The City Pharmacy Group recently celebrated its 30 years of operation in the country. Some of its businesses include the Stop N Shop supermarkets, Hardware Haus and City Pharmacy. The National’s Business Editor SHIRLEY MAULUDU spoke to CPL group chairman MAHESH PATEL regarding the operations in Papua New Guinea.
MAULUDU: Congratulations on City Pharmacy Limited’s 30 years of operation in Papua New Guinea. How did the company start?
PATEL: I first came to PNG in 1984 as a pharmacist for the Taurama Pharmacies.
In 1986, Steamships approached my employers to set up a pharmacy inside their department stores.
As the employers were not interested, I approached Steamships if they would consider my putting up a proposal.
They rejected the first two and we finally agreed the third time around.
We started the first store with four staff (now we have almost 3000 staff nationwide) on May 28, 1987, inside the newly-opened Stop N Shop at Garden City.
MAULUDU: Explain briefly about CPL and its operations.
PATEL: After the first store, we quickly opened the second one that November in the Steamships Town Plaza, then in Burns Philip in Boroko, in Andersons at Koki and finally in 1992, we went to the outstations.
In 2005, we acquired the supermarket (Stop n Shop) mainly to protect our original business and also to diversify the retail offerings with scale. In 2008, we acquired the Hardware Haus chain, and recently added joint-ventures with the Paradise Cinemas, Prouds Duty Free and Jacks of PNG.
MAULUDU: How would you describe CPL’s progress over the 30 years in PNG?
PATEL: It has been a great journey and for me personally, a great satisfaction to be able to in a small way contribute to the nation building – creating employment, enhancing women’s causes through the Pride of Papua New Guinea for women’s empowerment, various other community projects like financial literacy training in the settlements and sporting sponsorship, etc.
MAULUDU: What would be the greatest achievement for CPL as a company?
PATEL: We are very proud to be a home-grown Papua New Guinea company and become an integral part of the community across the whole nation.
MAULUDU: From CPL’s perspective, what is Papua New Guinea’s economic climate like now compared to 10, 20 years ago?
PATEL: We have seen cycles of ups and downs, but we always come out on the top.
We are in a down cycle now but I am confident that we will ride out of this situation in the coming years.
MAULUDU: How would you describe the level of competition in PNG within the sector(s) CPL is operating?
PATEL: Competition is increasing and I think this is good. It gives customers a choice and also keeps us on our toes. The key though is there needs to be that level playing field in ethical business. That is, paying the correct wages, taxes and following all the rules of the country.
MAULUDU: How challenging is PNG’s economy for a company like CPL to operate in?
PATEL: It is always challenging due to us being a developing nation. But I feel that where there is a challenge, we can find opportunities. We need to invest in our people in training, well-being and being conscious and part of the community around us.
MAULUDU: Where do you see CPL in the next five to 10 years?
PATEL: I would like to see us keep growing and take our retail offerings and services across the rural areas where there is lack of these.