Meet the Member: Indus Foods

Some people just have it in their blood to help others. An innate need to support and develop people so they can reach their full potential. Amir Chaudhary is one of those.

Within minutes of Wholesale News meeting Indus Foods’ Director of Operations at his business in Birmingham, he starts enthusing about the importance of self-improvement. Not just his own – or even Indus Foods’ – but within the entire wholesale industry.

“I’ve grown up in a family where opportunities for those who don’t have them and helping to provide them is incredibly important,” Chaudhary says.

“We have our own charity that’s aligned to the business and my father is very passionate about educating people, and that has rubbed off on me.”

Fuelled by that motivation, Chaudhary seized the opportunity to represent small wholesalers on FWD’s council, with one of his first actions to get behind a pilot for a national scheme to get more apprenticeships with wholesalers across the country. The ultimate aim is to inspire more young people to consider a career in wholesale.

The knock-on effect is that by making the sector more appealing to younger age groups, they’ll bring a host of skills to help wholesalers manoeuvre more seamlessly into an increasingly technological era. A win–win for both sides.

“We hope to put students on a week’s rotation with a wholesaler, so they’ll get to spend time with a key decision maker in each department and get to see what a mid-point in their career would look like and the decisions they’d influence in a wholesale business,” explains Chaudhary.

“We’re capping that off with time spent alongside a senior executive and the impact you can have on the top end of your career – not just on this business, but on the market and this industry. Wholesale is more than just markets and box shifting, and has a wide range of challenges that represent a significant part of the economy.

“Through the scheme, we’re building a good set of interactions with the education sector, so we can bring the next generation of wholesalers into the industry. Those people coming through have data, social media and technology embedded into the culture of growing up, while we’re adapting business practices to something new. But as long as recruitment of the next generation is good, we’ll naturally see those challenges resolve themselves.”

Chaudhary understands the need to adapt more than most. Although the 36-year-old only officially joined Indus Foods in 2011 – after a decade working as a management consultant at a FTSE100 company in London – Chaudhary has lived and breathed every step of the company’s journey.

Originally started as a small greengrocer in 1962 by Chaudhary’s grandparents, the family business has shimmied and dodged several of the challenges thrown at it over the past five decades to not just survive, but build on its reputation in Britain’s second city.

The Chaudharys recognised a growing demand for more availability and quality in the ethnic food sector and opened a wholesale arm in 1975. As the market changed throughout the ‘90s, it was that side of the business that flourished, while the growing influence of the multiples on the nation’s retail market meant the founding store closed its doors.

Now a popular foodservice business, specialising in ethnic products, and retail distributor, Indus Foods has a hub that spans two neighbouring warehouses in the heart of Birmingham. Although the business is still moving with the times and in the same considered way it always has.

“We’re in the process of launching an app, which will hopefully be live later this year,” Chaudhary reveals.

“One of the big challenges that face wholesalers [when they launch apps] today is data. As an organisation, we benefit from having somebody like me who’s worked in technology elsewhere for a decade, but there aren’t many wholesalers who have the expertise in-house.

“When you launch a new piece of technology, having the right data in place is incredibly important. That goes beyond wholesalers to food manufacturers and suppliers to make sure there’s a consistent set of data through the wholesale channel, but again that comes down to getting the right people in place to do that.”

Sitting at the centre of Chaudhary’s plan to take Indus Foods to the next level is, not surprisingly, helping others grow too.

While Indus Foods prides itself on keeping a close eye on the latest ethnic food trends, the team knows that to deliver quality and authenticity to its customers, it relies on the standard of the manufacturers and brands supplying them. But rather than sitting back to let that happen by its own accord, Chaudhary is taking a proactive role in helping smaller businesses – both wholesalers and suppliers – to become fit for purpose.

“We see ourselves as a vital piece of the jigsaw to move the industry forward,” he adds. “We have a heritage and pedigree that goes back decades, and we’re leveraging that to make sure the new entrepreneurs and brands in the marketplace have the support to ensure wholesale continues.

“I hope our next stage is becoming a central point of expertise in foodservice and we’d like to be almost like a growth hub for other brands – that’s where the future is for us, not just as a transactional depot.

“We will always encourage new opportunities and ventures, even if we don’t directly benefit financially. But if we know the market will benefit from it, then we’re happy, because that’s incredibly important.”

Just as having a selfless attitude and bigger-picture view similar to Chaudhary’s is to beckoning in wholesale’s new era.

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