An UAE expat’s magical recipe is winning clients in London and other European markets. AK Mansoor, chairman of Chicking, is taking his brand to the Netherlands and other European markets besides New Zealand, Australia and Africa. And it is doing cluckingly well. In fact, so high it is flying that Chicking is now making its appearance in Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Brunei, Djibouti, Ivory Coast, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Maldives. Asian Lite’s Nahas Jaleel meets Mr. Mansoor at his restaurant in London to see how this incredible man has ruffled feather in the chicken market
Where do you want to be in the next five years?
We are on a major expansion campaign that will take Chicking to new shores. By 2025, we are aiming to set up a network of 1000 plus outlets across the globe. We have come a long way in the past few years from an authentic, single outlet eatery to a leading global Halal Quick Service Restaurant ((QSR). During January I was in The Netherlands for discussions with M/s. Franchiseburo B.V. and signed the deal in Dubai to enter into 25 prominent countries of European Union. Soon to open the flagship outlet in The Netherlands by end of April 2018. Also signed Master Franchise Agreements for Australia, New Zealand, Morocco, Brunei, Djibouti, and the Maldives.
With the Master franchise agreements already in place with E.A Quantum SDN BHD in Malaysia, Chicking will soon wing it’s way into China, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, Myanmar, and Cambodia. Also, the company is planning to have Master Franchise Agreements in Mauritius, Bosnia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan by the first half of the year 2018. By end of the year 2018 Chicking will have a strong presence in 25 countries and by year 2025 Chicking will make presence in 70+ Countries.
We are also looking to continue expansion into the MENA Region & Other African Countries, Central Asia, United States and Canada.
You embarked from Kerala without any formal qualifications to now becoming a global leader in the international fast-food market. Where did the impetus come from?
I am lucky to have a good-team of professionals. They are passionate about the brand and the expansion of the company. The global footprint is growing day by day. Hard work pays rich dividends. I always take my job seriously. It is not an easy task to co-ordinate and leads a multi-national workforce to achieve the targets. It was a bumpy ride at first. But I knew if you were determined, you would reach the destination.
How do you manage your work-life balance?
I enjoy my work. I never felt it is a burden. I am not an avid reader or a sportsman or a gym enthusiast. I like to walk. I spend my time with my staff. Actually I am playing many roles. For some, I am a father figure. To others, I am an elder brother or uncle. They will share their worries and grievances with me. I can feel the pain of others when they are in distress. We have a strong rapport. Because I have been in those sort of situations many times in my younger days. How can you be a leader, if you are not listening to the plea for help from your own staff? I won’t let down my staff – and I am sure they won’t let me down also. I enjoy my work. From dawn to dusk.
How did you end up in running a fast food business?
I was born and brought up at Pavaratty near Guruvayur, Trissur District, and the temple town of Kerala, India. The childhood was not that rosy. Eventually, I came to Dubai in 1987, with few dirhams in my pocket seeking for a job like many others. I did many jobs including managing warehouses and a cargo business. That led to a bottled water business and a medical centre.
Then launched ‘Chicking’ in 2000 at Dubai, UAE. It was developed with the idea of creating great tasting halal food in a quick service family-friendly environment. The current portfolio of the Al Bayan Group of companies comprises versatile business operations in both service and manufacturing industries that include healthcare, marine engineering, allied industries and fast food.
People are more health conscious than earlier. What is your USP?
We want to provide a healthy menu option for discerning customers. We are stressing our Halal factor. Halal is healthy and associated with hygiene. We want our food to be pure. Chicking always adapts to the changes in the market. We introduced Kerala’s simple porridge to the Western market. Now we get regular customers for porridge in the Western and Eastern markets.
We are introducing grilled chicken, charcoal chicken and peri-peri chicken to spice up the menu. Our diverse menu won’t disappoint our key patrons – the families. They are also a favourite among individuals who are looking for a tasty alternative to formulaic fast food. Chicking is one of the first fully Halal international quick-service restaurant (QSR) brands.
We focus not only on the sourcing and supply chain of food, but also on the entire end-to-end experience including overall hygiene and safety. Chicking serves fresh, great tasting food, using only the finest quality herbs and spices, carefully selected from around the world, and delivers them in a modern setting. It is this dedication to quality and world-class best practices that have catapulted Chicking into the hearts and taste buds of its ever-growing fan base. Chicking serves devoted customers around the world. Authentic American, mouth-watering Mexican and inspiring Indian.
What is your greatest achievement?
The brand vision of ‘Chicking’ from 2000 till date marking worldwide locations in every nook and corner and providing jobs to thousands of individuals from across the world and supporting their families is always inspiring me to do more business.
What was your turning point in life?
There was not such a single turning point. My business growth is a gradual progression. I never had a 90-degree or 180 degree turn to hit the jackpot. I believe in dedication and hard work. I am always committed to what I am doing. The rest is God’s blessings.
Any role model in business?
Malayalees Global Ambassador the Chairman of Lulu Group Our Yusuff Bhai. He is from my neighbouring village in Kerala, India. I always watch him with awe. A billionaire blessed with humility and compassion. There are many lessons to learn from Mr. Yusuff Ali. Especially his command over the languages and the way he mingles with rulers, ministers, diplomats and floor assistants.
You are involved in many community and charity programmes. Can you share the CSR activities of the Al Bayan group?
I believe it should be left private. As the old adage says, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.
UAE is celebrating 2018 as Year of Zayed. What is comment on UAE’s progress under Sheikh Zayed?
I am a beneficiary of the wise leadership and support of the rulers of the United Arab Emirates. Sheikh Zayed was a legend who united the Emirates to become a global power. I spend more years in the UAE, than in my motherland. I am grateful to this country and their rulers for their support to the expat community.
What is your advise to the new generation entrepreneurs?
You should always have a positive attitude towards your work to succeed and the same principle applies for business as well. Humility is quintessential for success. Hard work pays rich dividends. Be focussed and never let little aberrations dislodging you from the track.
A little bit about your family.
I am married to Sheeba. We have three children. Eldest Ahmed Mirzab is a business student in Australia. Daughters Mazbooba and Marwah are studying in the UAE.