In Conversation with CEO-KFC Pakistan, Raza Pirbhai

PM: From a kitchen assistant to the CEO of KFC Pakistan, tell us about your success story.

RP: It’s a long journey! I started out as a kitchen assistant at Pizza Hut abroad and then in Pakistan. I did all sorts of chores from cleaning tables to serving food and delivering pizza as well. After performing at so many levels and showing my extreme potential, looking back while being the CEO of KFC Pakistan makes it seem like a worthwhile journey. But the most interesting aspect is that I wanted to enjoy my work; I would listen to music, laugh and indulge my passion for food.

There are certain built-in characteristics and at times people don’t realize their true potential. What we need to do is bring that person out of ourselves and then pair it with that perfect job, which will bring you success. In my case, I knew what I wanted to do and that’s why I was able to enjoy my work and be passionate about it every day. Whichever position I was assigned to, I would be promoted within six months, because not only was everything passionately done but I also took ownership.

PM: We have witnessed KFC Pakistan revamp itself in the last four years, from brand publicity to newly designed stores, what was your role in this breakthrough?

RP: It wasn’t done by myself, but as a result of great teamwork. I helped in sketching out the strategy we had decided when I took over the management. The strategy revolved around three basic pillars: People, Operations and Marketing. Since the team was the first priority, I hand-picked the right kind of people, parted with the ones who weren’t a strategic fit and then set about establishing the right culture. Next, there were some fundamental gaps in our operations, which we corrected by going back to basics, following brand standards and staying true to our heritage.

We started to change the feel of our brand, starting with brick-and-mortar, remodeling and modernizing our assets for a world-class experience. Throughout this process, I was the architect, with a vision of what this brand could become. We started with diagnosing what was wrong with the brand, designing and proceeding with a game plan, all the while focusing on positioning the brand as
vibrant and youth-centric.

PM: What is your philosophy behind leading a successful organisation?

RP: My philosophy of leading people or an organisation is very democratic. In the initial years, the role was very central because I needed to build a team and rescue the brand, but now it’s different as every department has its own senior leadership and I am there to mentor or advise them when needed. My role now is to bring new aspirational challenges for the employees and sustain the growth curve.

PM: How do you manage the ongoing challenges and competition that KFC Pakistan faces?

RP: Alongside the recent economic situation and import restrictions, there are several other challenges and factors affecting competition. However, our biggest edge is our footprint, with 94 branches nationwide. Next is the experience we provide, from that unmatchable KFC taste to using only whole muscle and not freezer-to-fryer or processed products like our competition, paired with dedicated, trained staff and world-class restaurants. Another edge we have over our competition is our commitment to optimizing our operations using state-of-the-art technology.

While small businesses offer a certain level of competition, their impact is restricted to certain areas.Maintaining and providing consistency in the food business 365 days a year is no easy feat and that’s what keeps us ahead.

PM: Who do you see as your biggest competition?

RP: Anyone who sells fried chicken – regardless of their size, or which area they serve. Because of how well we’re doing, others have decided to enter the fried chicken industry as well. The key difference is that they sell freezer-to-fryer while we use only whole muscle, hand-breaded and freshly prepared in-house.

PM: Do you think that KFC has raised its mark according to international standards?

RP: KFC is one of the best-known brands worldwide and we follow all applicable international standards in achieving our goals. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that we’re 3 rd in the global growth chart and growing by double digits since the last five years, making us the fastest-growing franchise in Pakistan.

PM: Your Company has played a vital role in CSR activities; tell us about your projects?

RP: Placing one’s efforts under the term CSR makes it seem like a marketing tactic. For us, it’s always about believing in making a change in people’s lives and setting a purpose for the organization and the brand, which is where Mitao Bhook came into being.

We devised Mitao Bhook as a platform with three integral pillars – Inclusion, Diversity and
Education. To boost inclusion, we run the Deaf Reach KFC Campus, educating 200 deaf students annually, in conjunction with FESF, and DEWA KFC Campus, in conjunction with DEWA Trust, educating 1000 deaf students annually. Providing these students with equal opportunities, we have 225 deaf employees and 9 deaf-run restaurants.

Our commitment to diversity can be seen through our female employees and our completely female-run restaurant in Lahore. Another source of pride for us is our all-female fleet of 22 Dame Riders. The importance of education can’t be overstated, and besides FESF and DEWA Trust, we have adopted four TCF schools, which translates to 1000 students being educated annually and the CYTE Foundation, which educates 300 students annually. We also educate an additional 900 underprivileged students at the DEWA KFC Campus.

PM: What motivates you and keeps you up & running all the time?

RP: What motivates me is that I can do so much more and experience what life has to offer, all while helping to change people’s lives. This is a great feeling that keeps me going.

PM: If you could change your career to anything else, what would it be?
RP: I would surely not, but if I were to, then it would be fashion.

PM: Who is your biggest inspiration in life?
RP: My mother!

PM: How often do you eat KFC?
RP: Every chance I get.

PM: Any message that you would like to give to our readers?
RP: Follow your heart and it will lead you to the right decision and the right place, every time.