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Brands Personalities

An Exclusive Interview with Hamid Maqsood Ismail, CEO – Bisconni & Snackcity

Tell us about your educational journey and how you stepped into leading one of the biggest food businesses?

I graduated from the Middlesex University majoring in business administration. After graduation I took keen interest in my family business where I am looking after a growing category that has a lot of potential and room for innovation which keeps me motivated by the challenges it brings.  Innovation and technology is what thrills me and these are the two things that are imperative for growth.

What challenges have you come across in the span of your career growth?

This was not really new to me as it was my family business, that I was always passionate about.  It was a new chapter in my career/life and just like anyone else; I also experienced few challenges and roadblocks that I’ve had to overcome over the past few years. The most important of all the things is to understand that the first few weeks in any role are bound to be a tad different than usual.

I’m a people’s person, and for me it was imperative not only to understand the business, its processes and how it’s done but I believed, that I had to know the basics and the ground work that goes behind, that’s when you understand your teams’ challenges, and present concepts to overcome them in the most efficient and effective way. I take keen interest in spending time with all my teams, be it sales, marketing, product development, supply chain or finance, and that is just not to know the business or keep them motivated but its their hard work that I see, and that’s what motivates me. Moreover, I believe it is important to connect with your teams, learning their dynamics and making the work place exciting and challenging to maintain company’s culture. In addition, I’ve tirelessly worked on implementing new and advanced systems, improved our diversity ratio. At IIL we’ve a progressive approach, and each day there is a new development where we want to advance to our goal of becoming the employer of choice.

How did you come about the origin of Snackcity with Bisconni, what was the reason and motivation?

Being in the industry, it is important to know your consumer and what the consumer wants.  At Bisconni we keep consumer at the heart of business! There’s a very interesting global growth story that, snacks are satisfying consumer cravings around the world in fact, the snacking business grew US$3.4 billion globally (2017)

Many emerging markets rise to the top of those with an increased appetite for snacks. Seeing sales growth in non-essential categories, like snacks, is a good indicator that consumers in these countries are ready and able to spend beyond the bare necessities, marking an incredible opportunity for FMCG companies in these markets. Consumers are eating up this “on-the-go” snacking sub-category, to the tune of US$1.1 billion dollars. Their hunger has grown the category at a compound annual growth rate of 10% between 2012 and 2016. This is just one example of how companies can rethink the category. Snacks have the benefit of sitting at the corner of healthy and indulgent. This gives companies the opportunity to innovate across this spectrum and combine local preferences and convenience. The most important task is to act fast to get ahead, to get the first mover advantage based on consumer trends. This will also enable companies to become partners with consumers in this lifestyle quest.

We had few local companies bringing consumers quality product with new innovations, so when we saw an opportunity in the market, we decided to tap in to bring consumers products that would cater to them, and become the preferred snack brand with new innovations and products.

What aim do you have in mind with the vast business profile that you hold?

My aim is to introduce more products in the confectionary business.  I intend to stay in the same field so that I can bring more ideas on the table with better products, as the market matures and the consumer evolves.

Apart from Bisconni, what other business portfolios do you manage?

Apart from Bisconni, I am responsible for Snackcity and also serve as the Director for IIL Group.

How do you balance your personal and professional life?

I am a family man. I am not afraid to say that I truly believe that I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support and love of my family. This is not to say that striking a balance between my family and my business has always been easy. In fact, it has been quite the opposite. However, after years of running my own business, I’ve not only learned how to do this, but why it is so important. Irrespective of the long hours, and demanding nature of the business, I believe that family and work should be well balanced, and that you should not only allow those who work for you to create work life balance, but that you – as the owner of the business – should do the same.

You are playing a vital role in the development of Pakistan’s economy. Who has been your inspiration throughout your growth?

Of all the people who have inspired me, I have to say, it’s my father who inspires me the most. He is one of the most hard working and devoted person I have ever seen.  My father had the ability to start from scratch. He worked tirelessly to make it a success and envisioned to diversify into different businesses which have become known names in the industry.

What message do you have for the youth of Pakistan who wish to become businessmen of the future?

Here is some of my advice that applies to any young startup or entrepreneur aiming for success.

“Momentum is everything” – Most of my projects have excited me so much that I decided not to sleep that night, and instead, put on a cup of coffee to work up the big idea, and process flows for a new project. Momentum is what drives entrepreneurs, and letting an idea go stale or be pushed to the back burner could subconsciously de-prioritize the project, which in most cases, means it will never see the light of day. This isn’t to say you should hop on an idea as soon as you think of one that seems great (sometimes it’s good to sleep on an idea for a day or two to see if it still sounds good to you), but you should stay excited and focused.

“Don’t worry if it’s been done before” – So there are other companies like yours; that’s fine. You just have to make it clear why you’re different, newer, and better. There are lots of ways to stand out, but the best way is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What are they looking for? What would they appreciate seeing in a business and how can you really impress them? By doing something your competitors aren’t doing and taking great care of your customers, you’ll be surprised how fast word of your company will spread. Last but not the least don’t be lazy, put in the work as it will eventually pay off.

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