Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Meaning of Life Challenges

Life is a multi-faceted concept. Life may refer to the ongoing process of which living things are a part; the period between the birth (or a point at which the entity can be considered to be living) and death of an organism; the condition of an entity that has been born (or reached the point in its existence at which it can be established to be alive) and has yet to die; and that which makes a living thing alive. It may also be a characteristic state or mode of living; "social life"; "city life"; "real life".

It is the organic phenomenon that distinguishes living organisms from nonliving ones.
The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want. Ben Stein
You don't lie down when the gusty winds blow nor you let the winds sweep you away. You face challenges what come may.Life is what you live for. It is You who has to decide what you live for. You live for yourself? Your friends? Your family? Your community? Your country? Your religion? You live for what?Once you decide the basic question, you move on to determine the destination and the path that you will take to reach the destination.

The world cares ONLY for those who reach their destination. It is like reaching the Finish line and winning the game.Are you ready to win the game?Let us share our beliefs, values, perceptions, opinions, ideas, hopes and fears, anything and everything, about how you see life, how you direct the course of your life, how you reach your goals, what happens to you when you get what you aim for and what happens when you don't get it at all or get it half-way. How you treat joys and sorrows, successes and failures, triumphs and miseries, and still keep going.

What you need to survive the pricks and pangs of life is indomitable courage, confidence and conviction. Faith in God, trust in yourself, and hope for the better can lead you to accomplishments that might at times appear to be more of a miracle than human deed. Try it.

Birth to Teens

Birthday symbolizes day 1 of one's life on the mother planet Earth: however, you really don't know what happened when you were born. You are normally told by others, usually your mother, about the events leading to or occurring at the time of your birth.

My mother told me I was born early morning, before dawn, in a chilly night of the harsh winter in my hometown. It was Tuesday, she recalled. She did not remember the date. As I later found out, it was probably 25th/26th Oct 1943. I was born in my ancestoral hometown of Makhad Sharif in district Attock in Punjab. Punjab was then a province of undivided India and is now the largest province of Pakistan.

Makhad Sharif is a historical village built on a hill-top on the banks of river Indus, the largest river in Pakistan. It is also part of the grand Indus Valley civilization. The village has old houses built with rock-stones in the nineteenth century or earlier. The surroundings are fascinating with hills, river, lakes, trees and greengrass. The age-old hobby or sport was 'kabaddi' (wrestling) among the locals. The rich had their businesses out of Makhad Sharif in other towns and cities. Others lived on agriculture, shopkeeping and being household servants. There were no electricity, no gas, no tap water, no telephone, no buses and no flush toilets till 1980's.

According to my mother, I was pinkish-white skinned, weighed heavier than normal, and bore handsome features. I was the sixth son, the eighth child and the last one of my parents, who were married when both aged 14. Early-age marriages were norms of the day at that time in our society and so were the parents-arranged marriages. Both of my parents belonged to two of the most respected, richest and influential families of Makhad Sharif. Two of my five older brothers and the two older sisters died in their childhood due to illnesses for which adequate medical aid was not available at that time.

So, there were only three sons left in the family at the time of my birth.As my mother stated, I have had several bouts of pneumonia during the first six months of my earthly life while living in my hometown which was known for chilly nights in harsh winter. Alhomdolillah! (thanks God), I survived all of them, inspite of inadequate medical aid available, till the family moved to Karachi. However, it transpired in 1960 that I was afflicted with unresolved pneumonia in my lungs.

The disclosure came by chance when my maternal uncle, whom my mother was visiting along with me in Karachi, took me to an E.N.T. specialist for a check up as he often found me coughing. Subsequent X-ray and pathological tests revealed the unresolved pneumonia. On return to Lahore, I was taken to a physician who treated me for a couple of months and I recovered without much of a hassle.

Karachi was then the only seaport of what is now Pakistan. Today, Karachi is the largest seaport city of Pakistan having an estimated population of 12 million plus; most of the people having migrated from India and other parts of what is now Pakistan and settled here for the sake of jobs, business and industry.My parents migrated from Delhi (now in India) to Karachi (now in Pakistan) in 1945 and rented a beautiful huge house with a water fountain in the centre of it in the then most posh locality of Jamshed Road in Karachi. However, the stay was short as the movement for the independence of Pakistan entered the final phase and forced the family to shift back to Makhad Sharif in view of communal riots and killings in the city.

The family came back to Karachi in 1947, just a few months before the sovereign state of Pakistan came into being on the 14th of August 1947 through partitioning of India into Muslim majority provinces forming Pakistan and Hindu majority provinces forming India except Jammu & Kashmir valley which, though a Muslim majority area, acceded to India by virtue to a decree by the Sikh ruler ignoring the will of the majority of his people. The contentious issue of Kashmir between India and Pakistan originated from the same accession and led to wars between the two countries in 1948, 1965 and 1971.

Our rented house on Jamshed Road had already been taken over by immigrants from India when we returned to Karachi. So, we had no choice but to rent an apartment on the top floor of a building on Marriot Road. The building had four or five storeys and 72 stairs. We used to climb up and down those stairs several times in a day without feeling tired. Karachi was a small seaport city at that time with an estimated population of around 300,000 souls and a few buses and cars on road. Being on the top floor of a tall building, we were blessed with fresh air all day long. We did not use fans; airconditioners did not exist.

Life was very simple, painless, peaceful and lively. No social-class conflicts, no rich and poor dilemma, no jealousies and no pomp and show. Everybody lived a simple life.My parents, my eldest brother with his wife and children, two other brothers, my self and servants, all lived together in the apartment of four to five rooms. My father started setting up his business afresh. He had a very successful business in Delhi, now in India, exporting lambskins to Britain for making fur coats for ladies. He had all the luxuries of life including first-rate dogs for hunting who were provided with silk bedding and pure milk and ghee (vegetable oil). Our family was the first in our community from Makhad Sharif to own a big American/British car, radio and to live in style.

Migrating from Delhi to Karachi did not prove to be a good omen for my father's business. He had to take a start all over again. Business and industry were yet to develop in the newly established state of Pakistan. My father was quite an entrepreneur but the economic, social and living styles of the people were not yet ripe to consume the products that he could import and market at that time. He introduced Swiss watches and clocks, porcelain crockery, chandeliers, and many other products from Europe but could not find enough buyers. He was also offered dealership of General Motors.

My mother and one of my brothers were afflicted with asthma and their condition deteriorated with every passing day, probably because of the sea winds. So, the family shifted to Malir, a small village at a distance of approximately 20/25kms from Karachi. It was a village mostly occupied by Balochi speaking people. There were only mud houses without electricity, gas, tap water, and other amenities of life. There were no schools and no public transport. My father, brothers and myself used to walk from our house to the railway station to board the train to Karachi every morning and go back every evening the same way. We still occupied the apartment in Karachi which now became the office of my father.

I was admitted to class II at Sheradon High School, skipping KG and class 1. It happened somewhere in 1952-53. Before I could complete class II, my parents shifted to Quetta in Balochistan, stayed there for a few months and then moved to a smallvillage called Jhatpat near Jacobabad in Sindh and took me along. My father planned to start a new business there relating to forestry after his unsuccessful attempt to get into business in Quetta. This small village had no school. We stayed there till 1954. Back in Karachi,I was admitted to City Girls Secondary School in class III. It was a co-ed school upto class V. I shined in class III by topping in every exam.

After having passed class III by securing the highest position in my class, I was moved to Lahore alongwith my mother and an elder brother in 1955. My brother was transferred by his employers from Karachi to Lahore and my mother accompanied him. I was admitted to Rangmahal Mission High School in class VI in 1956, jumping from class III, to make up for the lost years. There began the nightmare of a 13-year old boy who had topped in his previous school. I just could not grasp the maths of VI class. Every time I failed and I failed often, my maths teacher Mr. Alam charged me to his baton. I could never pass maths so long as he was there. I am sure he did not know my predicament that I had jumped from class III to VI.

In the year 1957, my parents and I moved to Rawalpindi. This time again, my father had to go there to look for a business opportunity. I was admitted to Islamia High School in class VII. There I turned out to be a super star topping in every subject including maths. I am sure it was because of the encouragement and support that I received from my maths teacher Mr. Nawab. When I left school to go back to Lahore with my parents after a year, my class teacher-cum-maths teacher Mr. Nawab and the entire class saw me off at the railway station and also garlanded me to the utter astonishment of the onlookers at the railway station.

Around the same time, I was struck by acute acne pimples spread on both cheeks. I used to have terrible itching and medicated soap and ointments did not appear to work. Ultimately, a doctor prescribed an ointment which did wonders and the pimples subsided after almost a year of painful itching and ultimately vanished but not without leaving mild scars on my cheeks.

Back in Lahore and the same school in 1958, I progressed well in all subjects except maths. This time it was a different teacher Mr. Azhar but somehow I failed and got punished after every class test. I just could not understand maths and algebra. There was nobody to help me out of my predicament, neither the teacher nor anybody at home.

I started penfriendship, stamp collecting and playing cricket in and around 1958. I cultivated penfriendship in several English speaking countries and exchanged stamps with many fellow stamp collectors in Europe and America. These two hobbies fascinated me and I devoted a good deal of my time to writing letters and collecting stamps at the cost of my studies.

Inspite of my diversion to hobbies, I was lucky to pass all subjects except maths in the final examination of class X but the failure in maths dropped down my overall grade and landed me in third division. I was happier than sad to have at least passed the final exam to get into a college. I remember going to the shrine of the saint Hazrat Osman Ali Hajveri (popularly known as Data Ganj Baksh) in Lahore and praying for just passing the final exam.

The years from 1943-1961 were quite tumultuous for me, shifting from one abode to the other and from one school to the other. Being the youngest in the family, my parents chose to take me along wherever they went without probably realizing the consequences of a broken academic path of their son. My father could read, write and speak English without having gone through regular or formal schooling. My mother had no schooling at all but she learned to read our native language Urdu through private tutoring at home after her marriage. Both of them did their best to provide the best available education to their sons, older than me, when my parents were settled at one place. So, the worth of good education was obvious to them.

My inconsistent schooling and, that too, in Urdu-medium institutions created two problems for me. First, I could not come to terms with maths and algebra. Second, I could not read, write and speak English with the right accent, fluency and understanding. These two handicaps, at times very frustrating, lived with me for many years to come, especially when two of my three older brothers could speak good English with fluency as they had received education at a first-rate English-medium school under the Cambridge system.

Life on Campus

In 1961, there were only two top-class colleges in Lahore. One of them was the Forman Christian College, commonly known as F. C. College, now an accredited university. It was established in 1864 by American missionaries. Its campus sprawled over 100 acres of land, the largest campus in the whole of Pakistan, encompassing the classrooms, hostels and faculty residences. It had several beautiful and well-maintained lush grass lawns and tall trees laid between wide and well-maintained roads. The whole environment was pollution-free, windy and pleasant. You could just enjoy the environment by sitting on the lawn or walking on the pathway. Cars and motorcycles were not allowed to enter the inner side of the campus. You could only see the kids of the faculty members cycling around.

I appeared for the admission test to get into the first year (freshman) of college education in arts. I was just asked to write an essay on the founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. I passed the test, got through the preliminary interview by a couple of faculty members and sent to the Principal for the final. Dr Ewing, an American professor who had been living in Pakistan for several decades, was the Principal at that time.

Dr. Ewing was quite impressed with the language and style of my essay but a bit surprised over my third division in the high school examination. I could think of only one blatant lie that I fell sick before the final exam and so could not study hard enough to earn a better grade. He smiled meaningfully and approved my admission.

I stayed at the college for four years from 1961-65 passing out the intermediate and the bachelor's in second division. This time, it was Economics that overturned my grades. Just like maths, I could not get along with Economics. To me, the economic theories just did not make any sense or at least I could not make any sense of them. In addition, the professor who used to teach Economics would just walk into the classroom, sit on a raised platform and start his lecture forthwith. I don't recall he ever asked any question from any student or floated a topic for general discussion in the classroom. The students were also least interested in asking him questions.

He was followed by a young, nice and supportive lecturer who had just come from college after doing his master's in Economics. The poor fellow was never taken seriously by the students and he, too, was a bit nervous, I guess, to teach at a very prestigious institution. So, we let him talk and he let us listen--no question-answer session from either side.

The one subject that I really enjoyed was General History, taught by an American professor Dr S.E. Brush. I always scored 80-90 percent marks in General History. He was a lively teacher always smiling and helpful during and after the class.

Political Science, taught by another American professor Dr Carl Wheeless, was as dry as Economics, all theory, but I passed it with fairly good marks in every test and exam. Dr Wheeless always bore a serious face, appeared tough and intolerant of nonsense. He often did not ask questions but everyone in his class was attentive and serious-looking just in case he put a question. Dr Wheeless had a superb memory. He remembered the name, roll number and face of each and every student. Outside the classroom, Dr Wheeless was altogether a different person. He was soft-spoken, polite and helpful if anybody asked for help or just shared his thoughts with him.

After graduating from F. C. College in 1965, I joined the two-year post-graduate Master of Education (Technical) Business programme of the Institute of Education & Research at the University of the Punjab. The institute, commonly known as I.E.R., was established as a joint venture between the Punjab University and the Indiana University (Bloomington, USA) in early 60's. The Department of Business Education was headed by an American professor Dr. Hamesh Maxwell, a thorough gentleman, decent and pleasant. He was a lively, caring and friendly professor, admired equally by the students and the faculty members.

Prior to taking admission at the I.E.R., I had also appeared for the admission test for an MBA programme at the Institute of Business Administration, University of Karachi, the most prestigious and the only institute of its kind in the country. I passed the test and the interview. However, due to financial constraints, I could not move to Karachi and bear the tuition fee and living expenses as my family still lived in Lahore.

At the I.E.R., I earned A grade in each of the five subjects of the first term of the business education programme. As a result, I was awarded full scholarship of Rs. 95 per month. The amount was sufficient to pay for the tuition fee and to meet personal expenses. Text books, mostly U.S.-published, were provided by the I.E.R. for each term on returnable basis. Each term lasted for 3 months except in summer when the duration was reduced to 2 months. We had only one-month summer vacations in a year.

My interest in business subjects coupled with good teaching methods, open and lively classroom discussions and friendly environment helped me a great deal and propelled me to become a superstar among the students. I excelled in every classroom quiz, test and terminal exam by earning A grade in every subject. There were 36 courses in all, spread over two years.I never missed a class in 2 years except when I suffered from fever for a week before the final exam of the second and final year. I remember how perturbed my father was. I could feel he was very concerned and prayed for my quick recovery so as to be able to maintain the top position in the final examination.

Punjab University used to award University Gold Medal to the student who topped in the final examination of each of its multiple post-graduate programmes. All the programmes offered at the I.E.R. were, however, excluded probably for the reason that we used different testing and evaluation methods, based on the American system, of filling-in blanks, multiple choice questions and so on. Our system was called objective testing system and that of the Punjab University subject testing system, based on writing comprehensive essays.

I made a written representation to the then Vice Chancellor of the Punjab University Prof Hameed and convinced him that the topped students of I.E.R. also deserved Gold Medals. He agreed to my proposition and allowed award of Gold Medals in the Convocation held in Feb 1968. I was also one of the recipients of the Gold Medal in Business Education.My years at the I.E.R. were just superb, though very demanding in time and space context. I used to get up early morning at around 4:30am. It took me one hour to get ready and take my breakfast of one fried egg, two toasts and one cup of tea at 5:30am. I usually left home around 5:45am to catch the bus at 6:00am from a walking distance. It took almost 2 hours to reach the campus around 7:45am. We used to have our first class session at 8:00am. I was almost always on time.

Classes were usually off around 2:00pm. I would then go to the library to study and complete home assignments and prepare myself for the next day lectures. It took me anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. If I had time in between, I would join a friend and play table tennis or badminton. Normally, I left campus between 5:00-6:00 in the evening. The journey back home had a different route. I would first take a bus to a point and then board a tonga (4-person carriage driven by a horse) to reach home, spending almost the same time as in the morning.Once at home, I would normally go to sleep for two hours. On awakening from the nap, I would take my meal. After meal, I would again sit down and study for the next day or complete remaining home assignments. The session lasted beyond midnight. My daily routine remained almost the same during the boiling hot summer and the chilly winter. The only change that I had to make at times when I missed the bus at 6:00am in the chilly winter. I would use a bicycle to go to the railway station, park the bicycle there and get a bus to campus. Yet, I reached in time.

Throughout these two years, I remained very energetic, hardworking, tenseless and engrossed in my studies, most of the time. I had little time to play sports at the campus. It was only on Sundays that I played cricket in a public park. We had 6-day a week and 11- month a year academic sessions but I really enjoyed every moment of the two years that I spent at the campus.A couple of interesting episodes took place at the campus.

We had four departments at I.E.R. One of them was Master of Education. Most of the students were girls, many of them really beautiful or charming. Our own department of business education had very few girl students. I developed liking for a girl student from the department of education by the name of B. I was always eager to have a look at her. She was slim, tall, whitish in complexion but charming in looks. We would often look at each other for several minutes while she was coming my side or I was going her side. But we never spoke to each other.

One of the teachers at the department of education had just returned from the U.S. after doing her Ph.D. She was young, tall, fair complexioned and quite attractive in appearance. I became fond of her but could never muster courage to speak to her. She probably knew my interest in her but she never took an initiative nor could I.

In the second year of my studies, I decided to contest election to become general secretary of the students union of I.E.R. I had to go to each student to ask for his/her vote. Many girls at the institute knew about my academic record, envied it but also admired me and were on the lookout to have a chance to talk to me or befriend me. It was quite usual at I.E.R. to have cross gender friends. I was always reluctant to befriend a girl, stroll with her along the canal running along the campus, sit with her in the library to talk in low tone or entertain her at cafeteria with or without her friends. Many boys indulged in these activities. There were plenty of hideouts, though there was no restriction on being together with girls.

I was one of the most well-dressed, well-behaved and good-looking boys at the I.E.R. and, I guess, that carried a premium for friendship with a girl. At my earlier college, we had just ONE girl student. Here at IER, there were so many outnumbering the boys. Most of them were really beautiful, charming and friendly. The province of Punjab was known for beauty and beautiful gals. We had girl students from all over Punjab, from all classes and creeds. I always admired beauty wherever it was found, whether it were beautiful surroundings, flowers, animals, landscapes, and obviously girls. At the same time, I also felt in my heart that I should have friendship with a girl who could be mine for ever i.e. be my wife. I could not afford to opt for marriage at that time for building a good career was my first priority.

Before the elections, I was supposed to approach girls, side by side boys, who could be found in groups on the institute's lush green lawns to solicit their support. I was not used to doing such a thing, was obviously shy and reluctant but without showing it. Every dame had a group of friends. Befriending one dame would mean losing support of the other dames and their friends. The problem seemed to be insoluble. So, I thought it would be better to avoid being associated with a particular group and just ask for support from all. That was probably not acceptable to any of the groups. Girls being in majority voted me out and I lost the election by 19 votes.Next day, I was back at the institute without carrying the signs and symptoms of a loser. Again, it was a big surprise for the girls more than the boys. I behaved as if the election was just an event that passed the previous evening and left no emotional scars on me. I am unable to recall whether it was natural or made-up posture on my part.Soon after the elections, I contested and became the president or vice president (don't recall the exact position) of the Business Students Club of the department of business education. That erased the remnants of the loss in the previous elections. I also realized later on that my studies might have been badly affected if I were elected as general secretary of the students union. I thought my defeat was a blessing in disguise.

On the day of the Convocation in Feb 1968 to receive my degree and a gold medal, I was quite tense. I had become a perfectionist during the previous two years. I felt nausea but somehow managed to walk upto the stage to receive my degree and the gold medal. I had a photographer lined up to take my pictures. But something went wrong with his camera and the pictures that he took turned out to be completely dark.

I was very fond of photography right from an early age. I started taking pictures at the age of 10 with a Kodak box camera. I have had the largest collection of pictures of family members, friends, relatives, landscapes, and places we visited from time to time. It was quite a shock to miss the pictures of my own Convocation.

Journey to Corporate World

From IML to Commerce Bank

After doing master's in business education from the Punjab University, I had three options. First, to take up teaching at the department of business education which could also get me a scholarship for further studies at the Indiana University (Bloomington). Second, to take up a job in a private enterprise to become an executive. Third, to study for another master's at the Institute of Business Administration, commonly known as I.B.A, at Karachi--1200km away from Lahore where I was living with my family.I decided in favour of going for another master's in business administration at IBA to strengthen my qualifications for a better start-up in a large organization, preferably a multi-national corporation. The multi-national corporations operating in Pakistan were known for their professional environment, high salaries and perks, foreign training and better career advancement. I took the admission test, appeared for the interview and got the admission. I joined the IBA in 1968 for an MBA degree and put up at the hostel.In later part of 1968, riots broke out throughout Pakistan. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, formerly foreign minister, had left the cabinet of President Ayub Khan in 1967 and founded his own political party called Pakistan People's Party (PPP) in the same year. He launched a mass campaign to dislodge President Ayub Khan. He was young, dynamic and chrismatic. He could mobilize the people, address them in the language and gestures they could understand and came up with a message the masses needed. Roti, Kapra, Makan (food, clothing and shelter) was the thematic slogan of PPP. As a result of the agitation, the IBA was closed indefinitely.Around the same time, I got an offer from Industrial Management Ltd (IML). It was a managing agency of several corporations including Karachi Gas Company (now Sui Southern Gas Company), Commerce Bank, Pakistan Chrome Mines, New Jubilee Insurance Company, etc. IML was owned and headed by Mr. Amirali Fancy whose family was counted among the 22 richest families of Pakistan. Mr. Amirali Fancy was also the agent of Aga Khan in Pakistan.I was appointed in IML as covenanted assistant at a gross salary of Rs. 500 per month and posted in the administration department. It was sort of a management trainee job. I worked in IML for 3 months and then moved to the Commerce Bank which was also owned by the same group. I started my career in Commerce Bank in 1969 as junior officer at a gross salary of Rs. 660 per month. I served in the purchase department, office services department and development department from 1969-1974.At the purchase dept., I was made responsible for managing the stores and purchasing of the bank under the direct supervision of the General Manager of the bank, Mr. G. M. Ghias. Mr. Ghias was a hard taskmaster, always in high gear and perturbed over the working of the people under him. He was least interactive with his staff and the staff members were too scared to go to him unless called to his office. He was very hardworking, honest to the core and highly authoritarian. Initially, it appeared almost impossible to work with him. However, we developed a good working relationship as the time passed and he probably realized that I was equally honest, hardworking and loyal as he was to the bank. He began to trust me so much that he would countersign bills worth millions of rupees by just seeing my signature on the bills. I did my best to reorganize the stores and purchasing of the bank and streamlined the procedures and performance of the dept. I also worked for a few months in the newly-established office services dept under Mr. Shamim Yazdani, a very nice, friendly and thorough gentleman.In 1970, I was transferred to the Development Dept. to work under Mr. Rashid A. Nagra. The Development Dept was responsible for business development, opening of new branches and advertising and public relations of the bank throughout Pakistan. Mr. Nagra was a very dynamic and progressive person but a very difficult person to work with. Nobody in the bank was willing to be his No. 2. I worked with him till the end of 1974, probably the longest tenure any officer had with him.During the time from 1970-1974, the bank opened the largest number of branches as compared to any other period of time. The development dept. conceived and launched deposit mobilization campaigns from time to time to increase the bank deposits and income. An advertising campaign through press and television was launched for the first time in the history of the bank. We organized regular meetings of the zonal heads at Karachi to review past performance and plan for the future. We also introduced an in-house newsletter for the first time carrying articles, news and pictures. The Development Dept. composed of just 3 persons was doing all that work on national basis in coordination with other departments, zonal offices and advertising agency.Throughout the four years, the Development Dept. worked with great zeal, innovations, and commitment to take the bank to newer heights inspite of the frequent temper tantrums and bad behaviour of the departmental head with the staff for most part of the 4-year period. The bank made a profit for the first time since its inception during these years.
Merger of Commerce BankIn 1974, the government under Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto nationalized the banks. Commerce Bank was merged into United Bank, the third largest bank in the country with a wide network of branches within and outside the country. The bank was founded by Mr. Agha Hasan Abidi who later became an icon of the banking industry worldwide. He also founded the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI).The United Bank Ltd, commonly called UBL, opted to take me into the Public Relations Dept at their Head Office. The department was headed by Mr. Mohsin Raza, a very decent, knowledgeable, honest, hardworking and supportive person. We worked together comfortably to conduct advertising and public relations of the bank. The bank had a much bigger advertising budget than any other company outside the banking industry in Pakistan.My first task every morning was to glance over 14 newspapers, mark important news relating to economy, banking, corporations etc., and get the clippings done, put in a folder and sent to the President of the Bank by 10:00am. I used to reach office at 8:45am while the office work started at 9:00am. I did learn a great deal about advertising and public relations while at the bank. Everything was done in a big way. The dept organized dinners for corporate clients and top banking officials, arranged medical treatment of sick and moneyless writers, singers and artistes, established the UBL Cricket team for the first time, and organized conferences, events and ceremonies on behalf of the bank. We interacted with the media, released news, contradicted news, and kept ourselves well informed about the happenings in the banking industry and the country as a whole. We were also responsible for releasing special advertisements on special occasions of countries where we had bank branches. We were known in the industry as the best PR dept.I left UBL in 1977 to join Premier Tobacco Industries Ltd. (PTI), an affiliate of Philip Morris, USA., as Sales Manager. Philip Morris owned 49% of the share capital of the public limited company.

Premier Tobacco Industries Ltd
While at United Bank Ltd., I mailed an unsolicited application for a position in sales or marketing to the then Australia-born Executive Director of Premier Tobacco Industries Ltd who was a nominee of Philip Morris. In my application, I briefly commented on PTI and its brands. I had already done a comparison of PTI and PTC (Pakistan Tobacco Company Ltd), a subsidiary of British Imperial Tobacco Company, based on the annual reports of these companies.I was called for interview with Director Marketing Mr. Tasleem Batlay. I submitted him the comparison. He liked it. I was eventually selected for the job. I came to know later that PTI was already on the look-out for a replacement of their current Sales Manager.I joined PTI and was asked to occupy the room of the Marketing Manager at the Head Office, located on the upper floor of the building. Sales Dept was located on the ground floor. No formal handing-over and taking-over took place between the outgoing sales manager and me. In fact, I did not even see him. The management probably did not want me to meet him lest I was spoiled too.After joining PTI, the chairman Mr. S. A. Samad called me to his office. He told me that they had carried out a background check on me and were satisfied with the findings. He emphatically said that they were looking for an honest man.The job of sales manager in PTI was a very sensitive one. Anybody in that position could make or break the company. A really competent and honest person was required to head the department. Anybody could make millions by just giving more stocks to any favoured distributor and taking his cut. K-2 was the lead brand selling 700 million cigarettes a month out of the total company sales of 800 million of all its brands. It was a hot cake selling at a premium to the consumers. We could not meet the market demand due to production capacity constraints, although the company was producing it in eight factories located in different parts of the country.Premier Tobacco Industries Ltd was established by Mr. S. A. Samad who had no previous experience of manufacturing cigarettes. He did not go to college either. He used to sell 'beri' ( a kind of cigarette with raw tobacco wrapped in tobacco leaf) in Sukkur on a small scale. He took the initiative of setting up an industry in competition with a giant Pakistan Tobacco Company with immense resources at their disposal. There is no doubt that Mr. Samad had tremendous business acumen and marketing ideas. His earlier brands could not do much business. However, K-2 was a grand success unprecedented in the cigarette industry in Pakistan. The brand was developed by hit and trial and it worked to the luck of Mr. Samad.From the very first meeting with the sales force, I realized that all of them were highly demotivated, grumbled in no uncertain terms about the past when their performance was not recognized and nor rewarded and were reluctant to put in extra effort any longer. I asked them to give me six months and assured them of better working environment and compensation. They responded by stating that others before me had also promised the same way but nothing had happened.The salary and perks in PTI were far behind its major competitor Pakistan Tobacco Company Ltd., selling almost the same numbers in units. However, the value turnover of PTC and its profit margin were higher than those of PTI because of the former's leading position in top-of-the-line high-priced filter brands.Working with an extremely demoralized and dissatisfied team proved to be a gigantic task for me. I could feel the inside anguish and anger the team carried against the management and their abnormal resistance to change their attitude and approach and put in extra efforts.The first thing that I did was to go through all the files of the department for one full month without involving myself in day to day sales operations. The Assistant Sales Manager could look after the day to day operations as he had been working for the company for several years.That exercise gave me an insight into the working of the department, distributors, and the high-ups at the Head Office.The files as well as personal conversations and observations brought out many a surprising revelations. First, almost every department at the Head Office was highly critical of the working of the sales team and expressed their utter dissatisfaction with the sales team's performance. Second, almost every department at the Head Office lost no moment to humiliate the sales persons and accuse them of dishonesty. Third, there was a cold war going on between Director Marketing, who had joined the company lately without having any experience of the cigarette industry, and the Marketing Manager Mr. Zuberi who belonged to the camp of old-timers.The silent war was consciously or consciously dividing the loyalties in the sales and marketing departments. I was presumed to be a member of the new-comers camp led by Mr. Batlay, though I had never met him before the interview took place. My Assistant Sales Manager was also an old-timer and an aspirant to become the Sales Manager. It was a great shock to him to have somebody from outside the cigarette industry as his superior. He belonged to the camp of Mr. Zuberi and enjoyed his encouragement and support vis-a-vis me. Mr. Zuberi had his own axe to grind as he expected to be elevated to the position of Director Marketing before Mr. Batlay joined.I was confronted with a dilemma right from the beginning. It was extremely difficult to keep a balance between the old-timers and the new-comers. So deep were the conflicts of interest that no persuasion seemed to be working. So, I decided to reorganize the sales dept to make it more effective without getting myself embroiled in the cold war.I made every effort to cultivate a good working relationship with my subordinates. I became their teacher, guide and helper to improve their understanding of their own functions and how best to use their knowledge and experience to perform better so that the bad image of the sales team would improve in the eyes of the company. I travelled with the sales persons within the city and outside, visiting retailers, wholesalers and distributors. I gave them a free hand to make out their tour programmes and passed their expense statements without questioning their honesty.I worked harder than the sales persons. I read each and every sales report and sent back my comments. I sent good reports to the Head Office. I travelled with them in non-airconditioned wagon in hot summer, let them share the same meal with me, involved them in general conversations on the way to make them comfortable and also discussed market situation in informal ways and sought their views.I told the sales team that they are answerable only to me and nobody at the Head Office. If any department objects to any of their actions, let it be known that he has to speak to me. I became a buffer between the sales team and the H.O. That provided a good deal of relief to the sales persons who had earlier been humiliated, criticized, and downgraded quite often from the various departments at the H.O., especially the Marketing Dept and the Finance Dept.I undertook a long journey of 1000 miles from Karachi in Sindh to Quetta in Balochistan by a company-operated wagon. It was the hot month of August '77. The concerned sales persons responsible for their territories on theway accompanied me. We came back the same way in approximately 15 days. We visited retailers, wholesalers and distributors of every town that came our way on our journey from Karachi to Quetta. It was a great learning experience for me, too.Within a few months, the sales team was almost completely changed in their perceptions of their own capabilities, their image in the company and how the work had to be done. It gave them a moral boost and motivated them a great deal to put in extra-ordinary efforts.Within a year, the sales of our key filter cigarette brand Red & White more than tripled, making it the lead brand in Karachi superceding the PTC's lead brand "Wills." PTC could never image that Red and White would overtake Wills despite sustained and regular promotional campaigns. We also worked hard to revive our dying brand K-2 Filter and stabilized its sales. Our No.1, non-filter plain brand was K-2. It was always in short supply and sold at a premium to the smokers. We streamlined the supply, reallocated quota to each distributor and removed irritants to feed the markets according to their actual requirements rather than inflated orders of our distributors.The cigarette retailers had a very strong union to protect their interests vis-a-vis cigarette manufacturers. The sales and marketing personnel in PTI were very scared of the union and its secretary-general Mr. Yusuf and the union despised the cigarette manufacturers and treated them as their enemies. No cigarette company could launch a brand, introduce a special offer or make any other major change in its policy without prior consultation with Mr. Yusuf; otherwise, the company ran the risk of its brands boycotted by the cigarette retailers. I did not know about this situation. I introduced a special offer on sales of our unstable brand K-2 Filter without prior consultation with the union through its secretary-general.My action created a stir in the marketing dept at HO. I was called in to be told that I must recall the offer and introduce it only after its clearance by the union. I refused for I believed the offer was in the interest of the retailers and the company alike and there was no reason to let the union poke its nose into our operations.I went ahead with the offer and it clicked. There was no negative reaction from the union and Mr. Yusuf inspite of the fact that our competitors tried their best to exploit the situation to have our brand boycotted. After a month or so, I visited Mr. Yusuf in Hyderabad, a city at a distance of 150km from Karachi. He was also a cigarette retailer. He gave me and my field officer a hearty welcome, hugged us, treated us to a drink and then a cup of tea. That was just unprecedented for Mr. Yusuf to do for the sales persons of a cigarette company. I sat with him for about half-an-hour or so and we talked about his children, their education and their career plans and other things, nothing about cigarette business. He again hugged me and my field officer again when we were leaving his shop.My field officer was really in a state of utter surprise. It was my first meeting with Mr. Yusuf. He just could not figure out why Mr. Yusuf was so courteous to us. I guess Mr. Yusuf was well aware of what I was doing for his union members as sales manager of PTI, removing their grievances and meeting their genuine demands.I always believed that a sales person had to be in the field as frequently as his position required to maintain a healthy and supportive relationship with the trade and to listen to the trade, meet their genuine requirements and remove their genuine grievances. At the same, he would also know what his own subordinates were doing in the field. Field visits were an excellent source to gain knowledge of the happenings in the market place including competitors' activities, trade expectations, suggestions from the trade and working of company's field force and distributors. Throughout my sales and marketing career, I never made a policy change without first visiting the market to obtain first-hand knowledge of what was happening in the market place.Before my joing the company, PTI had decided to launch Black & White in the highest premium segment to compete with PTC's Gold Leaf. It turned out to be a massive failure in the market place for many a reason. Since it was the first brand launch of Mr. Batlay's tenure, it probably became a prestige point for him to make the brand successful without realizing its inherent weaknesses. He wanted Black & White to succeed, come what may. Mr. Batlay set the sales target for Black & White at 300% of its current sales, without any basis whatsoever. That became a bone of contention between him and me. I resisted the phenomenal increase and he insisted on achieving it. I just could not convince myself, the sales team and the distributors.
The consumers are often very taste conscious of taste products such as cigarettes, teas, cold drinks. You may have a consumer try your brand but there is no way to bring him to your fold if the taste does not click with him. We did a lot of test trials of taste of Black & White but the taste could not match that of the competitor's brand. In my opinion, it would have been a futile exercise to increase sales by simply pushing the brand at the retail outlets. It was a top of the line brand and consumers of such brands cannot be forced to buy such a brand by salesmanship.Ultimately, I decided to resign in 1979 without having an alternate job elsewhere. Black & White proved to be a big liability for the company and adversely affected its finances due to heavy promotional expenses. The brand was discontinued and Mr. Batlay was transferred to become Director Corporate Affairs. He was replaced by a sales person hired from Pakistan Tobacco Company.

Plasticrafters Ltd
As soon as I resigned from Premier Tobacco Industries Ltd., I received an offer from United Distributors Ltd., the sole distributors of Pakistan Tobacco Company in Karachi for their newly introduced in-house tea brand Silverpot. I was to head their sales department. I declined the offer for I did not see much of a future for the brand. Ultimately, the brand was discontinued after some time. After leaving PTI, I applied for a sales or marketing position in Plasticrafters Ltd., the No. 1 manufacturers of RAHBER water coolers and household plastic goods. It was an unsolicited application and I really did not know if any position existed in the company.The chairman and managing director, Mr. Masood Alam, called me for an interview and asked me to work with him as his No.2. I chose the designation of Management Coordinator for myself. I was supposed to "keep things moving through the various departments and take decisions on behalf of Mr. Alam." I briefed him every day at 4:30pm on the issues and actions taken during the day and left the office at 5:30pm. All other departmental heads used to leave after Mr. Masood Alam left the office between 7:00-8:00pm.Mr. Masood Alam, Mr. Muzaffar Alam, who was his youngest brother and director production, and all departmental heads used to have lunch together at company’s expense. It used to be more of a business lunch with three or more dishes at a time and hot 'chappatis' (bread) coming in regularly from the kitchen. The lunch usually lasted for an hour or an hour-and-a-half.Plasticrafters Ltd. (PCL) was founded soon after Pakistan came into being. Mr. Masood Alam was the majority shareholder and worked as chairman and managing director. His younger brother Mr. Iqbal Alam was the minority shareholder and worked as Executive Director. Mr. Masood Alam used to sit at the factory and Mr. Iqbal Alam at the Head Office. During the initial years, Plasticrafters was engaged only in manufacturing plastic components for the armed forces. In 1979, Mr. Masood Alam came up with the idea of introducing water cooler in plastic body under the name of 'Rahber' meaning "leader." There was only one major manufacturer of plastic water cooler in Pakistan at that time but the product was not promoted through mass media. So, most of the people just did not know about plastic water coolers and their utility. When Rahber was introduced, it was launched with a big bang through TV commercials. It met with instant success and became a household name within a year.When I joined PCL in 1980, the company was expanding and growing its business at a fast pace. I became involved in everything from import of machinery and moulds to packaging, procurement of local materials, sales and marketing, media advertising, shipments for exports, export rebates, production planning, etc. I also became the Marketing Manager and head of the department overseeing sales and marketing functions of the company in addition to being Management Coordinator.After I took over as head of sales and marketing dept., I organized a road trip by a hired wagon from Karachi to Peshawar at a distance of 2000km along with the sales manager and field officers. We visited distributors, wholesalers and retailers in almost every town that came our way. The entire journey lasted for 25 days, both ways. The purpose was to have first-hand knowledge of the market conditions, to meet the trade and to devise our sales and marketing policies.Plasticrafters became the largest advertiser in the plastic industry and its advertising budget equaled that of many multi-national companies marketing consumer products. We were present everywhere, be it television, radio, press, outdoor displays. We were the sole sponsors of the most famous stage show of the time 'Neelam Ghar.' On the other side, we were introducing one product after another and one design after another. We had plastic water coolers from 4-litre capacity to 30-litre capacity. We had a water cooler for every imaginable use. I recall we introduced 24 models/designs in one single year. We highlighted the various usages of water coolers such as office, home, travelling, picnics, hospitals and so on.Side by side water coolers; we had a whole range of household plastic goods, vacuum flask with inside glass bottle, and vacuum flask with inner plastic body. Product innovation, quality assurance and customer service were the hallmarks of our success.Although we did not have research-based market share figures but it was estimated from the sale at the retail outlets that Rahber was undoubtedly No. 1 and its share in water coolers was 80%-90%. All sales were made on cash in advance. We offered a reasonable but lower margin to the distributors, wholesalers and retailers as compared to our competitors. However, the trade earned more on Rahber than on any other brand because of its high turnover.
PCL also became the largest exporter of water coolers and household plastic goods and received export awards and trophies from the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry.
In the early 80's, General M. Zia-ul-Haq was the president of Pakistan. It came to our knowledge that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had sent a note to the president to ban the use of Rahber's slogan which in Urdu said: 'Hamara Rahber sab say behtar water cooler.' The Ministry reportedly objected to the use of word 'rahber with water cooler.' How could a water cooler be rahber (leader)?
President Zia-ul-Haq knew me personally. So, I dashed a letter to him informing him of the contribution of Plasticrafters in the domestic market as well as exports, without making a reference to what Ministry of Information thought. Nothing happened thereafter.
I enjoyed an excellent working relationship with Mr. Masood Alam throughout my stay at Plasticrafters. He never overturned any of my decisions nor expressed his dissatisfaction on a decision, directly or indirectly. Whenever he went outside Pakistan and he was quite a frequent flyer in search of new products and technologies, he would ask me to occupy his room, sit in his chair and use his desk. All drawers of his desk were unlocked. I was the only person allowed to open his personal mail during his absence.Mr. Masood Alam was fond of having meetings on holidays at his residence. I did not have a car in the beginning. I got it later. So, he would drive down his Mercedes Benz car all the way from his residence to mine to pick me up, take me to his house, entertain me to several dishes of eatables and drop me back at home. He never asked me to come by cab.Mr. Masood Alam was a great visionary in many ways. He was also a hard taskmaster for himself and others. He was dynamic and progressive in his outlook. His departmental heads earned more than those working in multi-national companies in Pakistan. He would pay salary plus commission or profit share to his departmental heads. That was quite a unique feature of his entreprenurial style in Pakistan.While working at Plasticrafters, I received an offer from Chloride Pakistan Ltd., a subsidiary of Chloride England to work as Sales Manager. Chloride England was the largest manufacturer of automotive batteries in the world and Chloride Pakistan was the market leader in Pakistan. I just jumped at the offer and requested Mr. Alam to relieve me. He kept my resignation with him and did not announce my departure till the last day hoping that I might change my mind. The only reason leaving Plasticrafters and joining Chloride was my ambition to work for a multi-national company. Chloride did not offer me a higher salary and perks. In fact, I joined it at a lower take-home pay and also lost the full-time transport facility that I had at Plasticrafters.My stay at Plasticrafters was memorable for many reasons. First, it was a great opportunity to directly work with an extremely dynamic, progressive and disciplined chairman and managing director. He was a simple graduate but possessed tremendous business acumen and immense qualities of heart and mind. He was a hard taskmaster, too, but listened to reason. Second, I was there all through the expansion of the company and its business and received hands-on experience of entrepreneurship. Third, I was closely associated with the creation, development and implementation of mass media campaigns. That gave me an insight into the working of advertising agency and creative work that goes to the development of a promotional campaign. In fact, I also did copy writing for many of our press advertisements.‘Rahber’ was a great name and enjoyed tremendous respect in the media. Every time we launched a new product, we would hold a press conference and every time participation was huge. When Mr. Masood Alam’s mother died late at night, he called me and asked me to prepare an announcement and get it published in the next-day editions of English daily "DAWN" and Urdu daily "Jang." It was quite late at night and I did not have money on hand to pay for the announcement. However, I drove to the offices of ‘DAWN" and "Jang" and requested the editorial staff on duty to publish the announcement for which payment would be made later. To my utter surprise, they agreed. I stayed there till the first copies of the newspapers were printed and left for home around 3:00am.In later half of the 80's, a dispute arose between Mr. Masood Alam and Mr. Iqbal Alam. The case went to the court. The option to have majority shareholding and management control was offered to both gentlemen. Mr. Masood Alam opted to leave the company. He was given his share of the company. Mr. Masood Alam ultimately shifted to the U.S. along with his wife. His only son and two daughters had already been married.In 1991, I came to know that Mr. Masood Alam was in the city. I was lucky to reach him through one of his friends. I went to see him at his friend's office. He asked me what I was doing. I had just left Exide Pakistan. He asked me to go into trading of commodities for which he would give me Rs. 10 million. He also assured me that he would arrange more funds if required. He asked me to do the business on my own, as he will not be available to work with me. Besides, he said he was not interested in doing any business as he had played his innings well and wanted to lead a retired life. I could not take the risk of using his money for trading I never did before. So, I declined the offer with thanks. But his offer and the trust he reposed in me is something I still remember and greatly cherish. That was yet another example of his greatness as a human being.I also remember he called me up at Chloride Pakistan one month in advance of the wedding date of his eldest daughter to ask me to be in Karachi to attend the function with my wife. It was a grand wedding party attended by a very large number of the city’s elite in G.O.R. of Pakistan Navy.I joined Chloride Pakistan Ltd in end 1982 and continued till middle of 1991.

Chloride Pakistan Ltd
After spending memorable time at Plasticrafters Ltd., the manufacturers of Pakistan's #1 water coolers and household plastic goods under the brand name 'Rahber,' I landed in Chloride Pakistan Ltd., a subsidiary of Chloride plc England. Chloride England was the world leader in automotive batteries and Chloride Pakistan was the market leader in Pakistan.Chloride Pakistan had advertised the position of Sales Manager for the sales of automotive batteries throughout Pakistan. It was a new position created at the Head Office in Karachi. I was first interviewed by Mr. S. I. Ahmed, Director Marketing and then by Mr. S.H.M. Zaidi, Managing Director. Finally, I was selected and asked to join C-Pak in Nov 1982.The year 1982 witnessed the massive inflow of foreign batteries. The foreign brands were sold to the consumer at approx. 40% less price than the locally made brands. NS40 for cars was the leading battery type in foreign brands. Since the car segment constituted around 33-35 percent of the total market, foreign brands began to cause a major dent to the domestic brands, mainly Exide and AGS. Another advantage for foreign brands was the plastic body as compared to hard rubber body of domestic brands.
Although there was no warranty on foreign brands in contrast to domestic brands carrying 15-month warranty (6-month free and 9-month graduated), the price difference and the confidence in the foreign brands proved good enough for the buyers. Some innovative battery dealers also offered their own 6-month warranty on foreign brands and charged a premium.Chloride Pakistan had long been planning to introduce batteries in polypropylene containers as the company's annual budget documents showed. However, no efforts were made to initiate the process of importing the technology, machines and moulds. When I came into Chloride, I realized that the salvation of our brand and company lied in the speedy introduction of batteries in plastic containers. That was the norm not only in Japan but also in the whole of South Asia.The person who vehemently opposed the introduction of batteries in polypropylene (PP) container was the Director Marketing himself who had been preparing the budget document year after year and proposed the launch in almost every document. I could not really figure out why such a stance was taken by him. Mr. Andrew Cameron, Deputy Chairman of Overseas Division of Chloride England also impressed upon C-Pak to launch pp batteries while on his regular visits to Pakistan.Under pressure from the market and Chloride England, the company finally decided to go ahead with the project. It took us two years to complete the process of selecting battery types, technology, machinery and moulds etc. Finally, we were able to launch Exide in pp in selected types in 1985.The new product hit a nose-dive in the market place. The percentage of claims shot up beyond imagination for initial battery failures and short life. It was the strength of the brand name, support from the trade and the hardwork put in by the sales force that the company survived the terrible crisis and eventually overcame the quality defects in a few months' timeIn 1985, Adamjee Group initiated a joint venture with Furukawa Battery Co. of Japan to launch their brand FB in Pakistan. A public limited company by the name of Automotive Battery Co. Ltd (ABCL) was formed for the purpose. Chloride's Director Marketing through his own initiative or the Adamjee's initiative, I really don't know, was selected to head the company as Chief Executive. He was appointed in 1985 for joining the company in 1986.I received a tip from a source that Mr. S. I. Ahmed had been selected and would be joining ABCL in 1986. I informed Mr. S.H.M.Zaidi, Managing Director of Chloride. Mr. Ahmed was on 30-day annual leave at the time. When I broke the news to Mr. Zaidi, he was stunned. The first sentence that he uttered on hearing the news was: "The burden will now be on you." He was virtually frightened that Mr. Ahmed's exit would cause a major dent to Chloride in the market place. I told him nothing would happen if we made certain changes in our sales and marketing strategies, distribution network and organizational structure of the dept. He agreed and gave me the go ahead to do whatever was necessary to protect Chloride and make the competitor's entry as difficult as possible. When Mr. Ahmed came back from leave, Mr. Zaidi asked him point blank about his joining FB. He categorically denied. However, he found out from Mr. Zaidi or somebody else, I don't know, that it was me who had given the tip to Mr. Zaidi. He also expressed his serious displeasure and vehemently criticized the changes made in his absence.As soon as Mr. Ahmed resumed office, he took the first step to isolate me from sales and marketing functions. Although my designation was that of Sales Manager but I was made responsible for both sales and marketing functions. At that time, Chloride had stuck up payments of over Rs. 8 million, dating back to several years, with Pakistan Army against batteries supplied to them.

It was Mr. Ahmed who had always been handling the defence business. He probably thought his action would demoralize me and force me to seek a job elsewhere thus strengthening his bargaining position vis-a-vis Mr. Zaidi to ensure his succession as Managing Director of Chloride when the former finally retired. He had adopted the same strategy in 1975 when Mr.Zaidi had just joined Chloride and both the departmental head and his #2 Mr. Ahmed resigned at almost the same time (reportedly with mutual concurrence). Mr. Zaidi brought back Mr. Ahmed from the company he had already joined and promoted him as departmental head.I accepted the challenge with grace and recovered most of the overdue amount with just three visits to Rawalpindi but the whole year of 1985-86 was taken by the technicalities and filing of missing documents to obtain payment which in several cases had become time-barred.In March 1986, Mr. Ahmed resigned. Mr. Zaidi called me in his office and asked me to start taking charge of the department. Mr.Ahmed was encouraged to leave the company before the expiry of his notice period. Mr. Zaidi issued a circular to the trade announcing the resignation of Mr. Ahmed and assumption of responsibilities by me.

Mr. Zaidi continued to assure me of my promotion to the position of Director Marketing. I was to perform my duties as well as those of Director Marketing. The only assistant that I had also left and joined Mr. Ahmed for a higher position, although I had got him promoted earlier to retain him in the company. So, I was left all alone at Head Office. I put in the best that I could to meet the demands of the time especially in the wake of almost daily rumours from ABCL to demoralize the trade and the staff in Chloride.In May 1986, Mr. Zaidi unexpectedly nominated Mr. Mahmood Jan, Director Works to hold the additional charge of Director Marketing. I was on tour to Lahore having a meeting with the trade when the news broke in. On my return to Karachi, I protested to Mr. Zaidi. He consoled me by saying that Mr. Mahmood Jan will be promoted as his deputy and elevated to replace him on his retirement and that I will then be promoted as Director Marketing. He also said that Mr. Jan needed exposure to marketing and that will benefit me for better understanding with him when he was promoted. In the same breadth, he said he could send back Mr. Jan to Works if need be.Mr. Zaidi also redesignated me as Marketing Manager with the promise of revising my salary and perks on next appraisal in April. In the organizational chart, Mr. Ahmed was also designated as Marketing Manager and an alternate director on the Board. By doing so, Mr. Zaidi created the impression in the organization that I had been promoted. On the contrary, as I realized later, he just tried to buy time to enable Mr. Jan to fully comprehend sales and marketing functions for I never received the promised salary and perks. Mr. Jan was an engineer by profession and did not have exposure to sales and marketing in his entire career.Mr. Zaidi had already crossed the retirement age in 1984 and was working on two-year extension. It was, therefore, understandable that Mr. Mahmood Jan will have a fair chance of becoming the new Managing Director for his only competitor Mr. Ahmed had already left the company. The Director Finance was on the verge of retirement.While Mr. Jan was holding the dual charge of Works and Marketing, his friend Mr. Arshad Shehzada from a sugar factory was hired as Director Works. Just after six months or so of the transfer of Mr. Jan as Director Marketing, his resignation was announced and he was replaced with Mr. Umer Farooq as Controller Marketing hired from outside the battery industry. He had no sales and marketing experience. All his life, he dealt with only one customer for selling transformers. Again, it was me who had to carry the workload of managing the sales and marketing functions. After nine months, he was fired.Although Mr. Umer Farooq was compensated with six months salary and perks for nine months of service, he blew whistle on Mr. Zaidi and wrote one letter after another to the trade and institutional customers as well as the staff levelling serious allegations against Mr. Zaidi. Mr. Zaidi retaliated by having a public notice along with his photo published in the newspapers announcing his removal from service.After the departure of Mr. Umer Farooq, I again stepped in to work as departmental head and marketing manager until Mr. Homi Sanjana was brought in as Director Marketing after a gap of several months. Mr. Sanjana had worked in AGS but his knowledge and experience was outdated and confined to desk work. During his tenure at Chloride, he paid frequent visits to the branches and distributors but often refrained from visiting the trade, OEMs and govt institutions. He was forced to find a job elsewhere when Mr. Zaidi resorted to writing terse memos expressing his dissatisfaction with his performance. The company had continued to grow in sales and profits while Mr. Sanjana was there but Mr. Zaidi knew it was me and not Mr. Sanjana who was turning in the results. After Mr. Sanjana's exit, I again assumed both the roles of departmental head and marketing manager.

Chloride Changes to ExideIn the second half of 1986, Chloride England had made up its mind to sell off their majority shareholding in Chloride Pakistan but it was kept confidential at the time. The sell off process lasted till 1987 when it was finally announced that Mr. Jivraj, a real estate investor and hotelier in London had purchased the Chloride's majority shares. It was Mr. Jivraj's first experience of entering manufacturing industry. He designated Mr. Zaidi as the chairman and managing director of Exide Pakistan Ltd. (previously Chloride Pakistan Ltd).Early 1991, Mr. Jivraj appointed Mr. Bachal Kazi, Director Operations, Reckitt & Colman, as Deputy Managing Director of Exide Pakistan to succeed Mr. Zaidi who was already 67 years old. Mr. Zaidi was reportedly shocked as he was neither consulted nor informed of the new appointee before his one-month joining time. Mr. Zaidi, nevertheless, had one month to strengthen his position vis-a-vis his new deputy. Without consulting Mr. Kazi, Mr. Zaidi transferred Product Manager Industrial who happened to be the son-in-law of his cousin, as Acting Director Works. The poor fellow had never worked in Works in his entire career. Mr. Arshad Shehzada, who was Director Works, with virtually no experience of sales or marketing, was transferred as Director Marketing. Mr. Alvi who was Manager Accounts was made Acting Director Finance.For me, it was now the breaking point. I had suffered enough and could not bear the blunt. I did not know that Mr. Kazi had been appointed. I resigned and left the company without a job in hand.During the earlier years from 1982-1986 before Mr. Ahmed left the company, I was the first person from within the industry to organize raids on the suppliers of illegally imported foreign brands, risking my own life, to control the flow of those brands which had been adversely affecting the domestic battery industry in general and Chloride in particular. I also wrote strongly-worded letters to the heads of the government institutions who were buying those illegally imported foreign brands to refrain them from doing so.The head of a law enforcement agency served a notice on Chloride asking for my apology for writing him such a letter and threatened to take the case to a summary military court. It was the period of martial law of General M. Zia-ul-Haq.I was sent a message by one of the leading suppliers of foreign batteries whose shop had been raided, through my distributor in his town, that I should never come to his city again. However, I did go to his city just after 3 months to address our annual dealers convention.I also sent representations to the Central Board of Revenue to provide protection to the domestic battery industry. I visited the government officials in Quetta (Balochistan) where bulk of the foreign brands were coming in from across the borders and supplied to other parts of the country, to persuade them to control the flow. This was something which no other battery manufacturer did nor the departmental head or the Managing Director of Chloride did it.It was me who introduced the concept of holding annual dealers convention in 1983 to tell the trade about the performance of the company, reward dealers who performed well and entertained the entire trade to dinner and presented them gifts in each major city of the country.It was me who revamped the budgeting and planning process by obtaining pertinent data from different sources to assess the market size, market share of domestic brands, foreign brands and replattals, set the future objectives and prepare action plans to achieve those objectives. When the first such document was discussed with Mr. Andrew Cameron, Dy Chairman of Overseas Division of Chloride England, on his visit to Pakistan, his first remark was "it is an excellent document." We had already sent him an advance copy before his visit.I was the first in the battery industry to obtain the figures of motor vehicles registered and on-road in each district in each category such as passenger cars, buses, trucks, tractors etc. through the courtesy of Dr. Sadiq who was director general of Federal Bureau of Statistics. On the basis of these statistics, we revised the estimates of market size and sales targets in the territory of each branch and main dealer.I took the initiative to call the first Main Dealers Conference to share information about the market conditions, market size and market potential and devise ways and means to tap the market potential.I enlarged the distribution network by increasing the number of main dealers (distributors) from 11 to 43 within a couple of years, starting from 1983. The existing main dealers did not have enough finances and market reach to meet the growing market demand.I played a major role in the launching of batteries in polypropylene containers starting from 1985 and faced the market challenges when the product miserably failed and claims shot up and also contained the damage done to the brand Exide.During 1986-91, after the departure of Mr. S. I. Ahmed, I did many things that demanded a lot of brain work and leg work. (1) Many innovations were made in the product range such as (a) introduction of new battery types separately for each segment of cars of 800-999cc, 1000-1299cc and 1300-1600cc substituting NS40 that was being used for all the three segments (b) launching low maintenance batteries for the first time in Pakistan (c) creating, developing and launching a new low-price brand in NS40 range called Hi-Power to compete with the foreign brands. It became an instant success and we had to restrict its supplies to prevent it from taking share of Exide NS40.
(2) the distribution network was enlarged and strengthened to the full advantage of Exide and (3) the sales and marketing department was reorganized to make it more effective. Supervisors became officers and officers became managers in the department after having served the company for decades. Mr. S. I. Ahmed also suffered from the same perception as Mr. Zaidi, not to have a successor.
(4) For the first time in the history of the company, a full-scale advertising campaign at promoting Exide on national basis was launched during my tenure (5) I continued to hold dealers conventions year after year that I had initiated for the first time in Chloride in 1983 to forge and foster relationship between the trade and the company.Now a few glimpses of the end results accruing to the company. Company's sales were Rs. 129.151 million in the year 1982-83 reaching Rs. 181.971 in 1986-87 (41% in 4 years) and Rs. 346.863 in 1990-91 (91% in 4 years) and profit before taxation (PBT) Rs. 29.201 million in the year 1982-83 reaching Rs. 30.632 million in 1986-87 (4% in 4 years) and Rs. 54.144 million in 1990-91 (77% in 4 years) during the troubled years of 1986-1991 when three departmental heads Mr. Mahmood Jan, Mr. Umer Farooq and Mr. Homi Sanjana were made to quit but I did not let the sales and profits go down despite what Mr. Zaidi had been doing to me all these years. It was out of my sheer commitment to my company and its shareholders, employees and dealers who depended upon the company for their earnings.As compared to Chloride's performance, the next major domestic manufacturer Atlas Battery Ltd., (AGS brand) had sales Rs. 127.989 million and accumulated losses of Rs. 15.976 in the year 1991 and the third major domestic manufacturer Automotive Battery Co. Ltd. (FB brand) had sales of Rs. 110.868 million and accumulated losses of Rs. 65.448 in the year 1991. Atlas Battery Ltd had been in operation since 1969 and ABCL since 1987. I left the company in 1991.All these figures of Chloride/Exide, Atlas Battery and Automotive Battery are based on their published Annual Reports.I always believed in structural changes in preference to patchwork or adhoc decisions. Adhoc decisions and patchwork are necessary at times to provide relief for a short time but the real solution lies in the structural or fundamental or basic changes, by whatever name these are called.I have had the worst experience of so-called professional management of Mr.Zaidi. He was least interested in the wellbeing of anybody except himself. He manipulated and changed every situation to his advantage. During the years 1986-1991, Mr. Zaidi did everything within his means to force me out. He thought I could be a contender for his position at any time. He gave me the minimum salary increases inspite of the fact that I was the one who was running the department all these years. If the departmental heads who came in after the departure of Mr. Ahmed were fit for the job, then they would not have been sent home.If we take the calendar rather than fiscal years of the company, we have had five departmentals from Mr. Ahmed to Mr. Arshad Shahzada from 1986-1991. I remained sane and sensible to continue to perform to the best of my abilities all these years which greatly benefited the company as well as Mr. Zaidi who continued to get extension in his service year after year to the detriment of my interest.I did everything possible to let the company grow in sales and profits at a fast pace and made it almost impossible for ABCL, headed by the former Director Marketing of Exide, Mr. S. I. Ahmed, to cause a dent to Exide. Ultimately, ABCLwas sold out to Exide Pakistan Ltd in 1991/92 with heavy accumulated losses and liabilities and wiped out share capital.Around the middle of 1991, Mr. Jivraj sold off his majority shareholding in Exide Pakistan to Mr. Arif Hashwani. Since Mr. Arif Hashwani was new to the battery industry, he retained Mr. Zaidi as Advisor. Mr. Bachal Kazi stayed on to complete his two-year contract with the company. In the meantime, Mr. Zaidi made another move and moved over to Pakistan Accumulators Pvt Ltd, the manufacturers of Volta brand, in Hattar (NWFP) as Chief Executive. Mr. Arif Hashwani feared that Mr. Zaidi's association with PAL might damage Exide. So, he ultimately hired back Mr. Zaidi as Managing Director. Mr. Zaidi thus continued to remain associated with the company till the age of 78. He did not resign; he was asked to leave. When he left the company, there was not a SINGLE soul to bid him farewell.My experiences at Chloride/Exide changed my own perception of professional management in Pakistan especially when I compared the situation with the one in the previous company Plasticrafters Ltd. We often tend to despise owner-managed companies calling them 'Seth' (capitalist) companies and prefer to work for multinational companies. I think such a perception needs to be defined by the conditions in the 'Seth' managed and professional-managed company. All 'Seth' may not have the same management style and all contractual chief executives of multinational companies may not have the same management style. Neither perception can be generalized.Almighty Allah (God) has been extra-ordinarily kind to me all my life. The ensuing period of 1991-1996 brought many miracles to me and my family.

A New Beginning
I left Exide Pakistan Ltd after serving it from 1982 to 1991 as sales manager, marketing manager, acting departmental head. The last five years from 1986 to 1991 tested my nerves, morale, stamina, principles and values.Many unexpected incidents and events occurred after leaving Exide. The first incident occurred when I vomited blood one morning after taking breakfast and then fell unconscious. I regained consciousness after a few minutes or so. My wife called up the servants and neighbours to carry me to the car. She drove me to the Emergency Centre of Aga Khan Hospital. I was put through many tests and finally endoscopy to learn that I had duodenal ulcer, which had ruptured. There were no prior signs of ulcer nor had I ever noticed ulcer earlier. I stayed in the hospital for five days and came out almost fully recovered, though I continued medicines for a few weeks.Going through the endoscopy was quite a hard experience. A long thick rubber tube was inserted through the mouth into my stomach. As the tube moved inside, I prayed to Allah (God) to make it easier for me. And I must say, He really did it.A good event soon followed a bad incident. My father-in-law gifted his previous house to his daughter i.e. my wife. At that time, my family comprising myself, wife, three daughters and one son (all kids under 15) were living on the upper storey of my brother’s house. My children were growing and we needed more space but could not afford to buy or take on rent a spacious house. So, the gifted house came as a big relief and made everybody happy in the family.I did not have sizeable savings to start a business on my own. Salaries at Chloride/Exide and the annual increment for managers were miserably low. So, I borrowed money from one of my brothers to invest and become a partner in a printing press, owned by an acquaintance that also needed money to grow his business. The partnership lasted for a few months due to serious legal complications in his business. I received back my investment and returned the money to my brother.In 1992, my second son was born. It was a great occasion as sons had traditionally been few in our families. Another great happening occurred when all the three daughters were admitted to Mama Parsi Girls Secondary School, two in the afternoon shift of Matric Section and one in the morning shift of Cambridge Section. Getting a single child in Mama was considered a great achievement for any parents. Getting three children in Mama at the same time baffled many in our community.To me, it was more of a miracle than the fruit of my efforts. I only did a good deal of legwork visiting the school off and on and meeting the headmistresses of the matric section and the Cambridge section. My perseverance probably impressed the headmistresses to recommend my daughters’ admission, which was finally, approved by the principal Ms Contractor, a great lady.I then joined another acquaintance that had a bigger printing press and sufficient funds of his own to manage his business. I became his working partner without investment. Together, we did fairly well. In the meantime, I received an offer from the publishers of Weekly ‘Takbeer’ --the largest circulated and the most influential weekly in Karachi at that time, to work as their general manager. Since I was already involved in printing business, I accepted the offer to work on part-time basis to which the publishers agreed.One-year stay at "Takbeer" was a fantastic experience. Mr. Mohammad Salahuddin, who owned majority shares in the weekly, was also the Chief Editor and Mr. Rafiq Afghan, his son-in-law, was the Executive Editor. Mr. Salahuddin was a very humane, polite, decent person. Mr. Rafiq Afghan was a very dynamic, energetic and enthusiastic person. I enjoyed very cordial relationships with both of them right from the beginning to the end.Mr. Salahuddin was a scholarly person, an outstanding journalist and former Editor of Daily ‘Jasarat,’ the newspaper sponsored by Jamat-i-Islami, a religious-cum-political party. He had very humble beginnings and reached coveted positions in life through sheer handwork, sincerity of purpose and unwavering determination. He constantly lived under the threat of assassination because of his consistent confrontation with a major ethnic group in Karachi.The best that I found in the ‘Takbeer’ establishment was the courage, confidence and commitment of the people working there. Anybody at anytime could be the target of an assassin but nobody seemed to be worried about it or would even care to talk about it. Nothing deterred anybody from performing his duties, whether it was electricity breakdown, heavy rains, or any other hurdle. The weekly came out on time and every time.Another best was the utilization of office space, company funds and circulation to their optimum level. Most of the advertisers were reluctant to place their advertisements in ‘Takbeer’ because of the fear of retaliation from the ethnic group, which did not approve the policy of the weekly towards them. Another bottleneck was Mr. Salahuddin’s policy not to print any advertisement showing a female model. The readership of the weekly was confined to educated upper, middle and lower middle classes. Increasing circulation and price were often quite difficult.Another best was the ordinary treatment the VIPs received at ‘Takbeer.’ Top-level politicians, armed forces personnel, bureaucrats and elite visited the ‘Takbeer’ office without extra-ordinary protocol. Mr. Salahuddin was a man unto himself least bothered by the position and posture of the VIPs.During the same period that I was there, ‘Takbeer’ put up its own printing press and groundwork was started for launching daily ‘Ummat.’ The printing press was funded with individual contributions of the admirers of ‘Takbeer’ and Mr. Salahuddin who were promised return of money without interest.After a year at ‘Takbeer’, the new owners of Plasticrafters Pvt Ltd., the manufacturers of ‘Rahber’ water coolers and household plastic goods, approached me to join them as Executive Director with primary responsibility of sales and marketing. The company was faced with grave financial limitations and the cash flow did not improve much. It was hand-to-mouth situation most of the time. Mr. Iqbal Alam who was now the Managing Director and his partner Directors were very nice people to work with but things seemed to be beyond their control.The market conditions drastically changed in the 90’s as compared to the 80’s. There had been mushroom growth of manufacturers of water coolers and household plastic goods who offered low prices, higher discount and long-term credit to the trade. Plasticrafters could no longer afford to spend on advertising and sales promotion to pull consumer demand as it used to do in the 80’s. Advertising and sales promotion was all the more necessary to net in new consumers in place of those who switched over to other brands over the years. The production capacity of the company, created in the 80’s, could not be fully utilized due to a major drop in consumer demand of Rahber water coolers and financial limitations of the company to produce and spread stocks in the trade on a regular basis.Contrary to what many owners believe, I am of the view that a brand needs constant reminders to consumers through the mass media to retain past consumers and to create new consumers. Every brand has a life cycle and those brands which are least technical in nature and easy to produce and market often carry a shorter life cycle for the reason that consumer switchover is comparatively easier.After a year of trying every sales tool, without a breakthrough, to stabilize production, sales and cash flow, I decided to leave and work for a very large printing press of another acquaintance as consultant to develop their business. I was able to break ice in a few selected organizations and secured substantial business, which has continued to flow in uptil now.Around 1996, Pakistan Accumulators Pvt Ltd., the manufacturers of Volta batteries, called me for a day to appear before their board of directors, present in Islamabad, for the position of General Manager Sales & Marketing. I was offered the job on the same day but I requested for some time to make up my mind.While I was still reviewing the Volta’s offer, I received a call from Shamim Zafar & Associates who were interviewing candidates for two positions in Berger Paints Pakistan Ltd. I was short-listed for the position of Marketing Manager for Industrial Paints Division. A series of interviews were held with the Berger’s Managing Director, Director Marketing & Sales and Director Human Resource. Finally, I was selected and asked to join in May 1996.Entering Berger Paints was also a great moment for my family and me. Although I had no prior experience of marketing paints and especially the industrial paints, I took up the challenge, which brought many laurels to the Industrial Sales Division. It was also a great learning experience for everything in Berger was done on a big scale.

Berger Paints Pakistan Ltd
I joined Berger Paints Pakistan Ltd in May 1996 as Marketing Manager (NR) reporting to Director Marketing & Sales. The company had two major divisions named Decorative and Non-Retail. Non-Retail Division in turn had four business lines called Automotive, General Industry, Protective Coatings, and Government/Marine. During the three years of my stay in the company from 1996 to 1999, road markings, powder coatings, and vehicle refinishes were added to the N.R. Division.When I left the company in May 1999, I was working as Divisional Head of the N.R., reporting to the Managing Director/Chief Executive of the company. I was promoted in 1998 after the then Director Marketing & Sales resigned.During the period 1996-1999, the share of the N.R. Division in company’s overall sales increased to 38% in sales volume (litres) and 48% in sales value, turning in growth of 72% in sales value over the sales value of the year 1995-96. The new business lines added 19% to the sales volume and 20% to the sales value of the division within one year of the launching of their products.The sales volume of the previous four business lines put together had a nominal growth during the 3-year period for the reason that we, at times, avoided taking business at low profit margin. That strategy helped the company improve its gross profit. The gross profit of the N.R. Division turned out to be twice that of the company’s overall gross profit as percentage of sales for the year 1998-99.Out of the total staff of the N.R. Division in 1999, 70% were hired afresh to meet the requirements of the expanding business lines and business volume. Except one, all others came from outside the paint industry and had to be trained on the job after a brief initial training in the factory. Most of the new entrants were either management trainees or sales officers.When I left the company, the operations of the N.R. Division were split among Director Marketing & Sales (who had been newly hired from within the paint industry), General Manager for Road Marking Business and Controller for other business lines.As head of the N.R. Division, I was actively involved in everything related to the division from hiring of personnel to sales and marketing, finance, product research and development, production planning, material planning and procurement, distribution and logistics, and pre-sale and after-sale customer service. We had separate departmental heads for the various functions other than sales and marketing and customer service but the divisional head was involved in all the related activities. That involvement proved to be a great experience for me as it gave me broad-based exposure to the company operations. Almost every day, we had joint meetings stretching over hours of brainstorming.The N.R. Division primarily dealt with institutional customers who were not only big but also very demanding. Paint was the end product or the "finishing touch" for the products of our customers. Any delay in supply of paint, technical service or any quality defect meant a virtual ‘disaster’ for us. So, we had to be on our toes all the time. We were involved with our institutional customers at every stage from the approval of paints to the application of paints on their products.When I joined Berger, I had zero knowledge of paints especially the paints of the N.R. Division that were highly technical and specialized in nature. I had to gain working knowledge, not exactly technical knowledge, of the kinds of paints and their applications by learning it on the job. There were 350+ products of the N.R. Division if we counted every shade and colour as a product. Almost every customer in every industry had its own paint specifications.Coupled with this, there were 150+ shades and colours of Decorative Paints Division. As a result, every thing in Berger was huge in nature whether it was procurement of materials, production of products, distribution and logistics, number of customers and so on. To manage it all effectively and efficiently, Berger had developed vast systems and procedures and computerized all departments accordingly.The most inspiring and driving force behind the company was Berger’s Managing Director/Chief Executive Dr Mahmood Ahmad who practically learned on the job almost everything about the company’s overall operations and the functions of the departments. He was a source of inspiration for others around him to learn things they did not know and utilize their knowledge for better performance. Very few chief executives usually devote so much time and energy to know the intricacies and complexities of company operations.I was taken aback and shaken to the core of my heart when the company opted to hire a gentleman, who had already resigned from Berger’s largest competitor, as Director Marketing & Sales. The gentleman had previously been looking after the Decorative Paints business in his entire career with the previous employer and possessed no knowledge and experience of the Industrial Paints of N.R. Division. He was probably hired to give his magic touch to the sluggish decorative business of Berger. I was supposed to report to the new Director Marketing & Sales, which practically meant a demotion and, that too, after producing highly significant results for the company within a short span of time.I informed the Chief Executive of my intention to resign from the company. An ad hoc working relationship was carved out for face saving of both the new comer and myself but I knew and probably the Chief Executive also knew that the arrangement was not going to work on a long-term basis.The best option, in my opinion, was to let the new comer head the Decorative Paints Division and let me continue as Divisional Head of the N.R. Division till the division was large enough to afford me as a Director.While working in Berger, I received an offer from an old acquaintance to partner with him in his newly acquired state-of-the-art software house in Islamabad and to establish side by side road marking business including manufacturing and application of road marking paints.

Disillusion and Illusion
Out of sheer disillusionment with Berger in the new working environment, I accepted his offer and resigned from Berger. However, I continued to serve the company for three months to enable the management to find and hire a new divisional head.I sold off my property in Karachi to generate funds for the new business venture and shifted to Islamabad along with my family in May 1999. Between the period of my resignation from Berger and arrival in Islamabad, my future partner changed his mind altogether without sharing his thoughts with me. As I later found out after having shifted to Islamabad, he had struck a deal with a gentleman who had knowledge and experience of software business to head his software house. This gentleman was a distant relative of mine and I had introduced him earlier to my future partner with a view to availing his services as a consultant for software house. Not only my future partner betrayed me on this count, he also pulled himself out of the earlier agreement to manufacture and apply road-marking paints.The sudden and unexpected U-turn gave me the biggest jolt of my life. I did not have a job in hand, could not go back to Karachi and did not have any idea of what to do next. Being an optimist, I did not lose hope and started corresponding with paint manufacturers in UAE to import and market paints in Pakistan for the upcoming housing scheme of the government of Pakistan to construct 500,000 houses in the first phase.It was a huge scheme and I knew the domestic manufacturers of the organized sector would not be able to meet the sudden demand. I also visited UAE and signed an agreement with Al Gurg Leigh’s Paints LLC to work as their sole agent in Pakistan. The company was producing decorative paints as well as industrial paints in Sharjah in collaboration with ICI and Leigh’s in England. The Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group was handling products of almost 60 companies at that time. I had also planned to go into manufacturing of paints once the business was assured from the housing scheme of the government for a longer period of time.I hired and furnished a big office and made all the preparations to start the business. However, bad luck struck once again. President Pervez Musharraf deposed the elected prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif in a couple on 12 Oct 1999 and his government suspended work on the housing scheme for an indefinite period of time.I waited for one year in the hope that the housing scheme might be revived but no progress became evident. Ultimately, I shifted back to Karachi along with my family after losing a huge sum of money in retaining office and staff for business and an expensive residence for my family.
It is said, "God is the best accountant." It so happened that the software house for which I had shifted to Islamabad could not work and had to be ultimately closed down. The gentleman who headed the software house in my place had to leave Pakistan to get a job abroad.Return to Karachi
My family and I returned to Karachi in Nov 2000. From the year 2001 onwards, I intermingled jobs and consulting assignments to afford a comfortable life to my family and myself. This period has all along been tumultuous fringed with professional and personal challenges.

Public Service
Public service has all along been a passion for me right from my college days. I started writing letters to the editors of major English newspapers way back in 1961 while in college as a freshman. I raised public issues and suggested solutions. I also wrote directly to the presidents and prime ministers as well as government officials to resolve public issues. My letters at times ran into four and five columns in newspapers. Later, I associated myself with several public service organizations including the Concerned Citizens Association, The Reformers, Consumer Protection Council etc. to help solve public issues mostly affecting the lower and middle classes. I also served on the law and order committees of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry and the Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
I founded the Citi Help Line to bringabout organizational changes in the working of the key public service organizations in the sphere of electricity, gas, water and sewerage, telephone, police, vehicular traffic management and city district government of Karachi, a cosmopolitan city of over 12 million souls. The primary objective was to remove hurdles and bottlenecks in the working of the organizations so that the people's problems either do not arise or settled expeditiously. Citi Help Line did not deal with individual problems with its meager resources. Citi Help Line was a great success in removing snags in government procedures and resolving people's problems on a wider scale than just trouble shooting on a case to case basis.
I founded and moderated Good Governance Forum. Its membership rose from 10 to 1000 network members who in turn forwarded emails to their friends and acquaintances bringing the readership to millions in effect. It was an interactive forum and the members shared information, views and opinions via emails. Our network members encompassed almost all segments of the society including the scholars, media, former ambassadors, former and current bureaucrats, former and current military officers, businessmen, industrialists, philanthropists, politicians, parliamentarians, and so on. The forum helped create public awareness of national and international issues relating to Pakistan and its people.


I became a passionate blogger sometime in 2003/2004 and created hundreds of blogs on a variety of topics. My blogs and writings on the various news sites made me well-known on major search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN. There are thousands of lisitings under the keywords 'mumtaz piracha.'

Blogging my views, values and concerns

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