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Exclusive: Asian family business winner shares growth secrets

Family companies were brought to the fore on Friday when the winners of the UK's Eastern Eye Asian Business Awards 2010 were announced. One of the big winners was the Lalani family, owners of 99p Stores Ltd, who scooped the Asian Business Enterprise Award.

Second-generation commercial director Hussein Lalani spoke exclusively to www.campdenFB.com editor Marc Smith about how the family has transformed their business from a start-up in 2001 into a £250 million enterprise today.

"The family founded it together. My father has a long history of managing retail outlets so when we came up with the 99p Stores idea, my brother and I said we could do the buying if he gave us guidance in opening and running stores," said Hussein, whose brother Faisal is the company's buying director.

The idea was simple – source products, ranging from household goods to groceries, with the highest margin potential and sell them for less than £1. The Lalanis opened four stores in their first year but aim to have 200 by the end of this year with a turnover exceeding £300million.

Hussein is clear that part of their success is also down to his father's guidance. "Thanks to his experience, he has given us the confidence to believe we can grow quickly – something other start-ups may have been reticent to do," he said.

The Lalanis have also been quick to welcome outside investors onboard to aid their expansion plans. In 2005, they sold roughly 25% of their business to Barclays Ventures, but Hussein says it wasn't the funding that was the dealmaker.

"It was the credibility of having a name like Barclays supporting us that really helped us in the early years when it was difficult to get landlords to give us their sites. Being able to say that Barclays Ventures is a shareholder and believes in what we do was helpful as people took us more seriously," explained Hussein.

While some families prefer to keep total control of their businesses, Hussein believes the family business world is evolving and looking at any financing opportunity. "If you want to achieve fast growth you do need outside investment, so you need to look at every opportunity to grow your business," he said.

Reports in the UK media last year suggested that the family is already thinking about selling up or preparing for an IPO, but Hussein is less certain. "Right now we are focusing on growth but we are not ruling anything out," he said.

Picture, left to right: Nina Wadia, award presenter, Sadiq Khan MP, Lalani brothers, winners, Ramniklal Solanki CBE, Asian Media & Marketing Group

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