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Hanif S. Kalia

For the record
Science &
Medical breakthrough
Internet 2000
Hanif S. Kalia
Hamdard University

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 Group’s 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. What’s 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 economy?

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 Currency Accounts.

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 Kalsoft?

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 readers?

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.