The founding CEO of Engro Foods Sarfaraz Rehman has resigned after a long stint, the company announced on Monday.
A key executive who was involved in the transition of the company from just a fertiliser-manufacturer to a diversified conglomerate, Rehman was responsible for the launch of Engro Foods in 2006 when the company introduced Olpers brand, which went on to capture a major chunk of the packaged milk market.
“I think I have reached the time when it’s better to step down,” he told The Express Tribune. “The company is doing well. We have been able to improve the monthly performance since July last year. So I think this is the right time for me to leave.”
But his departure has come at a time when the management at Engro Corporation has seen multiple exits of senior officials. Since the revered CEO of the group Asad Umar resigned in 2012, other senior executives have followed, stirring talk of a crack in the Engro culture that saw employees revolve their entire lives around the company.
However, Sarfaraz made it clear that his departure is based on personal reasons. “Actually, I told the board about my intention to quit couple of months ago. They even tried to make me change my mind.”
He did not speculate who would take up the reins at Engro Foods, which saw its profitability plunge in recent years before bouncing back.
“That’s the discretion of the board, but I believe whoever comes should carry on for five to seven years.”
Rehman, who has also worked for Unilever and Pepsi, rejoined Engro Foods in 2013 after a two-year gap during which he was associated with social work.
It was never an easy journey for Rehman and Engro Foods in a cut-throat market. The company initially had to bear a hit on margins to capture the market, while other competitors made money by raising their price. But, within three years, Olpers raced to second position in the UHT processed milk segment.
Then in the summer of 2009 when the company started selling ice creams under the brand name Omore, incessant power breakdowns threatened to undermine the massive advertising campaign that was carried out to promote it.
Difficulties in distributing refrigerators fast enough among retailers also created issues. However, the company was able to overcome those challenges.
How exactly would Rehman’s legacy unfold in corporate Pakistan remains to be seen, but in his own words he would not care too much about it.
In April 2012, posting in his blog on a paan vendor he called Karim Bhai, he wrote: “Today, when I look back and analyse my life, it’s full of so-called successes. Strangely though, compare the memories about friends, family and small things versus the memory of life’s successes, there is just no comparison. I cannot picture my CA results, or being made CEO, or driving a posh company maintained car, or receiving various awards along the way. But I do remember friends and family vividly. I do remember a paan wala’s laughter as he told me he had trumped me on my salary.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 2nd, 2015.
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