Mehra Joined the Food Startup Earlier This Year From Walgreens
Ahead of Ad Age’s 40 Under 40 annual feature, we caught up with former honoree Vineet Mehra, now with online grocery startup Good Eggs.
When we honored Vineet Mehra as a 40 Under 40 in 2018, he was executive VP and global chief marketing officer at Ancestry.com. After a two-year stint at Walgreens BootsAlliance as global chief marketing officer and chief customer officer, he joined Good Eggs, an online grocery delivery service based in the Bay Area, as chief growth and customer experience officer earlier this year.
Ad Age recently caught up with Mehra to learn how he’s balanced these roles, navigated pandemic life, and what lessons he’s learned along the way. Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
It’s been a busy year for you, in more ways than one. What have you learnedfrom marketing at Walgreens, a drugstore chain, during a pandemic?
Never waste the opportunities of a good crisis to drive radical transformation. While I was the global chief customer officer for Walgreens Boots Alliance, working through the very height of COVID, and when the outlook of “return to normal” looked at its most grim, we worked with Microsoft and Adobe to strategize, design and invest in the largest Customer Data, CRM, and Experience platforms in the company’s history.
This was a move where the company exhibited collective urgency, leadership and courage, knowing and taking a bet that on the other side of the pandemic consumers would be forever changed in terms of how they shop for their health and wellness needs.It was these investments that enabled us to go from literally zero options to buy-online and pickup-in store across Walgreens, to offering it across the majority of our stores in four months. A truly amazing collaborative team effort across the business, start to finish. Never, ever waste the opportunities for transformation that a good crisis presents you and your organization.
Good Eggs is a much different company than Walgreens, but there are some retail similarities. Tell us about what instigated the shift in roles, and what yourgoals are for your new gig.
Since the 40 Under 40, I’ve moved from Walgreens, a $140 billion business with more than 10,000 locations and thousands of team members across the globe, to Good Eggs, which operates today only in the SF-Bay Area and is a tiny fraction of the size in terms of revenue and team members. What inspired the move was simple: having a front-row seat during COVID and seeing just how much consumers were changing in so many ways led me to think through the other industries, outside of health and wellness, that were going to have monumental shifts–and online grocery was that space.
Not only are consumers fundamentally shifting from brick-and-mortar grocery shopping online grocery shopping, we are also seeing a complete mindset shift in consumers wanting to ensure that their food decisions meet the highest standards for food welfare,100% transparency in terms of knowing exactly where their food comes from, and the impact that their food choices are having on the planet. It’s important to remember that COVID has not only changed how consumers shop in terms of convenience and ease, it has also created an environment for deep values and purpose-driven businesses that are authentically planet-and societally-positive, to thrive and set new industry norms.
Many of the at-scale e-commerce platforms today are simply not planet and people positive, and consumers are now waking up in masses to this reality and the negative impacts of some of these choices. At Good Eggs we believe that good food is the most powerful force for change for people and planet. Joining a business that is focused on fundamentally transforming how consumers shop for groceries online, while also raising awareness of the massive negative impact that the industrial food system and gig-economy has had on our planet and the people who work in it, was too good to pass up.
COVID has shown us all that businesses need to do better and be part of the change we want to see in the world—I was inspired to join Good Eggs, and be back in Silicon Valley for the second time, for just that reason.
How has your new role had to change due to the pandemic?
Leading 100% remotely. It’s been a huge leadership challenge and growth opportunity in learning how to build empathetic and trusted followership with your team, in possibly the greatest, seismic “change your business model” and “change the way you personally live” period in multiple generations—all while 100% remote. I don’t think anyone could have imagined a more intense period of leadership challenge, but I also think it was a one-in-life opportunity to grow as a leader.
The last year has seen the issue of social justice rise to the top of many leaders’ lists, but there’s still a long way toward equality. What do you think the industry can do to encourage more diversity in its ranks?
There is so much work to do. But if I were to take one area that is not talked about as much it would be to ensure that we all must be extremely deliberate and mindful that every time we communicate to the world about the brands we work on, we are making an impact on shaping culture and societal norms. I read somewhere that 60% to 70% of the content we see in our lives was produced by brands; what this means is that we all carry a lot of influence on the world through the actions we take expressing our brands into customers lives. Now think for a second the role content plays in our collective consciousness as a society, and the impact we can make by ensuring that each piece of content a customer sees from our brands makes a positive impact on diversity in our society. Let’s encourage diversity through our work.
What do you find most surprising about where you are now?
I always think about the fact that my mom and dad’s first trip out of India was to relocate to Canada with two small suitcases and a baby (me) in their arms—basically they started from scratch. To now have had a career across three continents, multiple countries, and a range of industries is really crazy to me and this kid from a tiny little family in India. Mind-blowing.
What single piece of advice would you give your younger self?
The real thing you should be chasing in your career is a variety of experiences, not titles, prestige, and cash.