How H-E-B thinks (smartly) inside the box

Episode 2: Kedar Patel, vice president of Digital Fulfillment, explains how he works on the inside to turn new ideas to big business.

Full transcript below:

Chandra Kay Bricker: Hello and welcome. I'm your host Chandra Kay Bricker and this is the Staple and Fancy podcast by H-E-B Digital. Today on the mic we've got Kedar Patel. Hi Kedar.

Kedar Patel: Hello. 

Chandra Kay Bricker: How are you today?

Kedar Patel: I'm good.

Chandra Kay Bricker: Kedar, you are the vice-president of Digital Commerce with a focus on digital fulfillment here at H-E-B. Is that correct?

Kedar Patel: That is correct.

Chandra Kay Bricker: So before we get there, let's start at the very beginning. You are frequently credited as one of the key essential players to building H-E-B's eCommerce team back in the very very beginning. So you're sitting in a room and you're thinking. . .walk me through the big idea. How did you get from there to here?

Kedar Patel: At the at the end of the day, where we all kind of converged was this idea of "Let's sell cakes online." It's a super simple place, but it's actually pretty complicated when you think about the online customer experience. It's such a personal thing and when you really think about it. The types of cakes that we're trying to sell were predominantly event cakes—and when we say event we're just talking about birthday cakes. And there is nothing more sensitive to a customer than a birthday cake on the day their kid has their birthday.

Chandra Kay Bricker: Oh social media is filled with cakes gone wrong.

Kedar Patel: That's exactly right. So while it wasn't this crazy delivering drones at 3 o'clock the morning type idea, it was super complicated and it created an insane amount of passion within our customers and our Bakery Partners. So it was one of the best places we could have started to learn grow and evolve it. We started with bakery cakes. We then evolved to deli trays. We then took it to wine. We then took it to floral—and we just kept growing it. We evolved into a ship-to-home business and then finally kind of crescendoed to a Curbside and home delivery business. It keeps going. We're not gonna stop there.

Chandra Kay Bricker: Within the walls of our company you're more known as an intrapreneur versus an entrepreneur. What do we mean when we call you an intrapreneur?

Kedar Patel: Well, I guess it implies that we're really going into a space that we don't have a lot of history in and because of that we've been given a ton of flexibility to kind of paint our own canvas. We are really doing it from the ground up. We start off super super simple. We're given a ton of autonomy and we're allowed to continue to enhance and evolve very very very similar to the of the spirit of a startup. 

Chandra Kay Bricker: So do you ever hire external entrepreneurs for your team so that they can help make change within H-E-B?

Kedar Patel: Every day and as much as we can. What we try to do is we try to balance our deep-seated expertise around how to sell groceries or around how to sell birthday cakes and translate it to the smartest most innovative people to figure out what that looks and feels like from an online platform perspective.

Chandra Kay Bricker: You were instrumental in building our Curbside business as well. What are you working on today?

Kedar Patel: Today we are working on continuing to enhance our ability to provide Curbside and home delivery. What we care about is our Partners' expertise on picking the perfect avocado. We care about our Partners' expertise on picking and identifying what exactly is a ripe banana. That's the stuff we never want to take away from. We need our Partners. We need our experts to be able to do that job. But how do we let them do that more effectively and more efficiently?

Chandra Kay Bricker: You sound like you love your job Kedar.

Kedar Patel: I do love my job.

Chandra Kay Bricker: You enjoy coming in and solving these challenges everyday.

Kedar Patel: It's awesome.

Chandra Kay Bricker: Well thanks for being here today Kedar.

Kedar Patel: Appreciate the time.

All we’re missing is you.