About Vikas Shah MBE
Vikas Shah MBE is one of the UK’s highest profile entrepreneurs and business commentators. Shah is CEO of Swiscot Group who, since 1968, has been a key partner in the supply of textiles to a diverse range of markets ranging from high street retailers to commercial and institutional buyers.
Swiscot are committed to sustainability and responsibility and believe that their business has a duty to make a positive impact in the world. Shah holds a professorship at MIT Sloan (The Lisbon MBA), is an Honorary Professor at University of Manchester and a venture investor in numerous businesses internationally. He is also a regular speaker and host at conferences around the world, and consults for a wide-range of businesses. Shah was awarded an MBE for Services to Business and the Economy in Her Majesty the Queen’s 2018 New Year’s Honours List.
… on his industry career. I had an unusual path into textiles; I exited my first business (a technology consultancy) in the early 1990s and then a series of chance discussions and opportunities led me into textiles, joining (and eventually leading) the family business. The hunch that took me into the industry was that the textiles industry was overdue a shake-up where we could apply learnings and best practices from professional services and global business into an industry which was becoming increasingly based around performance metrics rather than just price. Clearly, this is not a journey to do alone – and I was sure – from the beginning – to recruit a team of the very best people I could from the industry, and also create a pipeline of ambitious, talented and focused younger people to come through the business into leadership and operational roles. Much like the best businesses I had seen elsewhere, the trick was then to surround people with the best technology, processes, practices and advice we can and give them an environment to thrive.
“We are at a time where the pace of technological change in every industry means that innovation is a constant, not an optional…”
… on industry developments. Innovation happens all the time, but in retrospect it looks lumpy – that’s one of the fallacies of our perspective as humans. We are at a time where the pace of technological change in every industry means that innovation is a constant, not an optional – that means that every single day, the best companies have to be able to put direction and momentum behind developing product, process, people and service to compete.
In commercial textiles – understandably, a huge amount of innovation is around product performance and process performance with automation and sensing giving us controls and insights that we never had before, and machine learning which will – once we have enough adoption – give us the data to create leaner, and even more high performance supply chains.
For us, as suppliers, technology is allowing us to work closer with our customers than ever before and work in more innovative and exciting ways with our global supply base. It’s also bringing us phenomenal new capabilities in the context of quality management. … on the industry’s commitment to sustainability Sustainability is not an option; we are already consuming 1.5 earths’ of resource and the situation is getting worse.
It’s imperative therefore that every industry, and every individual get behind sustainability. Alongside this, we cannot turn a blind eye to the working conditions and living conditions of those whom globalisation has left out, meaning that we – as citizens and businesses – must do our best to make commitments to those individuals to better their lives too.
The challenge is that as intermediaries, we are faced with the seemingly unsolvable paradox of market which – on one hand – wishes for sustainability, but which – on the other hand – is prepared to push prices to unsustainable levels. The simple fact is that without fair deals on pricing, payments and competition – we will not achieve meaningful sustainability for our industry.
This is not just a challenge for our industry, but something which is emerging in many more. … on industry collaboration Textiles is one of those strange industries which kicked and screamed its way out of the industrial revolution in to a globalised knowledge economy.
The mechanics and processes of business in today’s world are so different to even just 20 years ago, that the methods of working together that are de-facto required now are simply alien to many.
For most, collaboration still feels like an inward facing activity; perhaps something they do with other similar businesses at luncheons and functions, but our view is that collaboration is a network – it is the way you relate to your team, your industry, the academic and educational sectors, government, the non-profit world and every part of society that you touch or have an impact.
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