The impact of Pakistanis on the social and economic life of the UK is enormous in all fields of endeavor. The strength of this economic group is often the unity and concentrated effort of all of the family to build and create solid and hugely successful businesses. One such family whose influence is so great is the mighty Sher Family based in Glasgow. Such is their strength and the enormity of their size that it hardly seems credible that the business has evolved over just two generations into the hugely successful empire it is today.
They are a testament to others of the possibilities and the potential of Pakistanis through effort, vitality, unity and sense of purpose. Their influence extends through out the UK and Pakistan and they have used their wealth and position wisely and considerately to create and develop new ideas.
The family originally came from Chak 477, District Faislabad, Punjab, Pakistan. They were one of the great agricultural families and this provided them with their base in Pakistan.
The family’s original members were five brothers all born at the beginning of the century. The eldest was Ch. Faqir Mohammed, who remained in Pakistan. Haji Sher Mohammed, who was born in 1916 and died in 1987, was next, then Ch. Rehmat Ali, Ch. Mohammed Ali, and Ch. Hashmit Ali.
Haji Sher Mohammed came to Glasgow in 1936 and was among the first members of the Asian community in Scotland. His journey to Britain had been difficult and time consuming. He traveled by road and by sea with the passage to Southampton lasting six months. On arriving Haji Sher Mohammed found a job working on the production line in a munitions factory. Immediately he began his plan to save money from his job and accumulate enough cash to start his own business. He used his small savings from the factory work to start up a small one-man business selling nylon stockings. He worked very long hours sending much of his earnings back to Pakistan to support the family and to enable his younger brothers to also come over to the UK.
The first brother to join Haji Sher Mohammed was Ch. Rehmat Ali who arrived in 1947. The two brothers worked together and opened their first wholesale cash and carry in 1951. It was in these small premises at 55 Gorbals Street in Glasgow that the Sher Brothers Empire began.
One of the other brothers, Hashmit Ali, and Haji Sher Mohammed’s eldest son, Mr. Rafiq Sher, joined the family in Scotland in 1952. The following year fourth brother, Ch. Mohammed Ali, joined the growing family business and so the seeds were sown for the start of one of the greatest family businesses of the second half of the 20th century. The family was in place ready to play their part in transforming Sher Brothers into an internationally renowned and highly regarded business.
The first small cash and carry, which provided the cornerstone of the business, specialized in knitwear and garments. This business grew steadily and the family ensured that this was well established before contemplating any further expansion. It was, therefore, twelve years before they decided to increase the size of the company.
In 1963 the family opened another cash and carry, larger than the first, at 55 Norfolk Street, also in Glasgow. Seven years later they opened another cash and carry, at that time the largest in Scotland, at 39-47 Stromness Street.
By 1974 they had established Esbee imports and this company became a leading textiles importer in the UK. They imported almost every conceivable textile line with this company becoming a major trading name throughout this country and abroad.
In 1977 they opened the largest cash and carry complex for hard wear and toys in Scotland. Trading under the name, bonny pack Scotland Limited, the company is a major force in the wholesaling of these goods in the UK.
By 1985 they had established the House of Sher cash and carry in Wallace Street in Glasgow. This dealt with up market DIY and fancy goods and, like all the previous businesses, was an immediate and massive success. Five years later they expanded further into food wholesaling by opening a 200,000 sq ft outlet..
The family has now successfully established themselves in all the major areas of wholesaling and each business has shown that they are adaptable and able to develop into almost any area they choose.
This is a sign of their considerable abilities, their expertise, their willingness to adopt and adapt new ideas, and their desire to succeed through professionalism and determination. Throughout this expansion period more and more of the family were becoming involved in addition to the four eldest brothers who had begun the venture.
Their children were now heavily involved in the running and development of the business. One of the key elements in the successful expansion of the business was the effort and ideas of Mr. Rafiq Sher. He, along with his brothers, uncles and cousins, worked hard, thought long, and expanded carefully but hugely successfully to build up a steady solid wholesale business. The aim was to establish a major company involving all members of the family to ensure that control over all aspects of work was left to someone trustworthy and hardworking who would be happy and able to devote much of their time to the development and long term planning of the business.
One of the aims in using family members in key positions in the company was to appoint people to positions, which would play to their strengths and interests. In this way you not only get the best person for the job but also the one who is most keenly interested in seeing the business achieve its full potential.
Mr. Munawar Hayat is helped in running the import business of Sher Brothers by Amjad Ali. Imtiaz Sher is qualified as an accountant and also now helps Mr. Munnawar Hayat on the imports side of the business. Mr. Abdul Sattar and Mr. Abdul Ghaffar, along with Naeem Sher, all run the bonny pack part of the business.
Tariq Ali along with Waheed Sher is running the food side of the business. Mr. Mohammed Aslam, Khalid Ali, and Ejaz Rafiq Sher are all running the DIY and Fancy Goods part of the business. As all of this indicates the family remains very close and has sustained their success by involving all members across the generations in running the different aspects of the business. Without this inter-related development it would be almost impossible to monitor the different areas of the business.
This way the family can retain considerable control over each part of the business while also providing each member with an area of expertise in a specific field. Those involved therefore feel very much a part of what they are doing and that they have a direct influence on the success of the business.
By this method the businesses can develop with proper control and with considered judgment secure in the knowledge that someone with the family’s future best interests at heart is in charge of the operational side of things.
The family now plans to expand further with Europe in their sights. They believe that Europe now offers the greatest opportunity and the largest potential market for all businesses and, in keeping with their traditions; they intend to be involved in a major way in the expansion of the Sher Brothers empire into the continent of Europe. They believe that businesses like theirs and of their scale have real opportunities for expansion inside the expanding European Community and they intend to use all of their considerable expertise and skill to ensure that Sher Brothers name and reputation is known in all the countries of the EC.
They have the backing, they have the support of the family, they have the intelligence and the capability to take this family business and make it a global name. It is this kind of expansion coupled with this level of determination which has made so many Pakistanis so successful. But the Sher family has achieved much, much more than most people can even dream of whilst sustaining a close family relationship which provides a bond far greater and stronger than that of most business partnerships.
Diversification has been one of the main motivating factors for the family as they have sought out new ideas, new areas and new interests to attract them. They believe that too many Pakistani businessmen like to copy other successful businesses rather than develop their own ideas. Diversification and innovation are, however, the only true ways forward and the Sher Brothers business is testament to their views.
Education is also vital if the future business interests of the family are to be secured. The importance of education cannot be underestimated if Pakistanis are to compete with the rest of the world, which is becoming increasingly technologically oriented, and more sophisticated. The Sher family has shown that the greatest success is possible for those who are determined and they are a model for the rest of the community because of their energy, their ingenuity and their ability.
One of the keys to the success of all of these businesses is the strength of purpose of the family, their unity, their ability to develop into new areas, their openness to ideas, their vitality, their determination and attention to detail which makes each – new venture such an immediate and enormous success.
It seems almost inconceivable that it was just over half a century ago that Haji Sher Mohammed arrived in the UK and worked as a door-to-door salesman. Now his family owns and runs one of the UK’s largest wholesale empires. To have traveled so far in such a short time probably would not have surprised Haji Sher Mohammed whose own first journey, when he was just 20, took him away from family and friends to a country he didn’t know, and a future he could only forge with his own hands and with his own, determined will.
That he should have established such a major company is a sign that although the journey was long and hard he achieved much more than anyone could have predicted. His story is a parable for the success experienced by many Pakistanis when they venture forth from their homeland. But perhaps more than most the Sher family embodies an ideal of talent, hard work, dedication and duty which has led to their considerable achievements over the last years and their undoubted success in the future.