Canadian 2 for 1 Pizza CEO: “Always believe you can achieve something.”

Mohamed Abdullah, CEO of Canadian 2 for 1 Pizza

Mohamed Abdullah, CEO of Canadian 2 for 1 Pizza, and currently a serving commercial pilot, has cultivated a habit of springboarding off his failures and disappointments to greater success.


Ironically, he attributes this to his lacklustre performances during his schooling days. Having not performed well in his PSLE, Mohamed was streamed into the normal stream in secondary school. While it was a blow to him, he decided to look past it.  For the next five years in secondary school, he constantly tried to do well enough to earn a place in the express stream. 


While he was unsuccessful in his attempt, because of his endeavours, Mohamed nevertheless managed to top his cohort every year between secondary 2 and secondary 4, eventually qualifying for junior college.


I can do it, I believed, after all I topped my standard almost every year in school.”

Best student, best cadet

It turned out to be a seminal experience and confidence booster for Mohamed, something he has held on to for the rest of his life. From then on, with every challenge he faced, he always said to himself, “I can do it, I believed, after all I topped my standard almost every year in school.”


In college however, Mohamed got distracted by his love for soccer. So, while he performed reasonably well in his ‘A’ levels, his grades were not good enough to get into the course he wanted to pursue – Business Administration – at the National University of Singapore. He thus decided to pursue a degree in information system and management with the Singapore Institute of Management.


In the meantime, he was called up for National Service (NS). At NS, just like in secondary school, he wanted to give it his best once again. As a result, he was the best cadet in his cohort of police cadets in training.


When Mohamed was 21, he got into a motorcycle accident. He says: “It was a very serious accident, where I sustained multiple injuries – fractures in my fingers, wrist, and nose, as well as a laceration on my lips and chin, and a broken tooth. I was hospitalised for 14 days.”


Upon graduation from SIM, Mohamed joined Cargotec Pte Ltd, a freight company handling more than 30 agents as an import coordinator. He worked hard and eventually rose to the position of Operations Director. Mohamed left Cargotec four years later, to pursue his strong passion for flying.


Becoming a pilot

In 2008, Mohamed went to Australia to pursue his passion to be a pilot. He received his license the same year, but when he returned home with the hope of securing a job as a commercial pilot, he faced some challenges.


Singapore was in the middle of an economic downturn then, due to the financial crisis that started in 2007. For almost four years, Mohamed could not get a job as a pilot. But he did not lose heart. He knew that the economic downturn will eventually abate. His positive attitude was rewarded when a major regional airline hired him in 2012.


Canadian 2 for 1 Pizza Mohamed Abdullah delivering pizzas


Our business grew fivefold. COVID-19 made us famous again.”


Becoming an entrepreneur

Mohamed had always harboured business aspirations. Together with a friend, he wrote to several famous quick service food retailers – Fish & Co., 7-Eleven, and Canadian 2 for 1 Pizza – expressing a desire to become a franchisee. Zeid Alsagoff, the owner of Canadian 2 for 1 Pizza, responded with a proposition for the two budding entrepreneurs to run an outlet in Ang Mo Kio. They decided to take up on his proposition and in 2006 took over the outlet.


As Mohamed’s partner had more experience in the trade, it was decided that he will run the operations. Mohamed for his part saw it as an opportunity to learn the trade. He saw tremendous potential in developing the business. “I realised that there was a lot that can be done with the business,” he said.


Eventually, Mohamed’s father-in-law, Mohamed Masuhood and cousin, Mohamad Abdullah also expressed an interest in being involved in the business. His father-in-law dug into his retirement funds, to augment Mohamed’s and his cousin’s investments, and together, the three of them bought up the franchisee license for a bigger unit in Yishun in 2010.


Taking over Canadian 2 for 1 Pizza

By 2018, Alsagoff, now in his 70s, was keen to sell Canadian 2 for 1 Pizza and was approaching various parties. Mohamed saw this as the opportunity to take over and execute some of the business ideas he had harboured for so long. However, Alsagoff’s asking price, was too high. Mohamed then tried to court investors – he approached more than 50 potential investors – but nothing worked out. Meanwhile Alsagoff’s efforts to secure a buyer at his desired price had also come to nought, but over the years, his selling price had been gradually whittled down as well.   


When the time was right, Mohamed approached Alsagoff again. He said, “Look, you can’t find your right buyer. And I feel that I can turn this business around, why not just sell it to me at a price that we can agree?” After a long conversation, the two parties agreed on a lower price. With two other partners, Mohamed bought over the business in 2021, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.


(During COVID-19) everybody was at home, with nothing to do but order food. And we were one of the first movers. In fact, we were already in the market, doing delivery.

COVID-19 didn’t faze Mohamed. In fact, as one of the few quick service restaurants then in Singapore, besides McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC and Domino’s Pizza, Mohamed saw it an opportunity. “Grab was not involved in the food delivery business then, and there was no Food Panda either as far as I can recall. Everybody was at home, with nothing to do but order food. And we were one of the first movers. In fact, we were already in the market, doing delivery. Our business grew fivefold. COVID-19 made us famous again.”


Going international

Today, as part-owner and CEO of Canadian 2 for 1 Pizza, Mohamed is executing many of the ideas he has always had for the brand. Contrary to impressions, Canadian 2 for 1 Pizza is a fully homegrown brand. But Mohamed is in the process of making it international.


“We have rights for the whole of Asia, but we have only ever had a presence in Singapore for all these years. We have 20 outlets in Singapore, and we are saturated already.”


On March 18, Canadian 2 for 1 Pizza opened its first international outlet in Chennai, India. The brand is planning to open a further 50 outlets across India. They are also planning to open two outlets in Maldives by the middle of 2024. Additionally, they are in advanced talks to open one outlet in Thailand by 2023.


You never know when the opportunity will come to you. So always keep your doors open.”

When asked what advice Mohamed will give to any student or young person who is not doing well, he says: “Don’t undermine yourself. Dream big. Always believe you can achieve something. We always look up to people like Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and yes, they are one-of-a-kind. But anybody can be them. Anybody can achieve what they have achieved, provided they have the right attitude, the right people around them and the right opportunities. And you never know when the opportunity will come to you. So always keep your doors open.”


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