Harwant Singh Sahni

A Steady Rise to the Top : Harwant Singh Sahni

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Harwant Singh Sahni

Chairman | HK Enterprises

As the Founder and Chairman of the HK Group, Harwant Singh Sahni has crafted an industry reputation for his diligent contributions to the FMCG industry in the UAE. The enterprise distributes over 100 brands through three focused verticals – HK Frozen, HK Gourmet and HK Amar. The group is now synonymous with premium-quality frozen and non-frozen food products that are imported on a global scale.

His positive attitude and steady choices have elevated the company to the pinnacle it occupies today, as a leader in the local food services industry. The enterprise has gone from strength to strength by investing in its facilities and logistics over the past 40 years. Joined by his two sons over the past decade and a half, the HK Group has already ventured into international markets as a redistributor and currently caters to over 3,000 outlets, apart from clients in the HoReCa, with a special focus on restaurants, ship chandlering and hospital industries, apart from government projects.

The true dawn for HK Enterprises begins with the first stop in Sahni’s transnational professional journey; Germany. He completed his MBA at the tender young age of 19, took up a post in a German company that offered practical training in a myriad of departments and excelled well enough to return to Tehran after two years in Germany as the General Manager for the company’s Iranian chapter.

Harwant Singh Sahni Success Story

However, deterred by the 1979 revolution in the capital, the company decided to close down in Iran and chose to hand over the office to their talented and hard-working representative, Sahni. Undaunted and skilled at manoeuvring in his childhood home, Sahni tended to the firm well for 4 years, before the steady stream of business slowed down to a trickle. Unafraid of challenge or change, he decided to look for new avenues of business, leading his sharply attuned senses to a metropolis that was churning out dreams and success stories due to explosive growth and development – Dubai. 

A Golden Start 

Sahni ventured into the City of Gold in 1982 and founded the company that would go on to become the HK Group in 1984. He began his rise to the top of the regional FMCG industry as an importer of Irish beef and lamb from New Zealand. He managed the business with utter devotion and yielded results in 1987 when it expanded into the frozen foodstuff sector with a small cold store in Karama supported by 4 employees.

Since then, the industrialist has never looked back. He has guided the enterprise through a spate of stellar successes that have impacted and cultivated clients in a range of fields. Sahni was tending to the future of the company on two fronts at that time; by adapting to market requirements, and by keeping an eagle eye on the market to spot the best time for expansion. Fast forward to the year 2000, when, bolstered by the success of the new venture, the firm branched out into dry foods with the opening of a dry division.

Supplemented in 2003 by a state-of-the-art facility in Al Quoz, it has grown into a mammoth importer of high-quality dry foods such as milk powder, rice, a variety of cheeses and pasta that it delivers to clients across the HoReCa, ship chandlering, catering, retail, restaurants and hospital industries, among others. Its spectacular growth has now seen it being rebranded into HK Gourmet and encouraged the Group to venture into tableware – adding disposable utensils and napkins to its roster.

Building on a Powerful Foundation

Empowered by two decades of forging connections and success in the local market, Sahni strategically doubled down on the frozen foodstuff trade and redistribution after on boarding multiple major Brazilian brands. The year 2010 saw the company invest in a 4,000 metric tonne cold storage facility in Dubai Industrial Park.

This proved to be the seed of something greater, as HK Group then exploded into the poultry and beef import scene in a big way, offering the best of USA, Brazilian, European and Australian poultry imports to the region. Driven to connect directly with the market through its own offerings, the company then launched its brand of imports. Sahni’s meticulous nature reveals itself in the detailed attention paid to the product and packaging quality, with only select, vetted factories that pass internal quality audits handpicked for the venture.

Created with global expansion in mind, the FMCG brand offers high-quality cooking oils, rice, frozen products, canned food products, pulses, rice, cheeses and spices and boasts multiple B2B clients within the HoReCa industry.

Professionally Conquering the Pandemic 

Fast forward to today, and a noticeable aspect of Sahni’s stewardship of the Group is the sheer resolve of his persona stamped into its evolution. The Sahni men were completely unfazed by the global pandemic that was wreaking havoc on enterprises worldwide.

Rather, they transformed the year 2020 into a groundbreaking moment in the company’s history by breaking into international markets with Sahni Foods UK Ltd. Based in the UK, this arm offers ethically traded meat supported by a well-trained logistics team and its own fleet of specialized vehicles. 

Investing in Success

Not one to rest on their laurels, Sahni’s conscientious approach has translated to refining their established business in Dubai onto steadier ground. Their original powerhouse, the frozen foods division, has been moved into a sophisticated and modern facility.

Located in Dubai Industrial City, the futuristic space occupies 300,000 sq ft and pushes the enterprise’s count t o over 30,000 palettes worth of goods that it delivers using its own fleet of over 100 vehicles.

The Spirited Rise 

Through Sahni and his sons’ efforts, the HK Group has shed its humble origins to rise to the very top of the FMCG industry, where it occupies a sizable share of the burgeoning HoReCa industry and market. What originally started as a protein distribution company has expanded into the whole basket of foodstuffs that deliver a full range of solutions to the food service industry.

It has garnered a reputation for its premium quality product sourcing over the past 4 decades and brings a vast range of over 300 items into the UAE market. Sahni has been blessed with two sons who have helped the HK Group to grow and be considered an essential ingredient in the food service industry and landscape.

Sourced from around the world and stored in 6 spotless facilities, residents can find their products at a whopping 3,000 outlets, apart from various hotels, QSR and stand-alone restaurants, and institutional catering companies. It also caters to the government through contracts across the UAE. From a bird’s eye perspective and up close, the H K Group has built strong foundations in the country and is set to replicate its success worldwide.

Rooted Internationally 

The maestro of the local food industry has been shaped heavily by his family, whose history is an eventful one. Hailing from a region in undivided India that is today Pakistan, the family moved to Iran after the calamitous partition that painfully cleaved a nation in two.

Having lost everything, they made their way to the Baluchistani city of Zahedan, which borders Pakistan and Afghanistan, where Sahni’s father met and married his mother. This significant geographical shift would go on to influence the future generations of Sahnis and their approach to the world on an educational, professional and residential level. Sahni and his siblings were all born in Zahedan, and his father worked hard to cultivate a good life for his growing family.

He was still a young child of 4 when the family moved to the Iranian capital of Tehran for easier access to quality education. His father started an auto parts business and built it up through his industriousness and determination. The regular exposure to these qualities embedded them deeply into Sahni and his siblings’ personas; as evident in their incredible successes today. Their lives are a testimony to his parents’ unflagging resolve and hard work.

The industrialist was also influenced by Makhan Singh Ji, who shaped him to be the proud Sikh he is today, despite his diasporic upbringing. An international family through and through, the Sahnis of today have set up bases across the world, with Sahni’s brother and two sisters living and working in the US. His brother; Dr KS Sahni is one of the leading neurosurgeons in the world, and heads the largest private gamma knife center in America. Meanwhile, the businessman himself chose a slightly varied path that ended with him settling in Dubai.  

Home is Where the Heart Is

Perhaps It Is because the extended Sahni family live on a range of continents that they foster such heartfelt connections and bonds with one another. Sahni’s home in Dubai is peopled by 3 generations of the Sahnis; starting with his parents, his wife and himself, followed by his talented sons and their partners. Sahni waxes eloquent about his loving wife.

In his own words, “The popular saying is true. Behind every successful man is a woman. I owe a lot to my wife.” The tycoon married her at 25, and had their daughter within a year, with his sons joining the family later. Driven to provide his growing family with the best of everything, he worked long, 18-hour days. However, his wife was a supreme source of comfort and the perfect partner for the industrious businessman he was becoming.

Tirelessly managing their children and the household, they worked in tandem to create the dynasty that emerges today. Her devotion to God and family have reaped rewards in the massive success that the HK Group has reached over the years. An often observed overarching theme within the family dynamic is respect and appreciation. Sahni is quick to credit his beloved parents for the hard work and effort they poured into raising him and acknowledge his sons’ contributions to the business.

An immensely proud parent. He commends their fresh, current approach to the company and attributes the rapid expansions HK Group has undertaken to their input. An even prouder grandparent. He has already begun to instill a passion for his industry in his two grandsons.

Resounding Acts of Goodness

Sahni’s philanthrophic mindset was inherited from his beloved father, who was without a doubt a man of empathy. For many years he ran a clinic in Dubai that treated patients and dispensed medicine free of cost. He provided more than SD,000 people with free healthcare over the course of his life.

This genuine kindness captured the hearts of many and contributions began pouring in. Upon its closing, he diverted some of the leftover funds towards the purchase of a flat that he donated to the gurudwara. Having learnt communal living and supporting those within it at his father’s knee, the group under Sahni’s leadership has engaged in the proud practice of empowering women by providing access to skilled trade workshops.

It fosters independence and talent  by funding scholarships for underprivileged girls in Punjab at the Baru Sahib Akal Academy. It sponsors 3 girls every year up to the completion of their schooling. While it is a Sikh institution, the Academy does not discriminate in its aid based on creed and has uplifted generations of women over the years.

The tycoon’s choices speak volumes about his firm belief that women are the future. Another noteworthy initiative that HK Enterprises organises is its annual blood donation camp. Deeply connected to the Sikh community, his benevolent mindset reveals itself in how he perceives the younger generation of Sikhs.

He admires their devotion to Guru Nanak’s teaching and is proud of the impact they have in maintaining the traditions and beliefs that have held them in good stead to this day. He and his wife were careful to share their values with their children, stemming from a heartfelt belief that a parent’s duty does not end at simply raising and educating the children, but also in forging them into decent human beings. 

Eye On The Horizon

In his humble way, the entrepreneur points out the importance of a great team to truly grow any business. The HK Group staff boasts of professionals from across cultures and countries whose hard work is wholeheartedly cherished by Sahni.

As he puts it, “Their blessings have brought me up to where I am today.” A truly humble man, his ascension to the very top of the business corridors in the Middle East stems from his industrious actions based on his shrewd understanding of the world and his markets. It comes as no surprise that an enterprise with such driven, enthusiastic leaders at its helm is poised to expand across seas further.