INTERVIEW

 

OWAIS KALIA A MOST PROMINENT CURRENY ANALYSTS, BUSINESSMAN

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A household name in the business world of Pakistan

 

An interview conducted by KalPoint Forum Personality of the week forum for PAGE — Amanullah Bashar
May 09 - 15, 2005
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Owais Kalia stands as one of the most prominent currency analysts and apparent businessman of Pakistan. He is the younger brother of Hanif S. Kalia, the Chairman Kalia Group and like him, holds a great visionary thought and extemporary expertise in business field. Holding Bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering from NED University of Engineering & Technology, Owais Kalia did his Post Graduate Diploma from Budapest, Hungary in Instrumentation & Automatic Control Systems. He is a well-known name in the financial community of Pakistan and is especially known for his expertise in the foreign exchange field. His comments and opinions regarding Forex Market of Pakistan are published in various foreign and local journals and magazines. Presently, he holds a prime position in Kalia Group and has been working as its Deputy Chairman while he is very much into the foreign exchange sector of the economy and has been working as Chief Analyst for Khanani & Kalia International (Pvt.) Ltd, the leading Exchange Company in Pakistan.

Owais has the honor of being selected as a member for the International 'Who's Who' of Professionals (USA) and is also the member of the Instrument Society of America. A Memon by caste, Owais is a true Pakistani and has immense love for his country and country men. He has always been a helping hand to Hanif Kalia and both have collectively worked with true devotion for the betterment of not only for the business sector of our country but for society as a whole.

Business Designation as Deputy Chairman of Kalia Group, which comprises of:

•KalSoft (Pvt.) Ltd.
•Khanani & Kalia International (Pvt.) Ltd.
•Kalia Security Vault (Pvt.) Ltd.
•Live Securities (Pvt.) Ltd.
•Kalia Corporation - Karachi
•Kalia & Sons - Karachi
•KalPoint.com
•Business Relations Network - Karachi
•Ko-Ordination Group (A Social Welfare Project of Kalia Group)
•KalPoint PWs Forum

Owais S. Kalia while recalling his personal life and achievements observed "I was born on May 7, 1952. I did my Metric from Islamic Model High School Chitagong (Bangladesh), and intermediate from Aisha Bawany College, Karachi. After doing the intermediate, I went to NED University of Engineering & Technology and completed my Bachelor's in Civil Engineering from there in 1980. My affection with seeking more and more knowledge and education did not end there and therefore, after doing my BE, I did Post Graduate Diploma from Budapest, Hungary in Instrumentation & Automatic Control Systems. From Hungary, I went to Dubai and worked for Sharjah Municipality as Instrument and Electrical Engineer for a period of over 8 years. Then I came back to Pakistan and joined the business along with my brothers including my elder brother Hanif Bhai and younger ones including Munaf and Sikandar. I had the honor of being selected as a member for the International 'Who's Who' of Professionals (USA) and am also the member of the Instrument Society of America.

Question: What are the key factors to be successful in business?

OWAIS: Well truly speaking, there are so many factors which constitute towards the success of a business and all are interestingly linked with each other. Although the proportions are not fixed yet in one way or the other, their presence is of vital importance. Education, skill, efficiency, commitment, loyalty, sincerity, hard work, innovation, adaptiveness and dynamic character; I personally feel that these are the essentials of a successful business. Please note that I am talking about 'Successful business' not only 'business' because business is even one which can be run by a person who does not hold all these characteristics but since he has money, therefore, he runs a business. But in order to be a successful businessman, you need to possess some in built qualities so that you can get along in a challenging and competitive environment on a front foot besides having money to invest.

Question: What was the main idea of the State Bank to convert longtime established money changers into exchange companies?

OWAIS: Actually in early 2001, the government started to take serious steps towards the removal of illegalities going on in the foreign exchange market of the country as there was a dire need to rationalize it and to remove the existing distortions that were inhibiting the flow of non-resident Pakistanis (NRPs) resource through the normal banking channels. This was clearly due to a largely unregulated moneychanger business and smuggling, which was receiving the lion's share of the total inflow of remittances in the country. In this regards, it was observed that regulation of the money changing business was inevitable with a view to gradually remove the current wedge between the official and kerb markets. So you can say that the objective of converting the money changers into exchange companies was to bring documentations in the economy, to have a close check on the inflow and outflow of foreign exchange from the country, to curb the activities of unauthorized money changers and to discourage the use of Hundi as a mode for transferring of funds.

 

 

Question: What makes KKI different from other exchange companies?

OWAIS: By the grace of Allah the Almighty, KKI is unique and different from other exchange companies in many respects. We are the first and the only ISO 9001:2000 certified Exchange Company of Pakistan. At present, KKI has the largest network of Foreign Exchange outlets with its Head Office and eight branches all over Pakistan. The company has maintained highest working standards in terms of IT and all its branches, franchises and agents are fully equipped with latest software technology and timely execution of services through state-of-the-art facilities. In fact, KKI is among the first to have an online branches network across Pakistan connected through the VPN. KKI's sense of commitment and keenness to move ahead can be easily evaluated with the fact that the company has made special arrangements with all leading banks of the country for disbursement of cash to the beneficiaries. KKI is one of the front line foreign exchange companies operating in Pakistan and contains a large and heavy customer base consisting of overseas Pakistanis, website visitors and corporate customers. KKI has always shown a very high sense of social responsibility and now keeping front the new regulatory and precautionary requirements as an Exchange Company with respect to money laundering; KKI has followed strict vigilance system in order to play its role in the fight against the money related crimes. KKI has its own due diligence and compliance policies which are aimed to combat money laundering and other related crimes. Seminars, workshops and training sessions are being arranged on a continuous basis to remain up to date with the latest international anti-money laundering rules and regulations and to equip our staff with the same. We have also worked in creating awareness regarding Foreign Exchange in the country. Our reviews about the present and the future status of various foreign currencies under different conditions are being published in the leading daily newspapers of Pakistan, Khaleej Times of UAE., BBC Weekly, as well as displayed on Reuters and Dow Jones through over a million terminals throughout the world. In PAGE (Pakistan and Gulf Economist) there always appears a weekly feature of the Forex kerb watch, regarding the weekly behavior of foreign currencies. We have been interviewed many a times by renowned foreign journalists who work for reputed journals such as Institutional Investor (New York), Wall Street Journal and Fortune Magazine, CNN. To cut short, KKI is as I said earlier, is different from others in many areas.

Question: You are one of the leading currency analysts of Pakistan, how do you see Pak rupee today and tomorrow?

OWAIS: Well I must say that rupee is firm these days because of some of the very wise decisions taken by the State Bank recently. As you all must be knowing that rupee was under tremendous pressure a couple of months earlier when there was a record breaking surge in the international oil prices which was also the quarterly payments schedules of most of our companies here in Pakistan. But the way State Bank has reacted timely; it has given much needed support to the national currency. Despite of surging oil prices resulting in rising import bill, increase in capital imports which reflects a prospering economy, an achievement of a GDP of over 6.6%, I must say that the rupee is in a stable condition today and the recently taken steps by the SBP has given a lot of support to it otherwise it would have been very difficult to control its depreciation. And this in fact would act as a continuation in the future as well. However, I would like to add that the money market is a 24 hours market and one can never say anything in advance about the rise or fall of any currency. The money market is generally based on the market forces of demand and supply but other than these two, the international and regional factors influence the trading to a great extent as well. The market keeps on fluctuating through out the day, every single minute unlike the commodities. This is easy to give recommendations about the performance of any currency when the general conditions are normal. But with global conditions like unrest in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine; it is in fact very difficult to make any comments even on the international market performance. In the short term, rupee is looking strong and we may see its further appreciation.

Question: We don't find any comprehensive research being done with respect to the open currency market in Pakistan while there is much material available regarding the international and inter bank markets? Why it is so and what KKI has been doing in this area so far?

OWAIS: In this regard, I am really pleased to tell you that KKI is the only exchange company of Pakistan which has its own Research and Development Dept. which aims to provide best quality, in-depth and thorough reports, articles, views, reviews and commentaries to its readers. In fact, the department has its own research based product online named www.forexpk.com, one of the categories of our portal www.kalpoint.com; which is always enriched with such material. It is one of the best business websites of Pakistan and is the only choice of our target market when they log in to the Internet to get some useful business information with the firm belief that they will get it from here. That is why its slogan says, www.forexpk.com; your ultimate source of exclusive information! Other than the online product, our research team prepares currency market commentaries on a daily, weekly and monthly basis while recently; we have come up with yet another unique research report under the head of 'The Economic Summary of Pakistan 2004' which summarizes the economy of Pakistan in a very comprehensive manner and are the first to launch this summary for our readers. Since the Foreign Exchange kerb market is very complex, particularly when the world has become a global village, we have assembled a technical staff of currency analysts with professional backgrounds, who work round the clock to be perpetually tuned-in to the world's currency fluctuations — starting early morning from Australia, Asia (Tokyo and Singapore), Europe and USA.

Question: Do you think that e-commerce will ever flourish in Pakistan? Why is so that the rate of its adoption here in Pakistan is extremely slow?

OWAIS: Well your single question is a combination of two different questions so I would like to answer them individually. First, yes certainly I believe that e-commerce will flourish in Pakistan and I am sure, we are going to see drastic changes in this field. Actually speaking, for developing anything, you need to have a strong infrastructure which was unfortunately not available in Pakistan in the recent past. But now things are getting changed at a very rapid pace. The present government has taken some excellent steps to flourish IT industry in the country. Internet facility has been extended up to 1800 cities while bandwidth speed has also been increased up to 930MB per second. The bandwidth rates have also been lowered to US$ 3, 500/- while 405 cities and towns have now been provided the fiber link. As a result, the volume of Internet users in the country has gone up to 6.5 million this year. Country's telecom sector is expected to absorb US$ 8 billion investment in the next five years which is expected to create 375,000 job opportunities. Fiber optic will be laid between Karachi and Peshawar which will open doors of employment for more people. So these are some very clear signs that e-commerce will flourish in Pakistan rapidly in the next few years because the stage is almost set for it now. Now coming towards the second part of your question that why it didn't flourish at a fast pace, I would give answer to this in very few words that because of lack of awareness and infrastructure across country. But now since people are getting awareness about the true advantages of Internet, I am sure that with the help of government steps and facilities, we will see a major difference shortly.

Question: What steps do you think must be taken to make Pakistan an ideal state?

OWAIS: With a beam on his face observed that we must be thankful to Allah the Almighty that we all are Muslims and live in an Islamic country. Being Muslims, in my view, we don't need any other guidance from any one to make our country an ideal state than the Holy Quran and Hadith of our beloved Prophet (P.B.U.H). If we follow Islam, Hadis and Sunnah, I believe that we will be the richest, the most intellectual and most generous nation of the world and thus citizens of an Ideal Islamic state. Then we are further blessed that Allah gave us a leader like Quaid-e-Azam and his three basic principles is the whole summary of how we may become and ideal state and that is Unity, Faith and Discipline it means if by one hand we can hold Islam, Hadis and Sunnah and principles of Quaid by the other, trust me, we will be the glittering stars of this world! But for that we have to work hard, have to be honest, loyal, sincere and true with ourselves first and then with our dear homeland.

Question: How will you rate your success in achieving your targets and aims?

OWAIS: I personally believe that skies have no limits and still I want to explore new dimensions of thought and actions. But what ever I have achieved so far in my life, I am very much thankful to Allah the Almighty that He has blessed me with His mercy. I am thankful that He has made me a Muslim, has given me a positive brain which can think of ideas and make me to work on them to get new results every time, two hands who not only work for myself but can be hand of support and affection for others as well, two legs so that I can walk and travel around in search of hidden opportunities, knowledge and education, a soft heart which not only pumps blood but is the ultimate source of satisfaction for me as well when I look around and find that I am a blessed person in terms of success, fame, knowledge and a very large circle of loving friends and family.

Question: What message would you like to give to the youngsters of our country?

OWAIS: My message is never give up, work hard and believe in your self. Allah helps those who help themselves and thus it becomes our responsibility that we should help ourselves in gaining quality education, be sincere, loyal and committed to our jobs, friends and family and should leave behind personal differences. Never compare yourselves with others and be thankful to Allah for what He has blessed you with. IT is one of those areas which has a lot of potential and in which unfortunately, our nation is lagging far behind even when compared with India. So our youth should adopt IT in their daily lives and try to exploit infinite opportunities hidden in it. Kalia Group is pursuing the objective of creating an IT culture in Pakistan which is not possible without the support of our young blood. So please come forward and move on a path which can take us to the path of success to our nation and thus our beloved country.