Managing director of Sheik Lisha Ltd, Churchill Azad Akaloo receives the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA) award for Medium Manufacturer of the Year 2021, from Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon, at the TTMA’s awards function which was held early last month at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
OPERATING a manufacturing business, especially in a pandemic, is not an easy task, but Churchill Azad Akaloo, managing director Sheik Lisha Ltd, is ensuring his business is adapting to the changes.
Just last month, the company, located on Southern Main Road, Cunupia, was awarded the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA) Medium Manufacturer of the Year 2021.
In an interview with Express Business on Friday, Akaloo said the family business has come a long way over the past 68 years and has required a lot of dedication, patience and faith throughout the challenging years, making them a valuable member of the TTMA and the Supermarket Association of T&T.
“I believe what makes this company stand out is the continued trustworthiness of quality, consistency and effectiveness throughout the years; the drive to continue doing more to improve, not only for ourselves, but in both the local and regional community,” he said.
Today, the company is one of the largest manufacturers and suppliers of paper bags in white and brown (plain/printed/handle); plastic bags (plain/printed/coloured/handle), printed promotional advertising banners, garbage bags, polyethylene construction film, and grease-proof paper. Sheik Lisha also produces parched parsad flour, pasta products (penne/elbow/twist/spaghetti), parched and unparched vermicelli, split pea powder and has recently added all-purpose and whole-wheat flour to its current product listing.
Calls for removal of duty
Akaloo is reiterating his call for Government to look at customs duties on flour.
He noted that 25 per cent duty on an essential item such as flour and also Value-Added Tax (VAT) on their imported paper for making paper bags was unsustainable in the long-term.
The businessman is also hoping to reach some sort of compromise whether such high taxes could be reduced, subsidised or eliminated completely for the benefit of consumers.
“The Ukraine-Russia crisis was causing delays in shipping, which could affect the supply of flour products locally as they are importers from Turkey. One reason for this is because their flour is of a higher grade and does not contain bromate, a carcinogenic additive banned in Europe. Our company wonders why they have not received exemptions on import duties to maintain their operations within an affordable range,” he stressed.
Asked whether Sheik Lisha Limited is going to decrease its flour prices, following the announcements last week by its competitors Nutrimix and National Flour Mills (NFM) of lowering prices on the commodity till the end of 2022, Akaloo said the company would be keeping its same prices, as its flour is of a higher quality.
The prices at the supermarkets for Sheik Lisha flour are as follows: two kilogramme (kg) is $16.60, while ten in bale is $166. The 10kg bag is priced at $80, and whole wheat sells at $147 for eight in bale, while one bag is $18.38 for two kilogrammes.
On Friday, flour manufacturer Nutrimix announced a nine-per cent savings for customers on a selected range of Country Pride flour products until the end of 2022.
When the Express Business contacted majority State-owned, National Flour Mills, on whether it would match or exceed Nutrimix nine per cent flour price reduction, the company’s CEO, Ian Mitchell, said: “We have already started to introduce price promotions and reductions that have afforded our customers more favourable pricing at groceries and supermarkets across the country. In some cases it is better than nine per cent.”
Mitchell said the brands targeted are Ibis, its best-selling product, as well as its value brand, Hibiscus.
Surviving the pandemic
The effects of the pandemic have been wide-ranging and corporations like Sheik Lisha Ltd have not been spared the adverse effects, the businessman said.
Apart from customers not paying their debts in a timely manner, Akaloo also lamented the shortage of foreign exchange. However he thanked his banking affiliates and singled out EximBank for high praise in maintaining the liquidity necessary to keep the business running during these challenging times. Thankfully, he said, the manufacturing company has been able to maintain its staff and even increase the number of employees, while preserving the quality and prices that customers have come to expect.
Their current export markets include Guyana, Antigua, St Lucia, Grenada, Suriname, Dominica, Jamaica, Bahamas, Belize and St Kitts-Nevis, among others. As a custom manufacturer, Sheik Lisha offers a wide variety of products to suit almost all customer needs in different market areas such as supermarkets, hardwares, laundries, pharmacies, general stores, food businesses, agriculture, etc.
Plans to expand
With respect to expanding, the businessman said the company has been growing gradually over the years, and this includes the purchase of new assets, expansion of its warehouses, increasing employment, increasing advertising, entering new markets and providing new products or services.
A family-owned business, Sheik Lisha Ltd was established in T&T in 1953 by Ishmael and Sahidan Akaloo.
The company started as a sole trader business, manufacturing vermicelli, split peas powder and curry powder.
Churchill Azad Akaloo, the only son of Ishmael and Sahidan, now heads the company. Akaloo’s vision for the company is clear and he aims to achieve it through hard work, dedication, humility and staying in tune with new developments in the industry.
With the assistance of his wife Kulsum Sona Akaloo, and their children Shazad, Feraz, Alisha and Shairaz, he has led the company to become one of the leading manufacturers and distributors in T&T, serving the Caribbean, North America and Canada.
Over the last 68 years, the company has expanded to over 100,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehousing capabilities, extended its product range and made significant investments in the paper and plastic bag manufacturing sector.
In recognition of his contribution to the Business Sector and for Community Service, Akaloo was awarded “President’s Corporate Social Responsibility Award” in 2018 and the “Distributor of the Year Award” in both 2018 and 2019 from the Supermarket Association of T&T.
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