Interview with Anil Shani – Make way for the new
Anil Shani, owner of Mail Boxes Etc. in Worcester, is the embodiment of the new wave of MBE franchisees. The 31-year-old, who speaks five languages, graduated from Hull university in supply chain and logistics management in 2015, and “found his lane” in travel, trade and transportation.
His first business was a taxi service, after experience taught him that taxis in Hull were difficult to come by – particularly for students.
By 2017 he had returned to the midlands, where he grew up, and there followed stints as a planning co-ordinator and product buyer. He also enrolled in postgraduate study with the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply Chain at Dudley College, which is when he began to get a better picture of how he wanted his career to develop.
Never one to stand still, though, he set up a vending business in 2017 and built the franchise from ten machines to 120 sites across the West Midlands. “My experience as a buyer really helped here,” he says, “and I was interested to see how franchising worked.” By 2020, he was looking to invest in another business and opened a laundry and dry-cleaning store. Then, in 2021, he spotted the MBE Worcester business on the market.
“I had always been interested in MBE – I think it’s a brilliant concept, and this meant I could build on my experience of buying, retail and franchising. So I decided to purchase the Worcester store and took it over from the beginning of 2022.”
Like many who are attracted to the MBE business model, Anil likes the fact that there are several key revenue streams, and he has big plans to bring in new services and attract new customers by flexing these to add value.
“I want to bring in a web developer and a graphic designer, and I’m also keen to grow the Auction Logistics side of the business,” he explains.
“I did a bit of buying and selling online to help me through my studies, and at one point I was attending sales at auction houses around the country.
It’s an interesting sector, and our bespoke delivery service is ripe for continued growth as online sales become the norm.”
Ani’s approach to the business embraces his love of the supply chain: “I like the thought of going from an idea to the finished product. I understand how manufacturers work and of course I can bring my knowledge of logistics to the pack and ship side of the business.”
How does he find the current state of the business, as we start to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic? “The high street is changing, and this brings its own opportunities.
A lot of print shops have gone out of business recently, but we are still here. Our is a hybrid business model – online and in-person. I want to grow footfall in the store, becoming a destination shop, and that means growing brand awareness among our target audiences so that everyone knows what we do and what we stand for.”
More customers in-store means more opportunities to upsell and cross-sell, building lasting relationships that will pay dividends both in repeat business and in growing the store’s reputation within the local community.
The central location, with a cinema just next door, lends itself to attracting passing trade, and Anil plans to introduce new product lines, including greetings cards and printed T-shirts, over the coming months.
Anil’s vision for the B2B market is to take a ‘whole life’ approach to the customer journey by making sure he can offer them everything they need as they grow. “Someone might come in with a brochure they’d like us to print, but they will need a website, SEO, social media accounts; they might need shipping and in time they may also want an end-to-end fulfilment service, with us managing their logistics.
The last mile of your branding is logistics. It is all part of good customer service and it’s often neglected. I want to be able to offer customers all that and more.”
He has plans to open a warehouse eventually, with pallet storage for fulfilment services and large format print. “I also intend to bring in other partners for collaboration.
I want MBE to see how much I’m going to transform my store.” With his global perspective on business (not only is he multilingual but he also has family around the world), it’s a vision that unites his love of travel, trade and transportation and his experience of retail services.
A true entrepreneur, Anil still has his vending and laundry businesses and looks forward with huge enthusiasm to his journey with MBE. “I want to come on board and have people say: ‘Anil came in and brought things that no-one had even considered before.’ I’m looking to bring in more added-value services, change the way things are done, get involved with the Worcester community and be known as the number one for all the services we offer.”