Saturday, May 7, 2011

Young Entrepreneurs Can Shape Pakistan’s Destiny

Pakistan had no industrial units on the day of Independence. Pakistan had no trained human capital, no infrastructure facilities, and no financial resources. However, what Pakistan did have was that among the millions who migrated from their ancestral abodes leaving their worldly goods, businesses, and memories behind were people who possessed the spirit of entrepreneurship and who were determined to ensure that the infant nation marched on the avenue of prosperity.

They established factories, traded with counterparts all over the world, and trudged along inspite of handicaps, limited resources, and the emergence of a bloated bureaucracy. They became giants, built huge empires, and became globally known for their business ethos, quality goods, and devotion to their trade. Of course, those with pseudo-socialist tendencies within the ranks of economists, politicians, and officialdom were none too pleased with this mammoth achievement. Instead of a facilitating environment, businessmen were burdened with the yoke of licenses, permissions, and ridicule. All these culminated with the ill-conceived and malicious policy of nationalization. This one adventure destroyed the entrepreneurial spirit that would have catapulted Pakistan into the ranks of developed industrial nations.

The dark days of state-owned enterprises when decision-making was done by absentee “lords” sitting in cubbyholes in Islamabad, when politicians used these units to provide jobs to ignorant and non-skilled persons, and when these units were pillaged and neglected, are now over. Privatization is in but the scars of nationalization remain. Pakistan was shoved back from the road of progress and nations that looked upon Pakistan as a model of excellence became Asian Tigers.

Today a different culture is in vogue. The policymakers have begun to understand and speak the language of the entrepreneurs. Facilitation is the name of the game and efforts are made to enable the investors to fatten up their portfolios. Now, even SMEs are being patronized by the government whose policies are being re-profiled to bring the SMEs into the mainstream. The environment is not yet ideal, but pragmatism is there in the top hierarchy. Hopefully, this thinking would soon filter down to the implementation stage.

The entrepreneurs who migrated in 1947 were matured in their skills though most of them had no formal schooling. Nevertheless, they persevered, because they believed in the strength of their capabilities. Remember, “If Columbus had turned back, no one would have blamed him. Of course no one would have remembered him either”. They are guiding lights for the young people who have easier recourse to substantial education, both in classes and in other avenues of knowledge, such as the internet, the libraries, and conferences and exhibitions. Now is the time to put mind and soul into what one wants to do in one’s life.

The question that is of prime importance is how does one go on to be an entrepreneur and how does one get that spark of inspiration. This is where the struggle begins. The basic requirement is having a broader horizon and crystallizing this vision to attain the objective. The young person has to understand in no uncertain terms that the entrepreneur does not strive to make a quick buck, does not endeavor to take shortcuts, and does not compromise principles. The desire to make money should be taken in tandem with satisfaction in achieving that target, but if it is enveloped in greed and avarice, then a myopic outlook could develop. It has to be understood that the entrepreneur is also a leader, since having a vision or having an idea does not translate into substance if there is deficiency in being a driving force.

The budding entrepreneur must also be well-versed in seeking opportunities and then doing intensive research. Haphazard or casual approaches seldom make the venture strong and sound but instead it may become a house of cards, ready to collapse at the first sign of a crisis. A wise man once said, “Every oak tree started out as a couple of nuts who stood their ground”.

Inspiration can be derived from the two Fredricks in USA, who as young men each had an idea that developed into success stories. Fredrick W. Smith, while doing his Bachelor’s in Yale wrote a thesis at age 21 that was scoffed at by his advisor. After graduation, he put this into practice in 1971 and today it is a $ 27 billion global transportation and logistics corporation called Federal Express (Fedex). Fredrick De Luca wanted to earn money to finance his college education. His family’s doctor, Dr Peter Buck, gave him $ 1000 and told him to rent a store, put up a counter, buy food, and open a sandwich store. Today, Subway has 22854 stores in 81 countries, is the No. 1 Franchise of 2005, and is the source of excellent sandwiches.

Pakistan is on the move. Notwithstanding the pronunciations of the government, the road is still rugged and bumpy. The young people have to create the environment to induce positive change. They have to demand and earn their rights. They have to forge ahead despite all obstacles and they have to plow on. More importantly, they have to truly believe that they have the power to shape this nation’s destiny. Only then will change happen and only then prosperity be achieved. It is upto the older generation to provide the initial nurturing.
As Allama Iqbal advised:
Nahin Na Umeed Iqbal Apni Kisht-e-Viran Se
Zara Num Ho Toh Ye Mutti Bari Zarkhez Hai Saqi

February 28, 2005

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