Shipping Industry in Pakistan


Pakistan is a country of 170 million people, who are spread all over and it has been blessed with the best natural and human resources. It has the hills and mountains, a 1000 km long coast line, sea, lakes and rivers, valleys, oil and gas fields, mines and huge natural resources through capacity to grow staple food products to fruits and vegetables.  Pakistan borders with China, India and Afghanistan and is one of the easiest sea route for transfer of goods to Afghanistan, China and India (especially the first two).

Shipping is one of the sectors in Pakistan that has not been well-planned largely on account of short-sighted government policies more than anything else.  It is a sector that can lead to great synergies in exploring the potential of the country’s geographical location. The continuing work on the Gwadar port in collaboration with China is possible because everyone stands to benefit out of the win-win situation. With China trying to reduce its dependence on the sea route through Arabian Sea where there is a much higher security risk and risk of interruptions, it envisioned a possibility of having Gwadar serve their interests in difficult times. As it is, once Gwadar port is online, China would be assured of a far more safer and easier sea route to Gwadar port for deliveries coming from the Middle Eastern region through the Arabian sea

On comparison, Pakistan seems to be lacking in many different areas as the radar chart (source: WorldBank database) below indicates. It is interesting to note that although Pakistan fares roughly equal to other lower middle income countries in the region, however, in comparison to its neighbour China, it definitely has a lot of learn and implement and there is ample room for improvement in all the areas of operation and management. The highest gains can be made in the infrastructure, where government-private sector relationships and government’s iron-willed determination and honest commitment could do wonders.

If Pakistan is willing to chalk out its strategy for trade and production management, the country can claim massive gains in the fields of shipping, logistics, trading, manufacturing, rentals generated by government and semi-government institutions for various infrastructure facilities’ usage such as storage & handling charges. Moreover, development of ancillary industries could thrive due to the ripple effect. Such a policy would bring in all the stakeholders on the decision table and take them into confidence on the longer-term beyond-the-nose kind of planning not seen of late. This would entail not only vague ideas but practical plans and milestones in each domain and follow through of ideas till implementation and post-implementation support.

Given the geo-strategic positioning of the country and the enhanced value of the location in light of the emergence of a stronger China and a post-war Afghanistan (being a land-locked country), Pakistan can definitely capitalize on the opportunity to develop a brighter tomorrow for itself, rather than depending on the foreign aid to push through this difficult time. In fact, this country has the potential to become a major shipping center in the region once it streamlines the infrastructure deployment, brings in competent people management and the government is able to control the security situation in the country.

Ideas and the Power of Attitude

Although more people that I have met so far tend to somehow focus on the negatives and play their game, most if not all the successful people I happened to talk to have been different. They usually keep an eye on the positives.

When you start focusing on the positives of everything, you might start feeling like a fish-out-of-water for a while because that’s not the way everyone thinks about things. Over time, this focus can bring about an amazing change in attitude, and therefore, results.

Ideas. These are one of the most important blessings that humans have. Those who know would concur. It is the power of ideas that men have risen from the ground to put their feet on moon and also gone down under the earth to fetch the treasures beneath.

Ideas could come in many forms ranging from as direct as a statement by someone you know to an abstract indication inspired by a natural thing. How then should we be focusing on those ideas to lead ourselves into opportunities. The answer lies in BELIEF in those ideas! Once you start believing in something, you are bound to get success in fulfilling that belief, given you take the correct approach and maintain the right attitude. What you need to do is stop taking things for granted, open your eyes and brain and look around with a purpose to bring positive difference to anything you see, hear and feel. You will start noticing things even before you notice that such a change in yourself.

I love this quote: It is not only your aptitude, but also your attitude which determines your altitude!

How to get rid of your fears?

When I was young, I was just too afraid of heights. I was scared of falling down even from the first floor where our classes used to be. I always felt relieved when I placed my feet on ground, thinking that I won’t fall. It took me a while to realize that not facing your fears in one of the worst things that can be done. It only worsens the situation, making you feel you cannot do something as simple as not being afraid of falling down of the 1st floor of a building!

How does one get rid of a fear? Simple. Face it. Once you come into contact with that fear head on, you can be sure you are going to see the height of that fear. I remember my trembling legs trying to see things from such height. However, as soon as I saw it through and noticed nothing wrong happened to me, I was a bit relieved. Over time, I got rid of the fear out of myself.

People are usually afraid of something, the most common fears are: height, darkness, closed spaces, losing your loved ones, losing your reputation, failure and death. I am going to focus on the same philosophy for most of the fears, not all of course (I don’t expect you to lose your loved ones to lose that fear).

The Fear of Failure makes a very compelling case of why you should fail. Once you fail, you learn lot of things if you have a positive frame of mind. As the saying goes “Anything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” You should not plan to fail, but make sure you keep that as a healthy alternative. Most people give up when they are really close to success. Why? Because they inhibit their fear of failure. In no time, they get overwhelmed by the same fears and end up losing hope. If on the other hand, they face the challenge with a positive frame of mind thinking things would turn out to be good either ways and that in the larger scheme of things, one small incident doesn’t really matter too much, they would be far more likely to get successful sooner and be happy too.

Action Exercises:

  1. Try to identify your fears.
  2. Put yourself into situations where you have to face those fears, feeling that you will go through it and this is just a state of mind more than anything else.
  3. Reward yourself when you face your fear – even a small reward such as a cup of coffee would do, but make sure you reward yourself.

Triple bottom line

The concept of Triple Bottom Line, or 3BL has come out into prominence of late after the increased importance of corporate social responsibility being recognized by the leaders across all countries – political, social and business leaders. It simply is People. Planet. Profits.

For any business, this idea is relevant. As long as you can bring in transformational or at least transactional changes into the value chain, you get to have a bigger share in the pie. Why? Because you are adding value not only to your customers, but your employees and the environment as well. Moreover, note that People comes before Profits, and so does Planet. This goes to amplify the concern about employees and care for the environment before the profitability of a business.

There is a theory of Open Systems that they teach at business school, which in simple words means: What you give in as an input in any process is worked upon and the output that comes out is depends on the input to the process. In technological terms, they have a similar theory called GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage out. What it means when you apply the 3BL concept to these theories is that when you care about the stakeholders in the value chain so much that you put them ahead of your profitability curve, you become the preferred employer, the environment saver, the socially-responsible member of the community. Not long after that, you become a preferred customer too. I don’t mean to say that only by caring for the employees and the environment would you get all the profits; indeed, making profits would include a lot of hard work, dedication and commitment. What I am saying is that when you do all this, then everyone in the value chain helps you become the best, which eventually gets you the customers’ preference as well.

When you know what you want, the whole world conspires for you to achieve it, wrote Paulo Coelho. I will use his words to help me convey my message. People. Planet. Profits. Just do it.

How to realize a business opportunity?

The question that many people ask me is that how do I come up with some marvelous entrepreneurial idea that can change the face of this world? How do I provide a service that no one else has ever provided or a product that no one has even imagined about manufacturing yet?

Many people fall into the miserable trap of assuming that unless they have such an idea, it would only be false efforts to pursue the opportunity and also that someday this brilliant idea would be revealed onto them sitting under an apple tree as it happened in the case of the Scientist Newton (who discovered gravity).

If you think that’s going to happen someday, forget it. The opportunity is only available for those who are willing to practically do things and focus on act, rather than dream. I am not at all trying to imply it’s futile to dream, but keep dreaming could be disastrous. Globally, several businesses have been established to satisfy fairly small needs and wants of select group of people such as servicing the hearing aid equipments. Businesses have also been setup manufacturing/trading things that are commonly available and consumed such as selling potato chips.

The fun part is that you need to see beyond the obvious – the latent need and establish a business to fill in the gap. As long as there is a gap – and there are innumerable gaps still, if you ask me – you can come up with the relevant business idea and make it a success. However, neither waiting for the right idea to be bestowed on you nor jumping in to start anything regardless of the demand-supply gap would work for you.

Keep looking and you’d find many possible gaps around you. You just need to see with a different perspective.

Looking through a prism

Remember back in school physics laboratory classes, there was one experiment we used to do with prism where a ray of light went through the prism to show complete VIBGYOR set of colors in a white ray. Entrepreneurs often need to develop the ability to become such prisms, wherein they could look through a seemingly simple white-ray-like issues/people/ideas to find out the possible colors within the spectrum.

This is in essence the ability to dissect the individual concept and look at its various dimensions, alongside taking a holistic approach integrating individual components of the situation.

In order to be successful, this ability to sum-the-parts & part-the-sum is very useful. This can be developed and enhanced by careful concentration and keen eye on one’s surroundings, sights & sound. So all it needs is a bit of motivation & a bit of time, and you’re on your way to your ability to looking through the prism glass!

Accepting Change

Change is the only inevitable. As easy it is to say this and as often as we get to hear this, there is more to it than just words. Life is in a constant state of flux where things, resources, situations, circumstances, people, emotions and perspectives all keep adjusting to the newer knowledge we get by the passing day. What then, should one do? Avoid it or Accept it. In the former case, would it be worthwhile alternative to move on with. In the latter case, when should this be accepted.

In life, there are 10% of the things that one may actually control. While this looks unacceptable to start with, you’ll accept this if you notice you cannot change the number of vehicles on roads you travel, number of people smoking around, number of spontaneous shoppers in a store and lots of other similar things. What you can control is actually a fairly small permutations of the host of all possibilities. It is important, then, to accept the changes that life proposes in things that you cannot control. It is wise because this way you get to concentrate on making improvements in the things under your control while incorporating the new changes in all your strategies.

When internet was introduced, most of the businesses were skeptical of the change that had come. Many mail order businesses thought it unwise to diversify their customer acquisition & retention strategies on the internet because they failed to accept the change. Those that accepted it, had a bigger pie for them (rather than a bigger piece of the same pie).

It takes courage, lateral thinking and the understanding that change needs to be adapted to for individuals or companies to possibly get any benefit from it.

Never say never

One very important aspect of entrepreneurship is perseverance; unwavering dedication to the cause is needed because day-in and day-out one gets to meet several different people with varying attitudes towards businesses and their risks & return.

You need to learn and remember very early in the game that despite listening to everyone else, you always need to decide and do what you find satisfying and correct. With this kind of determination, the path would be easier to cross and interesting to go through.

Does experience have a replacement?

However smart one might be and however talented one might be, irrespective of that the importance of experience can never be undermined. If you are lucky enough, you would realize this in only a couple of months after you join your practical life. People with experience have a far more firm grip on things and know better how to tackle things; but do we really need to look for a replacement for it?

The thing that differentiates human beings from other mammals is their ability to grow their knowledgebase on the shoulders of their ancestors. What it means is that ‘humans are humans because they learn not only from their own mistakes & experiences but also from the experiences of other fellow human beings.’

So, what needs to be done is to be human & learn from others’ experiences. If you are smart enough, you would be able to put others’ experiences to good use for the benefit of yourself, your organization and the entire humanity!

The bottomline is: Experience doesn’t have a replacement; but it need not necessarily be yours!

Role of Education in Entrepreneurship

Education’s importance can not be emphasized more when it comes to entrepreneuship. Indeed, an enlightened mind would be better prepared to handle the vagaries of the domain, however, it’s not that the highest qualification or the most expensive business school graduation would definitely lead you into a dominant entrepreneurial position.

In the story of Coca-Cola Bangladesh, a leading successful bottler had his two sons sent to USA for further studies. One studied at Boston University, the other at Harvard. After their graduation, they both got six-month training in Coca-cola Atlanta head office. Returning from there, it seemed like they would quadruple the family business in no time. What happened, though, was a lot of arrogance, indifference and lack of initiative took them into complacency, which eventually took the company operations into huge losses by 2005.

It’s funny how people start believing they know everything, or almost everything and disregard any one else. Precisely this is when the downfall of great people, businesses, empires and states start.

Although firmness is good, but rigidity is a weakness. Flexibility & humility are great strengths that go a long way to deliver in entrepreneurial pursuits.