With 100 years of history and over 100 stores in the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman, the name Jashanmal has become synonymous with retail and wholesale in the region. The Jashanmal Group‘s journey began as so many entrepreneurial success stories do: with a leap of faith.
Anticipating the economic potential and needs of British interests in the Middle East, the late Rao Sahib Jashanmal moved from his home in Karachi, in present-day Pakistan, to Basra, Iraq. In 1919, he founded the first Jashanmal store, which sold books catered to the then consumer. Soon, his son Naraindas joined him in the business. They diversified their products and internationalised, following growth markets like Bahrain and then Kuwait in 1935. In 1956, the Jashanmal Group opened its first department store in the UAE where, eventually, members of the Jashanmal family would relocate to further increase their focus on the Arabian Peninsula.
Aside from a penchant for seeing past borders and an affinity for building relationships, the Jashanmal family shares unwavering flexibility in the face of disruption – geographical or otherwise. Their business is built on a culture of customer satisfaction, the courage to follow entrepreneurial intuition and an appreciation for professionalism.
Shafali Jashanmal, a third-generation family member, reflects on this legacy through the lens of her new business, Selvatika Foods, which currently distributes a speciality Colombian coffee – Amor Perfecto -throughout the Middle East. Shafali, along with her partner, Marcela Saouda, hopes to expand to other food products as the business grows. Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, Shafali looks forward with the global perspective that increasingly defines next-generation immigrant family business owners.
We sat down with Shafali to talk about generational differences, whether entrepreneurship is intrinsic or acquired and the flexible concept of “home”.
“My grandfather built long-term relationships and garnered respect by dedicating himself to others and to his profession.”
How does the scope of your grandfather’s accomplishments as an immigrant impact you and your work?
The story of my grandfather featured prominently in my childhood, but unfortunately, he‘d passed away before I could meet him. To us, he was always spoken of in terms of his values as a human being and how much he valued his interactions with others. My grandfather built long-term relationships and garnered respect by dedicating himself to others and to his profession.
It’s a way of being that I think about more so now that I have started my own business, especially when I consider the challenges my grandfather overcame as an immigrant to the Middle East. He did it all without a support system. The confidence he showed on his journey is an inspiration.
Doubtless, his legacy and the family entrepreneurial spirit informed my decision to start a business.
Is this entrepreneurial essence learned or inherited – nurture or nature?
It’s both. Take my cousins for example, who, incidentally, live in different parts of the world, and yet are also entrepreneurial in their own right. In my immediate family, we have all taken some type of entrepreneurial risk in our respective ventures.
Nature might also be part of that desire. However, we were also encouraged to believe in ourselves and were provided the tools to take informed decisions toward executing our own ideas. The tools we were given is a supportive and honest family, aneducation and exposure, early in life, to a global view of the world. This level of positive reinforcement translates well into entrepreneurship because it enables the tolerance of failure, and failure is unavoidable on the path to personal and entrepreneurial growth. A nurturing environment manifests confidence and prepares people for taking risks.
Are second- and third-generation immigrant entrepreneurs motivated by the same survival instinct, or is it something else?
Jashanmals as a company was already established, when my father’s generation came to work, but he and his brothers were still driven by the need to grow the business and keep it alive.
We’re fortunate to enjoy comforts that my father’s generation didn’t have. We no longer have to think about survival in the way that they needed to, we live in a different time. Some of us, including myself, worked for a period of time in the business, and then went on to pursue our goals independently. But we never lost that sense of community or contribution to the family business.