It is strange but true that successful entrepreneurs are often those who strayed from their ‘original’ professional qualifications to make a mark in a field alien to them.
Stan (Suresh) Balar, Chairman & Managing Director of the South Island based Service Foods Limited is a glittering example.
Established more than 30 years ago as a modest trader in food items, the Company today is one of the largest importers of a growing range of products delivered through its own extensive distribution network.
Deloitte rated it as one of the ‘Fifty Fastest growing companies in South Island’ in 2009, while retailers, restaurants, hotels, supermarkets and others rate it as one of the most reliable companies in the business.
The Company’s 100,000 Sq Ft Warehouse in Wollston, Christchurch is among the largest in the country, with its own trucks delivering thousands of items to outlets in its supply chain.
But the need to establish a presence in Auckland to meet the increasing requirements of customers in the North Island was pronounced.
Mr Balar believes in planned expansion, taking into account the cost-benefit and utility factors.
It was therefore no surprise that Service Foods Limited took its time to establish its presence in Auckland but since its establishment less than six months ago, the advantage of the move has been telling.
The Company’s expansive, 70,000 Sq Ft Warehouse on Saleyards Road in Otahuhu has already registered a number of superlatives in the market.
As well as housing the tallest freezer facility in the country, the Warehouse is stated to the world’s first cool store to run on CO2, fostering cleaner environment.
“We await an official ‘Carbon Neutral Certification’ from the concerned authorities. Meanwhile, the facility has the capacity to store the most extensive variety of food items in the healthiest and cleanest possible environment. Nothing has been compromised in achieving the best standards of hygiene, easy-to-store and transport methods,” Mr Balar said.
His elder son Aneil has taken the management responsibility for the operation, including logistics, supply chain, marketing and other tasks. As the Chief Financial Officer of the Company, he also has an eye on costs and revenue.
“Our vision is to expand our product and service range to become the most extensive organisation in the business. With more than 5000 items (sourced from about 20 countries), in our inventory and distribution list, Service Foods is arguably one of the largest importers of food items in New Zealand,” he said.
Almost every restaurant would have at least a few products imported by the Company, and as a member of the Countrywide Group, Service Foods carries the advantage of being a part of a wider network.
None of these achievements came about overnight. Although Mr Balar had dreams of becoming a businessman, it was not foremost in his mind, when he arrived in New Zealand with his wife Vicki (Vidya) 28 years ago.
He was a qualified doctor from India and planned to pursue the medical profession in this country. But the rigid regulations and the need to ‘start from the beginning’ were no incentives.
“Let me start small with a convenience store,” he thought.
Encouraged by Vicki, he purchased a dairy in Christchurch’s Colombo Street.
The year was 1983 and Indians were not into such a business venture.
Long hours of work, servicing hundreds of customers and tough conditions did not deter him, for he had to make his dream work.
Nothing succeeds like success and good work seldom goes unrewarded, he thought. His spirit of adventure and willingness to take risk prompted him to import spices, the demand for which was apparent.
“It has to be authentic and what people want,” his wife reminded him.
“That is a part of my dream- to be original, innovative and qualitative,” he said.
The increasing popularity of Indian food generated increasing demand for Indian spices, which in turn spurred the growth of Mr Balar’s enterprise.
The business grew along with his two sons Aneil and Nikul.
Today, the ‘Balar Group’ comprises Service Foods Limited, Asian Food Warehouse and a number of properties.
Mr Balar continues to plan ahead.
“My ambition goes beyond frozen meat and chicken. I want to reach out to customers, big and small, and cater to most of their needs,” he said.