Forum Features: Consumer
A conversation with our VP of Consumer, Suneil Raghvan.
Forum’s Consumer team brings quality products with compelling brand narratives to all of our customers, wherever they shop.
You spent time at various technology companies, including Amazon. What drew you to our space, and more specifically, what brought you to Forum Brands?
Amazon was a formative experience for me, largely because I learned how to scale business units and the unique challenges associated with achieving scale. That was energizing for me. I knew that there were millions of customers engaging with any product or feature that I launched. After some time though, I realized that while a place like Amazon would give me exceptional experiences to build from 1 to n, I realized that I also wanted to learn how to build from 0 to 1 for my own professional development.
From there on, I knew that I wanted to go super early-stage. I was doing my diligence on where that may be and a couple of things started happening at that time. I knew that ecommerce and the third party seller space had room for consolidation - the market was growing incredibly fast. But what attracted me to Forum was my confidence in the DNA of the company. From my first conversation with Brenton, it was clear that the team prioritized incredibly high quality fundamentals and thoughtfulness both on the operating side and the investing side. I was, and still am, a big believer that you need both to get it right in this space.
How does that thoughtfulness you mentioned on the operational and acquisitions side of the business translated to our culture? And how does our culture foster collaboration, professional development and growth?
What’s so special about Forum’s culture is that there is genuine respect for the expertise and point of view that everyone brings to the table. We have a principle “Best Ideas Win” which is very much at the core of that. In my seat, it means making sure that whoever is closest to a specific piece of data has the space to own their perspective.
When I’m trying to deep dive on what’s going on at the portfolio level, it comes down to every member of our team having a voice around that table. If I want to know what’s going on at a category level, I’m going to talk to a category lead. If I want to know what’s going on at a brand level, I’m going to talk to a brand builder. Making sure that there are spaces for those conversations to happen fosters collaboration, learnings, and development quite effectively.
What’s your vision for the Consumer organization?
I’ll answer in two parts.
The first is who we want to be. The name of the organization is not accidental. The goal is to start with a deep understanding of the unique purpose each brand and product in our portfolio can serve to the end consumer, and work backwards from there. We want to effectively build brands that are true to their mission and purpose, and genuinely additive to the lives of our customers.
The second is how we get there. Our Consumer organization is an amalgamation of six functions - Category Management, Marketing, Creative and Design, Logistics, Channel Expansion, and Strategy and Operations. Each of these functions plays a pivotal role in fulfilling what we identify as brand purpose. When each of these functions spots challenges and opportunities for our brands, they come to the table with a very specific point of view that’s tied to their area of expertise. It’s when the functions come together that we can start unlocking goodness and potential for each of our brands, and our portfolio as a whole.
By working together, we get where we want to be in the lives of our consumers.
How do you describe Forum’s approach to brand growth?
There are some operating fundamentals which will always be consistent. We want to drive sustainable and profitable growth, while maintaining a long-term view on performance. It’s important that we’re balancing the short-term and long-term effectively. Depending on the horizon on which you're making decisions, those decisions can look dramatically different. But having the north star of sustainable growth will always be at the forefront of that process.
Beyond those fundamentals, it’s important to note that we operate a portfolio and it’s not a one-size fits all approach. Each brand requires a thoughtful strategic roadmap. More importantly, we have an elite team of operators that can execute relentlessly to bridge that strategic roadmap into tangible results for the portfolio. I think it really does come down to making sure that we recognize that our brands are different, that they are built to serve a unique purpose in the lives of our customers, and that we will go out and execute accordingly.
We talk about meeting our customers everywhere they are, and everywhere they shop. How has your team brought that mission to life?
We always think about three questions - the why, the where, and the how.
The why takes us back to the core mission of the brand. Why does it exist? What problem does it solve in the lives of our customers? What’s the mission of the brand? Bringing this to life tactically means using that mission to inform the products that we launch within a brand, the creative strategy for that brand, and so much more.
The where takes us to channel distribution and where we want to actually show up for our customers. For any given brand, we want to connect with our customers wherever they want to see us and find us. That takes us to launching on new marketplaces like Target Plus, and building out our DTC presence for certain brands where we know customers want a more direct relationship.
The last piece is the how, which goes back to doing all of this sustainably. It means thinking through unit economics for each of our products, how we want to price our products, determining the marketing channels that we want to use. It comes back to ensuring that we’re in the best position to serve our customers over the long-term, not just the next month, quarter or year.
Last question for you. Who are some of your heroes?
I’m going to answer this in two parts as well.
The first is focused on people who really built my character. That’s my parents. I’m very much a function of an immigrant family. I moved here with my parents when I was quite young. They’ve shown me the importance of tenacity and resilience, and those qualities were a huge part of my household growing up. As you settle into a new country, there are a lot of things that you grapple with that can feel quite challenging. But seeing how they were able to overcome those obstacles was inspiring, and shaped who I am today.
The second is my professional influences, and how I developed as an operator and show up in the workplace. The leaders that inspire me care about their customers deeply. They spend time monitoring trends, staying ahead of what their customers actually want. Amazon is very famous for how they operate in that regard. But the former CEO of Pepsi Indra Nooyi stands out. Pepsi also operates a large portfolio of brands, and early on she recognized where she wanted those brands to shift to address specific customer needs and behaviors. Going back to my own upbringing, it was rare to see a retail CEO with a similar immigrant story. I’ve always been inspired by seeing someone like her make such a profound impact.