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Mindset of creating hurdles and seeing businessman as fat cow

Interview of Isphanyar Bhandara – Chief Executive, Murree Brewery

Murree Brewery is a public limited company and one of the oldest company on the Kolkata stock exchange. Murree Brewery started in 1860 in Gohra Gali, Murree. It was founded by the British at the time of the Raj to cater for the needs of the British troops stationed in present days Pakistan and it continued to work at Gohra Gali from 1860 to about 1890. Then it was shifted to Rawalpindi, at present location. Today, Murree Brewery is headed by Ishphanyar Bhandara, the Chief Executive of the company. Murree Brewery came into the possession of Bhandara family in 1947 when Isphanyar Bhandara’s grandfather bought over the majority shares from the British at the time of partition and he had to decide whether he had to be on Pakistan-side or the other and his grandfather decided to buy the shares and stay on the Pakistan side. That’s how it came in the family in 1947 and I am the third generation, from my grandfather to my father and then to me, so this is the brief history of Murree Brewery, told Isphanyar Bhandara, the Chief Executive.

Born on18th November 1972, at Karachi, Isphanyar is now living in Rawalpindi and belongs to Zoroastrian (Parsi) religion. He completed his early education from St. Mary’s School, Lalazar, Rawalpindi, International School of Islamabad (American School), Ryan High School, Dallas, Texas, USA and Bachelor of Arts (BA) from Sir Syed College, Rawalpindi 1996.
He also possesses the degree of Master of Business Administration (MBA) from School of Business and Commerce, Islamabad (1999).

Isphanyar Bhandara Joined the family business, Murree Brewery Co. Ltd., Rawalpindi – one of the oldest public limited companies of the sub-continent – in 1997 (part time). Joined Board of Directors of the company in 1998. Worked at various departments/positions within the company such as Lathe Machine Operator, Assistant Store Keeper, Laboratory Assistant, Sales Officer, Deputy General Manager, Tops Food & Beverages, Director Group Procurement. In June 2005 became Executive Director till 2008 and later on appointed as Chief Executive Officer of the Murree Brewery Group of Companies on the demise of father in June 2008.

The company has branched into the manufacturing of food products, fruit juices, glass containers and Murree Sparkletts drinking water. The traditional activities of the Company are brewing and distilling of fine liquors and beers. The company has also increased the product line and capacity.
Attended various LUMS workshops on business.

Bhandara has remain the Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan on seat reserved for Minorities (2013-2018) and is representing and helping minority communities of Pakistan including Parsis, Sikhs, Baha’is, Buddhists, Kalash and others. He is also volunteering as President of Rawalpindi Parsi Anjuman.

Engineering Cap magazine interviewed Mr. Isphanyar Bhandara and his responses are given in the following lines:

Q. What are the major products of the company?
A. Yes, we make all sorts of products and we make very famous brands, such as Bigg Apple and many flavored malt drinks. We make fruit juices, we make mineral water etc. Our products are made from pure malt and barley. In other words, it is like ‘Sattu’ , what we have in our villages. Moreover other drinks are colour based, they don’t have a nutritional value. I do not allow my young children to have energy drinks and other colour drinks because they are not good for health. But our products are not artificial, they are actually made from malt, wheat and barley. So ours is full of nutritional value like having ‘Sattu’. So other than alcoholic we have a long range of nonalcoholic products, beverages juices, ketchups and everything that we do, we do ethically. We are certified by all the government organizations. We are ISO 9000. We have many quality ISO 9000s, environmental ISO 9000s and many other certifications. We also have ‘hillal’ certificate for our nonalcoholic products. We comply with all rules and regulations of health and also contribute over Rs. 4 billion to the national exchequer.

Tops Food and Beverages (1969) Tops Food and Beverages, a division of the Company, was established in 1969. It processes fruits and markets fruit juices and allied food products. Two manufacturing units are located in Rawalpindi and Hattar (KPK). A Tetra Pak packaging facility was added in 2001. The Hattar plant was installed in 1992. Tops Food Rawalpindi unit is producing Tetra Pak juices and is well equipped with state of the art Tetra Brick Aseptic machines. Tops Hattar plant is producing juice, drinks, Jams, Vinegars, Ketchup, squashes. Both plants are Halal, ISO9001, HACCP and ISO 22000 certified from world’s renowned certification bodies. Murree Glass, the glass container division of the company, established in 1974, manufactures glass containers of all types for the company and other food and beverage producers. It has recently begun operation of new Furnace complete with 03 Feeders. The new project consisting state of the art machinery / refractory imported from EU countries has increased manifold the Division’s productivity and profitability making optimum use of most modern Italian Electronic I.S. Machines. It is also located in Hattar (KPK)”.
Murree Sparkletts was acquired by Murree Brewery group in 2011 and is located in Hattar (KPK). Murree Sparkletts is bottling premium quality drinking water. Murree Sparkletts expanded its production facility in 2015 by installing latest filling lines. Murree Sparkletts is an ISO 9001, ISO 22000, HACCP and PSQCA certified company & for the first time in Pakistan launched the premium drinking water in glass bottle of 330 ml and 750 ml .
We cherish our past. We are the industry leaders in the present and accept challenges of the future.
Q. As CEO of your company, what type of challenges you have to face while running your juice business?
A. Our biggest threat or challenge comes from the non-organized sector, in which there are a large number of people who are running the juice business in the form of a cottage industry. They neither pay their taxes, nor get themselves registered. In the absence of strict copy right laws in our country, without any hesitation or difficulty, they use the bottles and labels of other companies and promote their own products, which may not be of a good quality, but are much cheaper in price. During the past few years, the purchasing power of the common man has collapsed and now, the main priority for the people is the price and not the quality. With this realization countless non-registered juice companies are successfully expanding their business, by selling low quality products, at a much cheaper rate. Even in the organized sector, there are some who don’t honestly pay their taxes and utility bills and nor do they strictly abide by the labour laws formulated by the government. Such short cuts and
wrong-doings produce an atmosphere of unhealthy competition, which is damaging and challenging for us as we don’t compromise on quality and like to follow the laws in letter and spirit.

Q. How do you cope with such huge difficulties and challenges?
A. I tell my staff that challenges and difficulties are there, but we have to march forward. I will be wrong if I believe that one day, all problems and difficulties will disappear, because such a day might never come. In such a dismal situation, the only thing that we can do is to make the best possible utilization of all the available human and material resources and this is exactly what I try to do.

Q. How do you fulfil your social corporate responsibilities?
A. There are a number of ways in which we fulfil our social corporate responsibilities. First of all, we make every endeavour to provide quality products to our customers, so that they can have the worth of their money. Murree Brewery was running an excellent school which was snatched away from us as a part of Bhutto’s policy of nationalization. But even now, we assist that school in repair and maintenance. Bhandara Foundation, based in Lahore is actively involved in various charitable activities may be described as an philanthropic arm of Murree Brewery. Many prominent people like Justice ® Nasira Iqbal are associated with Bhandara Foundation which regularly assists various charities and hospitals and other humanitarian organizations. Darakhshan is a Project of Association for Special Persons. It was established in 1961 in Rawalpindi for providing skills trainings to special persons of the society in multiple fields of life. Murree Brewery is helping Darakhshan by providing free building, electricity, security and other essential necessities to keep serving these special people. So far hundreds of students have successfully learnt and now generating income to upgrade their lives. Besides this, whenever someone comes to us with a request for financial assistance, we never say no and try to help.

Q. You were also Member of Parliament, What contributions you made for the welfare of minority community.
A. As MNA, despite the limited resources, I had done my best to serve the community.
The welfare of ‘Kalasha’ people. I had given projects and schemes worth Three crore rupees in‘Kalasha’ valley. I had built small community centers in South Punjab and interior Sindh for Minorities. I had extended financial help to poor people belonging from various religious minorities. I unfortunately appeal and protest with my own government that the funds being given to MNAs is a laughing stock. In such a situation how can you expect from any one to deliver. People also expect projects to be executed, financial aid to be given. But the funds are lesser but I had done what I could do in my limited capacity and will continue in future also.

Q. Being one of the oldest companies of the sub-continent, Murree Brewery has maintained its standard in quality products. What is the main reason behind this?
A. We do not compromise on quality. We keep quality conscious staff and we do not compromise on raw materials and most of our raw material is imported and carefully selected.

Q. Do you think the existing business environment in Pakistan is friendly and the present government policies are business friendly?
A. No. The business in Pakistan is not friendly. Government departments, the Utility departments try their best to harass business people as well as corporate houses which discourage growth and business in general. Most government departments are there to harass and make money. The present government under the leadership of Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif is trying to improve policies, promoting business environment but the bureaucracy remains a hurdle.
Creating hurdles is a mindset. It cannot be changed easily. A businessman is seen in this country as a fat cow. The impression is that every businessman is loaded with money; he has a lot of money to throw away this is a wrong impression. When you squeeze a businessman, he will shift his industry to other country. Then why are we expecting foreigners to come into Pakistan? Luckily we have a business minded Prime Minister that is why we have CPEC going on and Inshallah we will see good results after a couple of years.
Q. Murree Brewery is known for patronizing Polo. Are you sponsoring other games or not?
A. No we are not sponsoring a lot of games. We sponsor the oldest Polo tournament since 1904. But it will not be out of question to mention here that I would like to donate to hospitals, charities rather than sponsoring charity balls and concerts etc.
Q. You are found of old cars, would you like to tell us about your existing fleet?
A. Well, I don’t want to take your readers time. It is my hobby to collect old cars. Everyone should have passion of something, some collects guns, some collects women also (laughter). But I like collecting old Mercedes having models of 60’s 70’s & 80’s and you don’t count your children, it’s a bad omen.

Q. In the end would you like to give some message to the people?
A. Definitely, there is a message. This is a message which a German told me, ‘Pakistanis want to get rich overnight, without hard work, which is absolutely not possible’. He said look at Germany which totally destroyed back in World War-II. Look, where they are today. Look Japan which was totally destroyed, look where they are today. I am also Pakistani, and I am proud of it, but we as a nation need to work hard and honesty and avoid short cuts to prosperity.


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