In 1992, Asif identified a gap in the UK market in the baked goods sector, prompting him to launch Eurobuns – a baked goods company supplying high-street chains, which achieved a sales turnover of £50 million within a decade under Asif’s direction and supervision. Soon Eurobuns was the leading supplier in the UK and Europe. The success of Eurobuns is particularly remarkable considering that Asif’s vision was widely dismissed as unfeasible. He nevertheless forged ahead with it and has never looked back. “I didn’t have many believers to start with but I met a big businessman who said to me that it took him 10 years and he had no believers either. He said that it’s all about confidence and conviction in your belief. He said once you get passed the gestation period – every business has a gestation period and if you survive that – any business which is really bad will never get through that period.”
To launch a successful business, Asif emphasizes the need for self-belief, confidence and determination. “People need to have conviction in what they are doing. You need luck and you need God but at the end of the day you are going to get it right. It does happen,” asserts Asif.
The courage of his conviction in Eurobuns reaped manifest rewards and soon Asif dominated the baked goods market. “I became number one in the UK market. I was one of the top three bakeries in the UK and one of the top 10 in Europe. In my niche I was number one – in nine years I took the whole market.”
The Zuleikhabai Valy Mohammad Gany Rangoonwala Trust was founded by the late Mr. Mohamed Aly Rangoonwala (1924-1998) in the revered memory of his parents Zuleikhbai Abdur-Rehman and Valy Mohamed Gany Rangoonwala. Mr. M. A. Rangoonwala was a philanthropist, social worker, industrialist and a prominent business personality of South Asia and Europe. He firmly believed in free trade, fair competition and the responsibility of fortunate individuals to alleviate poverty and to raise the standard of living of the less fortunate.
The Rangoonwala Group is affiliated with the Zuleikhabai V. M. Gany Rangoonwala Trust founded in 1967 as a public charitable Trust running vocational training centers, study centers, libraries and schools in Pakistan besides contributing significantly towards health, social welfare and educational projects all over Pakistan. The Trust is a donor organization specializing in multi-resource community centers for public use as well as donor support for health and social welfare initiatives besides special education, cultural programmes and publications. The Trust oversees the V. M. Art Gallery, a non profit center for the promotion of visual arts and the Zuleikha Auditorium for performing arts and cultural events. In addition the Trust operates the V. M. Public School and provides assistance for higher education.
But in spite of his tremendous and unexpected triumph with Eurobuns, Asif remains refreshingly humble, deflecting credit away from himself and attributing his success to God and the invaluable lessons he learnt from his father, “I found a gap, I was extremely lucky, God was very kind to me. My success is due to my father’s education and the blessings of my parents. Negativity is no good in anything, that is why I am an extremely positive person.”
Asif has also achieved great success with his property fund dedicated to student housing. Asif’s prescience is evidenced by the fact that in today’s recessionary economy, student housing is described as the best defensive stock. “The Financial Times describes the student housing sector as going back to business basics,” says Asif. “That’s what business is all about: it’s about earning an income, it’s about improving on yields, it’s about cutting on costs. In today’s market I am still making 6.5-7% on money employed and there are very few businesses out there doing that on a steady basis. It’s a conservative defensive stock.”
Asif’s latest passion is powerboat racing, more specifically: to launch powerboat racing – the Powerboat P1 World Championship on a level comparable to Formula 1. He intends to make the P1 Powerboat Championship the definitive racing series, providing the industry with a showcase for their boats, engines, drives and goods and services, which make up the powerboating industry.
This would provide an ideal marketing platform for some of the world’s biggest brands as well as emerging technologies. Moreover, Asif plans to establish the P1 series a spectacular experience both on and off the water, combining sportsmanship and skill with entertainment and festivities. Though on the water, P1 ensures spectator excitement as the races are set close to the shore, offering an alternative to the rarefied glamour of Formula 1.
“It’s the challenge of the business model, I just love the concept. It’s not rocket science –it’s about hard work and building, explains Asif. He elaborates on the challenges currently faced by the industry, “The problem with this industry is that it is top-down and not bottom-up. Right now it’s the play of a few people at the top, that doesn’t work, you’ve got to build from the bottom. That means going back to the level of yacht clubs, marinas and having races on a local regional base, then you go on a national base, then you come to the P1 level which is the world championship. Right now that doesn’t exist so it means clawing back and getting on board a strategic investor who can see the same vision.”
He highlights the benefits the revenues generated can have for marine conservation and research and development: “The marine industry is valued at about $1 trillion a year. What are they doing for it? Today most of the development in the car industry has come from Formula 1. What are they doing about marine technology? Nothing.”
“The Powerboat Pl championship was founded back in 2003 with the very simple objective of creating a racing series that would provide the industry with a showcase for their boats, engines and drives, as well as all the related parts, goods and services that go to make up the world of powerboating.
As our series has grown, we have attracted some of the biggest names in the industry — Ilmor, Mercury, Fiat, Fountain, Cigarette, Outerlimits and Hustler, to name but a few. In 2008, the Powerboat Pl championship provides a marketing platform for some of the biggest and best-known brands in the world and smaller independent operations, as well as offering a platform for new brands and emerging technologies.
A year ago a new management team was appointed to run the series, which I have the pleasure of leading. Our philosophy is simple – to create a world-class experience, both on and off the water.
On the water, we provide our teams with a clear, unambiguous and transparent racing environment, where openness and fair play prevail. Our unique power-to-weight ratio —backed up by pre-season dyno testing of engines from all boats, onboard data-logging and rigorous application of sporting and technical rules — means that teams and manufacturers can invest in Powerboat Pl with the peace of mind that they are entering a fair fight.
Off the water, we offer a very high standard of entertainment for the public and for our VIP hospitality guests. We have invested significantly in increasing the level of our guest experience, and we are hosting more and more clients from across a spectrum of industries as they seek new client entertainment opportunities.”
Chairman Powerboat P1
His father’s commitment to charity is deeply entrenched within him and through the Rangoonwala Foundation, Asif and his siblings ensure that their father’s charitable legacy is fulfilled. “My father said that for a rich man to give his money to charity is easy, you need to give your time,” says Asif. He is Chairman of the Rangoonwala Foundation which works across the globe to provide medical facilities, vocational training and libraries to marginalized communities.
With Asif, there is no room for ad hocism; he pumps rigour and resources into his philanthropy. “There is a statistic that Pakistanis spend between $1.2 to $2 billion a year in charity, it’s a huge number. But they are not creating the institutions – that shows you what a big cash economy you have. It’s a question of creating systems, ending ad hocism and introducing structured systems.” Rather than viewing his charity work as an act of arbitrary benevolence, Asif regards it as a responsibility and a duty.
In Pakistan alone, the ZVM Rangoonwala Foundation educates about 160,000 women a year in vocational training. He is currently working with St. Patrick’s school to establish a teacher-training centre. “In Pakistan we lack intellectuals and educated people,” laments Asif.
Asif is the first South Asian Governor of the Thomas Coram, the largest and oldest orphanage in the UK. He is also a fellow of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and a trustee of the Whitefield Development Trust. His responsibility to do more continuously weighs on his mind and despite his huge efforts and projects, he repeatedly emphasizes that he has not done enough in the field of philanthropy. The exacting standards instilled by his father, particularly with regard to charity are clear.
When he’s not working, Asif likes to spend time with his family. An ideal night out for Asif is driving to Hendon with his wife and three children to have paan and kulfi. “I spend most of my time in my office, I work extremely hard,” says Asif. He also enjoys watching sports on television and though he isn’t a big reader, he does have a few favourite authors, “I have read every single Robert Ludlum book ever written and every Louis L’amour.”
Despite his tremendous success, Asif remains refreshingly modest and down to earth. He attributes this to the values instilled within him by his father who still remains the pervasive influence in his life. “I think success has got to do with humility and being a good person. I think that is one of the most important lessons my father taught me.”