High connections: David Miliband joins Pakistani private equity firm

Published: January 21, 2012
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Miliband served as Britain’s secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs previously. PHOTO: REUTERS

Miliband served as Britain’s secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs previously. PHOTO: REUTERS

KARACHI: 

In what appears to be a coup for the fledgling Pakistani private equity industry, Indus Basin Holdings has managed to get Britain’s former foreign secretary David Miliband on board as a senior adviser.

“We are delighted to be able to bring on board the expertise of Miliband who knows the region and its challenges well,” said Indus Basin founder and CEO Aamer Sarfraz, according to a press release issued by Miliband’s office. “He shares our conviction that investment in Pakistan’s agricultural sector can have substantial long-term impact on the country’s poorest farming communities.”

“I am delighted to be advising Indus Basin Holding, a company that is investing in Pakistan’s future at a time of such fundamental importance,” said Miliband in a press statement. “I care deeply about Pakistan, the development of its economy and its future in the wider region. IBH is committed to developing an agricultural sector which has huge potential, but currently lacks investment. I look forward to working with IBH in building support and investment in Pakistan’s agricultural capacity and productivity.”

Officials at the company say they had been trying for the past year and a half to secure the contract with Miliband, who served as Britain’s foreign secretary between 2007 and 2010. He also served as Britain’s secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs previously.

Some of the largest private equity firms in the world are known for employing high profile non-serving statesmen on their advisory boards. This practice was made famous by the Washington-based Carlyle Group which employed both former US president George Bush Senior and former British prime minister John Major on its various advisory boards. More recently, former Pakistani prime minister Shaukat Aziz joined the advisory board of the US private equity firm Blackstone Group.

The purpose of employing such high profile people on a company’s advisory board is two-fold. Firstly, their experience as statesmen gives them extraordinary macro-level insight in terms of the opportunities that exist around the world. Secondly, their connections both in governments as well as amongst large corporations and wealthy individuals often make them a valuable resource in opening otherwise inaccessible doors and closing deals.

Indus Basin Holdings is only a relatively recent entrant into Pakistan’s nascent private equity and venture capital space but already began to attract a lot of attention for the kinds of big-name investors it was able to attract in its fund, which is focused on capitalising on opportunities presented by raising productivity levels in Pakistani agriculture.

The company’s investors include Tim Draper, the famous American venture capitalist known for being an early investor in Skype and Hotmail, and Baron Lorne Thyssen-Bornemisza, a Swiss aristocrat whose family owns the ThyssenKrupp, a German technology conglomerate with over 670 subsidiaries and 200,000 employees worldwide.

Indus Basin’s investments currently include Agroventures, a Faisalabad-based breakfast cereal manufacturer, and Rice Partners, a company that is focused on contract farming and marketing Pakistani rice directly to North American and European retailers.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 21st, 2012.

Reader Comments (34)

  • Zeffos
    Jan 21, 2012 - 5:44AM

    Welcome aboard. Pakistan indeed has a alot of ”spare” wealth for new hedge funds to exploit.

    Recommend

  • Talha
    Jan 21, 2012 - 6:04AM

    Indus Basin Holdings seems like a private equity front of Pak Army with a mix of business dynasties.

    That probably is the reason for its deep connections.

    Recommend

  • Adam Khan
    Jan 21, 2012 - 7:26AM

    So Imran Khan’s dream that foreigners will get in visa line for job in Pakistan is true and We even started hiring Ex, foreign ministers. GEO PAKISTAN

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  • BS.Detecter
    Jan 21, 2012 - 9:17AM

    Big Catch

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  • Jan 21, 2012 - 9:39AM

    A good opening for Mr.Miliband and to Pakistani Company – opportunity for both – it is high time company open its doors for learned youth of this country qualfied yet roaming for job…………..there appear no one to look at them….God be with these youth!

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  • Organization of Pure Profit
    Jan 21, 2012 - 9:39AM

    More Profit means More Power, More Power means more Influence over future destiny!

    Recommend

  • Pakistani
    Jan 21, 2012 - 10:49AM

    Congratulations.

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  • Nouman
    Jan 21, 2012 - 11:18AM

    The company’s main investers are big “venture capitalists” which should ring alarm-bells in every sane man’s mind. Investers/companies like this caused the global financial crisis in US and now in Europe mainly because of their greed. We will be livinng in fool’s paradise if we think they are coming to Pakistan to improve the lives of our poor farmers. Thats just not how investers think. Its all about the bottom-line. If anything, they are going to bring these farmers under their credit net and mint money out of them for years to come in the name of interest repayments.

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  • Parvez
    Jan 21, 2012 - 12:19PM

    The company’s interests in Pakistan relate to food and agriculture. Food is produced cheaply in Pakistan to be sent abroad at a profit and as agriculture is tax exempt its a win-win situation for hem. If Pakistan gets some positive benefi from this, then it makes sense.

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  • Falcon
    Jan 21, 2012 - 12:44PM

    @Talha:
    Yes in fact Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and late Steve Jobs were also employed by Pak Army. Can we get our head out of conspiracy theories for a change???

    Recommend

  • naeem
    Jan 21, 2012 - 12:51PM

    good news

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  • Jan 21, 2012 - 1:02PM

    Indus Basin has certainly done a lot of investments in productive areas of Pakistan, i would recommend Pakistani investors to capitalize most out of our agriculture sector

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  • ubaid
    Jan 21, 2012 - 1:13PM

    @Talha… plz visit the company’s website before making such absurd comments

    “Indus Basin Holding Ltd is incorporated in Mauritius, and licensed by the Mauritius Financial Services Commission (FSC). The company is privately owned with offices in Pakistan.”

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  • Jan 21, 2012 - 1:40PM

    It seems something good.

    Recommend

  • Talha
    Jan 21, 2012 - 2:10PM

    @Falcon @ ubaid:

    Stop puffing up, I made that connection after looking their team which has a healthy mix of ex Fauji Foundation employees and renowned businessmen.

    Getting statesman onboard isn’t something that can be achieved without extensive connections, and this is Pakistan after all.

    Recommend

  • Fair & Balanced
    Jan 21, 2012 - 3:37PM

    I have been following IBH for some time now and they are doing exceptionally good…both for themselves and Pakistan. They are building a very interesting portfolio – a clear evidence of sound investment strategy; and getting Mr. Miliband on board – a clear evidence that their marketing is working effectively internationally. They seem to approach conventional businesses unconventionally – as per their website, an off-take agreement for the dairy is already in place. I wish them luck and hope to see more good news!

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  • Ahsan Mansoor
    Jan 21, 2012 - 4:14PM

    I have always seen Mr. Miliband as a more balanced statseman. Seeing his actions towards Pakistan when he was the foreign secretary, I do believe that he has some soft corner for Pakistan and I respect him for that.

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  • antanu g
    Jan 21, 2012 - 7:49PM

    @Talha:
    then u should hang ur head in shame….since u think all FAUJIs are evil…

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  • Rt. Rev. Wrong
    Jan 21, 2012 - 9:01PM

    Mr. Miliband; run away from this if you can. You may regret this very soon.Recommend

  • watch dog
    Jan 21, 2012 - 9:32PM

    Millibands are committed Labourite.What one of them is doing in Zardari Republic of Pakistan?

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  • M. A. Changezi
    Jan 21, 2012 - 10:01PM

    Pakistani economy is not going to do any better if we continue depending on agriculture. Africa is a good example if we want to learn anything. Proper industrialization is the answer to all our ills. Obviously industrialization would mean having to set up a proper IT system.

    Recommend

  • Balma
    Jan 21, 2012 - 10:36PM

    As someone who has tried raising funds to invest in Pakistan, unsuccessfully of course, this is such a great news. Yes, Pakistan has rampant ghunda gardi, inefficient police, corrupt legal system, over active army, criminalized politicians…..but so what, several other countries in the world are in the same situation….but they all have booming economies.
    Is China a heavan for democratic principles, are all politicans in Dehli’s lok sabha kind of farishtas (angels for uneducated burgers)?

    Mind you, per WSJ article a few years aog, most members of lok sabha in Dehli had some sort of criminal cases against them….in fact, as WSJ said, they were there in lok sabha for access to legal immunity….Surprisingly, even grandsons of famous Dr. Ansari (past president of Congress party in 20’s or 30’s) were involved in murder cases…One was a member of Dehli’s lok Sabha and another was member of the UP assembly in Lucknow.
    Shame on people writing negative jamat-e-Islami style comments.Recommend

  • antanu g
    Jan 21, 2012 - 10:56PM

    @Rt. Rev. Wrong:
    like your name you are WRONG…in your mindset

    Recommend

  • Jan 21, 2012 - 11:47PM

    Politicians and Capitalists will indeed would loose all their investments. Pakistan is not India or China.

    The Mafia gangs are in Millions gangs of their own mini empires. The will indeed snatched their holdings and distribute among themselves. History of Pakistan repeats and explain it selves.

    What is left to feed huge population of 180 Millions people. Over congested.

    Man eats man; Dog eats dogs. Who wants to invest in Pakistan? The civil war is on horizon and can not be brought into law and order.

    Other plots are; these Politicians and Capitalists from overseas can also just take; left over of Pakistan and walk away. THIS IS WHAT BRITISH RULLERS DID IN 200 YEARS AGO IN INDIA;

    GOOD; BETTER; BEST. Recommend

  • ubaid
    Jan 22, 2012 - 12:46AM

    @Talha…… plz get a life

    Recommend

  • Loyal to Pakistan
    Jan 22, 2012 - 1:45AM

    Agri-investment????????(So we will have to beg Big Multinational companies for food). We have been doing Agri-farming for centuries and we don’t need their help. Why don’t Western countries buy our products like textile, surgical instruments, leather, grain, rice, +++++++++ and lift trade sanctions on Pakistani products??????? Why don’t they send us business such as call-centers, IT, professional visas +++++++ like they give favours to India. No, this is just another attempt to colonise Pakistan, again. India just allowed(2012) its (Mumbai)stock-market to allow investment by foreign companies and I mean only in stock-market & no where else. Water of our River’s controlled by India and Agri-farming controlled by Western owned multinationals. Gives you a hint.

    Recommend

  • Zahir
    Jan 22, 2012 - 3:51AM

    Tol all the fellows who are making silly comments. The CEO of indust basin is from a decent business family; not the biggest business family. He is well edcuated, and when he was college, he created a billing software, and got a patent for it, and sold it at a hefty profit to a US software firm, and since then has been doing various other deals.

    Once he made money, he settled in UK in a good area, and overthere if you socialize, do business in the right circles, David Milliband is not that hard to meet. All it takes is for some firms to set up lunches, dinners, events, charity events, where important people meet and network.

    There is no NEED for army or anything else. And if someone is lucky enough to know such people through any channel, one should utilize for one’s benefit. Their farmers are well paid, much more than the average farmer, and they have set up a good system.

    Right now there is 0 investment in Pakistan, we should be happy that, something is coming. There are other options like Brazil, Russia, Vietnam, Indonessia, China, India Ghana, and those countries ppl are giving foreign investors red carpet welcome, so be a little greatful.

    We have become a nation of people, who are cynical for no ryhme or reason. Those of us commenting have become well off enough that, we have a suzuki or corolloa, we live in a comfortable home, we have heating, and cool air in the summer (albeit the power outrages), we can send our childerne to school, and manage our health expenses. When we got to this level, we felt happy. Then we realized there were thousands of people just like us, and we are just average (we forgot the millions beneath us). How do we feel good about ourselves? By being negative, sarcastic, even vicious about high achievers. Like shakespeare described the average person in Othello. To feel good about his normal average position in society, he has to be critical of the senators.

    Thank you Indus basins for all the good work you are doing in Pakistan. You have made Pakistan proud. Right now, pakistans credit rating is one above Junk. There are travel adviseries and restrictions against us. A person of NOTE like Millband would have to think 1000 times before joining a Pakistanis firm.

    He has no shortage of firms, who want him to join. Firms from anywhere from Brazil, Chile, to India, and Indonessia. He did it because, he thinks it can add value.

    Recommend

  • Zahir
    Jan 22, 2012 - 3:53AM

    @Agriculture King:
    I agree sir, agriculture is the way forward. We should encourage foreign investors as well as local investors to invest in agriculture. For foreign investors, we should set up competetive tax advantages for investing in Pakistan. We should remove bureaucratic red tape as well.

    Recommend

  • Zahir
    Jan 22, 2012 - 3:59AM

    @Talha:
    Talha sahib, connections is something that need to be established in the world over. From everywhere place from Washington, New York, to London, to Moscow, connections are created by people in business’s by networking events, lunches, charity events, dinners, art galleries. They are hosted, and aspiring business’ aim to get tables, to get entry to these events, so they can meet them. A good PR company can introduce to many people of note. Once, you have these peopole on board, they can introduce you to many high net worth people from all over the world, and can open doors in o ther countries. Sometimes, their phone call makes a big difference.

    I think many Pakistani big business’ dont try enough to network internationally, which they should. Indian business’s on the other hand do. They call all the top international people to events, they even host them. An indian business group will charter a Yacht for the Monaco Grand Prix, and call allt he top International businessmen, and even ppl connected to the government, entertain them, and hopefully get some doors open. This by NO MEANs, seals hte deals, but open doors.

    In the US, you can hire lobbyists, who will lobby for you in Congress to pass certain laws and bills that you want.

    Networking like this is done all over the world. Not now, but for centuries.

    Recommend

  • Jan 22, 2012 - 10:51AM

    thanks for projecting my views – you are great.

    Recommend

  • Kamran Ashraf
    Jan 25, 2012 - 3:13AM

    Very good induction of David Miliband for the most important sector of the world, especially for Pakistan, which has the full of potential for the agriculture and almost covering 70% of Pakistan. Economic gurus are also worried about future food security problem for the whole world.
    But what would be the strategy to boost the economy through agriculture? Is this only for investor who will take the advantage as usual or will it being beneficial for the farmers?

    This is the very serious project, and how will they take off? Will they approach from grass root level? Will they educate farmers either from agriculture universities/institutions etc.? Or through electronic media which has the access to each house hold of the country like agriculture TV channel that is more than the universities/institutes, because it can teach the farmers/stakeholder in very well manners. It all depends on the Indus Basin Holdings and their advisers. Let see what approach they will use.

    Recommend

  • Asim
    Jan 25, 2012 - 5:58PM

    I seriously go with Mr. Kamran Ashraf point of view.
    I have personally watched Sohni Dharti TV its vision/programs they are excellent and awesome, first i would like to mention here that its the first agricultural TV channel of Pakistan who is promoting the importance of agriculture, role of agriculture in building strong economy of our country, educating farmers and promoting each and everything related to agriculture.
    i appreciate the idea and vision behind it which is really empowering poor farmers and also started to refuel economy of this country.
    There is lot they can do under the umbrella of Sohni Dharti TV channel and if that is blended with some foreign guidance/experience and aids the results would be extremely matchless.

    Well i must recommend Indus Basin Holding to collaborate with the group “Sohni Dharti” so they & you in collaboration can save the most precious side (agriculture) of this country.

    Recommend

  • Asim
    Jan 25, 2012 - 6:11PM

    Mr. Zisca M. Singha i am really disspointed after reading your comment…
    leaving religious battles and historical constraints, we all belong to one planet, and you yourself saying that we are on backfoot..so who needs more attention we have to save our homeland our planet regardless of other issues..
    Discussion over here is not on politics, politicians, social, religious and historical matters. I being a Pakistani strongly recommend all foreign think tanks investors and experienced personals to stand with not only Sohni Dharti but all such NGO’s and organizations who are working for agriculture, i am telling you if we flourish this field we would be even able to feed to not only 180 million people we can feed the whole ASIA.

    Recommend

  • Kamran Ashraf
    Jan 25, 2012 - 10:00PM

    @Asim:
    Thanks for your appreciation

    Recommend

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