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Pakistan’s spice category has enormous growth potential; maintaining quality helps boost brands demand

Interview with Mr Gul Mohammad Lot – Chairman, Mehran Group of Industries

PROFILE:

Mr Gul Mohammad Lot was born in Pakistan in the Diplo area of Thar District. At a very young age, he joined his father, Mr. Ghulam Muhammad Lot business. As far as education is concerned, he completed his Bachelors in Administration from the London School of Business and obtained Master’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Sindh, Hyderabad. As a student of Political Science and a compassionate patriot, he joined politics in Pakistan as a member of the Pakistan’s People Party. In 1990, he was elected as MPA Sindh representing his roots from Thar District. Once again, his passion and drive earned him the honor to be appointed as Minister for the Environment where he was committed for the betterment of constituents and native land. He participated actively in regional and national politics. From 2001 to 2007, he got the privilege and opportunity to work with Mohtarma Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. He continued serving the country under the honorable Chairperson who served as a mentor. In May 2008, he was appointed as the Advisor to the Chief Minister Sindh for Anti-Corruption Enquiries and in March 2009, he was elected as the Senator, unopposed.

PAGE: KINDLY TELL US ABOUT MEHRAN SPICE AND FOOD INDUSTRIES:

GUL MOHAMMAD LOT: Mehran Spice and Food Industries started its journey in 1975 and within a few years of its inception, the company grew to become one of the leading spice and food industries globally.

Mehran is a world leader in quality rice equipped with the most advanced rice plant from Germany. Mehran recently launched many new products including Ketchup, Sauces, Chutneys and Canned food. Mehran Spice and Food Industries is an ISO 9001 and HACCP certified leader in the quality food business.

Our mission is to be a consumer-oriented company with a keen insight of food products ensuring quality, consistency and an authentic taste, back up with the state of the art technology to obtain optimum result. Mehran Spice and Food Industries have been honored with many national and international awards.

Mehran received many achievement awards like; “The Best Export Performance Award” from FPCCI (Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry) every year since 1984, two times awarded for Businessman of the Year. Mehran is the only food company of Pakistan which has been awarded Presidential Medal and received Lifetime Achievement award from FPCCI and three times Best Export Brand award. Recently in December 2016, Mehran received the “Best Export Brand” award. The FPCCI is playing an active role in presenting problem of trade, industry, environment and safeguarding the interests of the private sector through constant dialogue with the government. The FPCCI has its fingers on the pulse of the economy and serves as a bridge between the private sector and the government.

PAGE: YOUR VIEWS ON THE BRANDED SPICES IN PAKISTAN:

GUL MOHAMMAD LOT: Pakistan’s spices category has enormous growth potential with the number of branded and unbranded spices sold in the market.

The branded spices have maintained quality from agricultural raw material to consumer end and try to secure natural taste. Manufacturers follow complete safety measures to produce high quality consumer goods.

In today’s world, many new machines have been introduced to improve the quality, hygiene and taste of the food products.

In spices section also new machines have been introduced like automatic cleaning, de stoning, blending & proper mixing of various spices together.

Mehran has spent millions of dollars recently in improving the quality of its products in all the production units in Pakistan, Dubai and Jeddah. Due to this improvement, Mehran products are not only popular in the international market but in Pakistan’s local market as well. Although Mehran products were recently introduced in the local market but due to its quality and taste Mehran has received a tremendous response from the local consumers who have already said ‘no to the cheap brands’.

We are thankful to the media especially electronic, which has played a big role in educating the local consumers to say ‘no to the cheap & unhygienic brands’.

PAGE: HOW WOULD YOU COMMENT ON THE VALUE OF BRANDING FOR FOOD PRODUCTS IN PAKISTAN?

GUL MOHAMMAD LOT: Brands add value to the companies which own them. The business is worth more because of the position of brand in its market. The demand for quality branded goods has increased.

People are now aware of branded food products and are more loyal to their favorite brands. Thus brand creates long term relationship between the company and its customers. This brings more responsibility on company to maintain and enhance its quality for their customers.

As I have mentioned above, branded products are mostly of good quality, in the whole world branded companies spend billions of dollars to maintain the quality of their products and no branded company takes any risk to defame its name.

PAGE: TELL US ABOUT THE PROGRESS OF MEHRAN AND WHAT CHANGES HAVE YOU WITNESSED IN THIS BUSINESS FROM THE COMPETITION POINT OF VIEW?

GUL MOHAMMAD LOT: Mehran Spice and Food Industries was established in 1975 and operated internationally especially in the Middle East in 2011 when the company decided to enter the local market.

Since then, it has managed to gain shelf space and consumers trust through its quality product. Mehran has been able to do it quite successfully because of its experience in international markets.

When Mehran entered local market, it faced existing giant competitors like National Foods and Shan. Within 5 years of short span of time, Mehran made its position in local market with rapid growth giving tough time to its competitors. Until and unless, there is no competition no company will concentrate on continuously improving taste and quality. I think it’s very important to have a healthy competition especially in food products.

PAGE: YOUR VIEWS ON TAXATION ISSUES IN FOOD BUSINESS.

GUL MOHAMMAD LOT: Taxation law in Pakistan is very complicated. Heavy indirect tax impacts production cost. To comply with different federal and provincial laws, many human resources are required to work as an agent of government departments.

Differentiation of applicability of sale tax on branded and non-branded food products is also a hindrance in the growth of branded food products. One of the major backdraws of the system is the time consuming process of sales tax refund claim due to which heavy amount is stuck with department which disturbs the cash flows of the company.

It’s a dire need of the country to increase the tax net in Pakistan which is the lowest in the region and to increase the tax net, the finance department of the country and the tax collectors have to play a positive role. Until and unless the tax net & collection of tax are not improved, it will not be possible for the country to get rid of borrowing the foreign loans.

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