Giftland Proprietor Roy Beepat Remains Guyana’s Leader in Contemporary Trading
Outstanding entrepreneurs never stop being innovative. Even when facing life’s most unpredictable circumstances, they show tireless dedication in completing the task ahead and are willing to take risks. They are undaunted by failure and are always seeking to bring to life, a vision greater than their last.
Guyana’s leader in contemporary trading, Roy Beepat, is the embodiment of these very fine characteristics and more. This assertive businessman has built for himself, an empire that is respected locally and regionally. The Giftland franchise and its success to date, is one that leaves his competitors swimming in envy.
At age 56, he credits his prominent placement in the local business world to the unwavering support of his wife and family and not forgetting his committed staff and Board of Directors of the Giftland Mall.
But getting to such heights of success was surely no fluke or no walk in the park.
Life and its uncanny circumstances forced Beepat to start business from scratch, not once, not twice. But every time he was hit by unassuming situations, Beepat rose to his feet and went back to the drawing board, knowing that he was going to reconstruct the perfect plan to claim his treasures at the end of the proverbial rainbow. And he did.
“Keep it moving, regardless of what faces you” is his mantra and the journey to where he is today, proves that Beepat is a businessman who practices what he preaches.
This creative businessman was born in Georgetown to Madho and Sheila Beepat on December 21, 1958. His mother moved to England in 1962 where she resided with him and his two sisters and his brothers who are now the owners of the family business Beepat & Sons. His father, a businessman, lived in Guyana. He described his parents as being old fashioned, the kind of folks whose parenting was grounded in passing on the values such as honesty, integrity, the importance of kindness and respectability.
The father of five daughters said that since his parents were living in two different territories, it did have an effect on his schooling life.
He remarked, “I left school at age 15. But prior to that, I had trouble settling in one school because when I was four the family moved to England during the riots in 1962 and then my father who was in Guyana missed me, so I was back and forth between the two. Between age six and 10, I was split, sometimes spending long periods in Guyana so it became difficult to keep track in school. I got bored with it and said that’s enough. But I did have some fun days playing soccer in the park after school and I still am a fan of soccer.”
After leaving school at such a young age, he joined the family business in Guyana.
He said, “My father owned Beepat and Sons and so that was where I first started in the world of business and since I had a taste of it I have been hooked. I love business and what it entails and that was where my passion for it started. But my dad was really old fashioned. I had to learn the ropes of the business. I started out as a porter and then as a salesman and worked my way up. I trained in banking, importing and customs brokerage as these were all part of the Beepat business. When I turned 17, I decided to venture out on my own and start a clothing business. I took the family owned business Beesons garment factory and developed it into a successful clothing manufacturer.”
Beesons was a small factory which had 13 sewing machines. With a great concept in mind, he started the stylish ‘Gypsy Jeans’ movement and launched the opening of his first company in 1978 called ‘Jeans Junction.
Beepat stated, “Within the first year, we had over a hundred sewing machines going and had established Gypsy as the number one Jeans Company in Guyana.”
His business became one of the most prosperous clothing stores in the country.
Beepat would later move to Barbados in 1980 due to the volatile climate of the business environment at the time. “I left and set up a jeans company in
Barbados. Unfortunately, I lost it in a fire in 1983. But that did not deter me at all. I then started from scratch again in the world of business in 1985 and had six stores called Top Model which was the leading clothing company in Barbados with six branches. This was something I started with my first wife, Jennifer. But after some irreconcilable differences, we split or severed ties you could say and I gave her the stores and returned to my homeland in 1992 where I started from scratch, once more.”
The hardworking Beepat upon returning to Guyana, started out in some construction work for a brief time and would soon return to work alongside his brother in the Beepat and Sons family business.
After saving up enough capital, about US$4000, he entered into the closeout market. The Closeout Market is one which sees traders disposing of obsolete or slow moving stock through a clearance sale.
He said, “Between 1992 and 1997, I had three acres of land which I used for housing purposes and the proceeds from that was what I used to start trading in Closeouts.”
Being involved in that for a few years, his next business venture, Giftland OfficeMax was started in 1997 when his second wife, Monica Beepat’s small gift shop was combined with his wholesale stationery company. It was merged at one location on Regent and Albert Street. It moved from there to Charlotte Street in 2000 and then to Water Street in 2003.
From that point on, one could say that success was once again, a guarantee. It was on the horizon and Beepat, a true believer in his ideas, sailed effortlessly to the top of the leader board.
During a decade in business, Giftland has occupied more than three different premises. Each time that the company has relocated, it has been for reasons of expansion. Before moving to its current location at Liliendaal, it was stationed the longest at Water and Holmes streets.
Every instance of relocation has also been attended by increases in its product range as well as its volume of its goods. Its music and DVD departments never seem less than crowded while the popularity of its clothing departments exceeds that of its more established rivals in the city.
From its beginnings as “another Regent Street store” in 1996, Giftland has grown steadily on urban consumers and far from modest about the company’s achievements. Beepat believes that the company may have already left its rivals behind. “We never worry about the competition. We are more preoccupied with doing what we do well and allowing the results of our efforts to make the point for us,” he says.
To make his point about the company’s success Beepat proffers statistics for growth in sales since 1996 that are scarcely believable. Each year since its launch a decade ago Giftland has increased its sales turnover by more than 100 per cent. Over the past ten years, sales have grown by more than 5000 %.
He said that Giftland’s phenomenal growth is also hinged on an uncompromising insistence on high standards of customer service and the energies of what he believes is the most talented team in the business. “We have the highest entry level in the business,” he quips. If the company has had it bouts of high staff turnover, Beepat says that is because, “our customer satisfaction outlook means that we will only retain staff with the highest possible commitment to customer service.”
Giftland is simply one of those businesses which has “crept up” on urban shoppers gradually. Today, many simply can’t see the business landscape without it. Beepat said that he has worked hard to create a “feel good” environment- an atmosphere that panders to shoppers including an exchange or refund policy on goods that is not fashionable with its competitors.
The store’s success, Beepat says, including over ten successive years of growth in sales turnover, is due to the company’s unwavering focus on creating the conditions that maximize customer patronage and the role that its staff has played in helping Giftland achieve that goal. His own role, he says, has been to provide the conditions and create the environment that has enabled him to get the best out of the Giftland team.
Arguably the biggest difference between Giftland and its downtown competitors is embodied in Roy Beepat himself. From Beepat’s perspective paying too much attention to “group think” can be counterproductive. “We focus more on our belief in our capacity to create an environment, whatever wider conditions may obtain, that allows us to increase our market share. That has been our focus and it accounts for why we have done well,” Beepat says.
He said that the focus on keeping Giftland in the public eye has resulted in a sustained increase in the company’s marketing and advertising budget. The company spends millions on a monthly basis in various forms of advertising and marketing including sponsorships and community initiatives. “Our marketing programme centers around the Giftland concept,” he said.
The Giftland franchise which also believes in giving back to the public has been involved in various community based activities and innumerable charity projects over the years.
He believes, that contemporary marketing strategies ought to focus on “marketing service rather than products,” an outlook that accounts for his personal preoccupation with the performance of the members of Team Giftland. “We never worry about sales. We concern ourselves more with providing the best service in the business. I set high standards and expect the staff to meet those standards. That is why we pay careful attention to our recruitment policy.”
Buoyed by the phenomenal success of what he calls “the Giftland concept” Roy Beepat had declared his intentions to establish a ten floor high rise commercial mall that will include restaurants and bars, banking services, beauty salons and a giant department store. When he made the announcement, many believed that it was just not possible.
And against all odds, Beepat was able to create what now stands as Guyana’s largest mall. It is a project that compares favorably with facilities similar to those in North America and rivals most in the Caribbean.
The Giftland Mall which represents more than a US$24M investment was officially opened to the public on July 2. The opening ceremony was one that saw great attendance from various sections of the Guyanese society which included the presence of Guyana’s APNU+AFC led Government.
Many within the Government deemed it to be a major investment in Guyana’s retail sector and the kind of shopping complex that is a “scientifically selected” blend of business, entertainment, cuisine and architectural magnificence.
According to the speakers at the opening, the new Giftland Mall is a testimony to the determination, commitment, persistence and sheer guts of the President of Giftland Mall, Roy Beepat.
Each speaker recounted the way in which Beepat’s determination overruled their natural caution and fears about the risks involved in the project.
Rudy Collins, Director of Giftland’s Board recounted conversations he has had with Beepat over the last ten years during which Beepat spoke enthusiastically of the entertainment features that could be available to the Guyanese people at a Giftland Mall.
Rubis Country Head and Director Ricardo Milford perhaps said it best when he told those gathered that they were there “to witness the launch of a fantastic dream, a dream of a man who willing, moved a grandiose idea from conversation to commitment, an idea that necessitated courage, strength and without a doubt tenacity.” Guyana’s first mega mall, he added, speaks volumes of what private capital can do to advance the economic and social wellbeing of the populace”.
Among the many stores at the Giftland Mall are GL Giftronics, GL Sportsmaxx and several sophisticated food courts.
Even though it has moved to a location a little further away from Central Georgetown, Giftland which offers over 2000 opportunities for direct job employment, has not missed a single step when it comes to maintaining its customer base. In fact, it has seen a major spike in its followers across the country.
Even though there is now an expansive road which leads to the mall, customers have no need to worry as they are provided transportation services to the mall for free. The comfortable ride has received high praises from customers who prefer not to take the four to five minute walk-in. The Giftland Mall also provides one of the largest parking facilities in the country as it can accommodate 800 vehicles and will soon be expanded to accommodate 900 more for a total parking of 1700 cars.
The mall’s impressive shopping department with its classy collection of furniture, clothing, cosmetics, stationery and a plethora of other consumer goods remain a hit with locals. Among the 100 plus different concession stores are Kings Jewelry, Royal Castle, Churches Chicken, Dairy Queen, GTT Communications Inc., ENetworks, Giftland, Guy America and City Pharmacy.
Despite the store’s apparent extravagance, customers are always pleased to learn that the inexpensive pricing Giftland has been synonymous with will remain.
Also available at the Giftland Mall is the country’s most spacious theatre. With over 1300 seats, Caribbean Cinemas Multiplex is a popular attraction since the opening of the mall.
The Puerto Rican theatre company has over 480 screens across the Caribbean region, including Trinidad and Tobago. Its location at the Giftland Mall actually represents its first mainland operations in South America.
Beepat however did not hide the fact that he, like every businessman, faced challenges even as he sought to take his biggest leap in the retail trading. He noted that securing access to financing from financial institutions was difficult at the time but it did not discourage his spirit for a moment. And throughout the struggle, he said that he is forever grateful for the support and love he has received from his family, Board of Directors and Team.
He said, “In everything you must have a balance. Fortunately, I have been able to manage both business and family with much success. But I must note that this year has been a trying one, in terms of meeting certain deadlines and getting everything on stream for the opening of the mall.”
“I have invested so much of my time into the Mall that my daily routine for my personal life just went out the window. But these were necessary sacrifices I had to make. Once I get this whole complex into a routine, which I am going to by the end of December, from January I will start back into my routine which includes going to the gym.”
The business mogul continued, “We have actually taken a quantum leap from what Giftland was in the beginning to where we are today. And in the process, we ensured we took the time to build the infrastructure and the systems needed so that everything runs smoothly. Our staff in almost every department has doubled. So we have new administrators and new managers in the departments.”
Beepat stressed that regardless of the size of his expansion, consumer service remains key.
He said, “Every time I move, I always try to ensure that customer service is handled in an efficient manner. Wherever I go, that will remain a key factor for me. They must enjoy our service. I take pride in ensuring everything is just right for my customers and those little things we take for granted, like spotless floors or perfectly working air conditions, trust me, they make a difference. They set you apart. All those little background details are important.”
As for earning the title as Guyana’s leading contemporary trader, Beepat says that he is not in it for the laurels or labels but to do his job until it becomes second nature.
“Yes, by now, Giftland is a household name. But we are not interested in labels; we just do what we have to do. But the title just means that we are doing a good job,” he added.
While many would easily say that the position Beepat holds in Guyana is his greatest accomplishment, the versatile entrepreneur says otherwise. He believes that his bond with his wife and daughters who work with him in the business, is his greatest accomplishment. He noted too, that the three daughters working with him in the Giftland franchise are Crystal Ramdeo who is married along with Jade and Meghan. Crystal is in charge of stores operations, while Jade is tasked with Human Resources. Meghan single-handedly manages the Strip Restaurant and Hookah Lounge on the Entertainment Strip. His son-in-law, Ian Ramdeo, is the CEO of the Giftland Group and has run the Giftland Company for three years while Beepat was building the Mall. His other two daughters, Gabriella and Chelsea are at School and university respectively.
“I am most proud to be a father, to have a family by my side to share this success with. We have gone through some very hard times but in the end it only served to bring us together, closer as a family and I am proud of that. I am proud of my family, I love them dearly. Having such an unshakable bond with the ones you love is priceless.”
“That I believe is my greatest accomplishment. And believe me that is not mere talk. Try to imagine yourself with all the success in the world and no one to share those happy moments with, try to imagine your life without any loved one at your side and you would soon come to the sobering realization that material things are not so fulfilling if you don’t have that family you love and nurtured to pass it on to. Indeed what I have built is good, I have a legacy to pass on to my daughters, (Chelsea, Jade, Meghan, Crystal, Gabriela) but my role as a father, as a husband, that is what I am most proud of.”
The experienced businessman advises that young entrepreneurs, who seek his level of success and beyond, first try to have a sense of the market they are venturing into.
He said, “They must be able to think everything through from start to finish, from the conception of the idea to its success. Also, they need to understand
that there is no such thing as a bad business idea. If you plan properly, and infuse creativity as well as good market research then you can make it. Follow your dreams but please, do your research and learn your field by heart. For example, if you are interested in selling computers then think about what the consumer is looking for, do your research on what is available, work at the leading company in this field and gain experience before venturing out, profit from the experience of others. Don’t just buy any set of computers from anywhere and think you’re ready for the world of business. Be smart, be aggressive and let nothing daunt your spirit.”
Beepat asserted that the desire to push on even in the face of adversity is the hallmark of any successful businessman. “Understand that you will face challenges and when you try the first time, and you don’t get it right, don’t waste a second in despair. Keep moving.”
While the Giftland Mall is a full time job for the time being, Beepat enjoys playing Bridge, a popular card game. He was the Captain of the only Guyanese team that has won a Inter Guianas Tournament.
The lover of soccer noted that he enjoys watching his favourite teams; Barcelona and Arsenal play in annual tournaments. Beepat disclosed that in the in the next five years, he will be involved in different business ventures. He revealed that they will include financial services, real estate and food processing and maybe a few others fields. For him, the sky really is the limit and at this point in his life, he has just warmed up for the journey to endless prosperity.