Chandrasekr, Group General Manager of Jawad Sultan Group, throws the spotlight on the growing family business, while reflecting on his personal quest to become instrumental in prompting a social change
As a financial expert and a business analyst, with his fingers trained on the pulse of one of the largest family businesses in the country, Chandrasekr has learnt to plug the gaps and bridge the differences to facilitate seamless flow of thoughts, ideas and actions across the diverse business portfolios. In the nearly two decades that he has been with the Group, he has relied on his intuition and expertise to demarcate between ‘urgent’ and ‘important’ tasks, and strike a balance to score on all fronts.
In his defining role as the Group General Manager, he has found a perfect niche in the family business, with the late chairman, Mr. Jawad Sultan, reposing his faith in his expertise to deliver. For Chandra, as he is called to by his colleagues, the late chairman was a master craftsman with uncanny thoughts and business ideas. “Whenever I think of him, I am always remembered of a particular book called ‘What they don’t teach you at the Harvard Business School’,” he muses.
Talking about the late chairman, who he refers to as the Group architect, he states: “To outsiders, he seemed to be a very conservative person, who would think several times before committing himself to a project. Regrettably, even I thought so initially. He was a far too fast thinking person… Until the last day of his life, he was the front driving person. It was a joy and pleasure working with him. The fact that I was able to handle a lot of complex assignments is a testimony to the fact that my chairman really trusted me.”
Chandra’s tryst with the Jawad Sultan Group stretches back to 1998, when he moved to Oman as the Group’s Financial Controller. Following his formal training in chartered accountancy and masters in commerce, he’d started his career as a finance and accounting professional in Mumbai, before Oman happened. It has, since, been a roller coaster ride, with exciting milestones charting his professional growth in the Group.
Delineating the Group’s reach and scale, with business interests stretching from lifestyle (Capital Store) and technology solutions (Jawad Sultan Technologies) to cinema (City Cinema) and food (Jawad Sultan Restaurants), Chandra notes that the Group is constantly raising the customer service bar and stamping its footprints across the length and breadth of the country. According to him, Capital Store and City Cinema (until 2016) are two jewels in the crown of the Group, owing to their visibility, which has now been heightened with a strong presence in the restaurant sector. With franchises like Illy Café, New York Fries and Jungle Juice, alongside fine dining restaurants like ‘Chulah’ and ‘Mandarin’, the food division is set to grow manifolds.
There have, however, been challenges on the way. As Chandra states, “Understanding family business is a vast, dynamic and challenging subject.” Having worked with the first generation of owners and seeing the Western educated second generation getting groomed and trained by the first generation, has been an experience that has required professional acumen to be the perfect foil in enabling them to achieve their dreams and aspirations. “I am not a family business expert, but my experience has shown that the two biggest challenges arise when there is no platform for conflict resolution and for succession planning,” he states, hastening to add that those challenges were met early on by the late Chairman. Post the demise of the late Chairman, Mr. Aqeel Jawad Sultan is the Chairman.
The Group is currently busy setting up a four-star boutique hotel in the old Mina Hotel property in Muttrah-Corniche to serve the tourism interests of the area; it is also erecting a residential cum commercial complex in the earlier Taj restaurant property in Muttrah. Besides, plans are on to explore investment possibilities in local and overseas market, in addition to a host of other projects in the pipeline.
The star of the show, however, is the new iconic corporate office, Burj Al Amal, that has been erected in the same old location in Qurum.