GENERAL MANAGER – NEW ZEALAND, BLACKMORES
As a child with a father in the Indian Air Force, Deva Dhar was always on the move. Such a varied childhood has left its impression on Deva – he now speaks five languages, and knows the value of always taking advantage of opportunities. He studied Biological Sciences at the University of North Bengal and did his MBA at the Xavier Institute of Management in Bhubaneswar.
Deva started his FMCG career in New Zealand with Roxdale Foods, before being headhunted by Nestlé. It was at Nestlé that he played an integral part in launching the hugely popular Kit Kat Chunky, to number one selling single bar in the country. He then moved on to Mainland in a strategic account management role, before picking up the role of national sales manager at Kellogg’s. It was here that Deva took up one of the biggest challenges of his working career, overseeing a major restructuring of the sales and merchandising team, moving from independent contractors to an integrated Kellogg’s team. The restructure was a project that stuck with him.
“It was either very foolish or very brave,” Deva admitted, “but in New Zealand you can’t do business if you’re just doing the norm. It takes a bit of passion and self-belief, something slightly out of the box. I’m so glad I did it,” he added. After Kellogg’s he spent a number of years with Abbott Nutrition before being shoulder-tapped by Blackmores to be New Zealand Country Manager, a role he has held for three years and currently as General Manager-NZ.
Speaking of brave, at the last Blackmores annual conference in Queenstown, Deva came face-to-face with one of his biggest fears – heights. His colleagues ‘dared’ him to jump off a cliff and then tandem hang-glide down. “You can just imagine my state of body, mind and soul when the dare came about. After a little persuasion and a “goodbye if I don’t see you again” phone call to my wife, I jumped off the cliff – and lived to tell the tale. After all, the theme of our conference was ‘Breaking Boundaries and Beyond’ – thank goodness it was boundaries not bones!”
It was the Blackmores values that convinced Deva to take the role. The Blackmores PIRLS philosophy – passion, integrity, respect, leadership and social responsibility, that are woven into every fibre of the organisation, aligned with Deva’s own principles. “What I like about Blackmores is being able to walk the talk,” he explained. “If you’re able to walk the talk it’s more genuine at a customer level.” In a world with an ageing population and rising demand for health supplements, Deva believes that Blackmores stands apart because they believe in evidence-based research, as well as making an effort in customer service. “It’s the small things that are noticed by people, whether it’s a little extra in customer service or something that you do for your team, that adds up.” Blackmores success is closely linked to the way it focuses on customers and consumers, thinking innovatively, acting responsibly towards others, the environment and local community while striving to demonstrate its values.
Deva’s tenure at Blackmores has seen the New Zealand team go from strength to strength, most recently winning a New Zealand Self Medication Industry marketing award. Dhar himself also recently took out the internal Blackmores CEO award, the prize being a week-long leadership course at Harvard Business School, although he is quick to acknowledge his team as the reason behind any accolades. “‘If there’s one word that defines me it’s passion, and if there’s one thing that defines Blackmores it’s the passion of the team,” he said. “Seeing the success of the team working together is most rewarding.”
His work has seen him spend time in the USA, Australia and other parts of New Zealand, which means he has to make an effort to make time to be with his wife (who has an “equally hectic” role in FMCG) and three daughters. Just as he spent his childhood on the move, Deva also spends his adulthood on the move – albeit movement of a different kind. A “misspent youth spent breakdancing” has instilled a lifelong love of dancing, often to the extreme embarrassment of his daughters. “It’s good to be able to let off a bit of steam, and sometimes I do break into a few moves!” And while he doesn’t yet own a sequinned shirt, he does admit to putting on his dancing shoes from time to time.