Corporate View: Sarika Joshi, Zalora

Published: Mar 2021
Corporate View: Sarika Joshi, Zalora

Treasury and beyond

Sarika Joshi is Director of Corporate Finance at Zalora Group, where her responsibilities include tax, treasury, working capital, risk and special projects. She took her first treasury role at Cummins Inc in the US after completing her MBA at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, and subsequently worked for companies including Nokia, Dell and Kraft Heinz before joining Zalora in September 2018.

Sarika Joshi

Director of Corporate Finance

Part of Global Fashion Group (GFG), Zalora is an e-retailer based in Singapore. Zalora was founded in 2012 and has a strong presence across Southeast Asia, particularly in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Taiwan. As a curated platform, Zalora offers products from over 3,000 brands, including apparel, shoes, accessories, beauty, pre-loved and lifestyle goods. The platform has over 50 million visits per month. GFG operates in 27 countries across four continents through four established ecommerce platforms: Dafiti, lamoda, Zalora and The Iconic. GFG has over 16 million active customers around the world and reported revenues of €1.4bn in FY 2020. The group is listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

For Sarika Joshi, one of the most significant benefits of a career in treasury is the ability to take roles across a range of different industries. As she explains, “This allows you to get a broader overview of how different industries function, their unique positioning in their relevant markets, and potential growth trajectories.”

This ability to work across different sectors is one that Joshi has harnessed in her own career. She began her career working as a Credit Analyst in India, before moving to the US to gain her MBA. Since moving into her first treasury role at Cummins Inc, Joshi has held roles in the US and Singapore at Nokia, Dell and Kraft Heinz, with her responsibilities including tax, accounting and operations finance as well as treasury.

More recently, Joshi joined Singapore-based fashion and lifestyle e-tailer Zalora Group as Director of Corporate Finance in September 2018. As well as treasury, her current responsibilities include tax, working capital, risk and special projects.

Achievements to date

Joshi’s roles have spanned the full spectrum of treasury activities, including debt financing and capital structure, financial risk management including FX, commodities and interest rate risk; pension funding, cash management and evaluating mergers and divestures. “The exciting part of each of these sub functions has been bridging the problems and requirements of the business with solutions available in the external financial markets,” she explains.

In terms of Joshi’s achievements so far, she says she has been fortunate that many of her roles involved working for companies at a moment when they were undergoing a major transition, including Dell’s privatisation in 2013 and the Kraft Heinz merger in 2015. More recently, Zalora’s growth story presented a similar opportunity when Global Fashion Group listed its shares on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange on July 2nd 2019.

As a result, Joshi has taken advantage of several opportunities to step up into leadership positions. One particular career highlight involved single-handedly leading a billion-dollar credit facility for Cummins shortly before the 2008 financial crisis. Her other notable achievements include being a market leader in trading and taking positions in CNH in 2010 in her role at Nokia, and mobilising over US$500m in cash from APAC to the group to fund the Dell LBO. As Head of Corporate Finance at Kraft Heinz, meanwhile, she set up a treasury function from scratch and adopted a zero-based budgeting initiative as part of the 3G framework.

“While these times were challenging, they proved to be exciting – and most definitely extremely rewarding in terms of my growth as a finance and business professional,” Joshi notes.

Current focus

Like many companies, Zalora has faced unprecedented challenges during the global pandemic – although the crisis has also presented some opportunities. “Being an e-commerce-focused company, one of the things that our business model allowed us to do was continue to reach our customers,” says Joshi. “It also gave us an opportunity to expand into new categories at speed, and bring forth a wider curated marketplace to our consumers.”

However, this has also meant that existing ways of operating have had to be transformed almost overnight, with challenges that have included adapting to the changing market, adjusting the company’s buying plans and rethinking cash flow management.

“Another important part of the crisis has been the mental health and wellbeing of employees,” says Joshi. She cites the importance of being flexible and adaptable when it comes to employees who are undergoing personal or family-related challenges related to their mental or physical health, and making this a priority for the business – “which is something that has been quite critical for the Zalora leadership team.”

Beyond the pandemic, Joshi says the key challenges for a corporate finance team – particularly when working for a fast-growing e-commerce company – include resource upskilling, automation and keeping up with a dynamic business environment.

“Part of my job in the past two years has been to expand and bring stability to these functions, and take them to the next level in terms of efficiency, so we can harness a strong foundation for all the exciting growth that Zalora aims to achieve,” she says. “This has led to stretched objectives and tight timelines – but with extremely rewarding outcomes when we hit the milestones we have set for ourselves.”

Treasury and innovation

Where treasury is concerned, Joshi believes the role of the treasurer has already evolved to that of a critical business partner, rather than being an isolated role focusing solely on financial markets. Both today and in the future, she says that treasurers are increasingly focused on exploring how innovation in areas such as technology, automation and data analytics have the potential to deepen the value treasury can offer to the company.

“We have already heard of companies doing digital bond issuances and using blockchain for trade finance,” she says. “While these are currently pilot cases, all of these will become even more mainstream going forward.” What’s more, she predicts that the treasury function has more exciting developments to look forward to “as new business models emerge, technology advances at an exponential rate, and new talent pools bring fresh ideas to the table.”

Moving forward

Looking ahead, Joshi says she expects 2021 to be in some ways an extension of 2020. “As a company, we will be focusing on continuing towards our strategy of driving consumer value and growth via innovation, and creating ‘wow moments’ for our customers,” she says. “Functionally, for me the focus will be on bringing in more automation, harnessing liquidity solutions, and being prepared for the ever-changing tax landscape in the region.”

On a personal note Joshi is looking forward to being able to travel again once the pandemic has abated. In the meantime, while work keeps her engaged, her other interests include photography, filmmaking, writing, trekking and weightlifting.

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