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Qamar Raza, making fortune from retail
Syed Qamar Raza President UK Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry needs no introduction who earned his place through struggle and hard work. He came here from Haripur and is well known in Pakistani business community and owns 12 outlets of Retail 24. He is also investing in property business. He is concerned over situation in Pakistan and wanted to do something. The Asian’ team interviewed him on different issues.
The Asians: Please tell us about yourself?
Syed Qamar Raza: I belong to Haripur in Pakistan. My father died in 2002 while my mother lives with me in London. I have two sons and a daughter. My elder son is in year 9, daughter in year 6 and the youngest son is in year 2. My better half is a housewife. I had relatives in Britain on whose invitation I came here in 1996 and decided to settle down here. I used to work for a bank in Pakistan and was a member of stock exchange. I also remained associated with currency business.
The Asians: What problems did you face in settling down here?
Qamar Raza: In view of my profession in Pakistan it was very difficult to find the same work here as working here is quite different from Pakistan. After remaining jobless for 4 to 5 months I got a job in a retail shop from where I learnt a lot and became partner of the shop owner which could not augur well and I purchased an outlet. I would advise that one should have prior known how about the business one wants to venture. Unlike Pakistan there is no short cut to anything and you have to adopt all procedures before moving forward.
The Asians: Did you experience any corruption or red tape-ism at any level here?
Qamar Raza: No. I did not face any such problem and in my opinion if someone works hard they can progress in this society.
The Asians: How did the economic crisis affected your business?
Qamar Raza: Retail shopping increases in such situation as people have to purchase food items. People prefer to dine at home instead of hanging out.
The Asian: What is the secret of your success?
Qamar Raza: Honesty is the basic reason for my success.
The Asians: What shortcomings you found in our community?
Qamar Raza: We have come here in search of jobs but I would suggest that children should also be given attention and time. Our women are also not that educated to train their children keeping in mind the socio-cultural difference of the societies. That is why when our children go to schools they found different culture. The community settled here is a big asset for us and if we get ideologically united we could become useful for Pakistan. We are making such effort from UKPCCI platform and also contribute to this society through our hardwork. Our community is doing a lot for this society.
The Asians: Pakistani name did not appear in top ten Asian businessman. What is the reason?
Qamar Raza: No doubt our community lacks unity because we are involved in trivial matters. If someone wanted to take the community forward the community and the government should support him.
The Asians: How do you visualize the present role of Pakistani government in the international and national scenario? Are you satisfied with its role?
Qamar Raza: First of all in my opinion this is not a real government. I still have to meet a person who would have taken stand for the government or the president. Leader is that whom people love. But there is none to support this government. You tell me who recognizes Rehman Malik as his minister. I never met a Pakistani who could say Rehman Malik is his minister. Our nation is very brave and full of talents. If some real representative government comes to power country’s image would improve. Ever since we have become nuclear power certain forces are against us and they have decided that they would not allow us to be of any use. Everyone knows how the governments were dismissed and who did it. The government extended the services of Army chief but it gave no explanation to the nation for the action. Do you think there is no other officer competent enough to lead the army? Nawaz Sharif during his tenure made an undeserving man Army chief by ignoring the merit. Unfortunately our politicians when came to power did not think of the country but of their own personal interests. If some sincere government comes to power instead of these politicians everyone would feel the difference. Our country faces electricity crisis but here is no politician who could say that he would not sit in air-condition. See the lifestyle of the politicians they keep tigers as pets and say they are the servants of the people. See Fazal-ur-Rehman and Altaf Hussain what is their role. Look at ANP what they got by killing innocent people in Abbottabad in the name of Khyber Pakhtoonkhuwa. Did you notice any real change after change of name? The politicians are not serving the country but filling their own pockets.
The Asians: Do you intend to take part in the politics?
Qamar Raza: If Allah and the community entrusted me with any responsibility I would love to take the responsibility.
The Asians: It seems that the government is not taking advantage of the real potential of Pakistani community. What do you say about this?
Qamar Raza: I fully agree with you. You can see what we get from the US after so much flattery and begging. What treatment Pakistanis are being given at the airports of any country is quite obvious.
The Asians: Do you think that overseas community should be given right to vote?
Qamar Raza: This is a complex question and I do not want that Pakistani and Kashmiri communities fall victim to caste and other differences.
The Asians: UKPCCI has become very active under your leadership. What else are you are doing to bring about further improvement?
Qamar Raza: It is my endeavour to ensure that in future right administration comes. We should provide networking to the people which is the actual work of the chamber. I want that maximum number of people become members and if some consortium comes into existence it should benefit all. Bestway group is an example that has made tremendous investment in Pakistan. There are other people too whom the chamber wants to encourage.
The Asians: People have reservations about investment in Pakistan?
Qamar Raza: Yes. But Bestway is an example before us that is working there despite difficult conditions. You cannot imagine the margin of profit in Pakistan. I will once again reiterate that the real problem is of leadership. President and Prime Minister do not take nation into confidence on any issue. It is unfortunate for Pakistan that the media overplays trivial things. There was a great hue and cry over Mumbai attacks while in Pakistan terrorists destroyed two valuable aircrafts but international community kept silent. I don’t suggest army to take over but there is no political leadership either that could save the country from the present crisis.
The Asians: The overseas community faces litigations and ‘Qabaza Mafia’ issues?
Qamar Raza: We have asked the government at all levels to set up special courts for us. They may charge more fee but the trials should be speedy. We have also asked the government to set up special police for overseas community that could look into the complaints on merit.
The Asians: Please tells us about your charity work?
Qamar Raza: I always try to do whatever I can to help people in need. We bear expenses of 400 people in Pakistan and help the poor on the occasion of marriage.
The Asians: How did you start Retail24?
Qamar Raza: I purchase a shop from Shabbir Rechal. Its name was Retail 24 which we continued. Presently, we have 12 outlets but frankly speaking we could not expand our retail business as we had visualized because we simultaneously invested in real estate and electronics businesses. Moreover, opening of Tesco and Sainsbury's in every lane has also affected the retail business.
The Asians: Would you like to give some tip to the community?
Qamar Raza: I would press for unity in the wake of difficult situation Pakistan is facing currently while I would urge the overseas Pakistanis to get membership of the representative bodies and play active role for the overall betterment of the community.