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Rethinking Sustainable Progress

July 12, 2023 at 10:23 pm | Economic Affairs

All speakers at Leaders in Islamabad Business Summit echoed the need to empower teams, celebrate failures and think ‘long-term’ in terms of generations, and not number of years.

Khurram Zia

Nutshell Conferences Group and Martin Dow Group, in strategic partnership with Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Unity Foods Limited, arranged the 6th Edition of “LEADERS IN ISLAMABAD BUSINESS SUMMIT”, with the theme “The Big Rethink.”

Muhammad Azfar Ahsan, Founder & CEO Nutshell Group, and former Minister of State & Chairman Board of Investment, in his welcome address, elaborated on the theme “The BIG Rethink” for progress. “I blame incompetence, lack of political will, absence of collaboration between stakeholders and lack of continuity of policy framework for bringing us to the present condition.” He reinforced that Pakistan’s progress lies in uplifting education, health and digitalization, and that we need to model after ASEAN and the Central Asian Republics to expedite our progress.

Ali Akhai, Chairman, Martin Dow Group, focused on the importance of embracing transformation. In his opening remarks, he said; “In a world that is constantly evolving, change is the only constant. It is the responsibility of us leaders to reimagine and rethink. I believe we should all embrace The BIG Rethink with open minds and hearts.

Together, we can defy the norms, envision a brighter future, and seize the infinite opportunities that lie ahead.”

The Summit included a soft launch for Dr. Ishrat Husain’s new book titled ‘Economic Challenges and Solutions for Pakistan.’ Dr. Husain stated that contrary to popular belief, there has been a consensus that the real issues, are instability and lack of accountability.

This was followed by the first panel discussion of the day. Dr. Moeed W. Yusuf, Pakistan’s former National Security Adviser; Muhammad Aurangzeb, President & CEO, HBL and Chairman Pakistan Business Council & Pakistan Banks’ Association; Ghias Khan, President & CEO, Engro Corporation; Aamir Ibrahim, President & CEO, Jazz & Chairman, Mobilink Microfinance Bank; Maheen Rahman, CEO, InfraZamin Pakistan; and Sajjeed Aslam were part of this illustrious panel.

Muhammad Aurangzeb, expressed his desire to make banks equally involved in financial partnering and get rid of collateral mindset.

Reinforcing the need for renewables, Ghias Khan, said; “The biggest challenge is the rising cost of energy, which we need to address urgently. Wind and solar alone cannot manage the load; we would need to include the Thar Coal project to curb the price surge.”

Maheen Rahman lamented the lack of innovation across sectors; “Companies in Pakistan have been operating for 50-60 years, but they have been unable to innovate their processes.”

Aamir Ibrahim emphasized on the importance of Internet availability for all and said that Internet shutdowns would only push the country backwards. He said that RAAST has shown the potential of digitalization. “We need to shift gears to rethink trade across borders and use digitalization in our favor.”

Yousaf Hussain, President & CEO, Faysal Bank Limited, in his address following the panel discussion, shared that the bank’s journey to Islamic instruments is a testament to the possibility of rethinking and reimagining. “There must be minimization of disruption. Customers, stakeholders, and investors all must be brought on the same page alongside regulatory compliance.” He highlighted to need for an increased awareness of Islamic Banking and urged the academia to play its role.

The third session was a dialogue titled ‘Leadership and Strategy in the Age of Disruption.’ Panelists included Irfan Wahab Khan, CEO, Telenor Pakistan & Chairman, Telenor Bank; Ayla Majid, Global Vice President, ACCA and Founder & CEO, Plaintive; Samina Rizwan, Founder, CalmKaaj; Mujeeb Zahur, Managing Director, S&P Global; and was moderated by Saquib Ahmad, Managing Director, SAP Pakistan, Iraq & Afghanistan. All speakers, who are leaders in their respective fields, echoed the need to empower teams, celebrate the failures and think of ‘long-term’ in terms of generations and not number of years.

The fourth session continued the discussion on disruption with a change of panelists, including Asif Peer, CEO, Systems Limited; Adil Farhat, CEO, Procter & Gamble Pakistan; Dr. Ayesha K. Khan, Regional Managing Director, Acumen; Syed Moonis Abdullah Alvi, CEO, K-Electric Limited; and Sami A. Wahid, Managing Director, Mondelez Pakistan Limited. They shared their views on the need for disruption to achieve progress. The country, they agreed, is going through an existentialist crisis; disruption is no longer an option for Pakistan rather it has become a necessity to address food insecurity and sustainability. Asif Peer elaborated “When we talk about disruption, we must understand that it does not look familiar, and we need to change in order to combat it.”

The fifth session comprised the closing address by H.E. Nicolas Galey, Ambassador of France to Pakistan. Referring to France as a ‘Land of Innovation,’ the Ambassador highlighted the contribution of training institutions that changed the game. He said that France can aid Pakistan in its journey towards green energy. The trade between Pakistan and France grew by 20% in 2022 and he looked forward to fostering ties between both countries on collaborative and stronger footings.

On the second day of the Summit Senator Sherry Rehman, Federal Minister for Climate Change, spoke about going green for safety and survival. “Pakistan produces plastic trash equivalent to the might of two K2 mountains annually, and having signed the plastic treaty in Paris recently, I would request at least the big hotels to get rid of the plastic bottles that they’re serving water in.”

Gen Zubair Mahmood Hayat, N.I. (Retd.), Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (2016- 2019), spoke on the power of narratives and raised pertinent questions about how, as a nation, Pakistanis need to build a narrative for a better future. The way our Holy Prophet PBUH changed it, the way Martin Luther King changed it, and the way Nelson Mandela changed it. “We are required to think deeply around our political, social, and economic aspects. We need to come out of our comfort zones and take up bigger ideas instead of taking baby steps. We must match our policies with execution and take ownership of our political, national, and individual narrative.”

Zouhair Khaliq shared his optimism. “There is no dearth of hardworking people in Pakistan, and it is encouraging to see start-ups participating in the rethink. The fountain of growth in Pakistan is not the academia and the think tanks; instead, it’s the start-ups that are growing like mushrooms in this country.”

Another sub-theme, “Imagineering the Future,” saw an array of specialists addressing the audience, including Dr. Rehan Al Taji, Founder & CEO, PXDX FZ LLC, UAE and Partner & Head of Projects, Gabriel Jobs, KSA; Kabeer Naqvi, President & CEO, U Microfinance Bank Limited; Ghazanfar Azzam, President & CEO, Mobilink Microfinance Bank Limited; Abdul Haseeb, Managing Director, TMC; and Farhan Hassan, Head of Easypaisa Wallet Business. The Dialogue was moderated by Usman Yousuf, Director, Nutshell Communications; Chairman, ProPakistani; Co-founder, K-Cap Ventures and CEO, Interactive UAE. The panelists agreed on the need for financial inclusion in Pakistan and changing rigid views around conventional modalities.

Mark Linder spoke on TAKT – an assembly line formula that helped the build of giants like Toyota. “Pakistan is ripe for collaborative models that can bring in expedited progress at half the cost.”

The vote of thanks was delivered by Air Chief Marshal (Retd.) Sohail Aman, Pakistan’s Chief of Air Staff (2015-2018).  LIIBS 2023 brought together more than 50 speakers from national and international organizations from a variety of sectors.

Prof. Ahsan Iqbal, Federal Minister for Planning, Development & Special Initiatives and Khurram Dastgir Khan, Federal Minister for Power expressed their views during the inaugural session of this summit.

The writer is the
Head of Media &
Client Relations,

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