By Syed M. Aslam
Jan 17 - 23, 2000
Kalia Group has come a long way from its modest beginning as Prize Bond
dealer in 1983. It has not looked back since. It was the first money changer granted
license by the State Bank of Pakistan to deal in foreign exchange business in December
1991. The joint venture with Khanani Group has earned Khanani and Kalia an enviable
reputation as a leading money changer of Pakistan.
While Kalia Group is best known for the various financial services, it
also carry out trading, import and export business of food items primarily. It imports
dates, beans and pulses and exports rice. Kalia Corporation which was established in 1987
deals with these diversified part of Kalia Groups business.
Kalia Group is planning to further diversify its activities in near
future to start a security vault service as well as an export-oriented software house.
The man behind the Kalia Group is Hanif S. Kalia. Born in 1949 in
Karachi Hanif Kalia is a member of the Institute of Cost and Management Accountants of
Pakistan. He is also a life member of Memon Professional Forum and a member of the
Management Association of Pakistan. He is also extensively involved in social activities
and professional forums.
PAGE: You started your business as a Prize Bond dealer
back in 1983. The government has replaced all denominations with increased amounts which
offer not only enhanced number of prizes but also bigger prizes. Whats your view?
Hanif Kalia: In spite of increase in number of prizes
as well as jackpots the total payoff has been reduced from 12 per cent previously to six
per cent on the new series from January 1 this year. This is a massive cut indeed. In
addition, a fact which has been conveniently withheld is that the new series of Prize
Bonds of all denominations will comprise one million Bonds instead of 100,000 previously.
The probability of winning thus has been reduced by one-tenth.
PAGE: What has been your contribution to the national
HK: Money changers, particularly Khanani and Kalia,
played an important role in convincing the people to transfer their funds into the Foreign
Currency Accounts. We convinced our clients to transfer at least a portion of their funds
from overseas to Pakistan between 1991 to 1998 when the FCAs were frozen by the then Nawaz
government. We played a vital role to help bring the 11 billion dollars in the Foreign
We were the first money changer which was granted license by the
central bank to carryout foreign exchange business in Pakistan. This has helped reduce the
circulation of counterfeit currency, particularly US Dollars, in Pakistan. Today there are
some 300 licensed money changers operating in the country, includng about 50 in Karachi,
and about as many unlicensed money changers are also present. However, the emergence of
licensed money changers have helped reduce the circulation of fake currency by almost
one-tenth. These are no small contributions.
PAGE: The freezing of the FCAs has hurt the
credibility of the government. Can it be restored?
HK: Ultimately it will be restored. However, it will
take time as Doodh ka jala chaanch bhey phoonkh phoonkh kar peta hay
[an apt translation is once bitten twice shy]. It will certainly take time,
probably years to restore the lost confidence to repair the damage credibility.
PAGE: What are your future plans?
H K: We have finalised plans to introduce two new
projects from March 1 this year. They include establishment of Kalia Security Vault
facility for storing the valuables. We have constructed very strong buildings and have
taken extra-ordinary measures such as an unmatched physical security as well as hi-tech
electronic surveillance to operate these 24-hour accessible premises. Every single vault
will be insured by the Adamjee Insurance.
Another project is Kalsoft Private limited which will be an
export-oriented software house. The head office of Kalsoft will be Singapore and it is
aimed at promoting software business. Kalsoft will be the first Pakistani company to be
engaged in manufacturing, designing and trading of computer software. It will initially
have a staff of 100, 90 of them programmers.
PAGE: What do you intend to achieve from
HK: We intend to promote manufacturing, designing and
trading of software within the country as well as to boost export which remain low at just
$ 40 million a year at present. India has plans to increase its software export from $ 4
billion today to $ 50 billion by 2008. We also intend to play a vital role to encourage
the production of software engineers from a small 3,000 today. India has 300,000 IT
professionals. Like India Pakistan should also have a full-fledged IT ministry. Bill
Gates, the microsoft guru, has called India a 'software superpower' during his recent trip
of the country. Letting India take a lead would be disastrous.
PAGE: Would you like to give any message to PAGE
HK: IT is the language of the 21st century and without
learning it no progress and prosperity will now be possible. Arming the youth with IT can
change the destiny of our nation in the times to come.