As a major importer and distributor of products from the Philippines, what is Shankar Trading’s role in the Philippine FMCG [fast-moving consumer goods] market in the UAE? From the early nineties we saw potential in ethnic food ranges in the UAE and consequently decided to serve the best of Asia as each nationality sought their own taste. We focused on Philippine products and initially introduced few brands. We have gradually developed more than 1,000 products, manufactured by the top 25 food manufacturers in the Philippines, and represent them as the exclusive distributor of the UAE. Over time, we have expanded the range to become more mainstream and successfully cater to multi-nationalities, not only in surrounding products but also in cold chain products. At the same time, to respect the sentiments of consumers, we have convinced our principals to develop a halal range for the Middle Eastern market, and we have proudly launched many products over the past few years and will continue to do so in the future. Apart from the above, we have now also started to develop an H&B [health and beauty] series, as our vision is to meet the needs of the Philippine community and make them feel that the UAE is their second home. Can you please inform us about your main product categories, brands and customers represented in the region? As of today, we represent many companies in all product categories and do business with major well-known companies such as Century Pacific, Universal Robina, Unilever, Rebisco, CDO, San Miguel, MY San, Nutri Asia and RFM. We distribute brands such as Century, Argentina, 555, Swift, Jack N Jill, Nissin, Great Taste, Lady Choice, Knorr, Ding Dong, Magnolia, Skyflakes, Datu Puti, UFC, Royal, White King and more. We also have our own range of products called SIBLINGS. Following the growing demand among active adults, who strive to live a healthy lifestyle but may not know where to start or struggle to maintain it, we are also proudly launching 100 percent plant-based onMEAT branded products and Birch Tree probiotics milk drinks in the UAE. In addition, our company exclusively distributes India’s number one snack brand, Haldiram’s. Our impeccable supply chain industry operates through several distribution channels, including modern trade, general trade, HORECA and re-export. The full range of products is widely available at all major retailers in the UAE, including cooperatives, convenience stores and online platforms.
Please share your business journey and how the business has grown and developed since then? Shankar Trading Company LLC started in 1985 in the food wholesale market in Al Ras. Since then, the group has grown organically into a diversified business house under the banner of The Giant Group, with an interest in wholesale, distribution, retail and the manufacture of consumer goods. We are focused on the FMCG food business and have developed a range of products to cater to consumers. We have different distribution channels of our latest HACCP-certified logistics facility, equipped with modern technologies for direct distribution of products to more than 6,200 stores and with an indirect reach of more than 3000 stores by subdivision. Did you as Covid-19 have to overcome specific challenges as a business? Economies worldwide face unprecedented challenges and uncertainty due to unexpected pandemics, but we have handled this difficult time well in an organized manner. We have fulfilled our obligations to communities and served the products at the right time to prevent panic among consumers, while maintaining high safety standards and adhering to COVID protocols. The cost of operations has risen drastically, but it is a time to sacrifice margins and meet the demand of society instead of thinking about profitability. We are also committed to the well-being of staff and prioritize their well-being and job security. How important is CSR to Shankar Trading Company’s philosophy? For our company, CSR is critical and we feel that it should be so for every business. The main reason for this is that it helps a lot to uplift less privileged sections of society and gives them tremendous motivation to believe in the goodness of the world around them. We are an active member of the UAE Food Bank and during the pandemic we work hand in hand with OWWA Dubai (Consulate of the Philippines) and offer food packages at subsidized cost to emergency Philippines in the UAE with free logistical arrangements.