Tony Jashanmal: A Socio-Transitional Leadership that Stands the Test of Time

tony jashanmal
Tony Jashanmal - Group Executive Director

Those businesses which are embedded in the very socio-economic-cultural fabric of any society create a legacy marked by distinctively mighty legends––Tony Jashanmal, the Group Executive Director of Jashanmal Group––a retail conglomerate with its operations spanning over 150 stores in the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, and India.

Reflecting on his family legacy which itself spans over a hundred years, Tony says, “In 1919 my grandfather, Rao Sahib Jashanmal, founded the business with a single general store in Basra, Iraq to service clients working in the burgeoning oil industry. The expansion of the oil industry across the GCC drove our own growth and by the 1960s we were present in all the markets that we operate in today.

Now, 100 years on we are closely working with international business partners in the premium and luxury sectors to help build brands in the GCC region through our own retail operations and our extensive distribution and wholesale network. Our long-term partnerships with brands indicate our commitment to developing and implementing strategies that are mutually beneficial.

We have embarked on an expansion and refurbishment plan for our department stores and bookstores that incorporate the latest retail innovations. Our distribution business continues to be updated in conjunction with key retail partners in the region.

I thank our valuable clients for entrusting their faith and confidence in us and am looking forward to their continuous support to keep ‘Moving Ahead.”

Tony, a member of the third generation of the Jashanmal family, joined the business in 1972 following the untimely demise of his father, Narain Jashanmal. He started as Managing Director of the Kuwait operations, at a time when the business was still structured at a country level, with separate bases of operation in Kuwait, Bahrain, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi. Alongside Gangu Batra, a long-time manager in the business, who was appointed Group CEO, Tony restructured the company into a centralized operation, headquartered in Dubai, with functional units in each country, which also laid the foundation for expansion into other markets: Oman, Qatar, India and more recently, Saudi Arabia. Tony also led the diversification of the business into the verticals – home appliances, luggage, fragrance and beauty, print media, courier and logistics – and channels – wholesale, retail, and eCommerce – that exist today. Tony adds, “Our distribution network extends to more than 1,000 outlets.”

Tony spoke candidly with the CIOLOOK INDIA team elaborating on the Group’s expansion under his exemplary leadership, the challenges faced, their many accomplishments, and future goals. The highlights of the interview are given herein.

Please brief our audience about Jashanmal Group, its USPs, and how you are currently positioned as one of the best product/service/solution providers. 

The Jashanmal Group has existed since 1919 and is deeply embedded in the societies of the countries that it operates in. It operates across multiple lines of business and channels; selling directly to consumers – in many cases multiple generations of the same family; and also distributes and wholesales through other retailers.

Consequently, the audience covers stakeholders across the public and private sectors, as well as individuals. Our USP is that we take this role as a member of society very seriously, being a contributor to that society, an employer, an innovator, and a source of stability for over 100 years. 

In 2019, we relaunched our brand and integrated in-store technology to create a better and seamless customer experience. Aside from revamping the retail website, we reopened one of our stores replete with tablets and touch screens for an elevated and immersive digital experience. Sales associates and customers alike are now able to access product catalogues online and in-store.

Supported by a proprietary logistics network that manages freight-forwarding, warehousing, and regional and international supply chains, we are an equity partner in a number of regional joint ventures and actively seek partnerships with firms looking for market entry into the areas we operate in.

We have vast distribution operations of over 1,000 points of sale with products ranging from luggage to home appliances, corporate gifts, perfumes, and cosmetics to consumer electronics and print media. Our key clients include business groups, Duty-Free operators, supermarkets, hypermarkets, and department stores.

What professional qualities and values do you think your clients, colleagues, and employees admire in you the most? 

I believe in qualities like gregariousness, outgoing nature, and social bonding–I place a huge amount of value into relationships that stand the test of time. This is reflected in the nature and duration of the partnerships that the Jashanmal Group enjoys with the brands, vendors, and operators they work with. 

Being an experienced leader, share your opinion on how the adoption of modern technologies like AI and ML impacts your industry and how your Group is adapting to the change. 

Technology exists in the service of people, not the other way around. Which problems can we help people solve in their businesses, and their lives? That’s the first question we ask ourselves before surveying and selecting a technology to help solve those problems. ML and AI are well suited to solving problems with defined outcomes, for which large data sets exist. As a retail and consumer goods company, it helps with behind-the-scenes things like buying, merchandising, and pricing, which of course have corresponding consumer-facing applications. Ultimately, if a technology can help us deliver a great customer experience – one that exceeds people’s expectations – then it’s one we’ll invest in. An example of this is how we’ve integrated in-store eCommerce into the current generation of Jashanmal stores. 

Considering the current industry scenario in the Gulf region, what kind of challenges do you face, and how do you drive your Group to overcome them? 

The Gulf region has had favourable demographics – a growing, young population – on its side for some time now. What’s changed recently is how the region has adapted to both broader geopolitical events as well as challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic. I think we can all agree that the region has demonstrated both flexibility and resiliency, which makes it the ideal place for us to be based and the continued focus of our activities. 

What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into your space? 

Be patient, but act with a sense of urgency – these two things aren’t mutually exclusive. It means taking the time to do your homework: understand the context, size the market, and identify real problems that you’ll be interested in solving not just today, but tomorrow…ten years from now. It means laying a solid foundation that enables you to flex when the inevitable unknowns come your way. It means operating with intentionality. 

How do you envision scaling your Jashanmal Group’s operations and offerings in 2023 and beyond?

We’ve got a strong legacy and deep partnerships. These make for a solid foundation on which we can continue to grow, be that regional expansion, new verticals, or streamlined operations – all of which are things that we’re evaluating right now. We’re lucky to operate in a growth region and we want to make sure that we’ve built a company that can grow with the people of this region by helping serve their needs for the next 100 years as we’ve done for the last 100 years.