With 24 centres worldwide including a Birmingham base, this retail giant is a truly global player
By Mike Cowley
One of a number of investments made by an Anglophile Indian billionaire in the UK, which involved setting up an export distribution centre in Birmingham to supply his group’s international retail chain with British goods, has won The Queen’s Award for Enterprise: International Trade 2017.
Y International has received this award for the contribution the company has made to the economy, export and job creation in the UK, having been set up to secure a source of quality halal products to be made available through his group’s hypermarkets in the Middle East, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and Egypt.
Chairman and Managing Director of Lulu Group International Mr. Yusuffali MA (see panel) has been taking a stake in British companies since 2014 because of what he states is its “great history” and its “great potential to retain the glory.”
Along with acquiring a significant share in the London-based East India Company and purchasing the iconic Old Scotland Yard building for conversion to a hotel, he set up Y International to run the state-of-the-art distribution centre.
Y International (UK) Ltd is today a centre for procurement, consolidation and export of a wide range of British products including grocery, bakery, chilled and frozen products, fresh food, dairy, paper and toiletries.
Birmingham was chosen for the operation after taking into consideration its connectivity, industrial history and quality real estate. A company spokesperson describes it as “ideally located close to major international air and sea ports, which facilitates consolidation and shipping of fresh, frozen and grocery consignments by air, sea and over-land under one order.”
It is the most advanced of some 24 centres set up worldwide to supply Mr Yusuffali’s Lulu Group International, one of the leading retail chains in the Middle East, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and Egypt.
With retail revenue of $6.2bn and operations in nine countries across the globe, Lulu has reached 27th position in the list of fastest growing retailers and is 153rd in the top 250 Global Retailers list.
The Birmingham distribution facility is now a key part of the Lulu operation. It has storage units and advanced machinery to process and handle all types of foodstuffs with a well-established system with a forensic testing facility to exercise better control over the traceability of food and contents, so enabling it to check any food-related hazards.
It uses date coding and labelling, translation of labels, halal and other relevant certifications in preparation for the export from the United Kingdom on a regular basis to supermarkets, hypermarkets and other food service companies in Middle East, Asia and North African countries.
The logistics facility has given a huge boost for the export of British manufacturing and encouraged small scale manufacturers and local dairy farmers/business to conduct a close association with the company to market their products globally.
Y International has created a broader market for products of British origin, and made food products available in all the hypermarkets and food service channels across the region. Since opening of its logistics warehouse, exports have increased by 300%.
The British company is also concentrating in the marketing of specialty food products such as “Free From” ranges including gluten free and organic products to support the Gulf region’s campaign to combat obesity and health issues. Under the aegis of Y International, British Food Festivals are being organised annually in regional outlets to highlight the new ranges and popular big brands to the multinational customers across the regions.
The logistics warehouse employed 40 staff when it opened but the escalating growth of the business has seen the employment expand to the current level of 275 staff.
Y International has from the offset worked closely with the local job centres and colleges. This is to ensure the local unemployed are given the opportunity to support their families and gain confidence with a long-term career with training to improve their position with the company and progress through the channels as the business grows.
“I am extremely honoured and proud to hear the news about Y International UK Ltd being selected for the prestigious Queen’s Award this year,” commented Mr Yusuffali. “This great recognition will surely help us further strengthen our plans to expand business interests in the UK and continue with our innovations and contributions to the dynamic economy of UK.
“The fact that we have grown and expanded our operations in such a short span of time is a testament to the pro-development economic policies of UK and we are fully committed to playing our role in further boosting the trade while focusing on key aspects such as highest quality, human resources and excellent corporate governance.
“We are planning an ambitious expansion and are in the final stage of our project to set up a new advanced manufacturing facility in Birmingham that would be a hub for logistics and export distribution in the UK”.
Lulu gains Top 100 ranking in Forbes
Forbes magazine recently listed Mr. Yusuffali, the Chairman and Managing Director of Lulu International, in its billionaires list and named him as the Most Influential Asian Business Leader in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and the most influential Indian in West Asia.
His Lulu Group International has achieved significant growth over the years in several areas, including shopping malls and Lulu hypermarkets, the import and distribution of electronics, fresh and frozen foodstuffs and food processing, IT education and training, and travel. The group has 133 retail outlets and 15 shopping malls and has a vast organisational structure of over 40,000 employees, comprising 37 different nationalities.
It has been ranked third in the Forbes Top 100 Companies making an impact in the Arab World and is the only Indian company to be featured in the top 10.
Deloitte has listed the group as the number one retailer in the Middle East and one of the top 50 fastest growing retailers globally.
Lulu has also been named as the Top Grocery retailer in the Middle East and sixth largest retailer in the whole of Africa & Middle East region, in the Africa & Middle East: Top 20 Grocery Retailers, 2010-2015 report published by the UK’s leading retail researchers, PlanetRetail.
In recognition of his achievements to business and industry and business and his distinguished services in the field of social work, the Government of India honoured Mr. Yusuffali by conferring on him its highest Civilian Award: ‘Padma Shri’.