Abdul Alimahomed first got the idea for his business when he visited Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park, London, as a newly arrived immigrant from Malawi. He was amazed by the number of people carrying bags of all types and decided this was the market in which to launch himself. In 1977 he began selling bags to corner shops and newsagents from the back of a £500 van. Birmingham-based Euro Packaging now produces more than 30 tonnes of paper bags every day, together with plastic carrier bags, bin liners and transparent plastic bags for supermarkets. Appearing for the second time on the Profit Track 100, the company has seen profits increase 105% a year, from £2m in 1996 to £17.2m in 1999, when sales reached £84.3m. Group finance director Rafiq Nawab attributes the company’s impressive performance to innovation and bold strategies for containing costs. When it wanted to cut wastage of bags for supermarket clients, for example, it took on a group of design students on a trial basis. “They had to solve the problem of customers at checkouts pulling out several bags at a time,” says Nawab. “They came up with the ‘pinch-pull’ system, which ensures that customers only take one bag at a time. It cut wastage by up to 60%, a major saving for our customers. We gave them all full-time jobs.” The company has now built an £8m state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in Malaysia to take advantage of cheap materials and labour costs. And in April 1999 it purchased a long-established UK plastic bag manufacturer Ridley Quiney. Euro Packaging now exports to France, Denmark, America and Scandinavian countries, and expects to derive its growth over the next few years from foreign markets.
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