After graduating in politics and international relations, Sandeep was keen to pursue a career in retail. “I never fancied the idea of working for anyone else, I wanted the pride that comes with ownership and building your business,” he says. “All my cousins and my brother-in-law have c-stores and takeaways, so I’d grown up around it. Ever since I can remember I was helping Mum and Dad - at 10 I was in charge of the pick ‘n’ mix.”
He studied a masters in international management, which he describes as business management on a global scale, and wrote his dissertation on Tesco’s business strategy, covering how it is marketed and operated and its expansion.
With the backing of his family, he bought a disused pub in Faversham, on the other side of town from where his brother and sister-in-law run the family’s first store, Ospring Food and Wine. “I work closely with my brother. Our shops are so near to each other that we can share staff and stock.”
Stores: Simply Fresh, Faversham, Kent
Sandeep’s new store was the result of an initial £50,000 investment, which saw it transformed from pub to shop, followed by a further £100,000 shopfit, to kit out the 1,800sq ft store to the Simply Fresh spec with 16m of chillers and a smart off-licence section.
But even though his shop certainly looks the part, Sandeep is adamant that a good retailer never stops learning. “It’s important to learn from each stage - from mopping the floor to marketing, so that if something goes wrong you know why it went wrong.”
In order to pick up as many business tips as possible, Sandeep has attended several Association of Convenience Store events where he has befriended retailers such as Paul Cheema and Rav Garcha. “You have to keep evolving or you’ll lose any chance of competing with the big guys,” he says. “There’s not enough innovation in c-stores. They aren’t always evolving with trends and technology.
It’s a tough market, but if you get it right, you can be successful.”
He believes that the secret to a successful store is to ensure you look at the bigger picture and plan for the future. “It has to run like a proper business, rather than a lifestyle business - you’re not just living above the shop in a day-to-day rut. You need to be planning ahead to keep your business running.”
He is now working hard to ensure that the store builds a strong bond with its community and is currently planning a Faversham Market day where the store’s numerous local suppliers can sample their wares for local people.