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Horizons’ interview – Meet Selma Bekhechi
May 31, 2023

Hi Selma! We are really excited to have you on Horizons by Carrefour today! Before we deep-dive into Carrefour’s digital transformation, I’d like to start with a couple of “Horizons special ice breakers” in order to get to know you a bit more. 

When you look at the horizon, what activity -in your spare time- would you like to start?

Selma: I enjoy the simple things in life! In my spare time, I like to spend quality time with my family and friends, go for an invigorating run in nature, relax on an empty beach with a great book… I also love traveling abroad to discover new cultures and horizons. 

So if I had more time, I think I would focus on these activities!

What is the sunshine, whether it is professional or personal, that makes you wake up in the morning with a big smile? 

Selma: I have always been motivated by great challenges, I find accomplishing the impossible stimulating. So when I wake up, I draw my energy from the ambitions and goals I have to reach.

And this is precisely why I joined Carrefour in the first place! Accompanying our company on its digital transformation has been a real motivational fuel for me.

Furthermore, I strongly believe in collaboration and teamwork, and lately, I have been surrounded by amazing people who are not afraid of new businesses and challenges. I feel like I found the dream team!

And what are the grayish clouds that make you want to stay in bed? 

Selma: As I said before I am always on the lookout for exciting challenges, when life starts feeling like every other day I can’t find motivation in what I do and things rapidly get boring. 

If life is a long and quiet river, then it not is suited for me! But I would rather try and find new horizons and challenges than stay in bed.

A career is a bit like a constellation of professional experiences. Reflecting about your professional journey before Carrefour, which one would you choose?

Selma: Choosing is hard! I would start by reflecting on my experience at Alcatel-Lucent where I gained valuable experience in business, innovation and strategy through various positions. 

I began working there after graduating from the Institut Mines-Telecom Atlantique as a telecommunication engineer. My job was to sell telecommunication solutions in the African, Middle-East, and Indian Ocean zone. Soon enough, I ended up managing a large international team of engineers. After winning an intrapreneurship bootcamp, my green energy project proposition came to life while working in the product department. Some time later, I was selected to join the group strategy thanks to my field experience. 

After 8 years, it was time to take on new challenges! I joined Alstom where I enjoyed working as strategy director for the transport sector and then head of investor relations. 

I always challenge myself to make things change in companies and support transformation. This is what I enjoy most!

Now that we know a bit more about you, let’s talk about your current role! You joined Carrefour as head of financial communication & investor relations back in 2018.

Then in 2021, you became chief digital acceleration officer. Could you explain to us what your role consists of?
Selma: My teams and I are on a mission to accelerate Carrefour’s digital roadmap. Our group is carrying out what is probably the most spectacular digital transformation in retail. Our ambition is to become a DigitalRetail company by 2026! This goal necessitates surrounding ourselves with the right people and establishing strong partnerships.

Digital transformation is both a marathon and a sprint race to provide our customers with the best and most innovative services. Teaming up with start-ups allows us to move faster, and in the meanwhile frees up time for Carrefour teams to continuously improve our existing services. But we still need to find the right partner, which must be both disruptive and in line with our core business and ambitions, which is our daily work.

How does your team work to drive and grow this network of start-ups and partners?

Selma: We have structured ourselves into three teams. All my teams are doing a fantastic job and I take this opportunity to thank them all! 

The first team is dedicated to our five company start-ups in which we hold a majority capital stake: Croquetteland (an online pet supplies retailer), Greenweez (an online marketplace focusing on organic and sustainable products), Quitoque (a meal-kit delivery service using high-quality ingredients, mainly seasonal and local), Potager City (a service delivering direct from the farm and ultra-fresh fruits and vegetables), and Refectory (an online food market offering healthy and qualitative meals in the workplace).

The second team focuses on new e-commerce partnerships, such as Uber Eats, Deliveroo, Glovo, and others. In total, we offer our customers access to our products through more than 20 partner platforms in over 25 countries. We have four specific types of partnerships, but we can discuss them in more detail later.

The third, new team’s mission is to scout for fresh ideas from innovative start-ups, through “DaStore”, a venture capital fund dedicated to DigitalRetail startups. Co-created with Daphni, DaStore is committed to building a bridge between start-ups and Carrefour, enabling us to co-design the retail of tomorrow!

The 5 start-ups in which Carrefour has a majority stake

Since “new is always better”, let’s first focus on Dastore! Why choose Daphni as a partner to create Dastore?

Selma: I disagree: old can be as better as new (laughing). Now regarding your question, investing in start-ups is not really something you can improvise with. We wanted to find a partner who knew everything about the venture capital sector. Choosing Daphni was an obvious choice.

Thanks to this combination, we bring a unique value proposition and strong competitive advantages to the startups with access to all the know-how of seasoned investors, alongside the industrial capabilities and global reach of Carrefour.

In short, Dastore combines the best of retail and venture capital to attract the best startups in Digital Retail.

Could you tell us more about your latest investment inside Dastore? 

Selma: In total, we’re now supporting five outstanding start-ups: Waysia, Captain Cause, Emperia, and the last of them: Stockly and Underdog.

Stockly, a company run by Eliott Jabès, addresses the challenge of stock shortages by connecting e-merchants with alternative suppliers. We have implemented it across our marketplaces in France and Spain. Let’s consider a concrete example: Imagine a customer searching for the latest generation of their favorite cell phone brand. If Carrefour experiences a stock shortage, they can purchase it directly from Stockly on our website. A win-win situation for customers and us!

Underdog, founded by Claire Bretton, Laura Chavigny and Léa Fierkowsky, specializes in refurbishing household appliances. Through its website, Underdog promotes responsible consumption by reselling refurbished products. For instance, we organized a collection drive for old household appliances at our hypermarket in Villiers-en-Bière. Customers who contributed received vouchers in return. Afterward, these appliances were reconditioned by Underdog at their warehouse in Nantes. Such a partnership offers our customers eco-friendly alternatives.

In your opinion, what is the most essential quality to work effectively with startups?”

Selma: Everything moves fast in the digital world. That’s why it’s important to stay close to startups and keep an eye on the industry. So I would say: “networking”. This helps us understand and keep up with changes. 

This is why we partnered with the France Digitale association for instance. France Digitale brings together digital leaders from startups and venture capital firms in Europe. They hold many events that help us build strong connections in this ecosystem.

Dastore, and France Digitale are all approaches that help us gain a foothold in the startup ecosystem, identify trends, and shape our digital roadmap!

Earlier, you were talking about e-commerce partnerships with companies like Uber Eats. How do you identify potential partners?

Selma: First of all, we accelerated e-commerce partnerships during the Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020. We aimed to provide our customers with various channels to handle the surge in online orders.

The offer grew to more than 25 countries and diversified into three delivery services. First is express delivery, in around 30-minute, you can have a small grocery basket delivered. The offering range is between 2,000 and 6,000 SKUs (Stock Keeping Units). There is also quick commerce to address immediate needs, in 15 minutes. If you’re making spaghetti bolognese and you’re out of tomato sauce, you can use this service to get some. Naturally, the number of items you can get this way is smaller, between 1,500 to 2,000 items. As for the third service, it offers a large basket experience. Our partners’ apps let customers browse all products in their Carrefour store, from food to hygiene and non-food items (15,000+ SKUs). 

Are there any new e-commerce partnerships on the horizon?

Selma: Our ambition is to continue expanding these partnerships across all our markets. What’s truly exciting is adopting a test & learn approach. That’s what we just did in France by expanding our partnership with Uber Eats to handle large basket orders.

We now offer an exclusive range of over 12,000 products from supermarkets and hypermarkets directly on its app. This service is already active in Paris, Lyon, Lille, Bordeaux, Toulouse, and Orléans, with more cities to be added soon. Moreover, we’ve integrated the Carrefour loyalty program on Uber Eats, a great advancement for our customers!

Adapting to each country is another key point. In France, we began with express delivery, then developed quick commerce, and finally targeted large baskets. In Brazil, we did the opposite, starting with large baskets and then deploying express delivery.

Overview of Carrefour e-commerce partnerships

Since you have been working with so many partners these last two years, if you look back at it, what are you the most proud of?

Selma: My three teams! They are top-notch and each has leading expertise in their respective field. Their strength is their agility. You don’t approach a start-up the same way you would a CAC 40 company. You have to adapt to your counterpart and their environment. That’s how you make things happen.

In our job, we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. We mustn’t fear the unknown. All our projects are unique. You need to have an explorer’s spirit, or even an adventurer’s, to capture innovation where it exists and then spread it throughout Carrefour.

Like Indiana Jones in short… old can be as good as new, you were right 😉

Selma: I’ve told you! 

And finally, here’s our last question: have all your actions, those carried out with start-ups, changed the way Carrefour is perceived from the outside?

Selma: Yes indeed, but the turning point was our Digital Day on November 9, 2021, when we declared our ambition to become a Digital Retail company. We support this vision by creating partnerships that introduce new services for our customers, helping Carrefour to sustain the trailblazing spirit it’s had since its founding!

Huge thanks for your time Selma, we loved knowing more about you and your vision about our digital transformation!

If you want to learn more about Carrefour’s digital transformation, check out our last interview with Ancelin Lacroix, Operations Director at Carrefour Links.

About the Author

Selma is currently responsible for managing partnerships and investment opportunities to boost Carrefour's e-commerce and digital transformation efforts. This includes supervising e-commerce partnerships and maintaining relations with startups and venture capitalists.

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