The company is a recognized leader in the rug and home accessory industry, achieving double-digit growth in 7 of the last 8 years and selling to +60% of the top 200 furniture retailers in the USA. And it’s growing: In 2012, the 150-person company added 20 positions and expanded its Calhoun warehouse by 100,000 square feet. Additionally, the firm opened a 26,000-square-foot showroom in High Point, NC, doubled its showroom capacity in Atlanta, and opened a new showroom in Tupelo, Miss.

The US rug market is highly fragmented and generates about $5B of retail sales. Remodeling and construction are the primary growth drivers for the industry, and demand for rugs and home accessories depends on residential and commercial real estate construction and home sales.

With $55M of revenue, Surya is a top 10 player in the industry.

Based on its current rate of growth, Management projects that the Company will to become a top 5 player in rugs by 2014. With its extension into other home décor categories, the company is becoming the “go to” brand for retailers and designers.

Surya is winning through superior product design, inventory management, brand positioning — thanks largely to Satya Tiwari, Surya’s President and CEO. The company was founded by Satya’s father, Surya Tiwari. In 2004, Satya left Compass Partners to join the family company, which was nearing bankruptcy. At the time, Surya had $2.7 million in annual revenue and growth had stalled. But under Satya’s leadership, the company flourished, growing business by 24x. Today, management hopes to grow the firm organically to $1 billion in sales by 2020.

Is the market large enough? YES …

Surya sells primarily to home furnishing stores (SIC CODES: 5714, 5719) and furniture stores (SIC CODE: 5712). The US furniture retailing industry includes about 25,000 companies with combined annual revenue of about $50 billion. The US home furnishings store industry includes about 20,000 stores with combined annual revenues of about $25 billion. That’s a $75 billion nut to crack.

And: If you add in the US interior design industry, there’s roughly 12,000 companies with combined annual revenues of ~$9 billion. All told, maybe 40-45,000 potential customers between these three markets.

Yet these industries are hotly competitive: The US home furnishings retail industry includes major companies include Bed Bath & Beyond and Williams-Sonoma, and the 50 largest companies account for about 75% of industry revenue. Moreover, the competition for home furnishing stores includes department stores, mass merchandisers, home improvement stores, and online and mail order retailers. The space is a dog fight.

That’s less the case with the furniture retail industry, where the 50 largest players generate only ~35% of revenue. Still, those players include multichannel mavens like Ashley Furniture, Haverty’s, and Rooms To Go — all of whom know that the profitability of furniture stores depends on world-class merchandising and marketing.

Which is precisely where Surya shines.

Check out this nine minute video featuring Satya Tiwari discussing the firm’s product line and design philosophies …

About the Role:

At a high level, your job will be to stimulate demand for Surya’s product line and make it incredibly easy for the firm’s channel partners to digitally explore, identify, buy, inventory, and resell Surya’s products. How you do this is still being teased out, and obviously YOU will have a lot of say in the matter.

But ask yourself this: “If I wanted to help Surya grow from $55 million to $1 billion over ten years using digital strategies and technologies, how would I do that? That’s a 38% CAGR. How could you remove that much friction from the purchasing process? How could you help your clients see that many new ways to solve their problems with your products and services? How could you get your clients to think of you that often? How would it happen that they would regard you that valuably in their business?

Where would you start? What would you need to define? Or re-define?

Within your first 100 days at Surya, you’ll need to develop a plan. Historically, Surya has not invested a ton in B2B ecommerce. Yet management believes that from a marketing and branding perspective, Surya needs to concentrate on content and interactivity to create stories about Surya’s customers and products.

The company also sees ecommerce as a great efficiency tool in terms of tracking orders, and it wants to move towards a self-service model so that it can invest more in the solution selling aspect of its business. Meaning: In this role, you’ll need to be equal parts marketer (storyteller); product developer (to understand the B2B the customer pain points); and technologist to make sure that Surya can execute around the strategy.

Surya’s is a highly visual business, so its products and value proposition must remain highly demonstrable. It’s critical that you know how to sell visually online and that you have fluency in the following areas as they pertain to ecommerce:

  • Content Management Systems (CMS)
  • Online Merchandising
  • Personalization
  • Rich Media
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Web Analytics
  • Web Design / User Experience

These are great people; well worth moving to Calhoun for.

Surya’s positive impact reaches well beyond Georgia and North Carolina. Started in the village of Ugapur, India, Surya has been a source of financial stability for the families of the village for 35 years. The company also donates money to East Meets West, a nonprofit dedicated to transforming the health, education and communities of disadvantaged people in Southeast Asia, and the Akshaya Patra Foundation school lunch program, helping feed lunch to more than 300,000 students for one year. Additionally, Surya participates in local food and sock drives and later this year 15 team members will run a half marathon raising $25,000 for a local charity.

Moreover, Surya has a fast-growing culture, and it’s focusing on P&L growth and building core competencies in multiple functional areas. This is a high-energy organization who’s very excited about bringing a shot of life to an old industry. Plus: Management is quite fond of bringing in industry outsiders to provide a new perspective on how to grow Surya’s business.

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UPDATE (January 12, 2013): We have submitted a number of truly excellent candidates, and all but two have missed the mark. We are looking for a “marketing oriented technologist,” … not a “technology oriented marketer.” Big difference.

Surya has four different types of customer:

  1. Interior designers in the hospitality and residential categories
  2. Furniture stores
  3. Large mass merchants
  4. Ecommerce pure plays

Each type of wholesale client has a different set of pain points. The basic idea is that in six months you will understand Surya’s entire customer base.

That’s not as easy as it sounds. By “understand,” I mean really know what makes each wholesale client tick: Who their end customers are; What their end customers really want out of the product and the Surya partner from whom they bought it; How each wholesale customer makes money; and What three levers in each wholesale customer’s business if they turned effectively would really drive their business.

So, for the furniture stores (for example), you’d poll 100 of the smallest players and ask “What’s really happening in the stores? How are they interacting with consumers? What are the kinds of pitfalls that the industry has as a whole?”

Suppose Surya offers 3000 rugs, and in a store you might see 5 or 10. This begs the question: How can Surya and its partners digitally present 3000 designs and allow end users to find the one perfect rug that exceeds their needs? And remember, some of this merchandise might not be aggressively promoted — so its mere display should be capable of inspiring a purchase. In this situation, you could develop online room configurators, color tools, storyboards, and more.

The idea is to use technology to educate and inspire creative uses of Surya’s products in a way that improves each store owner’s yield. I want someone who is as obsessed with customer experience as this guy, this lady, or any of these folks.

Beyond that, Surya wants you to perfect its order management and order tracking processes so that the ENTIRE customer experience is web enabled from product discovery to order management, to payment processing, to shipping and tracking. And it wants these tools to be imbedded into its wholesale customers’ (and even their customers!) work flows.


Position Responsibilities:

  • Develop a state of the art b2b eCommerce site that is not only inspirational to consumers, but one that gets embedded in the workflow of Surya’s b2b customer base (retailers and interior designers)
  • Develop a self-service offering to enable availability of all order history and relevant data on Surya’s website for improved customer performance
  • Collaborate regularly with Creative, Product Development, and Sales to ensure proper representation of merchandise on the web, while continuously improving appearance, content, and navigation throughout the website
  • Work with Technology and third-parties to develop visual tools to showcase products within the context of customer space and lifestyle
  • Define database attributes to provide thoughtful recommendations based on user profile
  • Collaborate with Marketing and Creative for material used on website to promote customer confidence, company credibility, and to improve site performance and visibility to drive traffic and online sales
  • Conduct regular meetings with Sales for updated information on merchandise, trends, availability of promotions
  • Work closely with internal and external resources in the development and execution of marketing strategies to drive traffic and online sales.
  • Manage the development of the Web organization to meet revenue objectives and recruitment of the team
  • Execute and drive International Website Initiatives to support the brand in new and existing international markets.
  • Develop and manage a process for customer feedback including regular reporting to executive management.
  • Ensure that all orders and payments are processed in accordance to standard cashiering rules including the verification of customer identity.
  • Work closely with finance staff and external resources to ensure company compliance with applicable taxation requirements and maintain vigilance against credit card fraud from website

Desired Skills & Experience

  • College degree (MBA a plus)
  • 3+ years experience in web environment; 3-5 years experience in retail operations capacity, preferably with a multi-channel retailer (with management experience)
  • Deep knowledge of ecommerce operations and thorough familiarity with the online space, with specific experience designing online customer experiences and a track record of success
  • Demonstrated competencies in ecommerce technology, supply chain, fulfillment and call center functions.
  • Strong leadership ability with proven experience creating effective teams in an environment conducive to developing cross-functional collaboration

Applications for this position are being coordinated by Harry Joiner. To apply, CLICK HERECandidates, please be sure to email Harry for a packet of market research and company / competitive intel that will differentiate you in your candidacy. Due to the intensely competitive nature of this search, thorough preparation for these interviews with this proprietary material is strongly recommended.

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Harry Joiner

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