I didn’t inherit anything. My farming started originally with cotton. After wheat and cotton, I went to the dairy farming business with milk and cheese and now I’m thinking about going to potatoes. I worked with mangoes, chilies, and onions too. I also own a small mining operation and run a couple of NGOs.
My father had a 200 acre land which he developed himself. Then it was divided amongst the family. There was a separate 1500 acres land area which I developed the barren land over a period of 20 years. Bought it steadily in the early 80’s. IT was very challenging to look after this much land. It took me 25 years to fully develop it.
I also delved into sugar cane farming to support my mills at an area of 100 acres. Now I farm about 20,000 acres using the most modern machinery, including the GPS technology. Our minimum daily crushing capacity is 60,000 tons.
The more I worked forward on my business, the more I organized them. First of all I applied it in my farming business. Organized the farms, replaced the “munshi culture” and replaced it with corporate culture and developed reporting mechanism and processes. An up-to-date management system was implemented in order to maximize the efficiency and productivity. Now they work without my guidance and presence. It was corporate-style management. People are trained and made responsible and given authority. I only monitor them. I’ve developed the MIS myself. Every morning I get the updates on temperature and field work. Each and everything is on my fingertips. Direct reports come from a team of a dozen. Total 10,000 employees are working for my portfolio.
Our major focus is on reducing time. Everything was developed over time.
The drive is either in the man or it isn’t. Drive is self-belief. I’m a big believer in self-belief. Drive is the urge to be better than what you’ve previously done. You cannot progress if you remain stationary. You have to be forward moving at all times. When a drive dies, a person dies.
Hope in the Current Economic Downturn
The qualities which Allah has instilled in our people, there will always be a number of people who will have the drive; who would want to improve their lives and do better. In worse conditions, the number of such people shrinks and in good times they increase. Then there is a core group, which under any circumstances, come rain, come shine, come hardship, will keep on striving. You will clearly see them in the current and aspiring entrepreneurs of the country. They are two drivers of the economy. But in Pakistan, we shouldn’t just depend on these drivers. There should be other people who need better circumstances to prosper. We should be working in this segment too. An alarming problem in this country is lack of job creation. Unless we create more jobs, we won’t be able to compete with the rest of the world. The jobs can only be created through entrepreneurship! Unfortunately the policies of the government are very discouraging.
The jobs don’t just come through big businesses or factories; bulk of the employment around the world is supplied by small and medium enterprises.We have to liberate the entrepreneurial spirit of the Pakistani people. Train them and you will see dramatic changes. Businesses will create on their own. People will find more jobs.
Secondly, we must improve our education and skill development system. Unless we work on these two sectors, we won’t be able to find the pool of the economy drivers.
China started growing in the last 25 years. Look at their education level and statistics since 1989. Look at the number of scientists, engineers, and doctors they are producing. Look at the number of skilled workers they’re producing. The base was education.
Motivation to Join Politics
The question is why I came into public service. Back when I was not into politics. I met Shahbaz Sharif in 1997 and I became the de facto agricultural minister. During my tenure of 2.5 years, I observed closely the government machinery and I realized change can definitely come in Pakistan. I realized the biggest problem in Pakistan is the delivery of social services. It doesn’t reach the people. No government has been able to address this issue. There is a potential. Change can come through the government.
Then I got the opportunity from my brother-in-law, since he couldn’t contest in the elections since he was a Nazim. He requested me and I casually contested on his seat and became an MNA. When the people vote for you, it becomes your responsibility to look after them. So my coming into business was to get things done. I already had my businesses, I already had a position, but I wanted to get things done. And that change can come through government. Remember unless the government changes, there won’t be any change in the country. Change can never come through NGOs.
PTI’s Stance on Entrepreneurship
Unless we focus on the ease of businesses in Pakistan, we won’t go anywhere. You have to take the government out of these regulations. You have to facilitate the people, rather than act as a hurdle. This is the work of the government. The basic manifesto of PTI is to make institutions. Institution building takes time. Why institutions are not made, because the politicians want to keep the power with them. We have distributed the power to the bottom level in KPK. Our local bodies system is coming which is going to be a great system to empower the local people. So on a national level, for entrepreneurship and industries, we have to welcome them. They are the ones who’ll change Pakistan. They will take business opportunities and provide jobs to so many people. And when businesses will increase, tax will also increase. So the cycle will go on. Entrepreneurship is on a speed breaker at this point here.
Current government policies like youth loan schemes have been here for quite a while now. We have to catch the basic spirit of entrepreneurship. Simplify and smooth the hard processes. Facilitate the youth. There’s no facilitation for anyone in Pakistan who wants to start a business. Here, if you don’t have money and you don’t have a business record, it’s very difficult to get an investment. When you are successful they will rush to you with their money. But when you’re not, they won’t give you any.
We don’t have the concept of venture capitalism in the country. Venture capitalism is the heart of new business ventures. Silicon Valley is driven by venture capitalism. People have new ideas and if they don’t have capital, venture capitalists will come forward. Malaysia follows a wonderful venture funding model.
For Aspiring Entrepreneurs
If you’re afraid of failing, you will fail! Failure happens. But you have to believe that even if you don’t succeed in your original plan, you will persist and you will have faith in your self-beliefs. Take failures as setbacks. Get your perspective right. Don’t think of failure. Think of success. What you think, you become!
Persistence is very important. Remember the story of Robert the Bruce and the spider in the cave. Never ever give up. In business start small, persistently succeed and then grow.