An exclusive session with Mr. Iqbal. A. Ghaffar – Founder & Chairman of Chase Department Store

Q1. What made you open a department store?
A1. As I was already running LittleWood Industry, I would visit a lot of shops to supply my garments to them. As I had traveled abroad to London a lot, I felt our shops lacked the ambiance and creativity of international stores. In 1984, I had an idea, to open a large and grand store with membership cards of Rs.1000. This card would allow members 10% discount on their shopping. even tough this may seem like a common practice today, back in 1984 none had done this! However, when suppliers heard of our scheme they threatened to stop supplies and the membership card was never issued. We still opened our first Chase department store at Bahadurabad in 1984 and by the grace of Almighty we had an overwhelming response. Our store was the first of its kind, being inspired by department stores of London. we had opened a large store , Beautiful interior and ambiance and ample parking space. The inspiration to open a chain of stores was also from London. I personally overlooked the design and display of our show windows that were inspired from show windows of self ridges and Harrods in London. When I stepped into this venture all I had was my passion, prayers of my elders and the dream to go BIG! Today Allhumdullilah, where I am , 40 Years ago I could not have imagined that my vision of department stores would come true like this! After our first store in 1984, Chase chain grew by the grace of Allah.

2nd store: Clifton 1986 ( still open)
3rd store: Nipa 1988
4th store: Shaheed e Milat rd. 1992
5th store: Hassan square 1994
6th store: Malir 1997
7th store: khe ban e Ittehad dha. 1998
8th store : Hyderi 2015 (open)
9th store : Jail chowrangi 2015 (open)
10th store: North Karachi 2017 (open)

And our Chains of stores is still growing. Allhumdullilah, with several projects in the pipeline.

Q2. Could you please give us a short brief about Littlewood?
A2. From 1968-1978 I had a membership card at Karachi stock exchange and trade there. In 1978 I suffered large losses in the stock market, sold my membership card and left. Now again I had to start from scratch. I sold my TV and VCR and bought two machines and started Littlewood factory in one bedroom of my two bedroom house. I was making new born baby items (rompers) and selling through street vendors. I would sell 2-3 rompers a day. I then started supplying to small shops. The baby rompers that were sold by other factories cost Rs. 65 , I was supplying a better quality for Rs.25. Now my factory increased and i set up more machines in the draing and dinning rooms of my house. till 1982. In 1982 I got a factory at Stadium rd, and never looked back. Now as my business was growing my brothers joined me. in 1982 my younger brother , in 1984 my second brother and in 1986 my third brother joined me when I opened Chase Clifton. In 1998 the business split and my brothers went their separate ways. I maintained and kept the original Chase name.

Q3. Was the transition from Chairman of littlewood to Chairman of Chase department store , difficult?
A3. When I was running Littlewood Industries we use to face problems of delayed payments from shop keepers. This is when I decided to open my own store and the grandest store anyone had seen in Karachi. I have been working for 54 years and everyday I wake up with the same spark in my eyes and ideas swimming in my mind. Allhumdullilah as long as I have my health hard work does not seem hard because this my passion. So there are no difficulties only challenges in my business and I enjoy them. From day one we have had professional management so the transition was very smooth. And till date I am still running littlewood and visit my factory everyday. I cannot stop designing and creating new garment lines. this is food for my soul. Everyday, I am inspired to do something new.

Q4. Do you face difficuties in importing goods?
A4. In 1999 my 3 sons Faraz Iqbal, Adeel Iqbal and Fahad Iqbal , joined me in business after graduating from London. at the time I was overlooking manufacturing and retail. They then started to add imported goods to our stores. we focus on keeping 50%v local product and 50% imported goods. one of the problems we face is that of currency devaluation.

Q5. What makes Chase stand apart from other stores?
A5. Chase provides the best product at the best price. We provide value for money along with the best ambiance, large air-conditioned stores and ample parking space. We also provide the convenience of having everything under one roof. Complete range of grocery, toiletries and perfumes, fresh meat, pharmacy, fresh bakery, crockery and household items, electronic home appliances, garments for all ages, men shoes and ladies fabric, ties, cuff links, gift items, towels, bed linen, artificial jewelry and hair ornaments, watches, toys, stationery, etc. Chase also offers state-of-the-art indoor amusement centers by the name Chotu Motu and Fantasia, offering a wide selection of games, rides and soft play areas for children. So the children can play while the parents enjoy a better shopping experience.

Q6. What problems do you face being the chairman of a department store?
A6. Like I said, I don’t like the word problem, rather they are challenges that I enjoy. For Chase the priority is our customer. ‘Customer is king’. And so we constantly have to keep our fingers on the pulse of whats next. Predict fashion trends, customer demands, market trends and with the wide range of products we offer, that requires planning and professional management. Also, we cater to a large demographic profile of customers and to keep everyone happy, that’s a challenge!

Q7. What is the procedure for placing a product on the shelf of Chase?
A7. For food items, product has to be PSQCA certified. For other items, we look at best quality, eg. For garments we carefully look at the quality of fabric used. We provide money-back guarantee to our customers.

Q8. What is your management style?
A8. At Chase, we have always had professional management. We run the ship with a democratic style of management. The biggest problem CEO’s face is that at a certain age they stop listening to the youngsters and new ideas. Thank God I feel that I have not reached that age. I am young at heart, always learning new things, and never afraid to try new ideas. This is the best way to steer a company towards progressive growth. When I have all these bright minds working for me, why not tap into their ideas? I am always excited for new ventures like the day when I first started Littlewood some forty years ago.

Q9. What would you consider you strongest product?
A9. All products at Chase are top-of-the-line, so it is difficult to pinpoint any one product. However, I think our strongest feature is that we provide every product at the best possible price!

Q10. Where do you see Chase in the next 5-10 years?
A10. I am a visionary, and so my ambitions only grow with every successful venture. We have an aggressive growth plan over the next 10 years with the chain of Chase Department Stores opening nationally and internationally In Shaa Allah. It is my belief that with honesty, hard work and the Grace of Almighty anything is achievable. ‘With footprints on the moon, don’t tell me the sky is the limit.’