Yash Murali | Jenny Craig

Yash Murali

yash, the vice president of information technology for jenny craig, didn’t throw up his hands because of unlucky forces outside his control.

Top 10 Pioneering Business Leaders of 2021

Company:

Jenny Craig

"Empowering Business Through Pandemic Pressures"

Some people say it’s better to be lucky than good. But, when you’re good all the time, you don’t have to worry about luck. The pandemic threw several businesses for a loop, and Jenny Craig didn’t escape that adversity. In the early unknown of COVID-19, a plummeting business created some make-or-break decisions for the company. Yash Murali didn’t even blink.

Yash, the vice president of information technology for Jenny Craig, didn’t throw up his hands because of unlucky forces outside his control. Instead, he took the resources he knew the successful company possessed and used them to his advantage.

With roughly 90 percent of its revenue coming from brick-and-mortar locations, the shutdowns associated with the pandemic in early 2020 put an immediate - and massive - financial strain on the company. Its biggest revenue driver suddenly had to close its doors, and more than half of the foot traffic Jenny Craig had been accustomed to disappeared in the first couple of months. That foot traffic is what Jenny Craig’s brand was built on over the last four decades, and it looked like the whole operation may have been dealt a death blow.

Almost overnight, many of the approximately 550 centers around the United States and Canada were significantly impacted. Jenny Craig took a serious look at various options to stop the bleeding - Enter Yash.

As the company was trying to figure out the next steps, Yash pushed the eCommerce platform he led in 2018. The company pivoted and started marketing to divert customer traffic to the website.

The response was overwhelming and immediate, but not everything went smoothly. Almost overnight, the demands online jumped almost 200 percent. Once that boom started, the warehouses were being pressed because they couldn’t meet the demands. The heavy pressure on the fulfillment centers strained inventory and slowed delivery times. So, Yash shifted again. 

Instead of looking at the brick-and-mortar locations as a burden, Yash repurposed them to make them viable again. The locations transformed from a closed business to a mini fulfillment center. They had inventory, so Jenny Craig started shipping orders from the local stores. Not only did that lessen the strain on the main fulfillment centers, but it meant Jenny Craig could potentially deliver food to customers the same day.

And it saved jobs. The employees and coaches at the brick-andmortar locations weren’t used to working inside the eCommerce platform - as those sales usually meant lost commissions on their end. Historically, online customers didn’t have a long lifecycle with Jenny Craig. They typically just bought and left.

Yash enlisted technology again. Through online sessions, the coaches built and maintained relationships with customers, and virtual meetings enabled the coaches to contact the online customers. That option extended an online customer’s experience from a few days to weeks, just by engaging with the coaches.

Suddenly, the locations remained open. The coaches were busy. And some deliveries were reaching customers faster than ever before. 

There were issues to deal with on the back end because the company was pivoting quickly, and Yash was shifting them to something the 35-year-old business wasn’t used to doing. Not everything was automated right away because the focus was on driving customers to the website first. But the company believed in Yash. He got everyone to buy in, and the team made it work. 

The result? A rousing success story. Jenny Craig had projected strong growth in revenue in 2020 before COVID-19 hit, and that forecast was completely thrown off after a steep decline in revenue in the first couple of months once the pandemic shutdowns started. Instead of incurring a crippling loss, Yash’s quick action resulted in a year-end revenue of just 10% lower than the original forecast. Not bad for one of the most difficult economic years in history

Yash’s guidance was the driving force behind all of this change and likely saved Jenny Craig from cataclysmic losses. It wasn’t just steering the ship. Yash had to get everyone to buy in - and stay committed to it - because the luxury of time wasn’t on Jenny Craig’s side.

Through Yash’s decisive action, the company is now more accurately tracking customers’ purchase history, how long they stay with Jenny Craig, and why. It helped the business get those customers to stay longer, and by staying longer, they can achieve their goals more easily. Not only was Jenny Craig able to increase touchpoints with the clients, but they were also able to decrease the cost behind those touchpoints.

Yash helped a wildly successful business on the brink of disaster pivot to something it wasn’t used to doing. He bet on his eCommerce strategy, which was set up by his technology team, and it may have saved the company. At the very least, it saved countless jobs and kept all those locations viable.

Yash points to a great team that rallied together to get things done, but his leadership showed them what was at stake, and they responded. Because that’s what good leaders do: They make their luck.