An enterprising spirit

Beaming as he recounts Hothi’s achievements, it is clear that Prakash Thakrar’s 25 years in retail have not dented his spirits.

“I started off working with a few shops, then I moved into the cash and carry business,” he says.

However, things have changed a bit since he started out: “I’ve been involved in cash and carry for 20 years. In the early days the focus was on customers collecting from depots. Now everyone’s looking at getting deliveries and we’d definitely like to move in that direction.”

Hothi, a Today’s Group member based in North Acton, has been operating since 1982, becoming increasingly orientated towards customers based in central London. Since Thakrar became managing director of the business and manager of its single depot in December 1998, the cash and carry has boomed, boasting 56% sales growth in the past year.
Thakrar claims wine sales have risen by 200% annually for the past four years. That’s even more significant when you consider that beers, wines and spirits represent two thirds of the wholesaler’s sales.

He says the success of its own-label drinks, including Bombay Pilsner and Black Jack Vodka, and the expansion of Hothi’s alcohol range, have driven that growth. Its focus on drinks has also increasingly attracted on-trade customers.

And that’s just one way in which the business has evolved since Thakrar took the helm. “At the time the Hothi family was running the business,” he says. “But Mr Hothi was approaching retirement and he needed young blood with fresh ideas.” 

Thakrar brought those in abundance, although he plays down his input. Since 1998 innovations have included new racking, relaid aisles, new forklift pallet trucks, improved lighting and heating and a revamped IT system.
All that has had a powerful effect. Sales have shot up from £14m when Thakrar took over to £69m this year.

The changes he has made to the business in the past seven years are just the beginning, says Thakrar. Plans include a 10,000 sq ft expansion of Hothi’s existing 17,000 sq ft sales area and the launch next month of a retail club, offering exclusive promotions.
Further IT system upgrades are being implemented, enabling Hothi to track sales and target retailers more efficiently with promotions. In tandem, touchscreen digital tills are being introduced.