The East India Company, the iconic trade company set up in 1600 in London and resurrected after 131 years in 2005, is expanding rapidly into the Middle East with plans for up to 20 fine food stores and several high tea lounges within five years and even the possibility of serviced apartments, the company’s CEO told Arabian Business.
“In the GCC we just opened our flagship store in Abu Dhabi at Emirates at Avenue at Etihad Towers. We also opened our flag store in Doha six months back at Lagoona Mall. We already have a store in Kuwait, which we opened over one year back and our store in Riyadh is under construction and will opening before the end of this year,” Mumbai-born businessman Sanjiv Mehta, the company’s chairman and new owner since he restarted the firm in 2005, said in an interview.
“These are the main cities in each of the GCC and each of them are flagship stores. We should be coming up to 20 stores [within five years] and next year we will open four more stores,” he added.
Established as part of a Royal Charter from Queen Elizabeth I in 1600, at its peak the company reportedly employed a third of the whole British workforce, accounted for around half of the world's trade and dominated commodities such as cotton, silk, salt and tea.
Dissolved by Queen Victoria’s government in 1874, the brand was well-known in India for its quintessential British products and trade heritage. In 2005 it was resurrected and now has outlets in the Harrods department store in Knightsbridge, as well as stores in Covent Garden and Oxford Street. It has also expanded into Norway, Finland, Austria, The Netherlands, France, Spain and Germany, as well as other countries across Asia and Australia.
In the UAE, it has partnered with well-known retail group Binhendi Enterprises and it is also planning to expand the brand into many other sectors, such as high tea lounges.
“In terms of fine food retail in the next five years we hope to achieve somewhere in the region of 70 retail stores globally… But, at the same time, we have our restaurants and tea lounge opening in Riyadh by the end of this year. We will also open Jeddah, Kuwait and Dubai next year and hopefully that will continue. They will be high tea lounges,” Mehta said, while adding that he has also not ruled out expansion into the lucrative real estate sector.
“We are looking at mixed use developments and hopefully look at moving towards hospitality serviced apartments… that is the next area in which we want to focus. We don’t know the timeline as they are highly intensive deals and you need the right partner so we are in the process of putting that together… But each business will operate separate from each other.”
Earlier this week, it was reported UAE-based retailer Emke Group, which operates the Lulu chain, is reportedly acquiring a stake in London-based The East India Company. This represents one of the first major investment plays for the former outside of its own operations.
The move into high-end retail will see Emke Group pick up 10 percent in The East India Company and 40 percent in one of its key subsidiaries, East India Fine Foods Ltd, Dubai daily Gulf News reported.
“We plan to use the East India Fine Foods platform at both the physical retail and online levels, and across geographies,” said MA Yussufali, Emke's managing director in comments published by the paper.For all the latest business news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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