Di­a­logue

Saad Aman­ul­lah Khan, CEO, Ala­mut Con­sult­ing, talks to Slo­gan in this ex­clu­sive in­ter­view.

Slogan - - Contents - What is your man­age­ment style?

Saad Aman­ul­lah Khan

Tell us a lit­tle about your­self?

My life’s pur­pose has al­ways been to use my skills and unique­ness to help oth­ers. This pur­pose evolved over time as I al­ways, since I was a kid, wanted to help the un­der­priv­i­leged so that they could get ahead in life. My fo­cus in my pro­fes­sional as well as per­sonal life has al­ways been to help oth­ers suc­ceed in their lives.

I stud­ied to be an en­gi­neer and ended up com­plet­ing two B.Sc. de­grees, one in Sys­tems En­gi­neer­ing and the other in Com­puter Sci­ence. Later, in 1985, I went to the Univer­sity of Michi­gan, Ann Ar­bor and got an MBA in fi­nance. In 1987, I was hired by Proc­ter & Gam­ble in the fi­nance depart­ment based in Geneva, Switzerland. I was later trans­ferred to Jeddah to set up a fi­nance op­er­a­tion at P&G and to han­dle six Ara­bian Penin­sula mar­kets. In 1994, on my urg­ing, I was trans­ferred to Pak­istan as their NEW &INANCE -ANAGER 7ITH MY FA­THER BE­ING quite ill dur­ing those days, I de­cided to burn my boats and not leave Pak­istan in or­der to take care of him, de­spite the fact that I was twice of­fered se­nior po­si­tions in Brus­sels and Geneva.

I con­tin­ued to rise at P&G and be­came Deputy Gen­eral Man­ager in 1999. In ad­di­tion to Fi­nance, I han­dled the Hu­man Re­source, Le­gal and Ex­ter­nal Re­la­tions de­part­ments. In 2007, I was made CEO of Gil­lette Pak­istan, a com­pany that was glob­ally ac­quired by P&G in 2005. Af­ter lead­ing it for 7 years and putting it on a solid growth path, I fi­nally de­cided to take early re­tire­ment in 2014 to fully fol­low my pas­sion of mak­ing an im­pact on the so­cial and en­trepreneur­ship front.

Dur­ing my 20 years at P&G I helped ac­quire their first man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity at Hub, Balochistan, set up the Le­gal and Ex­ter­nal Re­la­tions de­part­ments, got the laun­dry plant in­vest­ment ap­proved from the par­ent com­pany, launched 5 cat­e­gories (laun­dry, di­a­per, fem­i­nine nap­kins, col­orants and toi­let soaps), as­sisted in the P&G buy­out of its JV part­ner in Pak­istan and drove a ma­jor dis­trib­u­tor buy-out and re­struc­tur­ing.

At Gil­lette, a com­pany which was 16 years old with sales flat as a pan­cake (around $9 mil­lion for the last six years), I led the cre­ation of an in­spir­ing com­pany Vi­sion called “Mis­sion Dugna Tigna” (mean­ing in Urdu Mis­sion Dou­bling Tripling) and es­tab­lished long-term strate­gies and mea­sures un­der this pow­er­ful theme. In the next 7 years we turned around the Gil­lette busi­ness, led scores of com­mer­cial in­no­va­tions, fixed sales and sup­ply chain fun­da­men­tals, drove a cul­ture of ‘can do’ and ‘win-win’ and im­proved prof­itabil­ity as well as top line growth. Gil­lette Pak­istan be­came the fastest grow­ing Blades & Ra­zor mar­ket in CEEMEA Di­vi­sion for three straight years (CAGR 2010 to 2014 was +27%).

You bid farewell to a lu­cra­tive cor­po­rate po­si­tion to launch an NGO. What was the source of your con­vic­tion?

When I Turned In 2010 ) Had A Per­sonal Re­al­iza­tion That I Wanted To Fol­low My Real Pas­sion Which Was To Pos­i­tively Im­pact Lives Of Nor­mal Pak­ista­nis. Al­ready, As Ceo, I Was Very Ac­tive On The Non­busi­ness Front, Es­pe­cially Sup­port­ing And Guid­ing A Mul­ti­tude Of So­cial En­ter­prises. I Was Part Of Nearly Two Dozen Ngos, In­clud­ing Five In Health Care, Three In Ed­u­ca­tion, Two In Help­ing Peo­ple With Dis­abil­i­ties, Five In Youth/start-up Men­tor­ship, As Well As A So­lar En­ergy Start-up, Pub­lic In­ter­est Law As­so­ci­a­tion Of Pak­istan, Pak­istan In­no­va­tion Foun­da­tion, A Lead­er­ship Academy, Street Kids Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion And Of Course I Am Karachi. I Love To Touch Lives, Help The Youth Find Their Foot­ing And In Gen­eral Help

the needy and peo­ple at the grass­roots to re­claim their lives.

Did you feel you did not fit the big com­pany mould?

Haha! I al­ways used to say I am a jig­saw piece that does not fit the cor­po­rate world jig­saw puzzle. I was very ac­tive in the cor­po­rate world, I was twice voted as the Pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Busi­ness Coun­cil (ABC). I was also twice voted to the ex­ec­u­tive board of the largest for­eign busi­ness cham­ber in Pak­istan, the Over­seas In­vestors Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try (OICCI). In ad­di­tion, I spent my pri­vate hol­i­days and week­ends in help­ing NGOs and in­di­vid­u­als at the grass­roots with ad­vice, rais­ing funds for them and pro­vid­ing men­tor­ship.

How was your gen­eral ex­pe­ri­ence in the cor­po­rate world?

Frankly what I am to­day is be­cause of my as­so­ci­a­tion with amaz­ing stal­wart com­pa­nies such as P&G and Gil­lette. Cor­po­rate in gen­eral are great groom­ing cen­tres for the young, hard work­ing and ded­i­cated grad­u­ates. My roughly 30 years in cor­po­rates were very full­fill­ing and taught me a lot about lead­er­ship, strat­egy de­vel­op­ment, goal set­ting, change man­age­ment and many other as­pects of run­ning and build­ing a suc­cess­ful busi­ness.

Where did you en­joy your job the most – at P&G or Gil­lette?

That is a very in­ter­est­ing ques­tion but an easy one. P&G, where I spent two decades of my busi­ness life. It was my alma mater, a kind of school, col­lege or a univer­sity that I at­tended, which taught me the real-life fun­da­men­tals of do­ing busi­ness. I learned, made mis­takes, prac­ticed, took ini­tia­tives AND GAINED WIS­DOM 7HEN IN 2007 ) TOOK over as CEO of Gil­lette, that was a great op­por­tu­nity to test my learn­ings in ac­tion. Here I was able to use my two decades of ex­pe­ri­ence at P&G and use it to turn around Gil­lette, a com­pany in dire straits – I ap­plied all the con­cepts, learn­ings and ideas that I had learned at P&G.

How are you ap­ply­ing your cor­po­rate ex­pe­ri­ence to your present ac­tiv­i­ties?

The rea­son I took early re­tire­ment in 2014 was be­cause I felt I had spent enough time and en­ergy in the cor­po­rate sec­tor and it was about time I took this ex­pe­ri­ence and learn­ings and ap­plied it to the so­cial sec­tor, to de­liver a mul­ti­plier im­pact at the grass­roots where peo­ple were stuck in the poverty trap. My three decades of ex­pe­ri­ence was in­valu­able and price­less in this new role. Ev­ery­thing I do to­day, whether it is to help im­prove gov­er­nance of a so­cial en­ter­prises, or help fix strate­gies of start-ups or NGOs, or give youth ca­reer or life ad­vice, it is all built on my ex­pe­ri­ence of work­ing in the cor­po­rate sec­tor.

Do you use any of the con­cepts you learned at P&G in your present work?

Yes, I Con­stantly Ap­ply The Amaz­ing Ex­pe­ri­ences That P&g Has Given Me In Dif­fer­ent Jobs, As­sign­ments And Projects Across The World. The Whole Con­cept Of Vi­sion Set­ting, Com­ing Up With Win­ning Strate­gies, Set­ting Goals And Mea­sures, De­ploy­ing To The Or­ga­ni­za­tion, Track­ing Progress And De­liv­er­ing On These Ob­jec­tives In A Struc­tured And Or­gan­ised Man­ner Are The Most Valu­able Learn­ings From P&g. I Have Cap­tured These Con­cepts In My Book Which Was Pub­lished In The pub­lish­ers Un­der The Ti­tle “it’s Busi­ness, It’s Per­sonal – From Set­ting A Vi­sion And De­liv­er­ing It Through Or­ga­ni­za­tional Ex­cel­lence”. I Have Also Cap­tured Many Or­ga­ni­za­tional Ex­cel­lence Con­cepts Such As Lead­er­ship, In­spir­ing Cul­ture, Em­brac­ing Change And Many Per­sonal In­sights Which Helped Me Be Suc­cess­ful.

I am a very peo­ple’s per­son. I like to in­spire peo­ple, groom them, train and en­hance their po­ten­tial and then help them by break­ing down bar­ri­ers so that they can de­liver their projects with ex­cel­lence. I am a strong be­liever in walk­ing out of your com­fort zone, to hone your lead­er­ship style so that peo­ple trust you and fol­low you with pas­sion. I have al­ways coun­selled ev­ery­one to con­stantly raise the bar and to set stretch goals be­cause, when peo­ple think big, that in turn brings per­sonal growth and turns them into strong lead­ers. Af­ter I left P&G, the next 5 to six Fi­nance Man­agers at P&G were all peo­ple I had hired, groomed and trained who con­tin­ued to help keep P&G on a solid growth path. To me the true tes­ta­ment of my man­age­ment style is the legacy I leave be­hind where the peo­ple I left be­hind con­tinue to do well af­ter I am long gone.

Are you a good de­ci­sion-maker?

I think this ques­tion is bet­ter an­swered by look­ing at one’s past record in se­nior lead­er­ship roles. I held the Deputy Gen­eral Man­ager and Fi­nance Man­ager port­fo­lio of P&G for 8 years dur­ing which P&G grew at an av­er­age CAGR of +50% (cu­mu­la­tive an­nual growth rate). In my fi­nal 4 years as Gil­lette CEO (the first few years were hit by the 2008 global eco­nomic cri­sis), Gil­lette grew at a CAGR of +27% be­hind my “Mis­sion Dugna Tigna” which has now more than dou­bled Gil­lette busi­ness and con­tin­ues to in­spire em­ploy­ees to look for stretch ideas.

Do you be­lieve in in­no­va­tion?

I Con­sider ‘in­no­va­tion’ As The Cor­ner­stone Of Suc­cess Of Any Busi­ness En­ter­prise In To­day’s Fast Paced Global En­vi­ron­ment. You Can­not Win By Do­ing The Same Old Thing Or By Copy­ing Oth­ers; The Con­sumer And The Mar­ket Has Be­come Very So­phis­ti­cated And Com­pet­i­tive. You Have To Be Cre­ative, You Have To In­no­vate And Come Up With Nov­elty Ideas Which Will Beat Com­pe­ti­tion On A Sus­tain­able Ba­sis. This Is Also Why, In Early 2010, I Founded The Pak­istan In­no­va­tion Foun­da­tion (pif)) With Dr. Athar Osama. This Is An Apo­lit­i­cal, Pri­vate Sec­tor-driven Donor sup­ported Plat­form Which Fo­cuses On Driv­ing And Cre­at­ing An “in­no­va­tion” Eco-sys­tem In Pak­istan. To­day Pif Is The Only Or­ga­ni­za­tion Giv­ing In­no­va­tion Awards Across 12 Busi­ness Sec­tors And 3 Spe­cial Awards 7e Carry Out Hackathons To Help Iden­tify So­lu­tions For Our Prob­lems And Re­ward In­no­va­tors 7e Are Also Pur­su­ing Stem Ed­u­ca­tion For The Last 3 Years And En­cour­ag­ing Schools To In­clude It In Their Cur­ricu­lum.

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