Akber Rizvi is the pioneer of Pakistani carpet industry and
is affectionately called by many as its 'father.' Born in
Azamgarh, the literary center called "Shiraz of the
East", he graduated from Banares University and joined the
Ministry of Industries in the government of pre-partition India
and was initially posted in Calcutta. He was transferred to
Delhi Secretariat, called "lat saheb's office" or
"office of the Lord Master," year-and-half later
continue serving as a civil servant for another couple of years
before he opted to migrate to a new country called Pakistan. He
was in Karachi on August 10, 1947 — exactly four days before
Pakistan emerged on the map of the world as an independent and
sovereign state. He joined the Development Department of the
Ministry of Industries and witnessed the transformation of
Karachi from a slumbering non-industrial city to industrial
heart of the country. "Karachi then had only two units that
passed for industry — the Dalmia Cement factory and Zeb Tun
Textile mills, which manufactured one-and-half count thread. The
government offices had no stationery and workers used to buy it
themselves. Construction of government buildings had just begun
on and around Frerer Road." With sons managing the
business, he is intensely involved in many social works,
particularly education-related, and is also writing a
three-volume book, his seventh.
PAGE: How did you happen
to embark on carpet manufacturing?
Akber Rizvi: I
took a risk, most probably because both in pre-partition India and newly
independent Pakistan I worked for the Ministry of Industries. I had
already rented a showroom to start a carpet retail business in the
Saddar area while still working for the Development Department of the
Ministry of Industries. At Banares University I developed close
friendships with a number of students belonging to affluent families of
Badoi and Mirzapur, suburbs famous for their hand-knotted carpets. One
such friend, a Hindu, sent me Rs 80,000 worth of carpets, a princely
amount then, on 'open delivery' meaning that I had to pay him at my
A Hindu competitor, who also ran a carpet showroom,
asked me the price of the entire shipment and offered to buy the entire
consignment on cash 10 per cent over the actual cost and any expenses.
He was a thorough gentleman and asked me to collect the money the same
PAGE: Were carpets
manufactured in Pakistan then?
Akber Rizvi: No.
Carpets were not manufactured not only in Karachi but entire Pakistan
then, not even on the level of cottage industry. However, the government
had established "Refugees Rehabilitation Finance Corporation"
near Hyderabad to set up small industries itself as well as finance
small projects to help create employment. It did help encourage small
scale manufacturing of many items including carpets and blankets. A
little later the free trading between India and Pakistan stopped and it
was during this time that I resigned from the government job.
PAGE: When did you move
from retail to manufacturing?
Akber Rizvi: I
set up Pakistan Carpet Industries in 1950, at the same premises I am
sitting with you here today. I must add that the decision to resign from
the government job was also influenced heavily by the death of the
Founder of the Nation, Quaid-e-Azam, in September 1948. We were the
first to set up a commercial carpet manufacturing plant in the country
not only to introduce Pakistani carpets in the international market but
to also give it a distinct identity in terms of artisanship and to help
earn foreign exchange for the country in process.
PAGE: What has been your
role to help develop the carpet industry in Pakistan?
already stated I set up the first commercial carpet manufacturing unit
in the country to help tap the international market which did not exist
before we established the unit. I am the founder of Carpet Manufacturers
Association which provided a concrete platform to push manufacturing and
exports of Pakistani carpets.
PAGE: Do we have
abundance of required raw materials?
Akber Rizvi: Yes,
except for the imported dyes and chemicals. The situation remains
unchanged today. We were also one of the first to establish the
mechanized carpet manufacturing.
PAGE: During last decade
carpet exports have suffered a serious blow due to the issue of child
labour. What are your comments?
issue is certainly genuine but it has been blown out of proportion by
the developed West who seem not to understand the ground realities. It
should be realized that we as a poor country where many people cannot
afford to send their children to school and instead choose to send them
to factories for gainful employment. There has been exploitation on the
part of the industry but child labour just cannot be eradicated without
finding viable solutions. However, the industry has been successful to
address the concerns of the West to a considerable degree by reducing
the number of minor workers to a greater extent.
PAGE: What's been the
impact of increasing imports of machine-made carpets on the local
is causing an immense damage to the industry as wool comprise the basic
raw material of all Pakistani carpets, be it hand-knotted or
machine-made. On the other hand, imported carpets are made entirely of
artificial fibre. Thus, Pakistani carpets just cannot compete with the
imported counterparts in terms of price. This is depriving the local
industry a large segment of local market which finds imported fibre-made
counterparts much more affordable.