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Women in Procurement Wednesday: Anne-Sophie Le Bloas on following her own path to develop a direct materials solution, tackle a huge opportunity

12/16/2020 By

Indirect materials procurement has dominated technology coverage and innovation for decades now. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that the time has come for direct materials technology to shine. The market is growing, and the opportunity is ripe for the taking. Anne-Sophie Le Bloas saw this market developing.

Le Bloas has nearly 15 years of experience in direct materials supply chain and sourcing, and she was puzzled over the lack of digitalization and innovation on the direct side. She couldn’t believe some of the biggest, most cutting-edge companies in the world used Excel spreadsheets to track data from suppliers and sourcing.

She channeled that disbelief into starting a company and cultivating a new solution for direct materials companies to use: Ravacan. The solution simplifies direct materials procurement for companies — a one-stop tool that allows teams to make strategic decisions and that consolidates and automates specific data points.

“When I was 20 years old, I once met Michèle Alliot-Marie, a very famous politician in France, a former minister,” said Le Bloas, the co-Founder and CEO of Ravacan. “I told her she was an example for many, and she said ‘There is no model, everybody is on their own path.’ At first, I was a little bit frustrated when I heard that because I wanted to have a model, right?

“But at the end of the day, I feel like when I doubt or don’t know what to do, I ask myself, ‘What would I do?’ If you don’t have a manual to tell you exactly what you should do, you should be creative and have your own style. That has really helped me, especially with entrepreneurship.”

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That creative mindset not only sparked Le Bloas to create Ravacan, it was the first thing that attracted her to the procurement space. Le Bloas was intrigued by the crossover between art and science in procurement. While many things in direct procurement are rooted in data, it also takes a bit of a creative mind to come up with new ways of thinking about supply chain problems.

At first, she was intrigued by a video she watched on TV about toy sourcing in China. She thought it seemed like a fun job that encompassed a lot of her interests — traveling the world, working with innovative people. Her interests and understanding of procurement and supply chain broadened as she continued her schooling, until she discovered procurement was the “perfect balance of analytics, creativity and strategy.”

Le Bloas spent years working in very data-driven environments. She was a global commodity manager in the high tech and automotive spaces — working for companies like Reckitt-Benckiser, Rolls-Royce, Visteon Corp. and Fitbit. In her extensive career, she focused on cost reduction and even taught herself certain skills to succeed, like programming.

Although she initially didn’t have a background in engineering or science, her curiosity was her special talent. It helped her succeed and overcome whatever she lacked in experience.

Le Bloas was also often one of the youngest or only women in many direct materials roles. She took that as an opportunity to learn from the people in front of her and developed positive mentoring relationships with her male supervisors. Although it wasn’t always positive, she learned a lot through being the youngest woman in the room.

“When I was younger, I thought I could overcome anything,” Le Bloas said. “Even though I was sometimes in difficult environments, I felt it was my responsibility to cope with it and to change my behavior. When you’re getting more and more experienced, you understand that you need to push back on that.”

One major thing Le Bloas has had to overcome is launching her start-up right before the global coronavirus pandemic hit. She started Ravacan in May 2019. When a client found 25% productivity increase and an additional 2% savings, investors were especially interested, despite macroeconomic trends changing dramatically in 2020.

It just goes to show how the direct materials space needs purpose-built technology. Le Bloas said that the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the need to have better control over supplier relationships and the supply chain of direct materials. It may be the trend that takes over 2021.

“People in supply chain, like a VP Operations or VP Supply Chain, working for manufacturers are getting tired of using spreadsheets,” Le Bloas said. “They are looking at solutions, but there are still very few. You have some very big companies doing software for enterprises, and that’s out of reach for most [direct materials] companies. Or you have Excel.

“And this is why we’re coming up into the game. But it’s very early on still. It was great to see that companies like Coupa or SAP Ariba dominated the indirect procurement market for a long time. I look forward to seeing more solutions entering into the direct procurement market, with Ravacan hopefully being a leader.”

Read more of our “Women in Procurement Wednesday” coverage here.