Alkaram: Transforming an owner-driven business into a professional organisation

“For the company’s culture to change, I had to transform myself first,” says Fawad Anwar, Managing Director of AlKaram Textile Mills (Pvt) Ltd., while talking about the most significant difference in the Alkaram of today compared to previous decades.

Under his 9-years of leadership as MD, the company has evolved from being a one-man, owner-driven business, to becoming a professional, vertically integrated organisation. Anwar believes that he had to be the first to buy into such transformation, changing himself so that the company’s culture could follow.

Watch his interview with VCast Online to learn about the company’s history, Anwar’s leadership, the company values, and Pakistan’s textile exports.

Born and raised in Karachi, with an MBA from Drexel University in the US, Anwar always knew exactly what his focus was going to be – taking charge of the successful textile business his family established in the early 1950s.

Founded in 1986 after the family’s acquisition of Adamjee Industries, ‘Alkaram’, as it is known today, is a portmanteau of his grandfather’s name, Karim, and his grandmother’s name, Amna.

Today, Alkaram employs over 8000 people, with international offices in New York and Portugal, and a client base including the likes of Walmart, IKEA, Target, and Pottery Barn.

While a lot has changed in the modernisation of the company, the role and respect of the elders in the business has remained consistent over the years. Each family member in the business fits into clearly defined roles, and everyone has to do as instructed by their elders.

One of the rules of the family is for each member to start from scratch – mastering the entire production process and understanding the supply chain from yarn to the final product. Anwar credits his interest and grit, which he defines as a combination of passion and hard work, to his time spent in the factory during his school days.

The company is focused on becoming the largest exporter in the bedding exports sector – believing exports are going to be the backbone for the survival and growth of the industry.

While acknowledging that external factors like the exchange rate affect Pakistan’s competitiveness in textile exports, Anwar finds a silver lining in how, over a decade of uncertain economic conditions, the industry was forced to adapt and become more efficient in value-added exports.

Recognising exports as the backbone of the economy, Anwar believes how the country is perceived impacts business. “As businesspeople, we don’t have to sell our product, we need to sell our country,” says Anwar, highlighting the importance of a positive country image in enhancing Pakistan’s export potential.

Anwar understands the importance of sustainability – water recycling, employee welfare, and carbon footprint, from both the environment perspective, and as a necessity in doing business with large international retailers.

His approach to business risk involves extensive planning before expanding or investing in new products, and he admits to having a conservative outlook when it comes to considering investments in startups – ‘it’s always interesting to learn what it is, but that’s about it.’

Going forward, Anwar hopes to change the perception around Alkaram as being a brand for an older generation.

He also hopes that the negative mindset around business people will change in Pakistan.

“If a businessman is big, there has to be some wrong story behind that. That mindset has to change.”

His advice on leadership: Keep listening and learning. Don’t think you know it all.

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This video was published in association with AlKaram Studio

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