JS Group: the empire built by selling the family car

Published: January 15, 2012

Jahangir Siddiqui sold the vehicle to a junk dealer for Rs1,800 45 years ago.

KARACHI: 

Who could have known that the man behind the JS Group, which comprises a range of businesses with over 18,000 employees, laid the foundations of his business empire 45 years ago by secretly selling off the family car for a paltry sum while his father was out of town for two days?

Sharing his experiences as an entrepreneur with the audience at the second convention of the Sindhi Association of North America (SANA) on Saturday during a session titled “Entrepreneurial spirit, innovation and leadership,” Jahangir Siddiqui made a number of observations, which can well be summed up as Entrepreneurship 101.

“Positive thinking distinguishes an entrepreneur from the rest of the crowd. He’s never deterred by difficult circumstances,” Siddiqui said while referring to his father’s initial refusal to lend him Rs6,000 to start a business.

“After selling his car to a kabarya (junk dealer) for Rs1,800 while he was away, I still needed more money. So I sold the two-year stock of 30 wheat bags, which were stored in our house at the time. Next, I sold the coal stock as well,” he said.

Upon his father’s return two days later, Siddiqui demanded that he should pitch in another Rs1,500 so he could finally start the business. He agreed, and within a year, Siddiqui was able to buy a brand new car.

“Don’t be scared. Don’t feel threatened. Come up with a solution. Every problem can be solved,” he said.

Because of his involvement in business from an early age, Siddiqui said, he could not concentrate on his studies initially. “I failed the intermediate exams. My father wanted me to get a proper education. So I sat the supplementary exam and passed.”

After moving to Karachi from Hyderabad in the late 1960s, Siddiqui decided to become a chartered accountant. He said he would go to the stock exchange every day during lunch breaks to understand how things worked at the bourse.

He set up his own company in October 1971. The economy faced serious challenges in coming days: East Pakistan became Bangladesh after two months, a state of emergency was imposed in the country and the stock market closed for months on end.

Meanwhile, Siddiqui had to pay five employees of his company Rs2,000 each while it generated little revenue.

“When you can’t increase profits, you control expenses. So I stopped using my car. My dispatcher would take me to the office in the morning on his motorcycle and drop me back home in the evening. I’d save Rs200 on petrol every month,” he said.

Even though he retired as chairman of the JS Group in 2003, he said he wanted to test whether his entrepreneurial spirit was still alive. So he acquired commercial banking operations of American Express Bank Limited Pakistan and established JS Bank Limited in December 2006.

“Despite problems like law and order and energy shortages, we were able to establish 150 branches in just three years and eight months,” he said.

“An entrepreneur always finds opportunities amid adversities.”

Published in The Express Tribune, January 15th, 2012.

Reader Comments (11)

  • B
    Jan 15, 2012 - 8:04AM

    Gutsy

    Recommend

  • Paki-Australian
    Jan 15, 2012 - 8:39AM

    Positive! Which makes it encouraging.

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  • Jan 15, 2012 - 9:08AM

    Viva Jahangir Siddiqui sahib! That’s the way businesses are built and run successfully. Pakistan is proud of you and please dont allow HOSTILE TAKEOVERS. Thanx. Salam

    Recommend

  • Rizwan
    Jan 15, 2012 - 11:25AM

    A genuine success story.Well done

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  • Abdullah Noorani
    Jan 15, 2012 - 12:27PM

    encouraging for others

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  • Logistics
    Jan 15, 2012 - 1:46PM

    He made his money on stock market trading and now the stock is at a record low. Recommend

  • Aisha
    Jan 15, 2012 - 4:03PM

    Why is there no mention of his inside trading details? Or do soft stories like this sell more and add more credibility to a man and his family who have left Pakistan to go live in Dubai because they do not agree with the current governmtn. If he truly was so successful based on his hard work etc etc, then whichever government is in power need not affect him at all!Recommend

  • Arman Yousaf
    Jan 15, 2012 - 5:08PM

    A positive hit may create prosperous picture.

    Recommend

  • Sana
    Jan 16, 2012 - 6:35AM

    The present Government wants his bank from him at distressed prices, which he is not willing to sell. He has been forced to live outside by the current leaders.

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  • Anosh Mehdi
    Jan 16, 2012 - 6:54PM

    An inspirational story for the youth but I would be glad if someone can extract more details. Perhaps a detailed documentary so that others could follow lead. Kudos to JS Sb :)

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  • Jan 18, 2012 - 5:21PM

    @Aisha:

    Look at the bright side – there was also no mention of how many of his friends, employees and family who might be involved in his business – DItched him in middle!!

    I find many entrepreneurs facing similar obstacles and one way or another they made it. Of course not everyone makes it like JS but they still make. And what I conclude after meeting all of them – That they look at the bright side of things! a bright side of life. As the concluding line of this article said:

    They see opportunities amid adversities.

    So just a thought – Look at the bright side of this guy.

    P.S — He is not my uncle, nor my client and I’m also not working in JS.

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