May 11, 2015 9 Comments
April 25, 2015 5 Comments
The Engro Foods culture records our history in montages, which reduces the need for words, gives you small touch points and is easy to view in later years. With our ten years celebrations, from the day of incorporation – not operations, which started a year later- underway, I thought to create a montage of my memories. This has then gone out in our quarterly internal magazine, Between Us.
My memory stretches back to October 17th, 2005 and some twenty-five people huddled together to set the first vision of EFL, which was about doing it the right way, about opening up rural areas, about Pakistaniat and showing the world we can succeed.
A few months later, a hole in the ground in Sukkur transformed into a dairy factory and milk collection tankers poured in ample milk, much against peoples expectations. Flashbacks of laughing teams sitting around at 3 am at the PNSC office, eating pizza, just before the Olpers launch, are warm memories. Some months later I can remember our celebrations when we hit 150,000 liters a day. Then we launched Tarang. Immediately, we knew this was a success. The Tarang moment! The purple patch moment, which hits one maybe once or twice in your career.
There were those shuddering days in August 2007, when our office burned down and there was an existential threat for a few weeks to a very new organisation. We survived and the threat passed. Three weeks later we had makeshift offices, systems restored and most items back in order by the end of the year.
From then on, life has been one long roll with flash points every now and then. Our launch of ice cream and opening of our farm were tough risky calls in 2009. We have managed them Mashallah. There were tough moments, but both businesses thrive.
2010 brought the awful floods and the EFL teams gave three months of their lives to help the affected in rural areas. It is this Sadqa-e-Jaaria which propelled us to leadership of the liquid dairy industry months later. Just some four and half years after commencement of operations, EFL became leader and it has not been relinquished todate.
The ensuing years have brought ups and downs, but have also rewarded us with the two biggest International Awards in Pakistan’s corporate history. First, the G20 World Top 15 Company Award in 2012, and then the Transformational Company of the World Award from IFC/FT in 2014.
Most, I want to remember the people. One and all who gave their lives, sweat and effort to take this company to where it is today. A phenomenal achievement by a bunch of dedicated, committed and passionate men and women. I have a lot to thank them for. EFL has a lot to thank them for.
In parting, I shall re-quote my last sentence from the speech of Olper’s launch March 2006, to our people.
“When you become old and look back, you will tell your grandchildren, this was the finest thing I did in life and these were my finest hours”. In-sha-Allah.
April 25, 2015 6 Comments
An early morning rise. It was Christmas Day for some; Midnight Mass and early morning services too. For others it was the Quaids birthday. Whatever, it was a National holiday. It allowed one to indulge oneself mid-week , notwithstanding the approaching year end work at the office.
My son was visiting from university and so it was a good time to bond a bit. Once young people are out of the door and have gone to university, they never rightly comeback. So it was good to see him walking around the house early morning. On impulse, I inquired if he wanted to go out for a desi breakfast. And since he too has a sense of the out of the ordinary, so the answer was ‘yes’.
Off we went, my first thought was ‘lets go down to Burns Road (Bunz Rd) for nihari and some rabri’. But sitting in the car we decided to go for halwa puri, as nihari would slow us down for the rest of the day. It boiled down to where to go. Coming out of my old memories, the word Riaz Masjid popped into my mind. My childhood haunt, Tariq Road and the adjacent old Delhi walas society.
Memory is a strange phenomenon. It makes things larger than life. Riaz Masjid, where I had nihari and kebab through the years at Abdul Ghaffar. And where Bhai Babu served his worlds best gulab jamun. They are gulab jamuns to die for. Warm and they melt in the mouth, so syrupy soft they are. Riaz Masjid does not aspire to cleanliness, but it gives the same authentic old Karachi taste and feel. You can migrate back 50 years, to feel and touch a part of the brain locked away forever. This same Bhai Babu has great halwa puri and chana and aaloo saalan. It all made sense, providence desired that I take a trip down memory lane and so, we would go down to Riaz Masjid for breakfast at 6 30 am.
As we drove along, my memory recalled that adjacent to my destination was Sir Syed Rd, PECHS and that I spent my whole childhood till late teens there. It would be good to show my son a type of Karachi, he or youth like him have never seen. A city which had a lot of charm, was friendly, peaceful and had a character of its own. I still see the stamp of the old Karachi, in the individual Karachite. But alas, the individual has been swamped by a wider social cussedness which prevails today.
If you drive early morning in Karachi, it is totally still and quiet. Hardly any traffic. Its strange in a city which has millions of transport vehicles on the road for 18 hours, to go deathly quiet for 4 hours. It reminds one of Wordsworth’s Composed On Westminster Bridge. Anyway, a drive which normally would take 40 minutes was over in about 15.
At Bhai Babu, early in morning, there is not much choice. The halwa, with fat pouring out of it, the two saalans and then the puris. The puris were like magic. Soft and fairly dry, which was extremely unusual. There were also what were called ‘khasta puris’, which are like no other I have eaten. Not made out of regular super refined flour (maaida), but rather out of wholewheat. These are totally different in taste and texture.
So what was the trip about then? The difference was in the old school feel. The culture harks back to the days of yore. The courtesy and language is Delhi of old and has never left the 19th century. Bhai Babu himself was reading an Urdu newspaper. He deigned to ask me a couple of questions on events, probably because he saw someone who was clearly from beyond the local community. My son, back from his university, having seen mainly one tone Karachi, was open eyed. He saw little bits of reality, which hopefully shall teach him about this country of his. Maybe, create that small spot of belonging, to a country and city, which we have all used and abused extensively, and given back little. Driving back home he was less talkative and more introspective. Even his questions seemed to leave the taste of belonging, which cannot be produced coming out of plush, swank dining places, which charge a fortune. Maybe a trip worth taking on a holiday morning, when a warm bed had beckoned. Left me with some happiness and optimism for the rest of the day.
I would recommend a trip to Bhai Babu to all of you, on a holiday morning.
*picture from pakistanifoodspoint.blogspot.com
April 19, 2015 2 Comments
As they showed a video about Namal University, a student asked “do I not have a right to proper education, so what that I was born poor”. That is the crux of the matter. In a land made for righteousness, ninety plus percent people can only watch from the outside, while others less deserving waste an opportunity for learning.
Imran Khan met us today at a small brunch and told us his story of Namal University. It was good that he could give thought, time and effort to such a venture, while a major by-election in NA 246 was in the offing. He said, putting Pakistan right has been my mission, but my passion is to make the Namal project successful, so that people can acquire an education. A parallel was drawn with Oxford and Cambridge, where two great universities over centuries set the grounds for the British Empire. This is inspiration indeed! To reach for the stars, while we are all broken, down on the floor.
Two things Imran pointed out in his short speech, which are worth extrapolating on.
In 2002 as Imran was driving in this Mianwalli region, his car broke down. He spent the whole night there and the local people came to tell him that they were poor and could not afford a university. There were none in this region for a hundred kilometers. Imran felt an intense call to help. Something like he had in the years when the Shaukat Khanum Hospital was formed. But his vision went beyond this region to a much larger picture. This university will be a great one, which will educate the poor of all Pakistan. Should they not have equal rights to those born with a silver spoon, who could educate themselves much more easily? He thought of the likes of Oxford and Cambridge as comparison. Why not something like this in the eons ahead. As Imran mentioned, man is Ashraful Maqlooqaat. Where mans mind reaches, Allah has given him the wherewithal to reach that. Unfortunately, the sane and wise ones will always bring sanity and maintain status quo. But actually we need to dream big and believe in our cause. Once you believe, you will always win. One only loses, when we think we have lost (Philosophy which has also served me best in my life).
The second point was as telling. He said that in sixty seven years history of Aitchison College, they have produced just one test cricketer. Despite the best class facilities, comfort and resources. But on the streets of Lahore and Karachi, playing tape ball we have produced plenty of world class cricketers. This is the same story as the poverty stricken footballers of Brazil and Italy. Poverty produces a will, focus and drive as no other can. The same applies in education. The Namal scholars, living a hard life, have already climbed a peak. Their degree results in the first three graduating classes, on comparable standards of the UK universities, have been astounding. These young people are committed and have their heart in uplifting Pakistan. They will be an asset for this country. They can be our future.
Namal University has already arrived. In three years 134 students (mainly from poor families) have graduated and are already working in our country. It is reaching out for humanity. To do this, it needs to expand for the good of this country. This is not about politics, this is about Pakistan. In my capacity as a Pakistani, I testify that I have been involved with Imran Khan’s projects for over two decades. I have always found him honest and dedicated to the bone. Whatever your views about his politics, this is about all of us. Please go on the Namal University site and help monetarily, if you can. Every little bit will assist and bring that visionary future nearer.
April 13, 2015 6 Comments
It was the 1996 World Cup Quarters at Bangalore and two older stalwarts of Pakistan, who singly and together had done it so many times, were fighting it out in the middle. They were trying to retrieve a lost game. They failed. As Javed Miandad walked off late in the innings, his very last departure from the international arena, a highly partisan Indian crowd, let him know that his moment was gone.
This happens so often. In my history of following sports and really even watching life, there comes a time when your moment is gone. It actually happens to all of us in life. Just that some recognise it and deal with it, while others fight on desperately, slowly losing this battle, till one day they depart with less than grace. Nevertheless, it is a riveting sight, sad, melancholy and yet, the spectators watching almost one and all are wishing for success to happen again. It would be a great human story. Alas it almost never happens.
The statement which typifies this journey was made about Rod Laver. Master and king of tennis, and dominant for a decade. At 37 in 1973, he was playing the Aussie Open, and the newspaper wrote, ‘Lavers mind was making appointments, which his body simply could not keep’. That is the spectacle. A former king, not recognising his ageing, his mind still forming the visionary pictures, yet his body gives out.
For me the greatest of these stories, was the one of Muhammad Ali. Boxer, brash, believing, crusader and darling of the world, other than the old conservative red necks. He was not simply a boxer, he was the icon of the 60s and 70s and people pinned hopes of revolutions on him. It was the most instantly recognisable face in the world. He did what few ever did. Reached a pinnacle, sacrificed it on a principle, took on the US government, won, came back from the wilderness, and reached the pinnacle again, not once but twice more. No wonder we thought he was invincible. Maybe he believed it also. But, in the background a wasting disease was already working. In the slow decline spread over years, Ali kept trying to climb the pinnacle once more. He got beaten and only then the body gave out enough for him never to return to the ring. It was a terrible spectacle, yet it was fascinating as a human story, played out in front of the worlds billions. Very few of those did not wish him one last success, but this never happened. What a man and what a tragic decline. What a human story.
There have been many others in our sports, in politics and even conquerors in history. Stanley Matthews played football till fifty, losing his magic in the end. Adlai Stevenson fought elections till no one would vote for him. Alexander went on conquering lands till his army gave out on the banks of the Beas. Napoleon fought till he was washed away by the hordes of his retreating army at Waterloo. None of these and others like them grasped that for reasons of age, or of changes in circumstances, or belief, their moment is gone. But, they add fascination, colour and history, in this life of ours and are part of the effect of the nature of life.
So to today. In the sporting world two such stories are being played out nowadays. Roger Federer, king and master of tennis for long, has been struggling for years for that one last big moment. Its has eluded him these many years and so many of us want him to have that. Only nature is matter of fact and has no sympathy or emotion about this. Similarly, in the world of golf, Tiger Woods, revolutionary golfer, has not won a major in seven years. He is desperate and works and enters all the four majors. Yet at almost forty, is his time past? So many want him to have one last big day, before he goes off in the sunset. One hopes that both the above do not descend to the level of ordinary mortals, as they have been kings in their domain for long. Such a sight is generally unbearable. One prays that they have their day in the sun and then fade away gracefully.
To all I would suggest there is a time and space for success and the limelight. Then the moment is gone.
*picture from countermail.com.au
March 29, 2015 1 Comment
The breaking news was as usual all about dire consequences of one event or the other. One gets used to it. This is the way of all channels and media, world over. Somehow, bad news travels fast, gets more attention and attracts people. Nothing like a good old disaster to get people animated. Anyway, here in Pakistan we have become de-sentisized, as we have plenty of bad news and on top of it, dozens of channels vying for breaking news. Grief!
All the bad news notwithstanding, I would like to add my two bits to the discussion of how things have deteriorated and we are in a mess. My personal take on it is that, it is nature taking its toll. Yes surprise, Nature!
In the past I have written on our nationhood and blamed our lack of belief in our vision. This lack of vision, a desire to be an aspirational Muslim homeland, got diluted and a desire to be a strong economic state took over. We got our wires crossed and really ended up doing neither. (Reference https://sarfarazar.wordpress.com/?s=of+wings+and+visions) However, over time and after due consideration, while I still think we need a vision to take us further – otherwise there is nothing to hold us together – the reality is that nature is taking its toll.
Let me explain my statement, which I assure you is not an effort to be facetious. In the worlds written history, there have been nine great nations. There have been other good ones, but what we would classically call great, are those who have dominated their period in the world, added to knowledge and their traces are left in the working of the world even today. Historically they have lasted an average of two hundred and fifty years or more. Want me to count them out? Egypt, Persia, Greece, Rome, China, Arabia, Turkistan, Britain, America; more or less chronologically and another interesting point; there have been no repeats. China might well turn out to be the first repeat.
Anyway, think of these nations. They were formed layer by layer. The Egyptians took thousands of years to come to a stage of absolute dominance. Same with the Romans. From the discovery of Romulus and Remus on the banks of the Tiber to Julius Caesar was several hundreds of years. These years comprise a coming together, a homogeneity of purpose, a gathering of strength, conquest and then respect follows from other nations, that you are the leaders. Having reached this peak, the decline starts and at first society declines, then economics and finally the military strength dissipates. That is the round trip of a nation. (Reference https://sarfarazar.wordpress.com/2012/07/14/in-the-expiry-of-nations-2/)
Now think back to August 1947. When India obtained independence they had a memory. They remembered the Aryans, Alexander as he came through the Khyber Pass, later the Huns, Mongols and Babur. India owned the Red Fort and Taj Mahal. All these they took as their own. This was as much their history, as Chandragupta Maurya or Ashoka or Ranjit Singh. Their culture was a melting pot of homogeneity and in economics they were working together against adversity. So naturally it is easier to bond as a nation and have one identity.
Then there was Pakistan. We had a seven year history (from 1940 resolution), two varying lands and cultures- apart by fifteen hundred miles-, a western part which comprised borderland tribes, who had only shared history of invasions in common and were diverse otherwise. We had nothing binding us, other than a great principle and we competed for the same resources. This was running uphill against the flow of history and nature. No wonder, we shall take time! 67 years is a minuscule time period in history, a dot in time. We are children as a nation and still learning. When we get to our teens our time will be different and hopefully we will mature. It might involve another hundred years for these layers to form. In comparison to other stages of development of nations, I would say maybe we are like the Wild West of USA just now.
We shall get there In-sha-Allah. Just require patience and faith. The good will come through. Nations, don’t just happen.
March 23, 2015 Leave a comment
Now that the World Cup is done and dusted, our team on the way back home, Misbah (sadly) and (hopefully) Shahid Khan Afridi duly retired, we can relax. Our interest is now peripheral and really involves the future of one or the other surviving teams. But, out of the tournament we have found a couple of heroes and the main man is Wahab Riaz.
First of all, I find a slight similarity of looks between him and our tennis player Aisam Qureshi. Must be a figment of my imagination. Maybe because both hail from Lahore. Anyway, here was a fast bowler who for almost seven years has been hovering at the edges. A few brilliant performances, including one in the English summer 2010, and one electric one in the previous World cup semis against India, have not facilitated his claim to a place in our hearts. Unfortunately, a donning of a con mans jacket in the English summer of 2010 and a rather strong belief that our Government manipulated us out of the 2011 World Cup semi-final, just sidelined those performances. So we the Pakistani cricket followers, ready to give our heart and faith, never have quite believed.
When WR woke up the day of the quarter finals, he must have looked at the World Cup and felt that he had done enough to leave the impression that Pakistan’s bowling carries our team. A bowling which fights as in old days and has enough quality to hold its own and represent the nation on a large stage. Remember this bowling was without Amir, Junaid, Ajmal, Irfan and Hafeez. That is a lot of firepower to have lost and yet maintain strength. What transpired on the stage during the day, further confirmed that belief, and as usually happens, a couple of dropped catches and a particularly pedestrian batting performance, put paid to it all.
On the day, the particular bowling performance now is being hailed as the stand out moment of the World Cup. In a tournament when the bat has dominated and 400 sixes have been hit, the bowlers have rarely got a look in. In that background, a 150 kilo plus performance, on a friendly Adelaide surface has caught the imagination of the world. The dismissal of Clarke shall remain a vivid memory, as it is really an Aussie fast bowlers method, rather than a Pakistani reverse swing dismissal. Brian Lara, Warne and many others have eulogised the bowling spell. Even Watson, the victim, has lauded it and talked about those moments. The fact that WR has been fined for his orchestration of his animosity, has somehow added further value to it.
We now apparently have a hero in the mould of many traditional Pakistani heroes. Imran, Miandad and Wasim come to mind immediately. Stand up characters, who love adversity, have the capability, and like all great sportsmen, rise to the occasion when it is required. These sort of stars up their game and have the will to impose themselves on their surroundings. This is the anatomy of our new hero – Wahab Riaz. May he encounter future success and hence bring plaudits to our country also.
*picture taken from zimbio.com
March 16, 2015 1 Comment
Long ago, they sat in a village green and sampled tea and scones. It was a lovely green meadow, with a slightly warm sun and a nice cool breeze. In the field men in white, starched whites, played a game of cricket. Ordinary bats, green wicket and a red ball. It was good balanced competition between bat and ball. It seemed like bliss. Those who watched remarked, “could anything be better than this? a thing of beauty!”
World Cups, whether they are cricket or football – and years ago it also included hockey- were stress times, coupled with a bit of happiness if Pakistan mainly, or Italy, were doing well. I can see you immediately saying whyever Italy? Well, just that through the 70’s when I learned my football, I remember Italian sides being quick, efficient, sometimes artistic and definitely tough. I can’t help it, but in my makeover, toughness counts.
Anyway, to get back to the World Cups. In this case specifically, cricket World Cup, because that is what is taking place at the moment. Anguish at our under achievement, characterised these World Cup periods over the last forty years. So for instance, 1983, 2003 and 2011 were really no problem. Those sides went as far as they could and should have. The worst cricketing day in my life, was the semi-final loss to Australia at Qaddafi, in 1987. Wholly unexpected, but more so, we broke the back of our team, which at that particular time was the best in the world. Luck did not favour us that day, when many decisions went against us, but also we were too sure of ourselves going into the game.
So to this time and this World Cup. My most engaged moment came, when I was saying my congregational prayers during the game with South Africa. As the prayer started, a huge roar went up and being aware of the situation of the match, I figured AB de Villiers had got out. Later while in sajda, another roar went up and then the firecrackers started, which meant Pakistan had won. That is the closest I have come to Pakistan in this World Cup and it is intolerably sad. A committed follower of cricket since the age of five. Sigh!
Its not our performance. One has seen good and bad days and this team has definitely performed better than ’03 and ’07. As an aside, in ’03, I was heavily involved with the team, due to my Pepsi position and somewhere there is even a photograph of myself holding the World Cup. To get back to the main theme, it is the way short form cricket has gone. The goons seem to have taken over, and the skill factor is gone. Its mostly to do with the terrible imbalance between bat and ball, coupled with the blatant change of rules, which have mercenerised this once beautiful game. The upshot is, that all the kids growing up will never desire to be bowlers anymore. Who wants to be sacrificial lambs? There is nothing inspirational about it anymore.
So while I do pray on a patriotic level that we go on to win this cup – and there are some great coincidental similarities with 1992 – but I have not been able to watch any of this stuff for a long time now. In the years ahead, I see test cricket totally declining or changing, because batsmen can only wallop the ball and cannot put their head down and bat 6-8 hours – Hanif batted 3 days plus to save a test match. Similarly, I see T20 and One day changing further, as lollypops will be served to batsmen, who will have rules bent to favour them. A 500 score is not far off, a hundred in less than 25 balls is on the cards, a 300 by an individual batsman and last a 150 runs concession by a bowler.
Oh, the gluttony of sixes and the starvation of wickets. Enjoy it, if that is what you like. Weekes famously said to a teenage Mushtaq Muhammad “Son, three fours are always better than two sixes”. I see the souls of Grace, Ranjitsinjhi, Bradman, McGilvray and Arlott weeping.
* picture taken from Yahoo images
February 28, 2015 2 Comments
For a young kid, logic had no meaning. But when it was portrayed as the next best thing to sliced cheese, by a pair of slanting eyebrows and warped ears, it certainly fitted into a space in the brain. Since that time, many decades ago, its remained there and has played a part in my life. Leonard Nimoy (Mr Spock to hundreds of millions), the purveyor of this logic has died. There is a strange sadness worldover, for he touched the lives of many around the globe.
Few will remember so far back, to a sultry Karachi evening in 1970, when Star Trek came to town. A black and white TV – I think it was a Philips make- and there on the screen was one of those dramas from the serial. It was immediately more than just a scifi show. It took over life. Kirk, Spock, Doctor McCoy, Sulu, Uhura, Scotty and Chekov became a part of all of us. It also finished too quickly and was gone. But repeated shows all around the world and later, the Star Trek movies revived it. And bore it through the decades of various off shoot series and movies. Till today.
In those years it became a constant of life. These great fictional travellers, again and again, came into our lives, portraying the best of humanity. Whether, they were exploring the universe, or fighting for survival, or taking on the Klingons, it taught us great lessons on teamwork, living in adversity and about a greater cause. It embodied our dreams of goodness.
Central in that theme were two characters. A leader extraordinaire Captain Kirk, who life long has stood as the model of leadership for many of us. But the character who carried the embodiment of goodness, of selflessness and of doing things the right way was Spock of Vulcan. This Spock with his logic, his strange powers and dry humour. He won the heart decades ago of almost all who watched him. Mr Spock also taught us lessons which we carry through our daily lives. I too try to think logically when making decisions, for teams and for greater good and when I do so, sometimes the lessons taught through childhood by Mr Spock subliminally pop up in my brain.
Sadness is a lot of things to a lot of people. To me just now, sadness is the end of something that counts in my life. For me and hundreds of millions others, in this present world, Mr Spock is one who counts. Leonard Nimoy who so ably over five decades, portrayed Mr Spock, is gone to a more permanent abode, and with him has finally gone one of the most enduring fictional characters in history. It will not be possible to replace him, who has been there in our lives for so long and taught us so much.
So now who will take the starship Enterprise on a journey, where no man has ever been? And who will teach us logic? A personal thanks to Leonard Nimoy, for having been such an important one in so many lives.