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Up Close: In Conversation with Toolio CEO Eytan Daniyalzade

Up Close is Sourcing Journal’s regular check-in with industry executives to get their take on topics ranging from personal style to their company’s latest moves. In this Q&A, Eytan Daniyalzade, CEO and co-founder of retail planning platform Toolio, discusses the limits of Excel, making allocation more intelligent and how to be prepared for unpredictability.

Name: Eytan Daniyalzade

Title: CEO and co-founder

Company: Toolio

Which other industry has the best handle on the supply chain? What can apparel learn?

The automotive industry has long been renowned for its efficient and effective supply chain management. Automotive companies have leveraged advanced technologies such as AI and IoT to optimize their supply chain operations for a long time. Also, they have been early adopters of predictive analytics and machine learning technologies to further refine their supply chain operations.

The apparel industry can learn from them by applying the same analytical rigor in their operations, focusing on streamlining their workflows and ability to stay nimble and staying reactive to changing trends in the market.

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How would you describe yourself as a consumer?

I strive to make informed and conscious decisions. I believe in being mindful of the environmental, social and economic impacts of my purchases, and I prioritize choosing products and services that align with my values. I also make an effort to be mindful of my budget and to only purchase what I need or what will bring me long-term value. I enjoy researching products and services and learning more about their background and their impact on the world. I always strive to make decisions that are good for my wallet and for the world.

As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?

Brands that win my loyalty are those that either give consistently high-quality experiences or provide high value. Regardless of the value proposition, to retain loyalty, consistency is key. A brand should promise a set of values and be consistent in delivering it. If they deliver the value that excited me repeatedly, that wins my loyalty.

What’s your typical work (or weekend) uniform?

Black jeans and black tees are my go-tos for a workday and for a weekend. If I want to spice it up, I’ll swap the black tee with a white one.

Which fashion era is your favorite?

Though my fashion choices are a lot more utilitarian, the era that was my favorite was hands down the disco era. Experimental, expressive and with good music!

Who’s your style icon?

James Dean! Love the simplicity of his outfit: white shirt with denim pants or black on black. You can never go wrong being monochromatic or with the basics.

What’s the best decision your company has made in the last year?

All of our best decisions over the last year involved increasing our focus on what we are working on. That included narrowing down the list of capabilities we committed to supporting and the types of customers we choose to work with. Especially in the early days of a startup, being focused helps better utilize the limited resources that we have and makes it easier to ensure that we are all aligned as a company, from sales to engineering.

How would you describe your corporate culture?

Here are the values we expect each Toolion to demonstrate. First is a can-do attitude; we are a startup and we’re fighting against the status quo, which requires a strong belief in yourself and ability to accomplish. Second is collaboration; we are all in this marathon together and we all need to help each other out at every turn. Third is transparency; we make decisions with data and are direct with our feedback. Fourth is entrepreneurship; we think of this as willingness to take initiative to solve the many problems—or opportunities—that will surround us as a young company. Last, but not least, is customer centricity. We are here for our customers, and our customers are here to have their problems solved, so we need to be absolutely focused on delivering the value that customers expect from us.

What can companies learn from Covid-19?

Covid-19 showed us the fragility of our day-to-day assumptions and unpredictability that is inherent in future plans. I think a similar lesson is coming through the looming recession and how fast the markets went from bull to bear. The insight from that is the importance of agility and fast decision-making. Planning is important, but ability to flex the plans with what-if scenarios and being able to apply change quickly is going to be critical.

What should be the apparel industry’s top priority now?

Apparel retailers should focus on digitally transforming their operations and leverage data more effectively. For the past decade, we saw apparel retailers embrace new technology on the go-to-market side, by adapting e-commerce platforms and marketing technologies. As that part of their commerce stack has matured, their focus now should be in modernizing their back-end technologies, including the tools that they use to manage supply chain and merchandising.

The entire industry is still running on Excel, which is manual and error-prone. By adapting better and more connected tooling, retailers will be able to have access to better data and be able to make faster decisions to respond to changing market trends. We see the winning retailers like Shein and Zara continually investing in technologies to power the business, and we will be seeing more apparel retailers doing the same.

What keeps you up at night?

Executing without missing a beat. We have a super exciting opportunity to change how retail planning has been done for the past three to four decades by moving it from Excel into an intelligent, integrated and collaborative planning platform. This can really transform how an industry is run and changes the day-to-day tooling of a core retail function. We have an exciting opportunity with amazing early customers, and we have to continue to execute and innovate on our product.

What makes you most optimistic?

Generative AI is becoming an increasingly important tool for humanity, as it has the potential to revolutionize the way we approach problem-solving and decision-making. By leveraging AI-driven algorithms to generate new ideas, businesses and organizations are able to explore possibilities that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to or wouldn’t have considered. Generative AI can also help to anticipate and respond quickly to changes in the market or environment, allowing for more agile decision-making. Ultimately, generative AI can help humanity to become more efficient, productive and innovative—all of which are essential for success in our ever-changing world. (Note: This was generated by AI.)

Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction:

Our latest innovation is an allocation planning module that helps retailers predict demand by location and automatically allocate products to be at the right location and right time. Allocation has always been a challenging process for retailers, typically done by new grads that are cutting their teeth in retail, manually on large Excel files. Wrong allocation decisions are visible everywhere with winter coats in Miami and fringe sizes being overstocked at stores. With Toolio, we’re excited to make this process more efficient, intelligent and automated.