Interview with Managing Director SHIELD Corporation
‘Care’ is the core of spirit, which has made Shield a recognized household name in Pakistan. This approach has been the cardinal element of every managerial decision incorporated, at every step of the way, directed towards the ultimate goal of ‘Customer Care’. This “care-oriented” approach succeeded through commitment to the principle of continual improvement, understanding the consumer behavior and robust quality vigilance by our qualified quality personnel and technologists.
Mr. Haroon Qasim will tell you how you can have the entrepreneurial spirit and culture of trust in your organization.
Startup: Tell us about your journey from a family business to entrepreneurship.
Haroon: When my father ventured into the family business back in 1971, nobody ever thought about the amount of success it would gather. Our family business provided us with the perfect springboard to experience the thrills of entrepreneurship.
Today being at the helm of two successful companies, Pharmevo Private limited (pharmaceutical) & Shield Corporation (FMCG) describes an unusual story & highlights all sorts of lessons that are fundamental to achieving our dream.
Being from a business oriented community, it all began from my early childhood. I already had the ingredients for a businessman which was further shaped & fueled by all those family discussions which I used to hear. I also used to assist my father right after school.
But my father kept me away from actively taking part in the affairs unless I completed my MBA & CPA (equivalent to CA in Pakistan) from USA, as he believed that only a strong academic background can provide the immunity against turbulent economic conditions. After I completed my studies I came back & joined my family business in 1995.
As rosy as it appears, inheriting an established business & moving it forward is a real test of your character & intelligence. 22 families who used to own the entire wealth of Pakistan could not stand the test of time & most of them perished.
My family was obsessed with the idea of coming into pharmaceutical industry. We were into trading but we never manufactured anything. Though we didn’t know anything about pharma business but our passion outshone the perils of unchartered waters..
Shield Corporation was already in existence but the previous owners saw it as a liability, so they decided to discontinue it. We took over and expanded it. What started as a 200 million rupee buy is now worth over a billion rupee! Allhumdolilah, we are among top 30 pharmaceutical companies of Pakistan.
600-700 people are working directly and indirectly for Shield and 1400 for PharmEvo.
We export our products to Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Philippines, Vietnam, Kenya and other African countries.
Startup: What might be the success factors for your family business?
Haroon: I am trying to build the family business into an institution so that it can stay & serve for centuries. Though we have miles to go, we have already worked a lot on strengthening the foundation to that end. Normally in family businesses, only the owner’s family is involved in making decisions but we changed that. The credit goes to my father who had this vision to transform the family business into an institution & make it people centered and people focused. We developed a team and trained them to move the legacy forward.
When it comes to success, number one factor is the culture of trust. We built transparent systems to ensure trust between the employee and the management. Merit is never compromised not even for the family members of the owners’ b/c we believe this is our passport to the frontiers we are eyeing for. This trust factor & meritocracy make our employees buy that whatever is talked is also walked. This spawns a strong bond between members of the organization & they work relentlessly towards the goals of the organization.
Startup: So how did you create such a winning culture in your organization?
Haroon: Lead from the front! Making decision in the drawing rooms and offices was avoided. Instead, we opted to work “with” the employees. The simple understanding is that if my boss, my MD, or my supervisor can come and do it, what’s stopping me to do it?! That is the difference.
If I had to go and support my colleague, I had to be there. People normally don’t do that. They say that’s not my job. That doesn’t come in my job description. But being here, gives motivation to the team .When they see me, they feel elevated and motivated that if my boss can do it, why can’t we, regardless of weekdays or weekends. At the end of the day, they know that if the company grows, they will also grow.
Money is not the only motivating factor although it may be a good way of pumping up the team, for it is a necessity (there’s no doubt about that!)
The biggest incentive & motivating tool is the growth within the organization. Knowledge of the fact that their work is being noticed and their management rewards them for their hard work! Therefore, our focus is to uplift the people from within the organization. You may bring people from outside but again you have to make them understand the company’s culture and philosophy. So why not we develop people from the inside, train them and bring them to a level where they grow. This has been one of the major reasons for inculcating the entrepreneurial spirit in the company. People are empowered to take their own decisions.. Sometimes they fail but eventually you learn from your mistakes.
Startup: What would you say to other entrepreneurs?
Haroon: I’ve learned that an entrepreneur is always looking for an opportunity. who can cash the opportunity, those who are observant, spot the opportunity, work on it, capitalize the idea and eventually make it successful!
One of the major failure factors when doing a business is that you identify an opportunity or an idea but you don’t have the persistence to pursue it aggressively. They lose the heart due to hardships because success is not something, which you get overnight. Slow & steady wins the race (but with a strategy!)
Startup: Where do you see the company is the next 5 years?
Haroon: Our biggest objective is to take this company into the top five of the pharma industry of the country and expand globally. But beyond that, contribute to the society we hail from. Responsible corporations are always at the forefront of making the society a better place to live in. We are responsible for our employees & our people. We have to look after them. We have to change the perception about Pakistan into the foreign markets by providing quality products internationally. The countries we are working with are told that the products or the people coming from Pakistan are as good as anyone else in the world . So we need to build a positive image of this country and it’s people that we want to live with peace and harmony in the world.
Our society. Our responsibility.