Hussain took over Pak Supermarket when he was still in his teens. “My family owned a small grocery store on the Lozells Road in Birmingham,” he says. “My father decided to go back to Pakistan for a three-month break. He ended up staying there for seven years! And I was left in charge.”
Hussain rose to the challenge, building up the business and opening up a second grocery store down the road, leasing the property and borrowing £90k from Barclays to fund the expansion.
But then the Handsworth riots hit. Sparked by racial tension and community discontentment, hundreds of people took to the streets in September 1985 attacking police and property, looting stores and setting off fire bombs. “People were too afraid to come to the area for weeks after that,” recalls Hussain. “We got to the stage where we were making £20 a day. Barclays became wary and pulled funding, so we turned to NatWest. We’ve been banking with them ever since.”
Hussain has built up a brand in one of the most deprived, troubled areas in the country and has added another four stores to the chain – all of them freehold properties – culminating in the 80,000 sq ft mega-store in Washwood Heath, for which NatWest stumped up a stonking £6m.
“My bank manager at NatWest told me to shop around for the best rates. He said, ‘Put them on the table and I’ll beat them’. He doesn’t want us to leave.”