Business observations from my time in Pakistan

Having been fortunate to have worked in Pakistan, I got the chance to meet fellow expats (not too many) and other Pakistani’s in business. When speaking on how things work, there were many common issues and challenges seen in the business space, in simply running an enterprise there. Some of these are listed below from personal experience, and discussion.

International brands face the career hop challenge

Having worked with an international brand this was evident on an almost daily basis. People come to work with you simply for experience on their resume to say that they have worked for an international brand. In the food space, this is a challenge faced by the KFC’s, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut’s etc as applicants will blatantly say “I want to work for a global brand” when asked why they want to work here in an interview.

There seems to be a market value to having this on a resume, and it adds career credit points to show you have worked for one, most probably due to the systems, international exposure etc that is perceived. In most cases however, applicants appear oblivious to the fact that most of these international brands, are in fact owned and operated by local Pakistani business owners, and often the culture, approach and experience may not match what they perceive!

The boss is the king and has his servants (or yes men)

Business protocol operates different in most of the businesses I got to know people from. The bosses seem to run the business with a team of people who become ‘yes men’ to all directives and instruction. This was one area I found challenged my own thinking as to whether to challenge this and encourage pushback, vs allowing the status quo to continue…I chose the pushback approach, but even still question if I was right to challenge the culture. even back in the Middle East days, this part of the world seems to work on the concept of doing what the boss says. Clearly the disadvantage of this approach is it limits the collaborative approach to decisions and is based on what one person thinks or wants, which may not be the best for the business!

You have to pay to get things done!

As mentioned in a previous post many things don’t happen without paying someone off. This occurs within the business space, the government space and in general day-to-day activities. Clearly this adds cost to businesses in having to have a separate Administration function to ‘deal with’ such situations, to manage the expected ‘payments’ and ‘fines’ that occur from time to time.

This level of corruption is a clear burden to business, but also a fact and cost of doing business within the country.

Integrity is a challenge

I believe the low wage challenge, is one that is a key driver in this issue. Integrity within the staff ranks is a big issue and there is a constant battle between eliminating and mitigating the risk whilst running the business on the day-to-day basis. Within my own role we had countless cases of staff and management caught blatantly stealing from the business in what can only be called ‘organised crime’ based activities. Often a majority of the team was involved in corrupt activities defrauding the business.

To counteract such events the critical key is not simply a case of paying more, but also one in building a culture of recognition, trust and unity within the business.

A culture can define an organisation – your people can make or break you

Following on from the integrity challenges, one key factor is to build the teams sense of worth and this can be achieved via the culture within the business.

Making people feel needed, wanted and respected goes a long way in defining the culture of mutual respect and allows people to see the career path that can be available for them. We started this with simple and basic recognition for positive behaviour and developed all managers to be on the look out for people doing the right thing and recognising, whether with simply public praise, or small monetary or token rewards. I shipped over boxes of small aussie koalas which where a part of my recognition, as well as created pins and cards, which were the entry level day to day rewards, along with the token selfies with the team…it was amazing how this culture quickly grew to a positive.

Recruitment is different to Australia – you simply couldn’t ask that!

Firstly the entry levels for basic roles is much different to Australia especially for multinational businesses. Most team members are expected to have a degree to even apply, and the actual interview and advertisement process is very different.

People are selected based on age, sex, religion and it is not uncommon to question females about their plans or intent to marry, as they may wish to have a family, which is a negative in many cases! Adverts will be posted seeking males over 30, or females under 25, as well as specifically for Christian or Muslim applicants only!

Copyright laws are hard to police

No brand is safe in Pakistan….there are copycat Pizza Huts everywhere, copycat KFC’s every basic outlet sells Zinger, which is a KFC proprietary item, McDonald’s logos are copied, all big brands are copied, and nothing is done, or if you attempt to, it drags on and on and on, until you give up.

We faced dozens of fake stores, blatantly using our logos, name, copy cat products, they had Facebook pages, made coupons offering national discounts at our stores, made bogus social media competitions using our name etc etc.

Again, the levels of under counter payments, including to the legal system was and is a major barrier to doing anything about these ‘cowboys’ and the true investors and owners who bring the brands have to manage the best they can to deal with these people to mitigate the risks and damage…great fun!!

 

Big business = big power and frankly big bullshit!

This point is one that has a personal bug bear with me and comes with the utter corrupt power that some of the large and powerful families within the country have, especially in the development and real estate space. These people are untouchable and act and behave like utter #@*&^$’s. There is nothing else that can explain the way they operate, total #&^!@^’s! and that’s being nice!

Example….a landlord who holds a simple rental agreement, yet they lock you out of your own business for over a week, make you wait hours to see them, abuse you verbally and threaten to close your business, simply because they can. They do not follow contracts or the law, and if you wish to fight them legally, you have NO CHANCE, so you can’t do anything…I would love to name these people, but won’t…My level of frustration and tongue biting when dealing with them was the highest I have ever experienced…it is true, money buys power, and power becomes untouchable, especially in this country!

End of rant…and as stated…it is total BULLSHIT…come and do business in a developed country and see how far such behaviour and laws get you!

Tony

 

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