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Best Foot Forward

In Focus
NAME:Dinesh Shahani
COMPANY:Landmark Group (Shoemart)
POSITION:CEO of Footwear
From running his own sports footwear brand to becoming CEO of one of the Middle East’s premier shoe companies, Landmark Group’s Dinesh Shahani translated a childhood passion for footwear into a lifelong career.

Growing up, Dinesh Shahani had a passion for footwear. “I was very interested in shoes, and my father would buy me a lot because I loved them,” he tells The CEO Magazine with a smile.

He admits, however, that it was purely coincidental that his career trajectory, and even his first job, happened to align with his interest in shoes.

“I joined my father’s friend in his trading business, and they happened to be exporting footwear,” Shahani says.

“Then I co-founded Espee in Hong Kong in September 1987 as a 21-year-old, with my dad’s friend, exporting garments and footwear out of China to various markets around the world – primarily Africa, the Middle East, South America and Eastern Europe.”

“My forte is product creativity and bringing creative solutions to processes.”

Shahani went on to create his own brand of affordable sports footwear, Sprandi, in 1995, which he grew and developed until 2014. As he became increasingly interested in diversifying his skill set and making the move toward a corporate career, he accepted an opportunity from Alshaya Group, where he spent three years as President of footwear in Kuwait.

“I improved my work discipline in the retail sphere, and observed how to run a billion-dollar group,” he says. “Naturally, I learned how large groups operate – the kind of financial and inventory discipline that they have, so that was good learning. And what I brought to them was product solutions, entrepreneurship and creativity.”

Shahani expresses his gratitude to the owner, Mohammed Alshaya, and Wassim Arabi, who was CEO at the time, for taking a risk by hiring an entrepreneur with no existing corporate experience.

“Yes, I was very organized, and I had a board, but still for them to hire me as Vice President, they took a chance on me, and I was very grateful for that, because it put me on my corporate path.”

Brands You Love

While Shahani acknowledges that he may have missed out on certain learnings from a career that started on the shop floor, he believes having a background in the product side of the business was ultimately equally valuable.

“My forte is product creativity and bringing creative solutions to processes, and that’s sort of my life purpose. That wasn’t clear to me when I was in my 20s, but it’s clear to me now – it is my guiding north star,” he says.

When he joined Landmark Group in 2017, it wasn’t his first experience working with the fashion giant.

“I happened to know the shareholders and senior leadership because they were my customers in the mid-90s when I started my sportswear brand. They carried my brand in the Middle East for about six or seven years, so they were aware of me,”  Shahani explains.

“They knew of my entrepreneurial journey, and now that I had spent three years in the Middle East in a large company, I was qualified enough to join them as well.”

“It’s been an unlimited pleasure working with this amazing company, Landmark Group, and the ShoeMart team for these past years. I’ve enjoyed the ventures we’ve undertaken together and I’m looking forward to building greater success together in the future.” – Scott Shu, Managing Director, Jetshoes


Today, Shahani is CEO of Landmark’s Footwear Businesses, encompassing three retail chains – Shoemart, Shoexpress and Pablosky – overseeing 200 stores across the Gulf Cooperation Council countries with around 2,000 employees.

Since taking on the role in July 2023, having been the COO the year before, Shahani has implemented a rebrand of sorts, focusing the marketing on Shoemart as a family destination first and foremost.

“I don’t think our marketing was speaking the right emotional language to our core customers, which are families, many of whom have more than three kids,”  Shahani enthuses. “So one of our missions was to make sure that we were the premier family destination with brands for fashion, comfort, casual and performance sports.

“So that vision translated into a new tagline, ‘Brands You Love’, which was all about catering to everybody in the family for all of their various purposes.”

A Conscious Future

Landmark Group began its journey toward a sustainable future several years ago, which for Shoemart meant starting by ensuring its packaging was recyclable or made from recycled boxes.

“We use energy-saving lighting in our stores, and now make sure that all our cotton socks use ethically sourced cotton as per the Better Cotton Initiative,” Shahani explains.

“The aim for Shoemart is that by 2030, 80–90 percent of our products will be made from some sustainable materials with more conscious sourcing.”

Having weathered a range of market trends and challenges over the past few decades, Shahani believes that the retail sector is now in the midst of a new scaling up and omni-channel retailing phase.

“The ecommerce players are feeling the heat now, because they grew a lot between 2015 to 2021, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he says. “And the offline players were not fully prepared for the omni-channel journey, but the pandemic forced them to really move faster.”

Indeed, this proved to be the catalyst for Landmark Groups to scale up its ecommerce operation, so now the company is focusing less on physical brick-and-mortar growth and more instead on continued consolidation and some new locations, but primarily growth coming from omni-channel and online.

It’s a strong indicator of how Landmark Group conducts its dealings with suppliers as well as clients that many vendors who work alongside them have been partners since 1990, when the company was founded.

“If I’d take the top 20 or 30 vendors, which account for 70 percent of our purchases, out of half of them, the relationship would span more than 15 years,” Shahani emphasizes. “For about a third, that would be more than 20 years.

“It is one of Shoemart’s core strengths, that we have such a solid foundation with a historical group of vendors.”

“It is one of Shoemart’s core strengths, that we have such a solid foundation with a historical group of vendors.”

By nurturing these relationships with partners such as Jet Shoes and Sara Leather, and acting in a transparent and fair manner, the mutual benefits have been monumental.

“We know that we always get the best pricing because of the loyalty that we’ve offered to them and loyalty that they’ve offered to us,” Shahani says.

“Many of these partners do not deal with anybody else in the Middle East as a token of respect for us. The reputation of both Landmark Group and Shoemart with manufacturers around the globe, especially in Asia where the bulk of the products are made, is impeccable. So that fundamentally sets the Group apart.”

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