We speak to Venkat Gopalan, Chief Digital Officer and Chief Technology Officer at Belcorp, about the company’s major transformation over the last few...
Founded in 1968, Belcorp is a leading Latin American beauty and cosmetics company. Based in Peru, its presence spans 14 countries across the Americas. Currently a direct-selling company representing three brands, L’Bel, Ésika, and Cyzone, Belcorp has been undertaking a company-wide transformation over the past few years. Its development has been phenomenal, with continual double-digit growth leading to a revenue of over US$1.16 bn. The changes are aimed at both the consumer and Belcorp’s vast network of over 800,000 independent beauty consultants.
Technology plays an important role in Belcorp’s expansion. Venkat Gopalan, Chief Digital and Technology Officer, is responsible for driving the organisation’s digital transformation. Gopalan joined Belcorp in May 2019 following a long history of working in retail tech. So far, Belcorp has explored multiple different avenues: ecommerce, B2B and B2C models. “For over 40 years, we had never been in e-commerce or retail,” Gopalan says, “so we are expanding into other channels because we aim to create the best brand experiences for our customers and, by doing so, strengthen our independent consultant´s businesses.” Currently, its e-commerce offering is available in four countries - Peru, Colombia, Chile and Mexico - with plans to expand as consumers demand it. Belcorp’s new business models are aimed at increasing delivery immediacy and reducing payment friction. “Part of it is that we want to be known as the best technology organization in Latin America,” says Gopalan. Belcorp’s expansion turns both internally and externally. Belcorp Ventures, an offshoot of Belcorp that invests in and partners with companies that can benefit from the multinational’s industry experience and market access, and, in turn, provides Belcorp a fresh perspective on the future of beauty. So far, it has invested in four beauty startups. “Investing in an early stage company gains us global access to today’s beauty status, as well as to new technology and business models,” Gopalan explains. “We can look at the cultural change and get inspired by new products to inform and streamline our company’s transformation. It’s about partnership and knowledge.”
Belcorp’s digital transformation began two-and-a-half years ago as an effort to shift its own view of technology to understanding it as an enabler rather than just support. Belcorp’s expansion centres on reinventing direct selling, becoming an omnichannel provider, providing an exceptional consumer experience, and focusing on internal talent. Digital transformation touches on all four. Technology organization is a key element; moving to an Agile enterprise allows Belcorp to launch initiatives such as e-commerce quickly and efficiently. Salesforce, which has previously been a key element in the company’s growth, is equipped with digital tools, which enables consultants to learn about product, better interaction with consumers and enable friction-free selling. Consumers also benefit from the tech transformation, with augmented reality that allows them to try on virtual makeup and virtual portraits that give them the opportunity to learn about products.
“Digital transformation is about how we reinvent things,” Gopalan states. “At the same time, it’s about enabling the workforce to drive the cultural aspect.” Projects that used to take many months are now completed in a few weeks, freeing up employees to think creatively rather than focus on manual tasks. A new personalisation-based commercial tactic using artificial intelligence and machine learning benefits both consumers and consultants. Internally, Belcorp has introduced a new engineering career path, the first of its kind in Peru. “Talent development is what will allow us to become leaders in the space,” Gopalan says. Talent development initiatives include LinkedIn Learning, Tech Training, Agile Academy and Tech Academy. “We want to be a continuous learning organization,” Gopalan continues. Belcorp runs Open Tec, a tech conference for employees, bringing in organizations like Amazon, SAP and Valtech to talk about the importance of innovation, data culture, and the cloud. It also brought in six startups to talk about their offerings, and CEOs from across Latin American tech companies to promote data culture. “It’s about bringing the community across Latin America together to share, learn and transform,” Gopalan explains.
Partnerships are highly valued at Belcorp. Relationships with universities function symbiotically, providing interns and innovation partnership for Belcorp and real-world challenges for the students. Partnerships with other companies have allowed Belcorp to further its tech understanding. Altimea, one of the leading digital consulting and transformation providers in Peru and Latin America, has been a key partner on Belcorp’s business end. Its focus is on using technology to help push and manage content. Belcorp’s interest in data analytics sees it turning to Sigmoid, which has spent the last year and a half advising on AI and machine learning models, as well as looking at population logistics and forecast planning. As heavy cloud users, Belcorp relies on CenturyLink for infrastructure, a key strategic and social partner. Meanwhile, Hundred Group, a part of GFI, has been with Belcorp for the last 15 years, providing solutions for digital tools and helping Belcorp with its mobile application development. These strategic partnerships bring specialised technology expertise into Belcorp, allowing it to continue along its digital transformation journey.
Transformation at Belcorp is always done in alignment with its purpose, core values and commitment to sustainability. Sustainability is a focal point of the corporation, aimed at creating a future full of possibilities for everyone, and centred on five pillars: women’s empowerment, extraordinary talent, care for the planet, integrity and transparency, and responsible products. The company has goals set for each of these pillars over the next five years. “If you look at the pillars of sustainability,” Gopalan says, “each is helped by our digital transformation. Digitisation helps us reduce waste and carbon footprint while increasing transparency.”
Looking ahead, Belcorp plans on continuing to expand and transform. “In five years’ time, we want to be recognized as the best place to work and the definition of talent and innovation across the board”, Gopalan says. For this, having committed and creative people is key. “We have to continue to innovate, to bring new products to the market, to reinvent the direct selling,” Gopalan says. “Technology disrupts. The number one priority for us as a tech organization is moving with speed and agility.”