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Inside The Empire of Britain’s Chicken King:
Ranjit Singh Boparan





His soft West Midlands accent betrays the fact that Ranjit Singh Boparan has not ventured far from his roots during a career in food. But in business terms he has travelled miles.

The entrepreneur, who left school at 16 with few qualifications and spent his early working life toiling in a local butcher’s shop, founded ‘2 Sisters Food Group’ in West Bromwich in 1993 with a bank loan, and has since grown the firm into the UK’s second largest food business by turnover.

He and his wife, Baljinder Kaur, have made an estimated £544 million, according to the Sunday Times rich list, while maintaining many of the core chicken operations around his old West Midlands base.

The empire created by 51-year-old Ranjit Singh, known as the “Chicken King”, employs 23,000 people and supplies the major supermarkets. The founder says this growth has been built on a daily focus on working “tirelessly to produce good quality, safe food at an affordable price”.

Apart from chicken, the acquisitive Ranjit Singh has also swallowed the turkey producer Bernard Matthews, Fox’s Biscuits, Goodfella’s pizza and Matthew Walker, the world’s oldest Christmas pudding maker – as well as the restaurant chains Harry Ramsden, FishWorks, Giraffe and the Cinnamon Collection.

Such a sprawling empire – owned via a variety of different vehicles – has propelled him into the business elite and attracted some star names to sit on his board.

2 Sisters’ parent company – Boparan Holdings – is chaired by Lord Allen, the former chief executive of Granada and ITV, as well as a one-time non-executive director of Tesco.

Lady Neville-Rolfe, another former Tesco board member, who was commercial secretary to the Treasury until the summer, also served as a director of the company, while the former Sainsbury’s boss Justin King was an adviser.

A more secretive businessman than Ranjit Singh would be hard to find.

He insists on a low public profile and “doesn’t do interviews with the media”, as one adviser put it bluntly to the Observer six years ago when the entrepreneur was acquiring Northern Foods.

However, there have been some public statements.

In a rare appearance when collecting an honorary degree in 2015 from Nottingham Trent University, which lauded him for steering his business “into the vanguard of food safety”, Ranjit Singh outlined his business philosophy. It included soundbites on how you should treat “work as a hobby”, but “of course get paid loads of money doing it” and how “if you keep doing the same thing you’ll get the same results”.

He added: “Work isn’t work. It’s fulfilling a dream. It’s making a difference. Work is a journey. Every day we face challenges. You will learn something every day.

“Adapting to change is crucial. The world is moving at a fast pace. Never stop listening. Never stop learning. Set stretching goals. Reach for the sky. In life there are two types of individuals. There are book readers and there are book writers. There are 99% of us who read books. There is only 1% of us who write books. Be the book writer.”

The company’s own books show it turned over £3.1 billion in its most recent full year, making an operating profit of £90.5 million.

After taking into account exceptional items, interest and tax, that skinny profit turned into a loss of £1.4 million, all of which illustrates how tight the margins can be when your main customers are the major supermarkets.

[Courtesy: The Guardian. Edited for]
September 30, 2017

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