Entrepreneurship

Making the UAE a second home for Filipinos

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Raju Gidwani, Executive Director, Shankar Trading Co. LLC.
Image Credit: Supplied

As a major importer and distributor of products from the Philippines, what is Shankar Trading’s role in the Filipino FMCG [fast-moving consumer goods] market in the UAE?

From the early 1990s we saw potential in ethnic food ranges in the UAE and accordingly decided to serve up the best of Asia as every nationality was looking for their own taste. We focused on Filipino products and initially imported few brands. We gradually developed more than 1,000 products, produced by the top 25 food manufacturers in the Philippines, and represent them as the exclusive distributor for the UAE. Over time, we extended the range to become more mainstream and to successfully cater to multi nationalities, not only in ambient but cold chain products too. Simultaneously, to respect consumers’ sentiments, we convinced our principals to develop a halal range for the Middle Eastern market and proudly launched many products in recent years and will continue to do so in the future. Apart from above, now we have also started developing a H&B [health and beauty] range, as our vision is to fulfil the needs of the Filipino community and make them feel like the UAE is their second home.

Can you please brief us on your key product categories, brands and clients represented in the region?

As of today, we represent many companies in all product categories and do business with major reputed companies such as Century Pacific, Universal Robina, Unilever, Rebisco, CDO, San Miguel, MY San, Nutri Asia and RFM. We distribute brands such as Century, Argentina, 555, Swift, Jack N Jill, Nissin, Great Taste, Lady Choice, Knorr, Ding Dong, Magnolia, Skyflakes, Datu Puti, UFC, Royal, White King and more. We also have our own brand range of products called SIBLINGS.

Having seen the growing demand among active adults, who aspire to live a healthy lifestyle but may not know where to start or struggle to sustain it, from this week, we are also proudly launching 100 per cent plant based unMEAT brand products and Birch Tree probiotics milk drinks in the UAE.

In addition, our company exclusively distributes India’s number one snacks brand, Haldiram’s. Our impeccable supply chain operation operates through multiple distribution channels, including modern trade, general trade, HORECA and re-export. The entire range of products is widely available at all major retailers in the UAE including Cooperative, Convenient stores and online platforms.

Please share your business journey and how the company has grown and evolved since then?

Shankar Trading Company L.L.C started business in the food wholesale market in Al Ras in 1985. Since then, the group has grown organically into a diversified business house under the banner of The Giant Group, with interests in wholesale, distribution, retail and the manufacturing of consumer goods. We are focused on the FMCG food business and have developed a range of products to cater for consumers. We have various distribution channels from our state of the art HACCP certified logistics facility, equipped with modern technologies for direct distribution of the products to more than 6,200 stores and with an indirect reach of more than 3,000 stores through sub distribution.

Have you had to overcome any particular challenges as a business following Covid-19?

Economies globally are facing unprecedented challenges and uncertainty due to unexpected pandemic but we handled this difficult time in well-organised manner. We fulfilled our commitments towards communities and served the products demanded on time to avoid panic among consumers, while maintaining high safety standards and following COVID protocols. The cost of operations increased drastically but this is a time to sacrifice margins and fulfil the demand of society instead of thinking about profitability. We are also committed to the welfare of staff, prioritising their wellness and job security.

How important is CSR to Shankar Trading Company’s philosophy?

For our company CSR is critically important and we feel that it should be so for every corporation. The prime reason is that it vastly helps to uplift the underprivileged sections of society and gives them tremendous motivation to believe in the goodness of the world around them. We are an active member of the UAE Food bank and during the pandemic, we are working hand in hand with OWWA Dubai (Consulate of Philippines) and provide food packages at subsidised cost to distressed Filipinos in the UAE with free logistics arrangements.

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