Interview with Mr Naim Anwar – President & CEO Crescent Star Foods Ltd
PAGE: Tell me something about yourself and your organization, please:
Naim Anwar: I am associated with Crescent Star Insurance Ltd as Managing Director & CEO. CSIL is one of the oldest insurance companies of Pakistan (1957), with a paid up capital of PKR.1.07 billion, and asset base of PKR.1.2 billion. Under the parent company CSIL, we have food franchise managed and run by CSIL subsidiary Crescent Star Foods (Pvt) Ltd.
CSF is currently awaiting approval of the Sindh High Court for its petition of merger with and into PICIC Insurance Ltd. Subject to the approval of the honorable court the surviving entity PICIC will surrender its insurance license and become an FMCG company to cater all the food brands that the group manages.
I have been associated with insurance industry for 24 years out of my overall carrier of more than 35 years working in senor positions, with Adamjee Insurance Ltd as Executive Director and PICIC Insurance as Deputy Managing Director before joining CSIL in 2013.
PAGE: Your views on the ready-to-cook food and fast food sector in Pakistan:
Naim Anwar: Pakistan is a country with 220 million population with two-third of its population between 19 and 30 years. Considering this reality, the food stores currently operating in Pakistan have a vast scope of expansion over the near future. The ready-to-cook food and fast food are becoming the need of the time by virtue of the changed environment that the society is going through with the changed working patterns by both genders. The recent economic issues being faced by Pakistan are no doubt a matter of concern and there is an urgent need to look into the serious concerns that the sector is going through with relation to spending power shrinking instead of growing.
PAGE: Could you tell us about the input cost of the fast food sector and the bottom line in general?
Naim Anwar: The food sector has recently been put under severe pressures due to unprecedented and massive devaluation of the currency, putting imported support from brands for signature items an impossible process of import pricing added on with unnecessary and cumbersome import procedures and fresh declaration requirements imposed by the Government which are unacceptable to international vendors, such as Urdu printing and other requirements which are not practical.
PAGE: What are your views on the local fast food chains and the traditional restaurants?
Naim Anwar: Local fast food chains and restaurants have done very well and have given a tough competition to international brands. Local concepts are cheaper to operate and there is saving in royalty payments and costs. With due appreciation of the local brands, it is, however, an established fact that international brands with their experience and high standards maintain their lead positions and maintain a high standard of SOPs and controls, which are very important in the food sector keeping in view the risk of hygiene control and public consumption of the food.
With the passage of time, a few local brands have shown the commitment to compete and maintain international standards, and are showing willingness to move into structured operations. Local chains can help the country save foreign exchange by contributing to the standards thereby competing international brands.
PAGE: What must the government do to promote the food sector?
Naim Anwar: The government needs to help creating ease of doing business and understand the needs of the food sector in terms of import of the sauces and other specialized signature items much needed to maintain the standards and introduce to Pakistan a taste which Pakistanis like to have in the country. The population should not feel left alone in terms of the tastes which they taste while traveling abroad.