INTERVIEW WITH DURRE SHAHWAR NISAR, CHAIRPERSON WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS SUB-COMMITTEE, KCCI
Jan 24 - 30, 2011
PAGE: TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF?
DN: I started my career in 1983 while establishing a company with the name "Sadaf Garments". My company deals in ready-made fashion garments and party wears. I was active as treasurer of the committee while doing my masters in University of Karachi. I have also done many programs like Bazm-e-Talba, Jashn-e-Tamsil on Radio Pakistan and also on TV program for youth. I was an athlete and have been active in sports activities during my educational life. I was winner of relay race, long jump, etc. and also participated in stage programs and debates. I also conducted different training programs for youth and young women. I am also running a welfare trust with the name "Al-Ameen Welfare Trust" for disabled and mentally retarded people. I came in business politics in 1990 and have been working for Karachi Chamber for last 20 years.
My nomination on the KCCI's reserved seats of Women Entrepreneurs in 2007 was first time in KCCI's history, later I was nominated as managing committee member of KCCI which was also first time in the history that a woman was nominated as managing committee member. The ruling group at KCCI is Businessmen Group whose Chairman is Siraj Kassam Teli. Mr. Teli keeping in view my business career granted me an opportunity to enter into business politics and represent the women entrepreneurs and subsequently I was nominated as the Chairperson of Women Entrepreneurs Sub-committee of Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry. Since 2006-07,ćI have been heading the Chair of Women Entrepreneurs Sub-committee of KCCI and rendering my services to promote the women entrepreneurs. At KCCI, we have a team of women entrepreneurs who are enterprising along with the men for the development of economy. I have also organized an exhibition for micro and cottage industry first time at Arts Council. I have also led various delegations of women entrepreneurs to participate in the exhibitions in Turkey, Bangladesh, Nepal, China and other countries of the world. I have also organized women entrepreneurs hall and managed it during the annual event of KCCI's My Karachi, Oasis of Harmony Exhibition 2009. I have also attended many programs as speaker from TDAP.
PAGE: CAN YOU ELABORATE ON READY-MADE AND FASHION GARMENTS SECTOR IN PAKISTAN?
DN: The readymade garment industry of Pakistan has expanded dramatically over the last many years. Local demand of readymade garments during the past years increased manifold due to increase in urbanization and population. Pakistan produces apparel of various patterns and styles, of the latest fashions and quality. The industry is adequately equipped to produce latest fashions to suit tastes and needs in any part of the world. Leading Pakistani designers, garment manufacturers and exporters regularly display their designs and products around the world at international fairs and exhibitions and in trade centers. At present, Pakistan is fast losing its share in the global garment market because of high cost of production. Garments exports from Pakistan's traditional competitors in the region-Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, China and India-have picked up dramatically because the exporters of those countries are getting hidden subsidies from their respective governments. With all opportunities and strengths at the back, still Pakistan's ready-made garment industry is failed to develop a niche in local and foreign market. Government should provide funds and loans to the owners of garment industries so that they can install new machinery, which can perform tasks in easier and faster manner. Government should look into the issues of readymade garments sector and provide them subsidy to support small level garment manufacturer so that they can increase their productivity and can increase the share in world market by increasing export of their items. Pakistan has lots of potential and the raw material for the garment industry-the fabric-is also of superior quality, but the environment to develop and progress is not compatible.
PAGE: HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE DOING BUSINESS IN PAKISTAN?
DN: Doing business in Pakistan is not a piece of cake. It is a very tough and hard job to do business in the wake of manifold internal and external problems vis-a-vis high cost of doing business, multiplicity of taxes, high tariffs of power and electricity, power and energy crisis, high interest rates, high export refinancing rates, deteriorating law and order situation, high inputs like land, construction material, machinery, development etc., lack of basic amenities in the industrial zones like infrastructure, roads, water, power, gas, telephones, unavailability of soft loans by banks etc. Only those who are financially stable and backed by any strong financial group can successfully execute business in this difficult time of the history of Pakistan. As far as the young entrepreneurs or small and medium entrepreneurs are concerned, they are resilient to invest in the new projects these days because of multifarious problems I have mentioned. GST is deductable on 950 items whereas, the reformed general sales tax is another issue where a list of 650 items is also added. Women entrepreneurs are not really backed by the government and practical measures are needed. I believe that special zones for women entrepreneurs shall be established by the government, and they must give them incentives.
PAGE: WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ABOUT BANKING SECTOR IN PAKISTAN?
DN: Banking sector is the only sector in Pakistan which is earning high profits in these difficult times when the economy of Pakistan is wounded. During the last one decade, the banking sector has witnessed a boost and many international banks and financial groups have entered into the banking arena of Pakistan. State bank of Pakistan is also facilitating at large the banking centre for progress and the national and international banks are expanding their branches operation across the country. Another reason of progress of banks is that they have simplified the banking procedures, and are providing facilities at the doorsteps of businesspersons. Banking role is very important in import and export, large scale business and small and medium enterprises. During the last five years, we have also seen a boost in the Islamic banking, which is Shariah compliant and more people and businesspersons are preferring to Islamic banking. We are raising voice that the banks must offer products on soft terms to support the small and medium enterprises. First Women Bank Limited is doing great job to support women entrepreneurs.
PAGE: WHAT ARE YOUR COMMENTS ON BORROWINGS?
DN: As I have told that banking is a mandatory tool and requirement for performing business. The banks offer loans to business enterprises. When we see the history of Pakistan, we find that in last one decade the concept of micro financing has emerged. There are several micro-financing banks established which support the small and medium enterprises, whereas, the big conventional banks are also offering competitive products. I have observed that during the last five years, the banking polices have been changed and the percentage of interest on borrowing increased many times are going beyond the viability to do business with reasonable margins. In the present scenario, I have observed that the banks products are offered on high mark-up rates, which are not feasible and therefore, State bank of Pakistan has to devise some policy to direct the banks for offering soft term loans. The banking spreads are also on very higher side these days in Pakistan.
PAGE: WHAT STEPS, IN YOUR OPINION, SHOULD BE TAKEN BY THE GOVERNMENT TO CONTROL INFLATION?
DN: The ever-rising inflation is acting as a menace for Pakistan and its economy. The government to control this soaring inflation has adopted the policy to enhance the interest rates, which I believe has not proved successful. The citizens and business community is demanding the government to control inflation and bring it to single digit. As per the figures of economist, the prices of essential commodities are touching the sky with increase of 200 to 400 per cent and still the inflation is increasing. To control inflation, I believe that government has to decrease the interest rate, provide some subsidy, and decrease the high tariffs of power and gas so that the cost of production and manufacturing shall decrease. Government has to make long-term policies for the trade and industry so that necessary items are manufactured here in Pakistan and we do not have to import, as a great amount of foreign exchange is exhausted in the imports of luxury items etc.
PAGE: WHAT INCENTIVES DOES INDUSTRIAL SECTOR NEED FROM THE GOVERNMENT?
DN: I mentioned earlier the problems, which are increasing the cost of manufacturing and doing business. To give a boost and uplift the industries, government's role must be incentivizing not penalizing. First of all, government has to address the fine solution of energy crisis and provide energy on low cost. The government must not introduce the reformed general sales tax, as it would create problems for the industry as well as small and medium enterprises. The industries pay high taxes to the government. Therefore, the government should bring other persons in to the tax net while broadening tax net. To incentivize the industries, government should provide infrastructure and basic amenities on low cost, improve the law and order situation, provide exemptions and relaxation on establishing new industrial concerns, encourage the banks to give soft term loans to establish new industries. Tax holidays shall be granted in new industrial zones to establish new industries.