Interview with Mr Irfan Wahid — Chief Executive Officer, Global Financial Solutions (GFS) Builders & Developers
PAGE: GFS has more than 15-years history, what has been its prime motive?
Irfan Wahid: Our primary motive has been to provide quality housing units that are affordable. We have ventured into walled cities as well as apartments. Most of the plots are 80 and 120 square yards and structure is termed ground plus one. The walled cities have all the civic amenities and infrastructure was built before offering the plots for sale. Out latest and iconic project is Seven Wonders City Phase II, located near Nooriabad, about 75 minutes drive from Karachi. Other projects include:
PAGE: Most of the projects being constructed in Karachi are being located in suburbs, what are the reasons for this paradigm shift?
Irfan Wahid: At present, the population of Karachi is estimated above 30 million, which is also growing at a very fast pace. The annual demand for new housing units is estimated around 300,000, at least. There are two options, vertical and horizontal expansion. Construction of bypasses and motorways has reduced the travelling time. Therefore, those desirous of living away from congestion are moving to suburbs. This process can be further expedited if government offers land to builders at discounted price and quality of public transport is improved, else areas will become overcrowded, there will be pressure on utilities and all this would add to pollution.
PAGE: What is your opinion about incentives offered to construction industry by the present government headed by Imran Khan?
Irfan Wahid: The policy supports quick construction of housing units at affordable price. However, persistent increase in the price of construction material, particularly cement and steel bars, raises construction cost. There is also urgent need for boosting housing finance as well as bringing down interest rates. It is encouraging that Islamic banks are taking active part in housing finance, but unless ‘cost of funds’ is brought down people belonging to middle and lower income strata will not be able to own their own housing units.
PAGE: Do you also subscribe to an old saying, ‘construction is the mother of all industries’?
Irfan Wahid: Yes, I am an ardent supporter of this saying. Construction activity not only employees the largest percentage of unskilled or semiskilled labor, but also supports more than 40 other industries. A significantly large number of cement manufactures, steel bars and cable producers are located in Karachi. On top of all, the city needs around 300,000 new housing units every year. The added advantage is that construction pace goes down in northern region in winter and monsoon seasons, but business remains ‘as usual’ in Karachi.
PAGE: What are your suggestions for improving public transport system in Karachi?
Irfan Wahid: Like any other metropolis in the world, Karachi needs efficient and affordable public transport system. I am of the view that it is not the responsibility of the government to manage public transport, but to facilitate the entrepreneurs. I quote the example of Sialkot Airport, constructed by the private sector. The entrepreneurs from the city have now also launched their own airline. I am confident that once efficient public transport system is introduced in Karachi and motorways and bypassed are constructed commuting time will be not only reduced, but driving will also become a pleasure.
PAGE: The city has all the praises for the CSR program of GSF; please share some of the details.
Irfan Wahid: As the term CSR stands for Corporate Social Responsibility, it is the duty to all the business houses, irrespective of being small or big to do something good for the society where they work. In my opinion the biggest and the most important need is food. We have ventured with JDC and Saylani to provide quality food to the needy. We pray to Almighty Allah to give us the resources and courage to fulfill the dream “no one should sleep without having food”. We are also working on healthcare and education projects.