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Not many entrepreneurs in South Africa can trace their roots back to the 19th Century.
Ismail Cassim, born 1907, came to South Africa from India, with his father – Ebrahim Cassim. The family history is SA can be traced back to 1896.
Ismail Cassim and Sons can, to 1896. Grit and hard work and an astute sense for business are the hallmark of this company, which for generations has forged ahead against all odds.
Its roots were sown in Maraisburg on the outskirts of Johannesburg and the North West as a micro enterprise, the quaint little general dealership serving a small rural community of the Zeerust district grew into a proud company venturing into wholesale and retail trade and acquisition of land and properties by developing partnerships with land owners and heads of companies like Garlicks Ltd based in Cape Town and Randle Bros and Hudson; sidestepping the barriers created by the apartheid laws. This took imagination and diplomacy and a warm negotiating skill that still permeates the business.
In 1989 the young son of the late Mohammed Ismail Cassim, Ebrahim, sensing the potential of the shoe trade spread his wings and sought out and found a large site on the Main Reef Road; the arterial link to the City of Johannesburg from the burgeoning townships of Soweto and environs.
This was virgin territory of untapped potential markets. On the 1st of September 1990 Ismail Cassim and Sons was Launched as the largest shoe wholesale company in Johannesburg, attracting retailers and small businesses from the city and the rural and smaller towns in the country. Soon the company name became synonymous with quality, diversity and prompt and efficient service and customer care. The business flourished with Ebrahim at its helm and became a recognisable brand, a source of excellent service, trusted by manufactures and suppliers and sought out by new brands and old established makes.
Ebrahim’s entrepreneurship established him as a businessman of integrity and trust in the commercial sphere. Confidence in the company grew at all levels. Upmarket brands like Adidas, Puma, Watson Shoes and Bata who had already recognised the value of the company, saw the potential growth and endorsed their support as sales soared.