B2 FIJI SUN | FRIDAY, JULY 17, 2020 | FIJISUN.COM.FJ | PAGE Joining the Prestigious 100-Year Club His career continued to progress and he currently holds the title of general manager Retail Operations. In his career he was awarded various merit certificates for meeting sales targets and also for outstanding contributions for setting up branch operations. thriving successes, the business also faced serious external challenges and threats. The Great Depression, World War II, the Asian financial crisis, the global financial crisis, various health crisis, coup d’état and devastating natural disasters come to mind. Generations of owners, managers and staff have faced these situations head on and had successfully overcome these sometimes overwhelming obstacles. Today we face another external deadly threat in COVID-19. What started off as a global health crisis has now morphed into a severe economic crisis for most countries. Fiji also has been deeply affected. The current managers and staff as today’s torch bearers of the business will face and overcome this threat too. Of that, I have no doubt. It is given that the bed rock of any successful enterprise is its People. Therefore, it is apt that I pay tribute to the current generation of People in Courts. In our corporate speak; we call our People “Team Members”. Thus this is an opportune time to pay a special tribute to six of the longest serving Team Members in Courts, who collectively have accumulated 230 plus years of experience in serving our customers. the business is providing value for money deals to its customers, notwithstanding that under today’s regulations, selling firearms would guarantee a place in a state penitentiary! The history of Courts is as endearing as the Burns Philip saga. In 1850, a small general store named Courts was opened in the shadows of the ancient cathedral in the English city of Canterbury (during Queen Victoria’s reign). 10 years later at the tender age of 11, the proprietor’s son William Henry Court, became an orphan and inherited the shop and soon had to support all his family. The one-man shop later turned out as one of Canterbury’s leading firms and the owner had become one of the city’s greatest personalities. After World War II, his son Percy Court expanded the business with over 50 plus stores in England, Scotland and Wales, and also expanded into Australia, Jamaica, Barbados, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. The reputation of this family business was built on personal service. With time the parent company progressed to a public company in the UK and an article in the Fiji Times published on February 25, 1971, described the business as “It is first and foremost a family concern, run by family people for family people”. In Fiji, Courts purchased the land in Samabula at the corner of Kings Road and Matuku Street in 1967 and engaged Mr. Gordon Larsen of the architectural firm of Larsen, Holtom, Maybin, Walker and White, to develop a modern 20,000 square feet retail showroom, comparable to the best in most cities in the world. This Courts store was opened to the public on February 18, 1971. A supplement published in the Fiji Times to commemorate the opening of the store, provides a glimpse of the services offered to its customers “The company’s aim is to offer its confidential credit facilities to the widest range of people in Fiji. Their terms are within the reach of anyone wishing to improve the standard of their home living.” It further goes on to state, “The company also prides itself in an after sales service it claims is second to none.” This provides credence to the maxim “some things never change” Advertisements published in the Fiji Times provide fascinating insight into the trading ethos of the company at the time. In an advertisement published on March 11, 1971, advertising bedding products, it prominently displays “Imported from England only for Courts”. In another advertisement published on February 25, 1971, it boldly claims “Courts – The newest, biggest and most exciting furniture store in the Pacific Islands!” In another advertisement on the same day, it prominently notifies “Courts – give you credit for a lovely home. Pay as you go at Courts. Just a small deposit and easy payment you can afford spread over two years.” And in another notice, “Courts – give you more for your money. There is more value in store at Courts. Every piece is handpicked for quality at a lowest possible price”. The essence of this ethos is alive and well to this day in Courts. Over the last 100 years, amidst its Fiji), conducted a small business as general storekeeper and wine & spirits merchant at the north end of the Beach Street in Levuka. At the same time, Burns Phillip & Co Ltd was a company incorporated in Australia. The founder of Burns Phillip, Colonel James Burns (later Sir James Burns KCMG) was an acquaintance of Captain David Robbie. Burns Philip formed a subsidiary named Robbie and Co Ltd incorporated in Australia, to take over the business run by Captain Robbie. This company was run by a number of luminaries who were later titans of industry and household names in Fiji, such as W.R. Carpenter. In 1912, Burns Philip & Co Ltd formed another subsidiary incorporated in Australia styled Robbie Kaad and Co Ltd, to take over the assets of Robbie and Co Ltd and another old established business in Levuka known as “Christian Kaad”. Robbie Kaad and Co Ltd went on to purchase the wines & spirits, general merchant and custom house agent business of Suva owned by F.A. Thomas. With this purchase, Robbie Kaad and Co Ltd, which had its head office in Levuka, opened a branch in Suva, previously occupied by F.A. Thomas, which was in a premises next door to the present day Garrick Hotel. After a few years of operations, Robbie Kaad and Co Ltd was absorbed by the parent Burns Philip & Co Ltd based in Australia and for the first time in Fiji, the name and Scottish Thistle Flag of Burns Philip & Co Ltd was hoisted. Operations continued in this manner until Burns Philip & Co Ltd was required to completely reorient its business interests in the British Pacific coming under the jurisdiction of the UK Colonial Office. Accordingly in June 1920, a comparatively large public company was incorporated in Fiji styled Burns Phillip (South Sea) Co Ltd with an issued share capital of £750,000, to acquire the assets of the parent Burns Philip Co Ltd and its business interests in Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Gilbert and Ellice, New Hebrides, British Solomon Islands, etc.. Burns Philip (S.S.) Co Ltd, went on to expand and open branches in major cities and towns in Fiji. The head office and the registered office of the company was relocated to corner of Rodwell Road and the then Princess Street, upon which in 1930, a building was erected which stands to this day and is currently owned by FNPF. Courts continue to this day to operate a tier 1 store in this building. An advertisement in the June 12, 1920 edition of the Fiji Times & Herald, describes the business of the company as follows; MESSAGE FROM THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER P.L. MUNASINGHE I t’s official. Courts is now a member of the prestigious 100-Year-Club. In June this year, Courts as a business marked its 100 year anniversary. For a business to last 100 years, it is a significant moment. This means the business has over the last 100 years endeared itself into the hearts and minds of its customers. This is a great tribute and testament to the generations of owners and to the stewardship of the past managers and staff members, who had very capably nurtured the business over these years. Despite the innumerable changes in the political, economic and social landscapes, the business had adapted to thrive and grow. Courts genesis goes back to the day when the then conglomerate Burns Philip (South Sea) Co Ltd incorporated its business in Fiji in June 1920. In February 1971, Courts -a then UK based public company, commenced trading operations in Fiji by opening its first store in Samabula. Courts was the first business to introduce easy payment consumer loans that enabled countless families in Fiji to purchase much desired household goods that improved lifestyles and standards of living. No wonder then, Courts is endeared in the memories of families in all far flung corners of the Fiji archipelago. In 2004, the Courts and Burns Philip businesses merged and the business carried on as “Courts Homecentres”. In May 2006, the company was acquired by the Vision Group comprising the four founder shareholders, Jacks of Fiji, RC Manubhai, Challenge Engineering and Candle Investments. Subsequently, the word ‘Homecentres’ was dropped, and today the business carries on the proud tradition as “Courts”. 2016 was another milestone year, when on February 29 of that year, Courts became a division of Vision Investments Limited, a thriving and successful public listed company with shareholders such as the Fiji National Provident Fund, Unit Trust of Fiji, BSP Life, Fijian Holdings Unit Trust and International Finance Cooperation (an affiliate of the world bank), in addition to the four Vision Group founder shareholders. The Fiji Times archives, provides a fascinating treasure trove of the company’s history and background. The beginnings of Courts and Burns Phillip (S.S.) Co Ltd in Fiji goes back to circa 1906, where Captain David Robbie (one of the best known of the early pioneers in Rahamat Ali – Rahamat joined Courts in 1979 as a delivery boy at the Courts Samabula Distribution Center. In 1990 he was promoted as a showroom dresser at the Courts Samabula Store. Thereafter, he held various security positions and currently is the senior security officer at the Samabula Courts Store. In 2005 he was awarded a merit award in relation to refurbishment of the Samabula Store. He is the all too familiar and smiling figure in the security booth at the car park entrance, as one descends the steps to the Samabula Store. Longest serving staff Melaia Sivo – Melaia leads the group with 41 years of continuous service. Melaia joined Burns Phillip in July 1979 as a cashier, which position she held for five years. Thereafter, she held various administrative positions including head cashier. Currently she is a switchboard operator at the Samabula Store. During her career, Melaia was awarded two merit certificates, one for completing transactions efficiently and the other for alertness and helping to detect fraud. Usha Kumari – Usha joined Courts in 1981 as a pay clerk which position, she held for seven years. In 1988, she was appointed a credit clerk and since then her career progressed through various positions in the credit department. She is currently a senior underwriter based at the Courts Cyber City Store. In 2015, Usha was awarded a ‘You are a Star’ award for providing outstanding service to customers. Burns Phillip (South Sea) Company Limited Hamendra Prasad – Hamendra joined WISCo (Wrought Iron and Steel Co. Ltd), a business of Burns Phillip as a general worker in November 1979. In April 1984, he was transferred as a sales clerk to the Glass & Mirror, another business of Burns Phillip, where he for the next 12 years held various positions including accountant and administration manager. In March 1997, he was transferred to Burns Philip Homecentres as the regional manager Southern. Wine and Spirit, Timber and General Merchants and Builders’ Ironmongers, Commission and Forwarding Agents Buyers of Copra, Tortoise Shells A further advertisement published in the April 2, 1958 edition of the Fiji Times, reads as follows; See the 20-gauge shot guns that have been slashed in price ..... Originally £ 35/0/0 New £ 4/10/0 A graphic illustration even then, Rajesh Sinha – Rajesh joined Burns Phillip as a casual accounts clerk in October 1983. His career progressed holding various titles in the accounts department including a stint in Burns Phillip Tonga as an assistant accountant. Today he is the administration manager based in the accounts department at the Head Office. Trochas and CONTINUES ON B4
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