KARACHI: No platform could have been better for paying a resounding tribute to one of the most successful entrepreneurial families of Pakistan. The Habib family – which has run a wide range of businesses since 1841, forbearing through communal riots, nationalisation and terrorism – was lauded at a conference on entrepreneurship in Karachi on Wednesday.
During a number of clichéd speeches at the Entrepreneurship Conference – organised jointly by the US Consulate General Karachi and the Pakistan-US Alumni Network – there were only a few occasions when the audience clapped heartily. However, when Habib Metro Bank President Sirajuddin Aziz referred to Rafiq M Habib, chairman of the House of Habib, as a role model for Pakistani entrepreneurs, participants broke into resonant applause. It was a fitting show of the respect and admiration Pakistani entrepreneurs hold for the Mohammedali Habib family, which now employs nearly 14,000 people in different business concerns.
Stating that entrepreneurship was innate by nature, Aziz said the academia and society at large should make the promotion of entrepreneurship a priority in Pakistan. Comparing the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and China of 1978, Aziz recalled that while the former tried to introduce political reforms, the latter launched an overhaul of its economic system to revive its economy. “The USSR is gone, and China is on its way to becoming the largest economy of the world,” he observed.
Attributing the tremendous growth of their economy to the entrepreneurial spirit of the Chinese, Aziz said the share of private firms in the country’s GDP increased by half between 1978 and 2005. He also noted that a quarter of the 20 million residents of Shanghai were entrepreneurs. “We should do the same in Pakistan,” he said, adding that the bulk of the Pakistani population should ideally be self-employed.
Speaking on the occasion, US Consul General in Karachi Michael Dodman said entrepreneurship was “mother’s milk to most Americans.” Noting that different programmes were being implemented under the US Agency for International Development to promote entrepreneurship in Pakistan, he declared that the US government was trying to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Pakistan that benefitted all stakeholders.
Later, while responding to a question during a panel discussion on “Fostering entrepreneurial mindsets through education and learning,” Meezan Bank President and CEO Irfan Siddiqui said Pakistani banks currently held “huge amounts of liquidity”, as well as the appetite for risks. “Banks are looking for borrowers. That is unlike the past, when banks used to have liquidity issues,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 15th, 2012.