“Roots are everything”. These were the words once said by Gul Mohnani, the founder and entrepreneur behind Universal Import & Export. This successful business and brand that started several decades ago in 1972 grew from small humble beginnings to a company that is now a leader in its field. Universal’s big success has been its quality and client satisfaction.
1954 Gul’s father Naraindas decided to move his family from India to Malta where his father Tahilram had already established retail shops since 1880.
1962 The school wanted to raise funds, and Gul volunteers to sell badges. He missed the top sales position by a slight margin. Gul found this hard to accept as he already had the drive to be number one. That was the first sign of his entrepreneurial spirit.
1966 After finishing his studies, he joined the family retail business, however, it did not give him enough satisfaction or challenge, as he had to wait for customers to come into the shop and occasionally they would buy an item. His father therefore encouraged him to venture into business on his own. He gave him a small amount of seed capital and a desk to work from.
1966-1972 Gul ventured to start a small business as an agent for fabrics, household linen and garments. These were products which he was familiar with from his father’s business, however, instead of retailing, he decided to sell to the local wholesalers.
1972 This was the start of Universal Import & Export. The textile and garment industry in Malta started to grow, and he saw an opportunity. Within five years Universal become the industry’s leader by supplying everything from needles to machines and from sewing threads to fabrics. In fact, Gul could have easily produced garments himself by getting a premises and employing operators, but this was against his principles as did not want to create conflict or compete with his clients.
1980 As the business grew, it was moved to a larger premises with a retail outlet, showroom and office to service the textile industry. Universal still occupies the same building in Paola to the present day.
1980-1989 In the 80’s the textile and garment industry’s costs started to rise mainly due to salaries. As a result, companies started to move to lower cost countries to manufacture their goods. Gul knew that diversification was a must at that stage and set his sights on the plastic manufacturing industry that showed signs of growth.
1990-2000 After the move into plastics, Universal continued to expand and grow into a variety of product lines to serve all Malta’s industries. Thanks to this, today the Universal brand is known and respected not just in Malta but also overseas as a reliable supplier to practically all types of industries and services.
2000-2010 Universal continued to grow and strengthen its market share by introducing further product lines building the portfolio to packaging (general and food), packaging machines, labelling and label printers, adhesives and silicones, health and safety, marine and electronic products.
2012 Unfortunately, the year marking the 40th Anniversary of Universal also happened to be the year when the company’s inspirational leader, Gul Mohnani passed away.
2014 onwards At present, the company is being run by the second generation of family members. Stefan and Timo Mohnani have inherited ownership of the company. Following in their father’s footsteps, they have learned that targeted diversification and careful expansion are the keys to growth and survival in today’s challenging and fast paced business world. The company intends to explore opportunities of expanding the core business geographically into other markets and also, leveraging the scientific background of both directors, to introduce an innovative technology division which will focus on solving issues being faced by industry, not only locally but also overseas.