Interview with Mr Nasim Beg — Chief Executive, Arif Habib Consultancy
Mr Nasim Beg qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1970 and over the time has worked in the automobile industry as well as financial services including some time in the UAE and the UK in financial services. He has been with the Arif Habib Group for last seventeen years having joined it to set up an asset management business. He currently is engaged in setting up its business consultancy unit and is also advising and supporting the Group’s entire range of financial services activities. In addition, he actively participates on the Boards of the Group’s real economy companies.
PAGE: YOUR VIEWS ON CORPORATE LEADERSHIP IN PAKISTAN:
NASIM BEG: I have had an opportunity to observe the corporate leadership in Pakistan since the mid-1960s when I started training for accountancy and would visit corporates in the capacity of an audit trainee. The perceptible difference that I have noticed in the last fifty years is the move towards professionalism. If I compare the executives of the 1960s in multi-national companies (MNCs), the senior executives were there because of foreign university education and because of family background. Over time it has changed to formal professional or business degrees (from domestic universities) and competence based hiring, rather than family connections. On the other hand, the local corporates have emerged from purely family run entities to a good blend of family as well as non-family professionals, in many cases being run by professionals with Board level family oversight. The overall corporate leadership compares well with competing economies.
PAGE: HOW COULD A LEADER TURN A LOSS-MAKING ENTITY TO A PROFIT-MAKING ENTITY?
NASIM BEG: There is no formula or solution that will fit all. It will depend on the business sector and the market dynamics impacting that sector; assuming that the sector has positive attributes. The company may suffer from under capitalization, which in turn compounds the losses. In addition, given the loss-making situation, the company is most likely handicapped in being able to hire and retain good human resource quality. Additionally, the company is likely to have a bad reputation of not paying suppliers in time on the one side and on the other, not servicing customers well, particularly if has not been able to invest in maintenance, upkeep and modernisation of its production facilities. The key usually is to have a detailed plan of fixing all issues, along with a detailed recapitalisation of the business. The complete plan then needs to be sold to the sponsoring shareholders and if necessary to new investors and the company’s existing financiers. If there is success in arranging the financial package, a successful leader would need to be able to implement the plan, starting with ensuring that there is in place duly qualified and experienced human resource in key positions. That team is then likely to succeed.
PAGE: WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON THE GROOMING OF FUTURE CORPORATE LEADERS IN PAKISTAN?
NASIM BEG: We need a combination of academic knowledge and practical work experience. In addition, a good corporate will continue human resource development and training programmes throughout. While, we now have several business schools of fairly good quality, we still lack continuing professional training. Usually corporates try and hire the best but ignore investing in the people once hired. This over time, reduces the competitive advantage of their team, both domestically, as well as internationally.
PAGE: KINDLY TELL US ABOUT THE PERFORMANCE OF A FEW ORGANISATIONS WHICH YOU CONSIDER SUCCESSFUL:
NASIM BEG: Without naming any, for the fear of unintendedly leaving out some good names, the basic criteria is those organisations that have clarity of what they expect from each employees through detailed job descriptions, laid out processes through standard operating procedures, clear cut business rules, a strict culture of compliance to rules and regulations, with zero tolerance for any illegal acts or behaviour that hurts colleagues or the entity itself and finally a fair, equitable and well-defined compensation system, which in turn leads to team work complementing each other rather than competing with each other, i.e., being an employer of choice.
PAGE: HAVE CORPORATE LEADERS OF PAKISTAN GENERATED EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE PAKISTANI YOUTH?
NASIM BEG: Yes, but indirectly rather than directly. Well-run businesses grow and create employment opportunities; no amount of mentoring will help generate employment opportunities unless these good gestures are accompanied with economic growth, which in turn is dependent on circumstances beyond an average business executive; but if the circumstances are favourable, then well-managed businesses will grow and create opportunities.