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Strength and growth in techno-based industries

Strength and growth in techno-based industries

Interview with Mr. Salah Uddin — former Executive Director, of the Management Association of Pakistan

PAGE: Tell me something about yourself, please:

Salah Uddin: I have recently stepped down as the Executive Director of the Management Association of Pakistan and as the Councilor of the Asian Association of Management Organizations after an eleven years stint at both organizations. Previously I have served the national airline, Pakistan International Airlines, in various positions for thirty-five years, the last ones being Director of Marketing, Director of Flight Services and General Manager of America. I am a Certified Board Director from the PICG, did post-graduation in Economics, and have done management courses from the Royal Aeronautical Society, Oxford, McGill University Montreal Canada, Copenhagen Business Institute, Denmark, and INSEAD University France.

PAGE: What is your perspective on management practices in Pakistan? 

Salah Uddin: Impetus for good management practices evolved in the sixties during the second five-year plan of the Government of Pakistan which gave a boost to industrialization in the country. Management Association of Pakistan was established simultaneously in 1964 with the vision of Leading the Change process toward Best Management Practices. The founding fathers were the industry stalwarts of that time, led by Mr. Amir S. Chinoy, Mr. Jimmy Fancy and many more who provided the momentum. Thus, the thrust towards inculcating good management practices started at a rapid pace in those days. Industrialists in those days wanted to be at par with the global corporate world, businesses were thriving. However, the nationalization of industry in the seventies halted the industrialization process and consequently, the quest for good management practices was stymied as a corollary.

After de-nationalization, the industrialists have shown a renewed interest in adopting good management practices for which the Management Association of Pakistan is playing an active role through its programs and workshops, conventions, etc. and also rewarding the best performing companies through its annual Corporate Excellence Awards.

Yet, a lot needs to be done in this regard; the SECP has to play a greater role in implementing regulations. The so-called Sethia companies have to bring about drastic changes in their thinking rather than always preferring management by family members only. Luckily, educated youth with good management qualifications are available in abundance provided these family-owned businesses adopt merit in selecting their management. Similarly, government-owned organizations have to take some revolutionary steps to attract management experts from the private sector rather than appointing bureaucrats as CEOs.

PAGE: What is your take on the corporate sector in Pakistan? 

Salah Uddin: The corporate sector in Pakistan still has more room to adopt good management practices. Adherence to the Code of Corporate Governance must be strictly imposed by the SECP, particularly with reference to family-owned businesses. I have seen Board Directors resorting to too much micro-management of the Management Directors. In one case I was surprised at the Board Directors having meetings with vendors, thus usurping the duties of the Management Directors. Therefore, the selection of experienced and qualified Board Directors is a must; there still is a need to appoint more Certified Board Directors at the Board level. The need for inclusivity in the Board is of prime importance; though SECP has a requirement for the induction of female Directors in the Board, yet more needs to be done in this regard to induct female Directors in the Board. e.g. presently, one can hardly find a female CEO in the thriving Banking sector in Pakistan. Diversity in the Board, and having independent Directors representing the minority shareholders must be given more attention.

PAGE: What are your views on professionalism in Pakistan?  

Salah Uddin: Luckily, Pakistan has a predominantly younger generation with good higher education which has started to be inducted into the corporate sector from whom there are high hopes. These young leaders must dwell more on the adoption of ESG (Environmental, Sustainable Governance) which is the hallmark of an emancipated business, worldwide. ESG reporting and Sustainability reporting must be strictly implemented by the SECP which would boost professionalism in the corporate world. Businesses are unfortunately investing less in Training and Development which must be seen as an investment for professional development and not as a cost only.

PAGE: What must Pakistan do to catch up with the rest of the world?  

Salah Uddin: To be competitive with the rest of the world and more so within South Asia, technological development is the key to catching up with the global competition. We do have small islands of excellence coming up e.g., in mobile phone technology, but we have a long way to go; especially looking at our neighbor which has been able to divert manufacturing of the world’s top brand mobile phones from China to India, have initiated plans for manufacturing of commercial aircraft by a private multinational Indian conglomerate in collaboration with Airbus and also attracting manufacturing of parts from Boeing Co.

If our defense organizations can make world-class fighter aircraft, why is our private sector shy of venturing into hi-tech initiatives? The future of global competition is in the newly emerging techno-feudalism. 21st-century capitalism has been overshadowed by a new economic system overseen by Big Tech. Today’s capitalists globally are not reinvesting their profits to expand capacity to increase output or to increase labor productivity, rather they invest in new technology for more profitability.

In Pakistan, it is a time for businesses as well as the government to think along those lines and make investments in techno-based industries to be able to compete globally. There is a dire need for Pakistani corporates to re-think management and re-think strategy with a focus on new technology to make their mark in the rest of the world.

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