WEAV­ING DREAMS

Ab­dul Latif Khan has brought his ex­per­tise in car­pets from Pak­istan to Northwest China, re­ports.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE -

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

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