When you’ve been going to your local grocery store for a few years, you do notice when new variety of products start to pop up consistently.

As New Zealand experienced another record high migration, we’re starting to see how retail stores are adapting to the changing faces of customers.

Meet Harry Chawla – new owner operator of Pak’n’Save in Mount Albert since May, is making his impact by stocking up wider range of ethnic foods.


I was quite impressed when I was able to purchase Mama noodles from Thailand and No Brand Butter Cookies from Korea.

But what caught my attention was actually witnessing first hand Harry’s leadership style which is leading from the front and coaching staff with positive motivation.

Harry didn’t realise this, but I followed him walking the floor and showing staff how to stack the fruits and vegetables and remove the bad ones from the display. He also gave staff a pat on the back when giving words of encouragement, and even asks customers for feedback in person on the new batch of nuts.


Harry fascinates me not just as a smart businessman, but also a migrant exhibiting people leadership that is inclusive and brings his staff along the journey. When a minority group is showing inclusive leadership, I coin them reverse-inclusive leadership.

My discovery of Harry was purely incidental and so I decided to have a chat with him.


Eric: Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey as a migrant into New Zealand

Harry: My name is Harry Chawla, I came to NZ in 2000 as a student and did my Postgraduate Diploma in Business. While studying I started my Foodstuffs career in 2000 working at New World Hillcrest as a Produce Assistant. I worked my way up and in 2010 I made the move to New World Brookfield where I worked as the Store Manager.

I used to work 120 hours a week in my uni holidays. When I finished my studies, I used to start work in New World at 4am and finished at 5pm and would then work in a restaurant at night doing dishes and everything from 6 pm to 11 pm. I couldn’t speak very good English when I came which put me little bit behind.

With my focus firmly on store ownership, I embarked on the Foodstuffs Management Development programme and graduated from the programme in 2007. Following this, I did the Leadership Development programme and graduated in 2010. In 2011 I was awarded a Trainee Operator Scholarship.

In February 2012, I took ownership of my first brand new store, New World Metro Queen Street. In April 2014 I made the move to another brand new Store New World Kumeu, which I owned till May 2017. In June 2017 I took ownership of Pak’n’Save Mount Albert.

I am married to Sheetal and I have two children: Tej, who is twelve, and Aysha, who is seven.


Eric: What prompted you to buy Pak’n’Save Mount Albert?

Harry: I love Challenges and after 5 years in NW, I wanted a big challenge which would excite me and also set me up for next 10 years.


Eric: What were your first observations when you took over and what was your first 100 day plan?

Harry: When I took over Pak’n’Save Mount Albert, I knew it is going to be a challenge. There were a lot of staff who had been here a long time and they were stuck in their old ways. I knew that I would need to show them my vision for the shop and get them working with me towards this vision.

My first 100 days plan was to get shop looking smart, better pricing for the customers and a fresher look.

Eric: How would you describe your leadership style and where did you learn that from?

Harry: I think I like to lead by example. I am a down to earth guy and I’m very passionate about my business and my people. I love coming to work and I love the different cultures in the business.

I have learnt to be humble and focused, from the one and only boss I had for 12 years, Bill Van Dammen.

He is my teacher, guru and mentor.


Eric: What tips can you share with the migrant community if they’re thinking of starting or buying a business?

Harry: I would say to the migrants that nothing is impossible if you have the hunger for it. I totally believe we can achieve anything if want to and the sky is the limit.

First of all we need to learn the culture of the country, we just can’t follow our rules and think for success.

I don’t think there is any difference for any ethnicity in the Country. It doesn’t matter what country you belong to all we are equal.

Yes we have to work hard here, however, the end result is pleasing and destiny doesn’t matter, it’s the journey we need to enjoy.


Pak’n’Save is New Zealand’s version of Aldi and I love shopping there for the value, friendliness of the staff, and a huge variety of ethnic products – including my favourite IndoMie Goreng and Mama Noodles.


Eric Chuah is the founder of Cultural Connections, a multicultural consulting firm working with government agencies, community groups, and private sector in New Zealand. He is currently serving as Independent Advisor for Multicultural New Zealand; Board Trustee for Auckland Regional Migrant Services; and Ethnic Media Advisor for New Zealand Human Rights Commission.