Imtiaz Super Market (ISM) – the largest chain of retail stores based in Karachi – is gearing up to enter Punjab by mid of 2016, says its chief Imtiaz Hussain, who is also planning international expansion through an initial public offering (IPO) in three to four years. “We have already selected two locations in Punjab where work is in progress. We should be able to operate there in six months,” Hussain told The Express Tribune at the company’s headquarters.
The local retail giant, which exclusively targets the ‘middle class’, is busy preparing for a grand opening of a new store in Gulshan-e-Iqbal; its sixth in the city. Likely to be operational by the end of January, the new store is part of the larger expansion plan.
In 2016 alone, the company is planning to open three more stores in Karachi – most likely in North Nazimabad and Clifton – and one each in Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Multan, Sialkot, Hyderabad and Lahore. “All these stores will either be operational or enter the final stages of completion by the end of next year,” Hussain added.
Working on a strategy of ‘piling high and selling low’, the local chain of supermarkets has been thriving on the back of a growing market segment: the middle class.
Despite a significant presence of international players, such as Metro-Habib Cash and Carry and Hyperstar, ISM has been attracting high traffic to its four locations: Bahadurabad, Awami Markaz (Shahrea Faisal), Nazimabad and Qayumabad, which is at the edge of DHA.
Starting as a small grocery store 30 years ago, ISM has now become the city’s largest retail chain, employing 2,600 people – it does not include another 600 that are ready to join the company in January when it opens the Gulshan-e-Iqbal branch.
“We are certainly number one in the grocery segment,” ISM’s Chief Executive Establishment Arif Naqi said without disclosing financial details or market share.
Industry experts say ISM is making more money on a per-square-foot basis than any other supermarket.
“ISM earns close to Rs300,000 per square foot, which will increase to Rs400,000 once the Gulshan-e-Iqbal store becomes operational,” said sources. Sales-per-square-foot is a popular sales metric benchmark used in the retail sector.
The company’s success and growth over the years has made it a good case study for business school students aspiring to enter the retail sector.
Hussain attributes much of his success to building close relationship with customers and providing the latter with innovative solutions. For example, ISM was the first retail store to process and package rice, wheat flour, pulses and spices.
Later on, he went one step further by offering home delivery to its regular customers, especially working families pressed for time – ISM now has 700,000 home delivery customers.
Another reason for its success was ‘price check’ especially for grocery items. “I call it wholesale within retail,” Hussain said of his business model. He, however, refused to disclose his business strategy including how he plans to fund a nationwide expansion.
While 2016 is likely to be the busiest year for Hussain, the successful entrepreneur has bigger plans for years ahead.
“I am very much interested in the markets of UAE, Qatar and Kuwait,” Hussain said, adding that he would like to open his first international store by 2017 in Sharjah, which is home to a lot of Pakistani and Indian expatriates.
The writer is a staff correspondent
Published in The Express Tribune, December 21st, 2015.