A Collaborative Research Project between New York University Abu Dhabi & Tharawat Family Business Forum

Case Study

Jashanmal Group

FAMILY BUSINESS OVERVIEW

Established in 1919 with its first store in Basra, Iraq, the Jashanmal Group is a retail and wholesale distribution business whose retail operations span over 150 stores in the Gulf region as of 2021.

With the Basra store’s success, founder Rao Sahib Jashanmal was encouraged by British officials to expand to Kuwait in 1934. As the business grew rapidly, soon Rao Sahib’s sons—Naraindas, Atma, Hiro and later Mohan—took over and expanded into other parts of the Gulf region. The Jashanmal Group followed the trail of oil discovery in the Gulf and started operations in Bahrain, Dubai and then Abu Dhabi. Having started with a single shop in Iraq, the international business is headquartered in Dubai as of 2021, with offices in Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and India. In 2019, the family business –celebrating 100 years of operations– is overseen by the third and fourth generations of the Jashanmal family, while a professional management team runs day-to-day operations.

By the Numbers

1919

Founding Year

UAE, KUWAIT,
BAHRAIN, OMAN, INDIA

Operations

5000+

Employees

3

Family Members Involved

1919 – 1933

Founding Journey

Rao Sahib Jashanmal was born in Karachi, now in southern Pakistan, in 1895. At the time, Karachi was part of Britain’s Indian colony.

Capitalizing on the decline of the Ottoman Empire in First World War, Britain took control of Iraq in 1917 and British administrators ruled Iraq from India’s capital, Delhi. In 1919, 24-year-old Rao Sahib Jashanmal saw the British presence in Iraq as an unmissable entrepreneurial opportunity, so he headed to Basra, Iraq. Together with his brother, he decided to open a retail store that stocked general consumer household items, clothing, stationery, books, and newspapers.

Rao Sahib Jashanmal envisioned a department store that would cater to expatriates working in the oil industry, British military officers and travelers who used Basra as a pitstop when traveling between Britain and Asia or the Gulf region, and Basra’s local population. The concept of a convenience retail shop was relatively new in the region. Most goods were still traded and bartered at souks or bazaars. Their first store, Jashanmal Brothers, one of its kind in Basra, proved enormously successful.

Founder Rao Sahib Jashanmal Jhangiani. 1966. Source: Jashanmal family

Late H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan with Mohan Jashanmal. 1968. Source: Jashanmal family

1934 – 1964

Growth and Internationalization

Impressed by the quality of service at the Jashanmal store, Colonel Harold Dickson—one of the top British officials in Basra—approached Rao Sahib Jashanmal to open a department store in Kuwait to serve British and American expat families in the nascent oil industry there.

Rao Sahib Jashanmal, interested in the opportunity for expansion, entered Kuwait, then a British protectorate, in 1934. The Jashanmal family then continued to open a number of new branches in Bahrain and Kuwait for the two following decades. In the early 1950s, His Highness Sheikh Rashid Al Maktoum from the Emirate of Dubai visited Bahrain’s marketplace as well as the Jashanmal store and left feeling that Dubai’s people would benefit from more modern shopping facilities. So, he invited the Jashanmal brothers to open a store in Dubai. The Dubai store launched in 1954, and another one followed in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi in 1964.

The Business Family

Only a decade after launching the first branch in Iraq, Rao Sahib Jashanmal asked his eldest son, Naraindas Jashanmal, to help him run the growing business.

Gradually, all Rao Sahib’s sons became involved in the family business and played an instrumental role in the business expansion as each son ran the operations in a different country independently. The presence of a family member in each country helped to consolidate the group’s brand and strengthen its business operations as each branch required its unique governance style. This was reflected to the outside world in the company’s new name: Jashanmal and Sons. As of 2020, the third and fourth generations of the Jashanmal family spearhead operations at the Jashanmal Group. They note that three marked characteristics endure: the founder’s robust ethical framework, the values he placed on adapting to and embracing different cultures, and his honest interest in the betterment of societies.

Rao Sahib Jashanmal with family. 1958. Source: Jashanmal family

Map

The Journey

Between 1919 and the late 1950s, two Jashanmal stores operated in Basra, Iraq – the first was located in Al-Ashar and the second in Al-Ma’aqal. Unfortunately, most traces of these branches were erased due to the multiple tremulous episodes in the country’s recent history.

First Jashanmal store (Jashanmal & Sons)

Safat Square, Kuwait City, Kuwait. Undated.

Rao Sahib Jashanmal with family

Undated

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