Rafiq Rangoonwala

CEO, KFC (Cupola Group)

By Wali Zahid 7.04.2011

Your one-sentence description of yourself?

A fighter, with no compromise on integrity (particularly critical for surviving in this country as the economic conditions in last three years have made absence of ethics as the only way possible. Two things at Cupola are nonnegotiable: harassment at workplace and lack of integrity.

Your first leadership opportunity? When? What was it?

This came to me by accident. During my studies in the United States, I took up a job in KFC as a cook. I was still under training and used to watch training videos in my break. One day in afterhours, in violation of an SOP, the girl in charge used backdoor to throw trash. The restaurant was mobbed and robbed. The in charge left while I stay put. There were two kids at the restaurant and my first action was to take them to their homes with safety. I was promoted within my training period.

Were you ready for it? (H, M, L, no)

H. Wanted it.

What was your readiness factor? (luck, will, skill, network)

Desire (hunger).

How did you perform then? On a 1-5 scale?


Your all-time most significant leadership opportunity so far (if different from this)?

When I returned to Pakistan, took over KFC from Artal. It was a big risk.

Your ideal, future leadership opportunity?

Do something for the society. Three things I want to do. One, provide opportunities to young entrepreneurs; two, build a platform for shared learning; three, take our homemade franchise (of Indulge, Lal Qila) overseas.

Is it likely to happen in your remaining work years?

Nothing is certain, but doable.

Today in your current role: Where are you on Wali’s Will-Skill Matrix (high, medium, low)?

High will. High skill.

What drives you? (one-word driver)

Love challenges (also: want to do something for the society).

Candidly speaking, have you been happy about growth numbers in the past decade?

No. Could have done better. External environment factors. We now have 64 KFC outlets in 19 cities, eight Indulge outlets, two Super Stores.

In an uncertain and ambiguous world, how can you make sure that your plans are achievable?

Create realistic plans. Gather the right resources. Have the single-minded focus (at all levels: business, social, family).

How easy or difficult is it to manage the Gen Y/Millennials (people born after 1982)?

Challenging. They are impatient and want everything on platter. Want lateral induction and are mainly concerned with what they can get (not what they can give!).

Your legacy? How do you want to be remembered? In your industry? In your organisation?

As a compassionate man. Someone who gave back to society.

What would you want to see in your leader (i.e. your leader to do)?


Your learning: Where do you turn to for learning – both daily routine, and time-off for courses?

I learn from business leaders I have access to. YPO forum. I read a lot of books. (Recent: Robin Sharma’s Leader without Title, Karen Armstrong’s Letters.)

Are there sufficient opportunities for C-level learning here in Pakistan or in the region?

Challenges teach you a lot!

Learning and development of your team – what opportunities are available here? Your rating of these programmes? (1-5 scale)

Most in-country training programmes are all the same; they are not world-class. Some are pure money-making business.

What would you want different about these programmes?

That they are more relevant to business needs.

What are three core competencies or skill areas you would want your team to develop for this year? Next three years?

Goal-setting. Personal and professional growth. Becoming compassionate towards other people

What is your biggest time eater at work?

Various: Law and order situation. Bhatta (extortion) mafia. Government agencies wanting their share!

Information overload: What is your coping mechanism?

Sift through materials. I only open emails which are relevant to me.

Do you have a stop-to-do list?

I do not go to irrelevant social parties. No travel during Ramadan.

How can we give up control (and do more empowering)?

Leaders need to be secure as only an insecure leader will hoard power. Expect that people will make mistakes and tolerate them.

What kind of personal or social networks do you use to enhance your presence and the chances for success?

I am with several organisations and associations which add value, and which have no internal politics and leg-pulling. The likes of Marketing Association of Pakistan, 21st Century Club, Pakistan Food Association.

Faith? Is faith an inspiration for you?

Faith is my guiding light.

Ever thought that how could the Prophet (saw)’s personality be a guiding factor for you in doing business, making decisions, empowering others? If yes, in what ways?

The Prophet (saw) is the best example: a businessman, a family man, a leader. If you forget everything else and just follow his example, our lives will be much enriched.

CEO derailment? Have you seen colleagues derailing/going down? What was the cause?


Any other cause of CEO derailment in our part of the world?

Not being in line with the current time, or aware of future challenges (living in the past). Do not trust the team. Insecurity (CEOs are scared of hiring people smarter than them). Not willing to change. Inaccessible (living in their cocoon of glory and self-aggrandisement). Not willing to take criticism.

Your messages to new generation of leaders: What leads to success?

Patience. Commitment. Hard work. Continuous self-renewal.

Your messages to new generation of leaders: Can you create your own luck? How?

What we get in life is Allah’s blessings only; not a result of our efforts. As poet Iqbal says: Khudi ko kar buland itna ke har taqdeer se pehlay | khuda banday se khud pochhay teri raza kiya hai