Abdul Latif Khan has brought his expertise in carpets from Pakistan to Northwest China, reports.
When he decided to move to China a decade ago after quitting his job in the United States, Pakistani textile expert Abdul Latif Khan surprised many.
Now, his friends know that he made the right choice, Khan says.
He has played a major role in helping a Chinese carpet company to achieve fast growth and has been recognized for his work.
Khan, 52, comes from a family with a tradition in textile making. He learned the craft from his father at a young age. Most of his siblings work in the industry.
He studied textile design in college in Pakistan, and has pursued a successful career in knitting and designing carpets.
Khan was with a carpet company in the US for five years before he joined the Qinghai Tibetan Sheep Carpet Group, where he has been the research and development manager since 2006.
His connection with the Qinghai company — a big supplier of woolen carpets to his former US employer — was established thanks to product defects.
In 2005, he was sent by the US company to help sort out technical issues at the Chinese company after worms were found in a shipment.
“I was planning to stay in Qinghai for one week,” Khan recalls.
But after he checked the factory in Northwest China, Khan realized the problem couldn’t be easily resolved. So, he decided to stay longer so he could make a special machine and even go back to Pakistan to get the material needed to bleach the wool. After a month, the issues were resolved.
Back then, problems like floating hair were common for woolen carpets made in Qinghai, which harmed the company’s image.
While Khan was in Qinghai, he taught the local workers to bleach and clean the products, and helped the factory to add procedures to deal with such problems in the future.
His professional approach impressed the Chinese company, which pleaded with him to stay.
But by then, Khan’s former boss wanted him to return to the US. Faced with a dilemma, he decided to ask his family for advice.
“While my elder brother thought I was crazy to work in China instead of trying to get a US green card, my father suggested I stay in China, because of the country’s good relations with Pakistan and its development opportunities,” Khan says of the time when he resigned from the US company
In the past, Tibetan woolen carpets were not very popular in the international market, compared with products from Iran, India and Pakistan, because of the traditional way of manufacturing that involved curing in the sun that led to loss of color and damage to fabric.
After Khan joined the Chinese company, he used his experience in bleaching, designing, dyeing and cutting wool to produce carpets.
For example, he introduced a traditional Pakistani plantdyeing technique to enhance color schemes in carpets and improved the drying system at the Qinghai factory.
Chen Xuewu, a deputy manger at Qinghai Tibetan Sheep Carpet Group, says Khan has helped the company, which now has several branches around the country, not only to develop new products but also get patents.
“I have confidence that both our domestic and international markets will keep growing,” says Khan, adding he is aware of customer preferences in different markets and the need to design carpets accordingly.
Khan’s experience in business got him the attention of local authorities who sought his help to organize the annual Qinghai International Carpet Exhibition.
In 2009, he invited about 150 exhibitors from Pakistan, Iran and India to participate in the exhibition.
Khan was given the Friendship Award by the central government in 2007 in recognition of his work. The award is the highest honor China gives foreigners who have made significant contribution to the country’s social and economic development.
In February, he also received the International Cooperation Award for Science and Technology by the provincial government.
Khan says the province’s tough weather made his life hard in the first few years, but now he has grown used to it. Besides, he is able to communicate in simple Chinese and knows some of the Qinghai dialect.
“China is my second home. I am half Chinese,” says Khan, who travels through the country on work.
He visits his family in Pakistan every year.
Khan’s deep affection for China has prompted him to learn more about the local economy and society. He believes woolen textiles are vital to the development of Qinghai, where the weather is cold and most areas are not suitable for growing crops.
But he cautions that largescale mechanized production could threaten the livelihood of traditional craftsmen in Qinghai.
It is important to develop local ethnic craft industries like carpet making, says Khan.
I have confidence that both our domestic and international markets will keep growing.” Abdul Latif Khan, Pakistani textile expert in Qinghai province
Contact the writer at liuxiangrui@ chinadaily.com.cn