South Africa: Why Is Zyda Rylands Not the Group CEO of Woolworths?


South African retailers are making a habit of importing foreign executives into their top leadership roles -- to be fair with some success. Woolies has a new foreign-but-not-foreign Group CEO, and the question is, why did they overlook local talent?

Sometimes when shopping at Woolworths, I feel as if South Africa CEO Zyda Rylands lives in my basket. I mean, how else do you explain chilli biltong (delicious), mutton biriyani (almost like my aunty's and she is the rani (queen) of biriyani), the edamame and broad bean lunch punnets, the vegetables that stay fresh, the yoghurts of quality and flavour that are only narrowly beaten by those at Impala fruiterers.

You get my drift, but this is not a paeon to Woolie's food section, the part of the business that has consistently performed above expectations. Instead, it is a nod to the leadership that has ensured that this business continued to perform, while other parts of the business went south.

Rylands led the food business from 2010 to 2015, and it has been the magic bean in Woolworth's sectoral leadership of retail. That position is under peril largely because the imported former Group CEO Ian Moir led a disastrous purchase...

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