Profile: Omar Haque, Vice President/GM & Head of E-Commerce, Acelerada
Omar Haque’s career has encompassed all things digital. He’s been in the e-commerce space since Webvan – the “original” online grocery startup founded in the mid-1990s. His career has taken him from J.P. Morgan to Scholastic. Prior to being recruited to Acelerada, Haque spent five years as head of global e-commerce at Colgate-Palmolive. He was the first full-time e-commerce employee there and was responsible for creating the company’s e-commerce strategy, roadmap and execution plan. “I love starting things and being at the forefront of a change,” Haque says.
As the vice president and head of e-commerce at Acelerada – a standalone business unit of Bimbo Bakeries/Grupo Bimbo with brands such as Sara Lee and Entenmann’s – Haque says he’s focused on disruption. He and his team manage all e-commerce and digital, everything from supply chain and marketing to insights and start-up partnerships. “We are not selling bread online,” Haque says. “We are driving growth.”
Any recent example of this growth?
Haque: Our launch on Boxed.com with Entenmann’s Little Bites muffins. We went from the first meeting to going online in a matter of weeks, something that can take months in traditional CPGs.
Does Acelerada work with Bimbo’s shopper marketing team?
Haque: It depends on the customer and can be slightly different based on the pure plays and click-and-collects. Overall, the great thing about Acelerada is that we have our own team and we manage our own budgets – trade, digital, shopper marketing. That makes us nimbler than the traditional side of business.
How can other brands take better advantage of e-commerce opportunities?
Haque: You need to start thinking about it right from research and development and innovation labs. E-commerce is not just a down-stream sales thing. Think about it in every aspect of the commercialization process from product development, packaging and supply chain.
Anyone you see doing this well?
Haque: Procter & Gamble with Tide Pods. They were almost made for e-commerce and are so much easier to ship than liquid detergent.
How is Acelerada encouraging innovation?
Haque: By creating a “safe zone” for associates to experiment and try different things and not be afraid to fail.
What does that look like in practice?
Haque: We have a failure competition where we monetarily reward failure. This is very important to us. If you are not failing, you are not taking enough risks and not trying to innovate.
Culture is a great motivator for you. How so?
Haque: We spend 30% or more of our time with our co-workers, so it better be a great culture you experience. That was one of my apprehensions when I was leaving the managing-with-respect culture of Colgate-Palmolive. I feel lucky and blessed to have joined a great culture here known for being deeply humane.
Are there lessons you learned early in your career?
Haque: You can’t do it alone or with a “B” team. Never suffer in silence, get people smarter than you, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
How do you stay plugged in to an ever-changing digital landscape?
Haque: Talking with my peers is the best way. There are 10-15 of us who pretty much grew up in CPG e-commerce, and we frequently and informally exchange notes and ideas. Also, travels across the globe. Finally, I talk to and observe my kids, ages 11 and 16, and how they interact with technology.
What disruptors do you see facing the industry?
Haque: From a technology perspective, voice and artificial intelligence will be the biggest game changers on how shoppers’ shop and find products.
What else are you watching?
Haque: Online grocery is still in the nascent stages in the U.S. and we have a long way to go before catching up to Western Europe. Also, the speed of last-mile fulfillment is going to get faster. Digital native shoppers are used to instant gratification and whoever can crack the code for faster delivery (under 30 minutes or so) profitably and sustainably will be the winner in the online grocery space.
Any parting advice?
Haque: Don’t overthink. If you have 50%-80% of the data, that’s good enough, just pull the trigger.