When Rao Sahib Jashanmal traveled to Basra, Iraq, in 1919 shortly after the end of the First World War, he immediately recognised the city’s potential. The Indian businessman set about establishing a department store that stocked luxury products for the expatriates working in the oil industry. So successful was the store that in 1934 the British authorities asked Jashanmal to set up a similar retail outlet in Kuwait.
“That became our blueprint. Wherever oil was found, we would go. When the oil industry started in Bahrain in 1935, we opened a store there and then again in Dubai in 1956 and Abu Dhabi in 1964. It was always the same model; we had a department store at the bottom of the building, our residence would be at the top and the workhouse would be at the back,” Tony Jashanmal, executive director of Jashanmal Group, tells CEO Middle East.
The family’s business model coupled with the region’s retail boom has served the Jashanmal family well. Nine decades later, the company is one of the most successful privately held firms in the region. The Dubai-based retailer currently has over 2,000 employees working in around 100 stores and owns regional franchise rights to a whole host of fashion brands including Calvin Klein, Kate Spade and LK Bennett.
The group’s distribution network, which accounts for around 65 percent of its overall business, is just as far-reaching. The firm supplies over 1,000 points of sale – including duty-free operators, supermarkets and hypermarkets – in five countries with a wide range of products including home appliances, perfumes and cosmetics and consumer electronics.
“When all these towns started expanding and more money started coming in, we not only expanded with our stores but we also started to distribute our items. The majority of our business is now on the distribution side,” says Jashanmal.
“Today, we are big in the electrical appliances business. We deal in stationery, perfume and cosmetics and fashion. [On the retail side] we have three models of business; specialised stores, such as those in the luggage business [Around the World]; we have franchise stores for branded stores such as Burberry and Clarks; and department stores,” he adds.
Despite its size and the number of brands the group represents in the region, Jashanmal is keen to stress that the company does not make a habit of simply collecting brands. “You don’t want too many things that compete against each other,” he explains.
“You have to be loyal to your brand otherwise you’ll start seeing it in money [terms] rather than passion. If this happens you don’t give enough justice to the product. It’s not a matter of collecting brands; it’s the size and the quality of running that business,” he adds.
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