By S N Syed
KARACHI: “You will not work for another. You are son of a businessman and will do business.” These were words of Shaikh Muhammad Din that changed life of Shaikh Muhammad Muneer (SM Muneer) from a worker in the national airline to a leading business figure in the country. With respect and love he is being called ‘Bhaijan’ in the whole business community.
His business career started in 1966 when his father SM Din forbid him from working in PIA at a very suitable job two years after he completed his graduation in 1964. His father and uncle were well known for their raw skin exports, which he claims were biggest of that time and he worked with them after illness of his uncle. “We were the number one,” he said.
Government announced one scheme on semi finished leather, which increased prices of the raw material but they had a lot of orders pending for raw skins. “With the government scheme, prices of raw skin also increased and what my father purchased at $2 was selling at $1 and I asked him ‘Aba jan, what are you doing?’ then he said, ‘Once a promise is made in the dream is also a promise’,” he said. “We became poor, we sold three vehicles. I used rickshaws for the travel. I sold all other property. Around four plots.”
Bhaijan restarted his business from scratch. “I got one factory on rent, and then got five factories on rent. Worked till midnights and in some cases till mornings and used to injure my hands with chemicals,” he went on saying. “I made first international visit for my business 1966 and stayed in half star hotel and travelled in a train there to save the fare. I started from zero. When we became bankrupt, we paid all bank loans. We did not default a single penny of any bank. I have not to give anything of any bank. However, some people have not returned our money but we are not going to courts.”
When business of the Shaikh family failed and SM Muneer told his father for the PIA job, which was giving him very good payment at that time, his father strictly forbid him from doing job. “Tell your mother to boil chickpeas and sell outside of the house. You are son of a businessman and do business,” his father had said. His father also stopped him from doing Masters Degree, saying he would teach Muneer whole Masters’ syllabus in three months. “Thus, I did masters from my father in three months,” he said.
During business travels across the world, I used to stay out of the country for up to one and half months but stayed in half star hotels and always returned with orders of millions of rupees.
I received a letter during those days, “Mr Din (his father), quality of your product is so good and you deserve a premium, so we are sending you a cheque of $10,000,” he said. “Now, if you sale even gold to someone they will not give any premium.”
I am biggest leather of the country and export around Rs3.25 billion leather every year.
Bhaijan was born on 17 April on 1945. His birthday was being celebrated every month on 17th for last 12 years. “All Pakistan used to come to celebrate it. It was love of people,” he said. “One friend had just invited. Then it became a routine of every month. (former) PM Shaukat Aziz came in my birthday party. They started from 7-8 people to 250-300 people in every birthday. He (Shaukat Aziz) was my personal friend. I have relations with opposition as well. Nawaz Sharif is my hero. I love him but I do not belong to any party. I belong to business party. I cancelled the birthday parties few years ago. Then Governor Sindh and Governor Punjab were part of the party. Karachi Nazim Mustafa Kamal was there. During my address I stopped the birthdays after looking at news in a daily paper that people were dying of poverty but birthdays of SM Muneer were being celebrated. Karachi Nazim Mustafa Kamal came to stage and said they would celebrate my birthday and asked the participants that whoever wants to celebrate Bhaijan’s birthday raise hands. Almost 99 percent people raised their hands including Sindh Governor.”
During my interview, he was forwarding birthday wishes to several people on that day through his secretary. It reminded me of his birthday. He maintains the diary regularly.
At that time, SM Muneer received a person carrying a check of Rs1.0 million for a hospital. Bhaijan is raising Rs40 million on behalf of Karachi’s businessmen community for a hospital for patients of narcotics.
“If I have meeting with anyone, I write in the diary. It is systemized. If I cancel it for any important reason, I get called that person one day before,” Bhaijan is fully systemized.
Muneer is a philanthropist and looks after welfare of the poor people. He is chairman of Chiniot General Hospital Korangi, where poor people get partial or totally free treatment. “In Chiniot (Punjab), we have our college, where half of the girls get free education. Chiniot is a poor area. Chiniot’s people are rich but the area is so poor. No one takes its care.”
Secret of success of SM Muneer lies in organized and systemized work. I reach 7:30 to 8:00 am in the office since last 35 years. He works around 11 hours daily but still remains active and attends social gatherings. He wakes up at 6 to 6:30 in the morning and reaches home back at around 11 pm to 12 pm. “If your system is systematic, everything is automatic.”
He takes no time for health. “My all doctors are annoyed with me,” he said.
He reads all his emails and responds them personally. “Around 150 emails arrive before my arrival in the office. I read and respond to all emails,” he said. I am very much aware of my businesses and what is being done there. I have five textile mills, he says.
“Whether you are a businessman or not you should maintain a diary. If any one comes in my office, I put a pen and a diary in his pocket. If I don’t systemize my work I will just forget. There are thousands of things in my mind. I am a busy person,” he said.
SM Muneer was called Field Martial of businessmen community by a former commerce minister in a gathering, sometimes back.
SM Muneer has also served as Chief Executive of Trade Development Authority of Pakistan. He is also vice chairman in the MCB. Leather is his major business and has five textile mills. He closed one mill because of unavailability of utilities. He is also having shares in Adamjee Insurance.
He gives several millions in zakat. Earlier, their house situation was not improving and his nephew was born mentally abnormal. But, now they give zakat, such issues have been normalized.
Bhaijan advised the new comers in the business that fulfill your commitment and don’t do second hand or cheap work. However, he said that leather business was not much profiting here. “There is big future of textile value addition. Leather garment has much demand. Raw material has no demand though I develop fully leather. But future of leather is not promising.”