Nayatel – Driving Down the Information Highway


Interview with Mr. Wahaj us Siraj, Chief Executive of Micronet, the DSL provide and the first company to start optical fiber project in South Asia

Please tell us about your educational and professional background?
NayatelI am a mechanical engineer by profession. I joined University of Engineering and Technology (UET) Lahorefor my Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering.

I started my professional career with a job in the ‘Pakistan Council of Appropriate Technologies – Ministry of Science & Technology’ and worked for two years there until I was offered a scholarship to pursue a Masters degree in Engineering from The University of Melbourne, Australia. I rejoined the Ministry after completing my MS in 1990. During my job with the Government I got deputed to COMSATS as well. I also served the Ministry of Information Technology.

In 2001, I left the Government Service in order to enjoy the freedom of work. In 2004, Micronet was started.


What is the present situation of the telecom sector?

The government policies are not friendly. Telecom sector is subjected to heavy taxation. This year the Government reduced the tax percentage but it is still not reasonable. Electricity shortages lead to high costs in the telecom sector. This sector requires a 24 hour uninterrupted electricity supply. Due to constant load shedding, we have to use generators to run our operations which have increased the costs. They have also increased the petrol and diesel prices, so the electricity being used by the generators cost us more than before. Companies are spending huge amounts on generators and batteries to fulfill their electricity requirements.


What are the major threats for a company like yours?

The overall environment matters greatly in any business. Firstly, the entire law and order situation influences any kind of business. The intervention of a regulator in a sector is very important and plays a major role in creating potential in the sector. Protecting the rights of the licensees in the industry is also the job of the authority

In Pakistan, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) did not play the role according to the expectations of the private businesses. Unfortunately, PTA’s policies and working has a tilt towards large companies and do not favor the small companies. PTA is not maintaining a balance between small and large operators.


Your fiber optic project was the first one in South Asia.  Tell us about the experience and the major difficulties you faced?

There were many technological and implementation challenges. It is difficult to build a physical line infrastructure as compared to wireless infrastructure.  We have successfully completed it without having major affiliation with any other company. Our own skilled workforce completed the whole project.

It was a capital intensive project. Our quality standards are internationally recognized. The fiber optic project was a unique project indigenously designed, implemented with world class quality. We had foreign vendors with us during the project but the basic engineering and design had been done by Mirconet. This project was based on the same model which is being used in the western countries.

Physical wire line infrastructure is an important factor in a country’s economy as compared to wireless infrastructure. It can uplift the economy of a country. It helps in transferring of data, high bandwidth, video conferencing, good quality TV, more TV channels etc.


Why only Islamabad and Rawalpindi? Are you planning to expand?

We belong to Islamabad and have an emotional affiliation with this city. Moreover, we know this market well as we have worked here for years. In future, we do have plans to move to few other cities. We are waiting for the right time after this economic downturn and the law and order situation.

How do you see companies like wi-tribe and Wateen in the market?

They have a different market segment then our services. They are wireless companies having little impact on our DSL services. Being a wireless company, they have technological limitations. They hold a niche market with their own potential.


Regarding the Telecom sector, how do you compare Pakistan’s environment with other countries?

I can only compare Pakistan’s business environment with India,Nepal, Srilanka and Bangladesh’s telecom sector. In comparison,Pakistanis a much better country to do business with improved regulations. We are doing better in terms of regulatory environment and policies but I think there is still room for further improvement.


What suggestions would you like to give to government authorities to further improve their policy structure in the telecom division?

Government of Pakistan has been neglecting the telecom sector since the past two or three years. Despite this, there has been an exponential growth in this sector.

Unfortunately, we have no minister for the telecom industry from the previous one year which explains the negligence of the government in this sector. Recently, we had a meeting with the secretary of the telecom ministry, he seemed positive about the industry and we are hoping that he can resolve our issues with the government.


How will consumer behavior change in the coming years?

There will be more choices available for the consumer in this market. There are DSL, cable internet and fiber optics etc. Similarly in wireless technology, there will be more options but all these different technologies have their own niches.


Are you intending to move into any other technology in the future?

We might adopt new technologies in the wire line but we do not intend to go into wireless technology. We are a focused wired line company.


What advice would you like to give to new players entering in the market even with wireless technology?

The market is good for new entrepreneurs. They should invest but keep their focus on the quality of service, not on tariffs. We strongly believe in competition and think that larger the number of good operators in the market, stronger and more profitable the market will be. New comers should compete on quality of service rather than tariff and market dominance. There should be a healthy competition without having a dominant position in the market.

SR Designworks – Designing Arcs


Rashid Rasheed is a well known name in the architectural world. His expertise lies in architecture, interiors and graphic designing. Mr. Rashid Rasheed is the co-founder and partner of SR Designworks , an architectural firm, which also specializes in  interiors and landscape planning. Experts in residential, commercial and institutional projects, SRDW has designed a number of leading structures in schools, parks, residences, offices and hospitals. this company has become a reliable brand name for its clientele within only two short years of its inception. With his practice and understanding, Mr. Rasheed talks about the field of architecture and design inPakistan.


Q. Tell us about your educational background.

I did  my Bachelors in Architecture from National College of Arts in 1992. I started out as intern in Designer‘s East in my final year of bachelors and later on I became a partner. I started my own firm in 2007 with Saad Khan who is also a partner at SRDW.  I wanted to start my own firm because it was a step forward in the business field. I am also a member of Pakistan Council of Architects & Town Planners (P.C.A.T.P) and Institute Of Architects (I.A.P).


Q. how does the concept of “interior designing” in its technical nature differ from what the common man understands of it?

Interior design is connected with Architecture. It’s the inner design of the room. Many people call interior decorating interior designing. There is a difference. Interior design, as the name implies, is how you design the interior of a space with windows, doors and other fixtures;  and decorating is how you design the room with accessories, upholstery, carpets and so on.


Q. Presently, who proves to be more lucrative clients for firms like yours: corporate, commercial or housing/residential projects?

Well actually all of them. New corporate, commercial and residential buildings are being built every day. Even though architecture and interior is not a proper industry but there are so many business opportunities that every one can have a share of the pie. It’s open for anyone who has the mind and can work hard.


Q. Are there any training centers required for interior designing?

There should be good training institutes but unfortunately there aren’t any inPakistan. Courses taught at local institutes are not of quality level.  One more thing which I have observed is that students lack enthusiasm for learning. I have been asked to be a jury member for different thesis or student projects; an opportunity which gives me constant chances to meet architecture and design students. These students are not keen on asking questions or having discussions. They are merely studying for the sake of getting a degree. Even teachers are not what they used to be. Most students who are architects/designers go abroad and don’t want to say here. In terms of profession, architecture is not taken as seriously as medical studies or engineering in Pakistan. Anyone can easily be a part of the architectural council but the caliber of a professional who has just graduated and of someone who has worked in the field for a decade are very different.  No one notices or appreciates that.


Q. What are the major requirements to start the business of interior designing?

Anyone could start this business with a pencil, drawing board and a PC. The only thing you really require is hard work. There are numerous opportunities in this business. One just has to be smart and hard working enough to grab the right opportunities to flourish in this business. Architects and designers should be good communicators. Listening to the client and giving feasible design solutions to turn the client’s ideas into reality is what a good architect or a designer should be able to do.


Q. What are the major factors that should be kept in mind while doing an interior design?

Good communication skills should be developed with the client. the budget  should be adhered to. One should be able to meet deadlines and one should have a smart practical viable design theory.


Q. What difference have you seen in the culture and living trends in terms of residences, hotels and corporate offices, if we compare today’s interiors with 5 years back? Is there any change in the lifestyle?

With the passage of time, living trends have changed. People want a more westernized and modern look and feel in the architecture and interior. If you visit villages, the aesthetics used in their houses are still attractive. Unfortunately, now we don’t appreciate that kind of natural elements’ beauty. Life styles have changed; our culture has become a mix of many other cultures.  Modernization is gradually taking over our roots. Internet has become the new mode of socialization. People have become alienated from there neighbors and friends. And all these choices are reflected in one’s lifestyle as well as what one chooses his living space to look like.


Q. Do you think that there is enough competition in the market to improve this business or more players are required in the market?

Yes, there is plenty of competition for big projects. There is always competition, and like I said earlier there is so much work with every passing day that anyone who has the zest and creativity for architecture and design can enter in this business. And for someone who is hardworking and talented, business prospects are limitless.


Cupola – Passion Conquers All


CupolaInterview with Mr. Rafiq Rangoonwala, Chief Executive of Cupola Group

Can you please tell us about your educational and professional background?

I did my bachelors fromPakistanand then went toAmericafor an Executive Development course from theUniversityofNew Hampshirewhich was equivalent to an Executive MBA inPakistan. After that, I did an MBA in Marketing.  I have also completed almost 100 courses from different parts of the world includingAustralia,Singapore,Dubai,England,AmericaandCanada.

I started my career in 1980 inHoustonand joined KFC as a cook in order to support my self as I did not want to take financial help from my parents.  After working there for a while, I decided to take up this profession.  KFC believes in the investment of their employees and helps significantly in terms of financial assistance and working hours. I was very fortunate to work for this company.

Initially, I was working for domestic KFC and was based inMiami.  I was keen to work in KFC International as the growth opportunities domestically are normally low.   In 1985, I was transferred to KFC International as there was an opening in the Middle East and I was assigned to meet the franchisees inCairo. After some time I was transferred toRiyadh,Saudi Arabiaduring the Gulf war. I was also transferred to Jeddah and then toDubai. I went back toAmericafor some time to give trainings and then returned toDubaifor 2 years.  In September 1999, I moved toPakistan.

Give us a brief introduction of Cupola Group?

Cupola group was started inPakistanduring the mid 90s by Mr. Arif Naqvi, the CEO of Abraj Capital. The group was first started in Middle East and then enteredPakistan. Cupola Group was given permission for opening KFC franchises inPakistanin April 2001.

Cupola was always in the retail business and thus has a firm understanding of the retail market. At the time of General Musharraf’s Marshal Law, Cupola had franchises of alpha graphics, pizza express and a few others which closed down.  Cupola was in its struggling phase at that time and I was approached by the chairman of Cupola board to join hands. This is a very progressive organization and has investments in projects that are ahead of their time. Cupola group initiated the concept of mini malls.




What is the present situation of business in Pakistan especially in the food and retail business?

Food or any other retail business is an economic indicator which shows where the country’s economy is shifting and whether the business policies are effectively functioning or not. Right now, all businesses are facing struggle as the cost of conducting business has risen immensely. The profit margins are now in low single digits which is less then the interest rates in the banks. This situation has become a struggle for the food and the retail industry. If circumstances do not change in some time, some businesses will close down which has already happened in the textile sector.

Another problem is that the playing field is not leveled. If a person is paying tax, he feels as if he is the only one as there are a number of people who are not paying taxes and therefore are making great profits in their businesses. I know several businessmen in the food industry who are paying only 0.75% GST whereas we are paying 17% GST. The authorities know about this but do not take any step to remedy the situation.

How has the security situation in the country affected the food business?

I think it is more the economic situation than the law and order state which is affecting the businesses. People do not have money because the profit margins are decreasing. Utility cost, labor cost and regulatory duties are on their peak. Factors like these are causing problems for the average businessman. If you are paying minimum wages honestly to your employees and at the same time paying taxes to the government then you are at a loss. Those businessmen who are not paying their employees and are evading taxes are growing at a fast pace. The government has to bring people into a tax net. It should try to minimize the cost of conducting business. Indirect ways of acquiring money from the business community should also be eradicated.

The government should revisit their policies for the business community. It never consults the businessmen before setting up policies. For instance, the government never took the traders community into confidence before taking the decision of closing shops at 8 pm. A shopkeeper is paying rent for the full day; he also has to pay full salary to his employees, utility bills and other such expenses then why he is not allowed to work for the entire day. His real business timings start from 8 pm in the evening. The government has confiscated the generators of those shopkeepers who were open after 8pm. No one knows the benefit the government is gaining from this step.

I think the policy makers of the country need to get the stake holders on board and create an environment which is conducive for big investments and also take steps to discourage the tax evaders.

How do you compare Pakistan in terms of government policies, business environment and consumer behavior?

In general, business environment can be investor friendly when there is political and economic sustainability and law & order stability. Every country has problems andPakistanis no different then the rest. All the governments of different countries collect taxes from its people and businesses but they also provide level playing field to all. They collect tax equally from every businessman and also have equal policies for everyone.

The consumer behavior in western countries is very mature and educated. If you do not have the registration of tax and government papers, you can not run a business. We need to work greatly to reach that point.  Everything should be implemented with sincerity and not for media or political interest.

What investment opportunities do you see in Pakistan?

I still feel that there are enourmous opportunities inPakistan. People say thatAmericais the land of opportunities. It is only because the opportunity is created and provided to the entrepreneurs. We need to do some groundwork inPakistanto make every one equitable. The government also needs to facilitate investors here.

There are numerous problems in getting licenses, registration processes and dealing with regulators. If the government can remove these kinds of hurdles then there is no other country better to do business thanPakistan. All we need to do is to change our system. We have to attract foreign investors to our country and also need to shift our mindset towards foreign investors.  Our government needs to re-examine its policies towards the business community.  There are some management issues which when sorted out can makePakistana land of opportunities as well. We have to be positive, think positive and show positive.

There is a shortage of millions of houses inPakistanwhich can be a great opportunity for investors but the government has to improve its policies for tenancy and construction.

We have profitable prospects in sectors like agriculture, retail, food and information technology.  If a western country had a beach like Gwadar, they would be earning billions of dollars from it.

We can also promote our tourism industry to a whole new level as a tourist is the best investor. When a traveler visits a country, he uses the national airline, transportation, hotels, food industry and many more.

I do not entirely blame the government because as members of this society we all have to work for development. We need to fill the trust deficit between the public and the private sector and develop public-private partnership.

The expatriates of our country can also play a role in this. They can invest inPakistanand also work to invite foreign investors here.Chinahas attracted foreign investors in a similar manner. Our businessmen are still top class businessmen and can compete anywhere in the world.

What is the best quality of an entrepreneur?

To be an entrepreneur, one needs to be resilient and patient. An entrepreneur is someone who has a dream or a vision and can turn that vision into a profitable reality.

Who is your inspiration in the corporate world?

There are a few people who have always impressed me. Mr. Saifuddin Zoomkawala, the Managing Director of EFU General Insurance is a very proficient professional. Others include Yasin Teli of Pakistan Beverages, Hussain Dawood, Razzaq Dawood and Babar Ali. They are all icons in their own respect and a guiding light in the society. There is always a ray of hope for a country which has these kinds of business leaders.


What is the secret of your success?

The secret of my success is a good team.  I am fortunate to have a very dedicated group of employees working with me. Any company’s success depends on its team. If a person says that only he is responsible for running his company then in my opinion, his professional growth has stopped. My team has great patience, commitment and motivation.

At this point in your professional life, does money still motivate you?

Money is always important but there is a sense of achievement which is given more priority than money.

What are your Future Plans?

Currently, we are in the food business and are also operating Café Indulge, Casa (retail bakery) and My Super Stores (super market chain). At present, we are executing a wait and watch policy. Even if we expand, we will still remain in the retail sector as this is our specialty.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?

Prepare yourself for the worst but work for the best and do not let difficulties discourage you. Avail any opportunity to go abroad to learn so that you can come back to serve your country. With all the problems we face, it is still our country and we should always be positive.  An entrepreneur also needs to have tolerance as everything takes time and nothing happens overnight.


The Beverage Pioneer


Educational and Professional Background:

I have a Masters Degree in Business Management and over six years of experience in marketing, communication and public relations. I am currently managing Public Affairs and Communications for Coca Cola,Pakistan and Afghanistan territories, spearheading corporate communications, corporate social responsibility, public relations projects and stakeholder engagement for the organization.


History of the Company

The Coca Cola Company started its operations in Pakistanin 1953 with the first bottling and concentrate plant in Lahore. The organization then gave out franchises taking the number of bottling plants to six. Fifteen years ago, the company acquired back the bottling plants and today all of them are owned and operated by the company itself. This gives them the benefit of controlling the quality of product and also to bring about efficiency in overall operations and procedures of the company.

As far as the beverage industry in Pakistanis concerned, Coca Cola is the second largest player in the market. The local beverage market is primarily dominated by carbonated soft drinks with each company having its own strategy of acquiring the market share. Coca Cola currently holds 31 percent of the over all beverage market share and aims to increase this share further through increased investments.

In the last five years the organization has invested over 220 million dollars and has committed publicly to invest another 250 million dollars in the next three years.


Problems of the Beverage Industry during the Current Socio-Economic Situation

Primarily, this industry faces three issues. The first issue is the security concern which is hampering business all over the country. InKarachi, for instance the sales volumes have considerably decreased due to security issues. The last two years for the Coca Cola Company have been quite testing. If the situation does not improve, the foreseeable future business will further go down in these areas.

Secondly, the taxation structure on the beverage industry has also been a cause for great concern. When compared with other countries in the region such as India, Sri Lanka,Nepal and Bangladesh. Pakistan has the highest taxation rates on beverages. This in a way is discriminatory as other industries in Pakistan are not taxed at the same ratio. For the last eight years, the beverage industry has time and again raised this issue with the government. Reduction in taxes will give organizations more room to invest. Hence, with increased investment and resultant increased production volumes the government stands to earn more in taxes.

Third and the most vital issue is the presence of spurious and fake products in the market which make up almost 8 percent of the total market share. These inferior quality drinks are causing serious health concerns and also bring a loss of almost 650 million rupees annually to the government in tax revenue.

The beverage industry has raised voice against these concerns several times and expects the government to bring a law into place and levy punishments on spurious product producers.  A strict check and balance and punishment procedure from the government towards spurious products producers is lacking which in the end is problematic not only for the beverage industry but for the consumers as well.


Products Range, Innovation and Diversification

Being the largest beverage name in the world, the core business line has always been beverage and the focus still remains. The Coca Cola Company is ranked high in terms of innovation. Globally, the organization is producing more than 3500 products with diverse ranges such as dairy drinks, coffees, sports and energy drinks.

Currently in Pakistan, there is a very interesting product range which comprises of carbonated soft drinks and juices. Minute Maid, which was launched two years back, has been extremely popular with the consumer. Owing to the positive response from the consumer, the organization is expanding its range and introducing new flavors for the product in the next year.


Imports and Related Problems

The major imports comprise of raw materials for the product concentrate as it is being produced locally. Fluctuating dollar rate and a persistent increase in raw material prices in the last five years has created problems for the industry. Coca Cola for the last five years has been taking the burden of inflation on itself. However, this year the product price had to be increased due to the increased import bill.


Production Capacity and Break Down in Terms of Sales

In the last ten years, Coca Cola has nearly doubled their sales. The organization is expanding with two new production plants being established, one in Karachi and the other in Multan. These production plants are expected to increase the growth in double figures in the next year. This gives the organization an edge as it will be better equipped to serve the consumer with increase production as well as more portfolios.

Coke and Sprite dominate overall sales of the organization. On the other hand Minute Maid, the juice brand, which is relatively new in the market, has also been extremely successful.


Marketing Strategy

There are several platforms such as music and sports that Coca Cola is using to base its marketing strategies.  When developing strategies, the focus is not only marketing on mainstream media but also doing something beneficial for the community as well. The message that is given through these campaigns is where the focus lies. The organization holds strongly for optimism and positivity which is evident in its marketing campaigns.

Coke Studio has been a phenomenal success worldwide. Using music as a platform to spread the message of unity this venture has done wonders for the country on an international level and has made the nation proud.


Recycling and Environment Friendly Bottling

In Pakistan there are no high-tech plants for recycling industrial wastes.  There are some companies who work in the recycling business and Coca Cola is working with them in some capacity but even then most of the bottles are not recycled.

On the other hand, the organization is working towards bringing sustainability to its operations. In the pursuit of minimizing environmental impact, the organization has taken certain steps. One of the most vital step is the production of PET bottle (disposable plastic) with low grammage plastic which automatically reduces the environmental impact. The aim here is to significantly reduce ecological impact through operational efficiency.


The glass bottles for products are acquired from registered suppliers which are authorized by the company. These third party suppliers are audited on a regular basis for quality supervision following strict global standards.


Government Policies Affecting the Beverage Industry

Government policies largely affect the operational and investment structure of organizations. If business friendly policies are introduced by the government, organizations have no issues with paying taxes. However, it has to be insured that there is some sustainability as well as some profitability because if the company is investing it needs to have something in return as well.

One positive step by the government this year was reduction in taxes. Linked to that decision, Coca Cola committed to invest 250 million dollars for the next three years. The beverage industry is one of the biggest tax payers in the country, paying almost 19 billion rupees in taxes, which amounts to approximately 2 percent of Pakistan’s GDP.

Other than the taxation structure, the beverage industry also needs a proper law/ policy structure to check spurious products. The presence of spurious products in the market has been on the rise for the last few years.  Proper checks and introduction of strict punitive measures from government authorities can help in dealing with this problem.

Prospect for New Entrants

There is a huge potential for this business to grow in Pakistan as more than 60 percent of our population is below 30 years of age. The initiation of this business depends on the level of investment that an investor can make. Establishing a production plant requires ample investment; however, other areas in the beverage industry such as distribution can be a great venture for investors who do not have the resources to make huge investments.

In the last couple of years, we have seen a number of local brands come into the market and have made a place for themselves on some level. However, what needs to be considered here is that it is not just about setting up a business only; it is about getting into this business keeping in mind international standards of product quality and production process.


Unexplored Geographical Areas

For Coca Cola, some parts of northern areas and some places located extremely in the south can be categorized as unexplored. However, with the new bottling plants being setup in Karachi and Multan, the increased product capacity will help the organization in reaching out to far flung areas.

On the other hand, there are always areas where there is less penetration for one company and more for the other. The competition is always there and the presence of local brands also adds to the picture.


The Beverage Industry: 5 years Down the Road

Pakistan at this point in time is facing dire socio-economic problems. However, in the face of natural calamities and social unrest the country is still moving forward, with an economic growth rate of 2.2 percent.  This shows the potential that this country has and its capacity to deal with and move forward towards a positive direction in the worst circumstances.

In a similar way, Pakistan has one of the lowest per capita consumption of soft drinks which makes a huge potential for the beverage industry to grow, in fact grow manifolds in the next ten years.


Byco – Oiling the Economy


Interview Questionnaire for Mr. Kalim A. Siddiqui

Please share your educational & professional background.

I am a Chemical Engineer by profession and have completed my education from United Kingdom. I initially joined Caltex and worked there for almost 20 years. After that, I was hired by PSO where I served at various management positions for a couple of years. I was the Managing Director there before joining Byco. Currently, I am working as the President, Petroleum Marketing in Byco. I was also part of the board of management at PSO and PRL and now I am a member of Board of Investment (BoI). I have written many un-official papers for the government and the authorities have considered my opinions and solutions.


What are the aims & objectives of Byco? Tell us about the future plans of this organization.

To join Byco was a great challenge for me in the sense that before joining this company I was heading one of the largest organizations in Pakistan while Byco was a new entrant. When I joined Byco the turnover was just Rs. 6.7 billion but Alhamdulillah, we achieved a turnover of nearly 27 billion by the end of the last financial year which is almost a 300% increase as compared to last year. This was achieved through considerable growth in volumes and organic growth in retail network development. Now, we are the 5th largest OMC among an industry of 12, as compared to being on the 10th position earlier. My vision is to take Byco from its present level to even greater heights of success and be counted among the top 3 OMCs in Pakistan. We are an emerging energy leader with 163 retail stations across and expecting to reach 250 by the end of this financial year.


Are you facing any major problems? To what extent is the government or the concerned authorities supporting you?

Currently, there is only one major problem which is broad based and faced by all businesses in Pakistan which is continuity and long term policies regarding business and commerce. Every new government rejects the policies of the previous government and makes its own which has negative consequences on business entities and investors. Most investors have a 3-4 year business plan therefore any unexpected change in policies as a result of a shift in the political set up during this period would discourage investors to take risk. Investors and business men will only bring in investments if they expect a fair return, long-term continuity in policies and stability of the government.

Do you face any hurdles or competition with other petroleum companies?

We constantly face tough competition from other companies. There are also hurdles in every stage but we have to find our own way which we have successfully done and are moving ahead. There are only 3 companies which have their terminals on Keamari and recently we have made an arrangement which will enable us to become the next which for us is a great achievement. We will start operating next month.


Does Byco comprise of foreign investment?  

Byco is a 40:60 entity. 40% of the stake is with Abraaj Capital and 60% with Bosicor Corporation Limited.


Describe the strategy that you have adopted to get maximum profit?

The strategy we adopted for maximum value creation is to provide finished products according to the customer needs. Marketing contributes greatly towards revenue generation but the refinery also plays a pivotal role and has vast potential. Since the past couple of years, it is under discussion with the government and any conclusive decisions are yet to be reached. Its finalization will triple or quadruple our revenues. There are only 5 refineries operating in Pakistan and just less than 50% of the country’s finished products are being supplied by them while the remainder is being imported. If we increase the installed capacity or number of refineries, it will help us to match demands and move towards self sufficiency, revenue generation and economic growth.


Why should consumers prefer using Byco products as compared to other petroleum products?

We have our own refinery which ensures continuity of product supplies making us a reliable choice for customers. I believe in future integrated companies like ours will dominate the market and will be preferred over competitors who are dependent on other refineries for their supplies. One of our refineries with a capacity of 35,000 barrels is in operation and another refinery with a capacity of 120,000 barrels is under construction on which 85% of the work has been completed.


What are the government policies for petroleum industries?

The defined policy of government is to adapt de-regulation and I am a great advocator of this policy as it will greatly benefit the industry as well as the country in the long term. For instance, whenever government increases the prices of petroleum products, increase in price of petrol is always greater than the price of diesel and the reason given is that diesel is used in public transport. This is a major misconception as internationally the price of petrol is always less than the price of diesel.


During Bhutto’s regime there was a big collapse in the organization? What was the reason?

The main reason for the collapse was nationalization of all private companies. This led to a loss of enterprise in the economy and since there was no competition, efficiency of those companies declined drastically and consequently customers received products and services that were not only more expensive but also of poor quality. At that time PTCL, for instance was purely a public entity and the time it took to receive a connection could last from one generation to the next. Moreover, per minute international call rates  were approximately Rs. 80 or Rs.100. After privatization, the same organizations have become far more efficient; can provide competitive call rates and a greater range of products and services at a cost which are hundred times less. Nowadays, you can make calls all around the world for nearly Rs. 1 per minute.


In your opinion, how can stability be established in our country?

Government should carry out long term planning with continuity in policies and a broader vision. It should put emphasis on developing and incorporating new technologies and ideas that would strengthen the economy and provide stability to the country. If we all work with honesty and integrity and give the required dedication towards the needs of our country, I strongly believe that we will not need any assistance from IMF or any other international aid agencies.


What advice would you like to give to new investors who are willing to enter in the petroleum Industry?

There is enormous opportunity of investment in Pakistan. Believe me, there are billions or trillions tons of natural resources. The potential of growth and investment that exists in Pakistan is unlimited. All we need to do is to improve the law & order situation and provide an enabling environment for investors.


SRB Business Center – Endorsing Entrepreneurship


Whenever a young entrepreneur starts any kind of business, he faces some initial and basic issues which also include finding appropriate office space. To start a business professionally, one needs to have an office where the entrepreneur can work with his team. Some businesses may not require a physical office space but still they need a valid office address to be printed on their visiting cards and also on which they can receive their courier. Mr. Omer Butt, an entrepreneur with a real estate background in Islamabad and a charter member of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) has started a Business Center providing economical office services to young entrepreneurs according to their requirements.

Professional Background

Mr. Omer Butt has been involved in the real estate business since 20 years. His primary interest lies in developing commercial real estate in Islamabad. He has also worked with some real estate companies overseas in U.K. and Dubai. His family is also in the real estate business.

It is believed that every disaster brings an opportunity; a dip in the real estate market led Mr. Butt to come up with an idea of establishing a Business Center. The idea of establishing a Business Center in Islamabad was conceived in 2009. It was a unique idea in Pakistan especially in Islamabad although this practice is rather common in other countries.

Business Center

The center provides executive furnished offices serving any business purpose. They also have meeting rooms, conference rooms and multiple services which they offer to established companies as well as start ups. There are 5 floors in this building out of which 1 floor is dedicated to the Business Center but they do plan to take it to other floors with the passage of time.

The business center also offers services like Virtual Office in which the company/entrepreneur can have an office address and a meeting place to conduct their business activities in case he does not want to have a proper office. He can receive courier, have an operator who will receive business calls and even redirect the calls to a desired cell phone. Their virtual office service is quite feasible especially for companies which are not based in Islamabad. Consultants can conduct their trainings here as well.

Objective of Business Center

Mr. Omer is trying to provide infrastructure for young entrepreneurs and start-ups to be able to economically start a business and move forward. With his background of real estate, he is trying to resolve their office space problems by having their virtual presence.

There are many businessmen who have a business idea and want to implement it but they think that it is still early to get a physical office. There are some individuals who are currently working in multinationals but at the same time they have started their own businesses and are using this Virtual Office Facility. They also bring their clients to conduct meetings.

It is not a smart idea to start a business with an office. The first step is to get some business and clientele and then establish an office. Otherwise, if the business idea fails, the money spent on the office space will be wasted.


 Business Center

SRB Business Center is a comprehensive facility which offers executive office space along with several dynamic solutions for businesses. Besides executive offices this facility comprises of fully equipped meeting rooms, conference rooms, workstations space and much more. SRB Business center offers solutions for established enterprises as well as start up businesses.

Facilities and Services

Meeting Rooms and Conference Rooms

For company meetings use our state of the art meeting rooms or even fancier conference rooms. Trainings and workshops may also be conducted at our premises. Multimedia facilities are available at our business center.

Call Handling/Operator service

We offer professional call handling services for clients needs. Irrespective of client’s location, we provide the client with a dedicated telephone number. Our trained operator answers calls in the client’s company name and handles the call as per instruction. Calls forwarding options are available to connect calls.

Special Package

We offer a special package in which our virtual clients can have meeting room time included in their package along with Cal handling and Business address services.  Additionally we can offer free hours for time shared office space in this package. Our Management can tailor make packages for clients on request. This is an idea cost saving solution for entrepreneurs.

Work Station Space

Clients may use workstation space by the hour or reserve their own workstation space for the month.

Time share Office Space

Clients can also rent an office per hour =, per day or even for a week. This is most suitable for clients visiting from other cities.

Board of Investment – Need of the Nest


Interview with Saleem H. Mandviwalla, Minister of State / Chairman, Board of Investment

Please tell us about your professional background?

BOII belong to a business family who migrated from Indian Gujrat and settled in Karachi in 1920. The conventional business of our family is Real Estate; afterwards we went into different businesses like Automobile and Movies.

I was always active in the chamber activities and in various interactions with the government. I previously had relationships with the Peoples Party government and personally knew former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. This new government wanted someone from the private sector in the Board of Investment (BOI). They asked me to breathe some life in this sector. I took the task and started in 2008 and now BOI is reachable to investors and people.


What is the role of Board of Investment?

All the developing countries have organizations like BOI with different names. The main objective of this organization is to bring investment related matters in the board in which decisions are not being made in a conventional manner.  The board resolves those matters and is in coordination with the prime minister’s office. We address issues which are not related to investment. An investor can have multiple issues which include law and order problems, infrastructure problems, electricity and other utilities issues. We address multiple issues in different areas to facilitate the investors.


What is the present situation of the business and investment in Pakistan and worldwide?

Currently, like other countries investment is on a decline inPakistan. Governments are positively intervening in businesses because of the overall slump in the world economy. The whole capitalist structure has failed worldwide. It is proved that free market structure has been unsuccessful and there is a need of a new structure. In Pakistan, we are living in a much more controlled environment as compared to western countries which is why we face problems at a lower scale otherwise our economy would also be destroyed like Dubai.Dubaisurvived only because the federal government isAbu Dhabiwhich is conservative in running the economy. Otherwise the whole U.A.E would have been declared bankrupt. U.S. China and other governments have injected huge amounts of cash in the local economies by giving credit so that consumers are able to continue the sale and purchase of different products which will ultimately benefit the whole economy. On the other hand economies likePakistando not have that fiscal space (cash) to inject in the financial system.

InPakistan, we should not follow the procedures practiced in western countries. We should make a structure which is according to our environment. The foreign investment is very less these days inPakistanbut we are still better off than other countries.


How do you facilitate the local and foreign investors in the present environment?

Our policies are very liberal without having any defect in them but the issue is implementation. We register companies on a fast track basis. In registration process, we are better than Chinaand Indiaand rank 85th out of around 180 countries in conducting business. Indian government policies for businessmen are very difficult and it takes time for an investor to enter the Indian market. To target investor’s various problems we have created local board of investments in Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) andBaluchistan. We have a frame work of investment policy but on the ground level this investment actually goes to a province which is why we refer different investors to the provinces where our provincial BOI offices can facilitate them and act as a bridge between the government and the investor by providing all the necessary government permissions and certifications to start work.

Is there any specific investment amount criteria used by BOI for investors?

There are no limitations. There are investors with more than Rs. 100 crores who are taking our help and there are also some business men who have an investment of Rs. 1 crore.


Why is there a decline in the foreign investment in Pakistan in the last 2 years?

The decline is due to global economic crises. The countries that used to invest inPakistanhave gone to zero. There will be a shift and in the next 10 years but the largest investors will not beUnited States,Europeor U.A.E., it is going to be Asian countries. This shift is going to be world wide. Today the biggest foreign investor isChina.


How are your policies feasible for investors?

The policies are investor friendly and accommodating. If you come to BOI as nobody and say that I want to register a company and you have proper (required) documentation, we can help you in establishing a business in 48 hours. The only problem occurs when the investor does not have proper documentation.

After setting up a business, what role does BOI play?

After starting a business, the investor can have multiple issues. Sometimes the investor cannot find a location for his new branch office or cannot get the electricity connection easily etc.  We resolve these kinds of day to day issues of investors.


What investment opportunities do you see in Pakistan?

The largest opportunity lies in the agriculture sector. I think it is still unexplored or it has not been really looked at by the real investors who are in the agriculture business. It is a vast area with a number of fields and businesses which can attract massive investment. For example, Pakistan is the 4th largest producer of milk and 80% of milk is not sold in packed form. Which means 80% of this sector requires investment. Similarly we need huge investment in storage and warehousing. We still store our raw materials in open storage spaces. These days it is all stored in cylos around the world in which a certain temperature and moister for each product is maintained. Similarly, we need investments in exploration, mining and energy. We do not have much knowledge about alternate energy inPakistan which again is a great investment opportunity.

Why is there less investment in energy or alternate energy sector of Pakistan even though it has huge potential for investors?

Since 2002, we have a policy that 5% of the energy ofPakistanshould come from alternate energy, now it is 2010 and still we have very low alternate energy sources. International investors want to invest in this field, but they get frustrated due to the bureaucracy of the government offices and then they leave without investing. Bureaucracy is one of the biggest problems ofPakistanas it does not allow international investors to enterPakistan. Bureaucrats should provide feasible opportunities to the investors who come from other countries. We need foreign investors and if we do not facilitate them they will go to another country and invest their money.

Our media should also play a role in this aspect. Currently, media is playing a negative role towards the economy by projecting all the negative news. There are some great things happenings inPakistanbut media does not highlight them and is always busy in highlighting the bomb blasts and other crimes. Media should act as a responsible pillar and play a noteworthy role in projectingPakistanpositively.

What are your future plans?

We are trying to restructure the BOI by allowing private sector to be a part of BOI. BOI cannot be run as a conventional bureaucratic government organization anymore. We are also trying to create special economic zones inPakistanand incentive would be given to industrial investors who will enter this zone. We will create industrial zones inPakistanat different locations so that the cost of business may reduce.

What recommendations would you like to give to the government?

Government should make a feasible environment for implementation and should not interfere in businesses. We are trying to remove different government permissions (NOCs) from different businesses. For example, in the telecommunication sector, we have been successful in de-regulating it and today we can see the miraculous change in the telecom sector ofPakistan. The cell phone call which used to cost Rs. 10, today is for Rs. 0.5 only. There is a revolution in this area and you can see the huge investments and business opportunities in the telecom sector ofPakistanwhich occurred in the last few years. Even developed countries are amazed at our communication sector. I know some Germans who have purchased post paid connections fromPakistanto use inGermanybecause the local charges are higher as compared toPakistan’s cell phone roaming costs.

My advice to the government is to de-regulate the power sector ofPakistan. Let everyone generate their own power and sell it to anyone they like. The flood water was a huge resource which has been wasted. It could have provided us the power for the next 5 years.  The power sector needs to be de-regulated to bring a revolution in this sector.

Board of Investment – Get Smart by Facing a Smarter Opponent


A chat with the Chairman of Board of Investment, Mr. Saleem H. Mandviwalla on the current situation of foreign investment and the effect of Budget 2010-11 on it


The Effect of the Budget on Foreign Investors

The current budget is not related to the foreign investment. The energy crisis is the major problem after law and order in decreasing foreign investment in the country. Apart from the budget, the investor policies should also be altered. There are some foreign investors who want to invest inPakistanand are only waiting for policy implementation. They have investment plans especially in the energy sector as the demand for energy is constantly increasing. The era of budget is over and it has been reduced to an academic exercise. In the past, the budget was followed the entire year. Now after every few months, the government makes amendments in the budget and announces a new one according to the changing requirements of the industries.

The only point in the budget which is businesses friendly is that the equity based investment is now tax free for 5 years for both local as well as foreign investors. Businesses, who invest through board of investment, are usually organized businesses which involve funding. It is very rare that a large equity based investment is made. The impact of this will be more on unorganized businesses who avoid paying taxes and will not be inquired about the source of their investment.

Misconception Regarding Foreign Investors

It is common thinking that foreign investors investing in Pakistan make all the profit and take it outside the country but in reality very few foreign companies are doing so. This situation only occurs after 10 or 20 years from the establishment of the business. I believe that foreign investors do not enterPakistanfor the sake of profit but actually enter this market for expansion.  Pakistanis relatively a smaller market as compared to other countries but nevertheless is still a part of the international expansion plan. Foreign companies want a strategic presence along with expansion and aspire to add to the company’s turnover. For instance, it is assumed that McDonald’s, an international fast food chain located in Pakistan is earning profit but actually, a local investor who has purchased the chain is earning profits. The McDonald’s international head office is only expanding their operations. Similarly, Pepsi is only a brand name and all the bottling plants of Pepsi inPakistanare established and run by local investors. Jobs are being created from these kinds of international brands and more money is being circulated in the economy.

The actual target of international brands is to grow their business and increase their product lines. The difference between Pakistani businessmen and foreign businessmen is that the local investors want profit as soon as possible while the foreign investors first grow their business, and then expand the size and make profit.

The only way to get smart is to face an opponent who is smarter. The local industry is usually afraid of foreign industry as they are large and well established in comparison. Once the local industry faces competition in the market, it will also have to raise the standards and qualities to compete which at the end of the day will be highly beneficial to the local industry. Certain groups inPakistanmake policies with the government in such a way which restricts foreign investors to enterPakistan. In this way, the local industries will have to face less competition.

If we make policies which will allow more investors to enterPakistanin different industries, everything will become cheap after a few years. The Telecom sector ofPakistanis the main example. As soon as Telenor, Warid and Zong entered the market, the call rates dropped. Before this, the market was ruled by Mobilink and the customers were charged high rates.

So to increase the quality and quantity of our local products, we’ll have to allow foreign companies to enter Pakistan and the government should solve the problem of energy and law & order.

Ali Riaz – Like Father Like Son


Ali RiazAli Raiz , the  new CEO of Bahria Town and the son of Malik Raiz is a focused , balanced individual  and an innovative entrepreneur. He gives IBEX his insight on the current housing situation in Pakistan and how he wishes to continue the legacy of his father.


Your father is a big Business magnate. This raises a lot of expectations from you as his son and the new CEO of Bahria Town. How do you plan to continue his legacy?

Being a son of such a big business tycoon does add tremendous weight on my shoulders. I have acquired a great deal of experience from my father who has helped me to deliver projects in Lahore and Rawalpindi. I still have a long way to go and to understand my father’s business dynamics. He has always been my ideal and I will always look up to him.


How many hours do you spend at work?

That is a difficult question to answer for a person like me. My philosophy is that if you have an ambition to achieve, then the time you spend even if it is a little more then a normal day’s work ends up being enjoyable. I do not shy away from the commitment of time. Working on my father’s vision of revolutionizing and transforming the housing industry in Pakistan is what keeps me going during long hours of work.


How do you balance your family life with your professional life?

I am married and have a four year old son. Balancing time between family and work is not easy. I wish I could be at both places at once. I try not to think about the work going on in construction sites when I am at home. My wife has always been very supportive of what I do, for which I am eternally grateful to her.


What attributes do you appreciate in others?                             

I appreciate people who are passionate, aggressive, self-starters, intelligent and who have a clear vision of how, when, where and what to do.  I loathe hypocrisy, dishonesty and indolence in others.


Bahria Town is more than a decade old. What have you achieved in the past ten years?

By the grace of Almighty what we started a decade back has matured to be the fastest growing housing society in Asia. We are building a tradition of excellence as we transform a great vision into reality.

It is a matter of great pride for us that our company has created business opportunities for some 1000 local suppliers, creates another 15,000 jobs through supply chain development, paid millions of rupees in taxes and helped support families of more than 10, 000 workers in direct and indirect employment.

Bahria Town being the most progressive developer organization in Pakistanis taking the initiative to reduce the cost of construction by technological innovations and is currently introducing efficient technologies from all across the world on transfer of technology basis.

Bahria Town has become a familiar name all over Pakistan. With Bahria Town, customers are assured of the meticulous planning, innovation and highest standards of construction. Without a question Bahria Town is a recognizable brand.


How does Bahria Town value its customers?

Customer relations are central to our brand vision. We have recently introduced a massive grass root customer service program. Our offices have been redesigned with a customer focused mindset; different counters have been set up for specific services. The procedures at our offices have been simplified to provide maximum convenience to our customers. For instance, we have automated the entire procedure of title transfer which usually takes at least a month in any housing society in Pakistan. A customer walks in our office, takes a token from the token machine, on his turn he shows his original CNIC , his transfer document set is printed on the spot with his details taken from our database. All he needs to do is sign the papers and the transfer is made.

In order to secure our member’s investment we are working in collaboration with the top international firms including TAK Management, Ranhill, Maxcorp and Al-Habtoor Trading Enterprises, which are experts in their respective fields.


How does Bahria Town cater to the evolving consumer needs?

Customer needs are the focal point in developing any new product at BahriaTown. We are constantly studying the market to understand the evolving needs of our customers and transform that understanding into products and services using innovative techniques to introduce change. We have a wide range of products that target the eclectic client base. From meeting the customer demands of exquisite luxurious villas like Meadows to projects like Awami Villas that are more suitable for the pragmatic needs of an average individual.


How much of the housing boom has been influenced by low interest rates. What are the other factors which have influenced the housing boom?

There has been too much attention on low rates. Clearly, interest rates have helped the housing industry; however, it is more than that. Fundamentally, there is more demand than supply. There is a shortage of three-quarter of a million houses per year inPakistan.


Do you think that real-estate market will still be able to provide a sound investment?

Real estate is a great investment opportunity for households.  I do not think there will be a price-appreciation pop. The returns are still going to be good.


What is the secret behind Bahria Town’s success?

The secret behind Bahria Town’s unprecedented success is its unique development ideology. A project is spread over ten quarterly installments based over 3 years. The company puts huge capital during the first year in facilities so that at the time of competition all allied services of the infrastructure is ready to serve its residents. These services includes mosques, hospitals, school, post office, police station, golf course, commercial areas, food courts, emergency services, entertainment centers and 24/7 maintenance wing.  This is to compliment the migration process of the residents and to make their daily life hassle free. The capital is generated through a rich scale of projects spread over different cities which helps the company manage its finances smartly in the interests of its future residents. Bahria Town religiously believes in the concept of “Community first; Profitability follows”.


How do you plan to grow and preserve Bahria Town‘s reputation as the housing revolution in Pakistan?

The downside for many companies begins when their top executives start losing their focus. We are very careful to remain totally focused and goal oriented. We believe that we have an enduring obligation to the people who have made us the phenomenal success that we are today. We are always in the process of innovation and re-engineering our current processes to achieve new higher benchmarks. Our aim is not only to achieve the international standards but to surpass them.


What does the future hold for Bahria Town?

We are all excited about the future and the great opportunities in front of us. Pakistan stands on the juncture of economic emancipation. Bahria Town is now ideally poised for this new phase of dynamic growth by leveraging its established brand image to achieve exponential growth.