An exclusive in­ter­view with Asim Siddiqui, CEO, Pe­ga­sus Con­sul­tancy

Asim Siddiqui, CEO, Pe­ga­sus Con­sul­tancy, shares his views in this exclusive in­ter­view to En­ter­prise.

Enterprise - - Contents -

As a pioneer in the events ser­vice in­dus­try, how has Pe­ga­sus main­tained an edge in the boom­ing M.I.C.E. (meet­ings, in­cen­tives, con­fer­ences and exhibitions) sec­tor?

We started with the first in­ter­na­tional ex­hi­bi­tion in Pak­istan by the name of IDEAS. How­ever, that as­so­ci­a­tion ended but since then we have been launch­ing more in­no­va­tive and in­ter­na­tional exhibitions re­lated to dif­fer­ent in­dus­tries of Pak­istan. Be­ing the pi­o­neers, we got to do what any leader in any in­dus­try has to do and that is to be in­no­va­tive, to come up with more ideas for main­tain­ing that lead­ing edge over oth­ers.

It mainly de­pends on how you cater an event for a spe­cific in­dus­try, par­tic­u­larly by un­der­stand­ing and de­liv­er­ing its re­quire­ments. You can mar­ket the first show by de­sign­ing a brochure be­cause it is just a con­cept; you need to pos­sess all the right data and know the right peo­ple. But the suc­ces­sive shows will only be suc­cess­ful if the peo­ple par­tic­i­pat­ing in them re­al­ize the true value of their par­tic­i­pa­tion. So we have been able to cater to the in­dus­try and now I tell peo­ple that over 12 years, we have made all the big events pos­si­ble in Pak­istan.

More­over, I have a very strong team, the com­pany has real depth, and there are man­agers with more than 50 years of ex­pe­ri­ence amongst us. We have achieved huge and di­verse ex­pe­ri­ence by go­ing through all the thick and thin, the good and bad times. Be­sides that, all the year round we do re­search on how to im­prove our exhibitions. It in­cludes in­dus­try re­quire­ments, growth fac­tors and which seg­ment of which in­dus­try is grow­ing. Af­ter all, now com­pe­ti­tion has crept in. In or­der to main­tain our pi­o­neer­ing sta­tus, we have to be dif­fer­ent and stay ahead of the com­pe­ti­tion.

How has Pe­ga­sus pro­moted Pak­istani in­dus­tries in world mar­kets?

In the be­gin­ning we cre­ated shows for what­ever brands were rec­og­nized the world over; for

in­stance Gul Ahmed. I’ll give you the ex­am­ple of Expo Pak­istan, the ma­jor trade and com­merce event of Pak­istan, is a very con­ve­nient fo­rum for for­eign buy­ers be­cause they know Pak­istani exports, they know the po­ten­tial of Pak­istan much more than we do. Such an ex­hi­bi­tion in Pak­istan pro­vides them the op­por­tu­nity to meet the in­dus­try lead­ers un­der one roof in a lim­ited span of time. Other­wise it would take weeks of travel for a buyer to ex­plore the mar­ket from Chenab to Gul Ahmed to Nishat Mills. Only Karachi has five in­dus­trial zones, and you can­not cover more than two in a day. So Expo Pak­istan or any event in gen­eral opens doors for a num­ber of new buy­ers com­ing from as far as South Amer­ica, who would other­wise have not come to Pak­istan. We saw a lot of new faces and big qual­ity buy­ers. They were in­vited by the Govern­ment of Pak­istan, the Min­istry of Trade and the Trade De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity of Pak­istan.

How would you de­fine the set­backs to the in­dus­trial struc­ture in light of Pak­istan’s cur­rent sit­u­a­tion?

In a nut­shell, high in­ter­est rates, en­ergy cri­sis and the fall­out of the en­ergy cri­sis are known to all. It is af­fect­ing about 3 per­cent of the GDP. Cur­rently I think that less than 30 per­cent of Pak­istan is ac­tu­ally pro­duc­tive. If you look at trade and in­dus­try, 3 per­cent trans­lates into a lot of jobs, a lot of missed op­por­tu­ni­ties and a lot of sur­plus ca­pac­ity. Then we have the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in Pak­istan and the vi­o­lence, which is mak­ing trade and in­dus­try very dif­fi­cult to cope with.

What are the strengths that en­able you to make an event suc­cess­ful?

Like I said, you have to un­der­stand the in­dus­try and the lead­ers in the in­dus­try be­cause with­out at­tract­ing them you can­not go far. The lead­ers in the in­dus­try al­ways think they know it all, they do not need any more brand­ing or mar­ket­ing and that they have the high­est share in the mar­ket. This is the trick­i­est part to get into the heads of the in­dus­try lead­ers. This is not done by talk­ing to them, but through deep un­der­stand­ing of the in­dus­try and by po­si­tion­ing the events in such a way that it makes them at­trac­tive for other brands which have global outreach. It makes a big dif­fer­ence. To achieve this, ex­ten­sive re­search helps in po­si­tion­ing an event ac­cord­ingly so that it cre­ates an ap­peal. The in­dus­try lead­ers may not sup­port you for a few shows on the ba­sis that what you are say­ing is right, but the right ex­e­cu­tion is also im­por­tant.

What aspects of event man­age­ment are yet to be ex­plored in Pak­istan?

The ba­sic con­cept is that it is a meet­ing place for the mar­ket. In event man­age­ment, the ac­tual ac­tiv­ity oc­curs be­fore the ex­hi­bi­tion takes place. But the key to suc­cess is get­ting the right re­sults af­ter the ex­hi­bi­tion. So it is not just putting up the stalls, do­ing the car­pets, join­ing elec­tric con­nec­tions or set­ting up nice de­signs. If no­body comes, then what hap­pens? Or if some­body even comes and

“You have to un­der­stand the in­dus­try and the lead­ers in the in­dus­try be­cause with­out at­tract­ing them you can­not go far. The lead­ers in the in­dus­try al­ways think they know it all, they do not need any more brand­ing or mar­ket­ing and that they have the high­est share in the mar­ket. This is the trick­i­est part to get into the heads of the in­dus­try lead­ers.”

goes back dis­ap­pointed, then what hap­pens? The event is for the in­dus­try, it is not for the event man­age­ment com­pany and un­for­tu­nately this con­cept is lack­ing in the rest of the com­pa­nies where they think that their main job is to cre­ate an environment and that’s it. But it does not end there.

Do you get the nec­es­sary sup­port from the govern­ment and the TDAP in hold­ing exhibitions and other events?

The Govern­ment of Pak­istan should get the ma­jor credit for pro­vid­ing the in­fra­struc­ture by build­ing the two Expo Cen­tres in Pak­istan, which other­wise would not have been built. I con­sider the govern­ment’s strate­gies to pro­mote events at the Expo Cen­tre to be very con­ducive for event man­agers. They re­al­ize the fact that the rev­enue comes from the ex­hi­bi­tion or­ga­niz­ers. They do pro­vide the re­quired level of ser­vice. Other­wise the expo cen­tres would have been like empty bird nests, which was the sit­u­a­tion when we started exhibitions; there were cats and dogs in the halls. So, if the pri­vate sec­tor is so in­volved in putting up these exhibitions, then they are do­ing some­thing right.

How does your com­pany ben­e­fit from the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of So­cial De­vel­op­ment Ini­tia­tives?

Pak­istan is go­ing through a very se­ri­ous cri­sis, in terms of its econ­omy and peo­ple. A group of my friends de­cided to­gether that it is use­less to sit and watch TV and crit­i­cize the govern­ment. We felt the re­spon­si­bil­ity to try and act out, in what­ever man­ner we could con­trib­ute for the bet­ter­ment of so­ci­ety. Mostly be­long­ing to the pri­vate sec­tor, we de­cided that job cre­ation should be our tar­get. But we later re­al­ized that it is not the pri­vate sec­tor’s role but an NGO’S role to do that. So we started study­ing poverty in the ru­ral ar­eas. We feel that the prob­lems of the young pop­u­la­tion are sig­nif­i­cant to ad­dress the so­cio-eco­nomic is­sues of Pak­istan. About 2 mil­lion peo­ple are join­ing the work­force ev­ery year, whether they are ed­u­cated or un­e­d­u­cated. f they can­not find jobs, they will be­come a men­ace to the so­ci­ety.

So with that con­cept in mind, we started de­vis­ing ways and means on a very small scale. We are work­ing now in four districts of Pak­istan; three in Sindh and one in KPK. We have adopted these com­mu­ni­ties, where we pro­vide them em­ploy­ment, mi­cro­fi­nanc­ing for live­stock and crops, clean water and es­tab­lish­ing af­ford­able health ser­vices. We are also look­ing at a re­new­able en­ergy project, we are look­ing af­ter their ed­u­ca­tion and have es­tab­lished tem­po­rary learn­ing cen­tres in terms of health as Hep­ati­tis is a se­ri­ous prob­lem all over Pak­istan. We have cur­rently an on­go­ing camp for Hep­ati­tis erad­i­ca­tion and pro­tec­tion in Mar­dan. More than 20 per­cent of the peo­ple have been iden­ti­fied with Hep­ati­tis af­ter screen­ing, which is a very big pop­u­la­tion. The same were the sta­tis­tics in Ma­tiari. Ear­lier, these peo­ple were work­ing on daily wages, now they have reg­u­lar in­comes.

OSDI is a think tank and not a

char­ity or­ga­ni­za­tion and it works on a model of poverty al­le­vi­a­tion. We are work­ing on projects in which we are es­ti­mat­ing and quan­ti­fy­ing the in­put on what­ever in­ter­ven­tion was made and then the out­put. The out­put shows how the project made a dif­fer­ence to the fam­ily, how it in­creased their in­come and how it will bring them out of poverty.

We are pro­vid­ing the farm­ers with an­i­mals, seeds, bet­ter fields and train­ing. Most of the farm­ers we are fi­nanc­ing, on about 500 acres of land, have al­most dou­bled their out­put. So it is like a fiveyear plan that we are work­ing on for poverty al­le­vi­a­tion. We know many de­pen­den­cies the com­mu­nity would have on us. So it is very sat­is­fy­ing work. We have made huge ef­forts with lim­ited re­sources though.

But now, even in the ur­ban ar­eas the crime rate is high, it is all be­cause of the fact that peo­ple do not get liveli­hoods. So this has to be ad­dressed and in­flu­enced and this trend has to be re­versed if we want a pro­gres­sive Pak­istan.

In light of your suc­cess­ful track record, do you have a roadmap to cam­paign for brand­ing Pak­istan in the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket?

Pak­istan was do­ing ex­cep­tion­ally well be­fore this vi­o­lence and ex­trem­ism grew up. Till 2005, we were per­form­ing well and the sup­port­ive pol­icy of the govern­ment was pro­mot­ing the soft im­age of Pak­istan. Those were the things which ‘ In­cred­i­ble In­dia’ was play­ing and Malaysia was cam­paign­ing as ‘ Truly Asia’, so there was a lot of de­bate and I was also in­volved in those de­bates on how it could be done. But un­for­tu­nately, be­cause of 9/ 11, there was a re­in­force­ment of views that Pak­istan is a hard coun­try. It kept be­com­ing dif­fi­cult to say, ‘ No, We are not!’

Although, there is 99 per­cent more good hap­pen­ing in Pak­istan, but even if a dog dies here, it is flashed all over the world. So how to counter that im­age was a ma­jor is­sue. Now you see de­sign­ers from Pak­istan par­tic­i­pat­ing in in­ter­na­tional fairs and shows. There are so many things that we can be proud of, our women pi­lots, our women cadets, who were ear­lier com­pet­ing only in gen­eral ed­u­ca­tion. So they show the pro­gres­sion in Pak­istan af­ter which the Lal Masjid im­age can be eas­ily for­got­ten. But it is also a fact that now we have mul­ti­ple is­sues at hand, that we can­not col­lect our thoughts. For ex­am­ple, I was in Dubai meet­ing a big cus­tomer of mine. Some­how ev­ery year they refuse to come to Pak­istan. I was telling them about how the in­dus­try is get­ting bet­ter in Pak­istan, but they wanted to know about how I could com­fort them about Pak­istan. I replied that I have stopped do­ing that, as I have been say­ing since the last four years that it will get bet­ter. Now I have come to re­al­ize that we re­ally have a prob­lem. In good times, I used to say it is very easy fill­ing Pak­istan, be­cause the in­dus­try was run­ning so well, we had a 7 per­cent growth rate and Pak­istan was def­i­nitely the next Asian Tiger.

I have found that the only trick is to get the per­son to visit Pak­istan. Be­cause, in his mind, he lives in the twi­light zone, in re­al­ity when he comes here and meets the pro­gres­sive part of our so­ci­ety, sees the in­dus­tries, then it be­comes very easy to con­vince him about the pos­i­tiv­ity in Pak­istan.

Do you think we have enough in­ter­na­tional-class ex­hi­bi­tion space in Pak­istan or more needs to be done on that front?

It started from the three halls at the Expo Cen­tre in Karachi and the Govern­ment of Pak­istan dou­bled the ca­pac­ity in a pe­riod of four years, be­cause so much in­dus­trial growth took place. Un­for­tu­nately, to­day it is un­der-uti­lized. Your point of view would only be rel­e­vant to fu­ture per­cep­tions about the sit­u­a­tion in Pak­istan. I was telling the Ger­man ex­hi­bi­tion or­ga­niz­ers that now un­der the ex­ist­ing ca­pac­ity of the Expo Cen­tre, exhibitions can be held with ma­chin­ery from all over the world. But I can’t say now what may hap­pen.

How does an in­dus­try or busi­ness sec­tor ben­e­fit from a ded­i­cated ex­hi­bi­tion event?

Like I said, the hard in­fra­struc­ture can be cre­ated by any­one; it is the soft­ware that makes the dif­fer­ence. As Expo Pak­istan opened the doors, so if you have the Gul Ahmed and the Nishat of Pak­istan stand­ing there, but a stall next to them may be the small­est but if it has an ex­cel­lent pre­sen­ta­tion, it gives the sim­i­lar qual­ity im­age. And com­bined, they at­tract quan­tity and qual­ity buy­ers for Pak­istan’s exports. So it is truly a mag­i­cal story.

Expo Pak­istan is a gen­er­al­ized and the only hand grown ex­hi­bi­tion with the whole ma­chin­ery of the govern­ment in­volved in it. So you can gauge the suc­cess that the govern­ment has achieved by work­ing col­lec­tively with a num­ber of or­ga­niz­ers. Not just that, we have a whole process of how to col­lect buy­ers. Ear­lier there were chain store buy­ers who only used to buy a sin­gle prod­uct; they are now buy­ing two or three prod­ucts. Be­cause we not only have tex­tiles, we also have au­to­mo­biles, fans and wide range of cut­lery. New buy­ers keep join­ing in and we can gauge the suc­cess of the ex­hi­bi­tion by the pres­ence of nearly all the brands which other­wise do not par­tic­i­pate in any ex­hi­bi­tion in Pak­istan.

Plus, it is a very good sourc­ing event for the in­dus­try it­self. There are thou­sands of young man­u­fac­tur­ers, who are not known to even ad­vance sup­ply chain per­son­nel, so a good net­work­ing space is pro­vided by the ex­hi­bi­tion. One of the former Naval chiefs, head of Pak­istan Aero­nau­ti­cal Com­plex (PAC) Kamra in­formed me that at Kamra 30 per­cent of in­di­g­e­niza­tion in­creased af­ter they par­tic­i­pated in IDEAS, which they were other­wise im­port­ing from abroad as they did not know that some com­pany was mak­ing it. So if you can cre­ate such suc­cess sto­ries, it is the only way the ex­hi­bi­tion can be alive. So it is not a cir­cus for peo­ple to watch, it is a place for busi­ness and new op­por­tu­ni­ties which other­wise even busi­ness lead­ers would not be able to make hap­pen

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