INTERVIEW WITH MOHAMMAD IMRAN AFTAB, CEO HONEST FOODS

KHALIL AHMED
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Feb 13 - 19, 20
12

Mohammad Imran Aftab graduated from South Eastern University Washington DC and started his career as banker in Dubai with Mashraq Bank and then moved backed to USA and worked for Chase Bank in Chicago. In 1999, he did MSCS and CISCO certifications and joined Motorola for one year contract as networking consultant and also worked with Discover Financial Services before moving back to Pakistan in 2001. He also worked for Exxon Mobil for one year for rollout project in Lotus Notes. He enjoyed every bit of his stay in USA and gained immense knowledge of dealing with different kinds of people from across the world. After coming back, he joined family business under Eastern Trading Corporation and promoted Honest brand which till 2002 was only in import business of juice, pineapple, and baby diapers under Fitti brand for which his company is the pioneer. Since 2003, the company added line of products like nata de coco, tropical fruit cocktail, sweet corn, lychee, honey, and mayonnaise.

PAGE: IT HAS BEEN OBSERVED THAT THE AFFLUENT YOUNGER GENERATION IS MOVING TO PIZZA, PASTA, SPAGHETTIS, AND MACARONIS. WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS?

IMRAN AFTAB: I think it is because that the new generation has travelled and stayed overseas. Another reason is trend of easy to cook recipes, which have gained popularity in our country.

PAGE: THE FOOD PRODUCTS EXPORTERS CAN CAPITALIZE ON STRONG DEMAND FROM AFGHANISTAN, BAHRAIN, KUWAIT, IRAN, OMAN, QATAR, SAUDI ARABIA, AND THE UAE. WHAT DO YOU SAY?

IMRAN AFTAB: Yes, we can capitalize on food demands in these markets. Overseas Pakistanis love to buy their home country products while living in those countries. Besides, few of our products like rice, honey, and vermicelli are very much liked by the Arabs.

PAGE: THE GLOBAL FOOD EXPORT MARKET IS WORTH AROUND $100 BILLION. WE CAN EASILY CAPTURE AT LEAST 0.5 PER CENT OF IT AND BOOST OUR EXPORTS OF FISH AND FISH PREPARATIONS TO HALF A BILLION DOLLARS. WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THAT?

IMRAN AFTAB: We can achieve more than five per cent if proper support from TDAP and government is extended to food exporters. African market is good for Pakistani products. Middle East is also a big market.

PAGE: IT IS EXPECTED THAT EARNINGS FROM FOOD EXPORTS WOULD RISE TO FOUR BILLION DOLLARS DURING THIS FISCAL YEAR AGAINST $3.27 BILLION LAST YEAR. THE IMPORT BILL OF EATABLES REACHED $1.254 BILLION IN JULY-SEPT AGAINST $1.174 BILLION OVER THE SAME MONTHS A YEAR AGO. WHAT ARE YOUR COMMENTS?

IMRAN AFTAB: Again, inflation and government policies need to be reviewed. Businesspersons look for profits. If our home made product is expensive due to any reason why a buyer will buy local product. In Pakistan, local manufacturers have to handle at least 30 to 40 departments. And, with literacy rate too low, companies face high financial cost, which ends up in increasing overhead resulting in costly products.