INTERVIEW: SOHAIL WAJAHAT H.SIDDIQUI
Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Siemens Pakistan
June 11 - 17, 2007
Sohail Wajahat H.Siddiqui is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Siemens Pakistan. He has, in a very short while, made a visible impact not only on the company he heads but also in local society, industry and foreign investment in Pakistan.
Sohail Wajahat has the distinction of being the first Non European head of a Siemens company in the more than 150 years history of the company. He has by his efforts not only convinced Siemens top management in Germany to invest in Pakistan but also served as role model for other foreign investors who, encouraged by his example, have invested in Pakistan. For his efforts he was recently also granted the Sitara E Imtiaz by the government of Pakistan.
Sohail Wajahat is dedicated to living up to the highest standards of corporate social responsibility and devotes his time to volunteer his services for causes such as improving technical education in the country, helping to create Engineering vision 2010, find ways and means to attract foreign investment in the country and most recently he accepted a nomination as head of Hilal E Ahmer in Sindh and is currently working on a viable disaster management plan for the province. All this voluntary work plus the dozens of government and private sector boards on which he serves keep him very busy but he was gracious enough to find time for the interview.
Actually, the objective of the interview primarily was to discuss the chronic issue of power and its distribution because Siemens on the back of its international repute is currently responsible for technical and operational side of the KESC after the privatization of the utility.
Q. What is your role in KESC and what are your comments on the power crisis in the country, specially in Karachi?
SOHAIL: Our role in KESC is pretty well defined. We had helped in the privatization of KESC in national interest and contracted for Operational management responsibilities to assist the owners in the turnaround of the utility. We had the mandate to suggest policies to bring KESC departments in line with international practices which we did. Siemens is basically only involved in four areas of Generation, Information technology, network and distribution and engineering. In these areas substantial improvements have been made like the complete refurbishment of Bin Qasim power station which has resulted in an additional production of (approx) 300 MW that is equivalent of a new power station (usually takes 36 months to become operational) that could have cost (approx) US$ 300 million to the utility and the city. In the area of Information technology Siemens has successfully implemented SAP in KESC that has made the day to day business of the utility more efficient and transparent. Major work has also been accomplished in the areas of Networking and distribution and engineering with revamping of distribution system, change of transformers and new cabling. We have as per agreement defined the road map for much needed improvements and as these are implemented the utility will improve and better serve the people of Karachi. It is unfortunate that improvements in distribution and networking cannot be felt by the ordinary citizen due to the extraordinary load created by unexpectedly hot weather, increased industrial activity and influx of cheap air conditioners in the market and the gap in supply and demand of generators. In the middle of a national power crisis our team and that of the utility are striving to do their best to provide available power to this large metropolis in the most organized way possible under the circumstances.
This brings us to the main part of your question which is solutions to power crisis in the country. Right now there is a huge gap between supply and demand and as the economy grows it will become bigger. Just look at the development in Karachi alone. huge parks like Park Bin Qasim have been completed and Karachi's tallest building the MCB tower has come up, industry is up and running and more demand of consumer goods due to a buoyant economy require more production, longer working hours etc. Many more projects are in the pipeline and all these demand extra electricity. More generation capacity means more investment in this sector. We are looking at further generation of 5000 MW. The problem is that there is a power crunch all around the world and big economies like India and China are guzzling energy so even if you start immediately the delivery time for turbines etc is so much that even working on war footings you will only manage to set up a new power plant not before three years and maybe even more as there are lot of financial and technical hurdles in every deal. I will tell you an interesting fact. 5000 MW increase means billions of dollars in contracts but right now there are no takers for this huge amount of money and tenders floated are not addressed by the giants of the industry as they are too busy and already working over capacity. This is a unique situation where business is available but no one seems interested. A good example is the power plant we had located for KESC. The negotiations took so long that the price went up and delivery was not made. This shows the urgency of the situation world wide where even used power plants are being grabbed like hot cakes because everyone wants increased energy.
The solution as far as I am concerned is to address the problem on war footing and concentrate on areas where we can make the difference. We have to look for more capacity and as I have pointed out the earlier we start the better. We must than see where we can conserve energy. More energy friendly machines in industry and at our homes. Switching off excess lights and using the AC only when extremely necessary and at temperatures that cool not freeze. I am sure all this will make a difference. The country came together in 1965 and than at the time of the earthquake. This is also a time of getting together and finding ways to tide over this crisis not playing blame games or settling scores. It is not only Karachi but the entire country facing shortages and we must stick together to overcome this crisis.
Q: You also have done major work in Power sector in Dubai would you like to share that with us.
SOHAIL: We have been working very successfully not only in Dubai but the entire region winning international contracts in open bids and accomplishing targets even before dead lines. In the case of Dubai electricity and Water authority we have so far has established 18 grid stations and recently won additional prestigious contracts. We have exported Transformers to Kuwait and Switch gear to Sri Lanka and automated Sugar and Cement factories from Sri Lanka to Vietnam. All this by young Pakistani engineers trained by Siemens here and in Germany thus adding value to the human resource of the country.
Q: Would you comment on the spectacular growth of Siemens in Pakistan?
SOHAIL: As far as our present success is concerned it is based on team work. We are an organization that has a number of talented individuals who work collectively and are involved in the sustainable growth of this organization. It is all team work and collective effort. Lots of things are involved. It is a complex, yet very challenging job for us to do. What is more important is that every one is involved in achieving the highest standards of workmanship in all aspects of our diversified business interests. We are doing our utmost to achieve our targets. more importantly we are able to maintain our commitments for the local as well as foreign targeted markets. We always focus on our objectives and the philosophy of Siemens is a high degree of professionalism, un-compromising standards of service to the consumers and growth oriented projects, which eventually help establish our economy on firm grounds.
Q: Siemens has been declared a role model for foreign investment in Pakistan. What are your own plans for investment in Pakistan?
SOHAIL: We not only have plans we have already demonstrated our confidence in the country by investing in Carrier Telephone Industries and by setting up this huge power transformer factory in our Industrial Complex at Karachi. As far as future plans are concerned we are eyeing some more acquisitions and will soon start construction on two Siemens towers in Pakistan one in Lahore and one in Karachi. These will become the hub of our business activities and support the phenomenal growth of the company. We believe in investing back in the country as that is the only way for sustainable growth.
Q: Any message for our readers
SOHAIL: The message I want to give is about credibility and fairness in our dealings. I want to ask everyone to be fair in their judgments. You must stand by what you're committed for. Of course problems do arise, but one has to be courageous to face them and find necessary solutions. That's the only way to improve things. There are no compromises and no short cuts. I am very optimistic about the performance of our young people. They are extremely smart and intelligent. They have got to play a significant role in the progress of Pakistan. If they are given good education, appropriate training and guidance, they can rival or even suppress the best in the west or any-where in the world. Siemens is making a substantial contribution towards the development and encouragement of human resources in Pakistan. We are sponsoring talented students in medical engineering and business fields and every year we award gold medals to engineering students from across the country.