LEAVING BEHIND A RICH CAREER AND LUXURIES OF THE JOB. HE DARED TO DREAM “A COMPANY OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE”. HIS SUCCESS STORY IS A GREAT EXAMPLE AND LEARNING FOR OUR NEW GENERATION OF STARTUPS AND ENTREPRENEURS
ZEALCON Engineering (Pvt.) Ltd:
ZEALCON Engineering began it’s modest yet a professionally rigorous start on January 1, 2010, with a vibrant group of highly qualified professionals having diversified backgrounds, joined hands under the banner of ZEALCON to offer Engineering Services from conceptualization to construction to commissioning to the valuable customers. Adhering to good engineering practices & strong business acumen ZEALCON has embraced success after success. It all started from a ‘porta cabin office’ by the roadside with three-four distinguished professionals, who never knew how success would treat them & their endeavours from the very beginning.
“The Passion for performing” has catapulted ZEALCON above other competitors. The first breakthrough for ZEALCON Engineering Ltd was a stack of 78 meters & the end client was Byco Refinery. Now, ZEALCON is handling about a dozen projects across Pakistan e.g. Nashpa Gas Field, DG Khan Cement, UCH II Gas Development Project, That Coal Project, Construction of a Multiplex Cenima in Lahore, Gherabwal Cement, Rohri Cement, Chillas Basha Dam Colony & Danish Schools. And then ZEALCON has grown its assets by adding cranes, dump trucks, excavators, DG sets, E &I test equipment/lab etc. the induction of quality HR has also been ZEALCON’S hallmark.
ZEALCON has exuberant market standing with high repute among the customers. A timely completion of all commitments with customers has become a trademark of ZEALCON. It has expanded operations to the diversified mega industrial & commercial projects of national significance. ZEALCON has a state of the art manufacturing, assembling, and maintenance facility, fully equipped with qualified Engineering and Technical staff. ZEALCON provides Services relating to mechanical fabrication, erection & commissioning of industrial plants besides civil construction including commercial buildings, housing schemes, hospitals, roads, airports, dams and infrastructure development and electrical & instrumentation services.
Luminary: Please share about your professional journey so far how you started your professional career?
Shaikh Azhar Ali: The hard work definitely paid off and hard work always does all that you need is stay optimistic and never lose faith and trust on Allah the almighty. I am thankful to Allah Alhamdullilah, as I always believed in him and never loose hope and ultimately being rewarded for my passionate hard work, but it was a hard career for me with no prominent family name in the beginning. After finishing my education from Aitchison College, I went abroad for a short while, HARVARD and Rice University. I got opportunities from many international companies but only wanted to work in Pakistan delivering back to my country. Just in a few years’ time, in 2007 I was heading nine companies serving on their board of Directors. I became the youngest managing director of a company with revenues of up to 1 billion dollars.
In 2010 started a new company ZEALCON Engineering (Pvt.) Ltd. “A company of The People, By The People, For The people”. As I believe the way forward, is building company cultures which fundamentally put everyone on the hook for developing themselves and everyone else around them. I wanted to build a company focusing on values like professional honesty and loyalty. I faced a difficult time from the big players in the beginning. But ZEALCON Engineering (Pvt.) Ltd eventually became one of the largest engineering companies in Pakistan, with more than 5,000 people on board and the highest revenue in the engineering sector.
ZEALCON Engineering (Pvt.) Ltd has a great future for the company in the industrial sector and blessed to have the best human capital, that is our asset. I have always believed, it’s not the company which carries the experience but the human capital & people who carry the experience in the engineering sector.
Luminary: What differentiates your company from others in the industry?
Shaikh Azhar Ali: We are dealing with clients like Engro, UEP, OGDCL, etc. in Pakistan. What makes us different from others is because we keep on improving our processes and systems. And we keep on adding value by bringing in experienced people, who are honest, as well loyal to their profession. Let me be clear it’s not the loyalty and honesty to the company, but to the profession because when it comes, it comes to the company.
Luminary: Please share your experience and journey of ZEALCON Engineering (Pvt) Ltd?
Shaikh Azhar Ali: ZEALCON Engineering started with a small capital. We started off with three people, and our first office was near the footpath on a roadside container, with a small contract of building a road in Lahore near the airport. We went along with and the company now has grown to a point that this year ZEALCON had revenue of over 17 million dollars.
We wanted to get into the overseas market. Last year, the merger of Bilal and ZEALCON would go along with the development of Heavy Construction industry of the Middle East, South Asia, and the world over. We did this merger, to bring breadth within our organisation by increasing areas of business. ZEALCON Engineering (Pvt) Ltd has precisely targeted the burgeoning markets of South Asia, Africa, Middle East and Central Asia. I see ZEALCON Engineering not only in Pakistan but in MENA region, and in Europe. We are successful in getting our first projects in Madagascar (African region) and exploring new projects for mining in Ghana.
Luminary: What are the areas and markets ZEALCON Engineering is focusing on and how you manage the competition in the market?
Shaikh Azhar Ali: We have our office in Dubai, and while looking at the current situation in the Middle East, we are very cautious about getting a project there without falling into competitions.
We try to get difficult projects. By difficult Projects I mean where ‘others’ do not want to quote. That’s how we reduce our competition.
Luminary: How do you get business without competing?
Shaikh Azhar Ali: We keep on improving our process & our system. We keep on doing certain things which will make us first in the industry. If you look at our history, for the past six years we have done the largest projects. ZEALCON started the largest gas processing plant in Pakistan, UCH-II Gas Development Project. We are the first company to do ENGRO LNG Terminal Project as well the THAR coal mining project. We take pride in being the first one to do all these projects. I don’t have any competitor in Pakistan. Because I don’t believe in completions I don’t believe in winning.
Luminary: What you really believe in then?
Shaikh Azhar Ali: I believe in a competition within your own self. One should focus on increasing your vision and breadth, and this will bring success to you. For me, success and winning have two different meanings. Winning, to me personally, is when I have to do something with humanity. I want to compete with my competitors in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). I want to be successful without looking at others. I want to be successful looking at my own strengths and weaknesses, as well looking at the opportunities and threats which I have. If I start looking at others, it’s not success rather its leg pulling.
So why should I look at others? I need to look at myself by making myself so high and by making my friends my success, as well as by overcoming my weakness. And that’s how I would like to succeed, and I believe this is a good success. So, there is a lot of difference between success and winning.
Luminary: What are the secrets behind this incredible success journey of ZEALCON Engineering?
Shaikh Azhar Ali: We trust our workforce and management so they perform. The ENGRO LNG terminal was the first of its kind in Pakistan, and we were the first company to do the onshore works. We have evolved such a culture in our company that trust is the primary factor and we know the capabilities of our employee. We delegate and trust them in every manner and they never disappoint us. This is one aspect of our success in the work field.
Luminary: What are the impediments of the engineering and construction industry in Pakistan?
Shaikh Azhar Ali: The engineering and construction industry is not growing with the anticipated speed that it should be institutionalised. It is not being managed by very much professional people, and the government has not made them stay within certain rules and regulations. The Pakistan Engineering Council and the Pakistan engineering congress have not played their role. Another factor is the institutionalised approach in this industry
The technology transfer from the West, China, and Japan has never come to Pakistan. They always treat us as low-cost labor providers it is like in the 13th century, where they used to be slaves, except now we are the slaves and provide cheap labor.
Luminary: You have mentioned that your employees and management are your best assets, Please share the secret behind retaining these experienced and loyal employees?
Shaikh Azhar Ali: We work in a family. They do not work in a company it’s their own family business. It’s your family interactions your personal interactions that hold the people not the money. Make them a part of your family and you will retain everybody. The people say you need to have a difference between CEO and the management and the employees. Yes, I agree it’s true but you need to be so close to them that Mr. Bani once said that shaking hands with your employees at least once in a year brings that human touch required to push.
Luminary: How do you balance the long term versus the short term when thinking about innovation?
Shaikh Azhar Ali: When concluding your short term tactical goals with the long-term business goals you achieve synergy if inputs like work achievements and MBO are employed rightly in your company. We strive to bring in that feeling to the normal routine of management in ZEALCON feelings of ownership in the company context. Short term goals are required to run your day to day business. A business can’t survive a day if it does not have short-term goals because it’s a commercial world. Long term goals are there for a long-term business. One should carry the long term vision in place; because there is a family we must care for, and secure their future in coming years.
We do vision program every three years, to draw where we are today, and where we will be after three years, and what we are the milestones for becoming a world class company.
Luminary: What do you do to live a balanced life?
Shaikh Azhar Ali: I spend my evenings with my family. I have two sons and one daughter. My wife is an Ophthalmologist but she left her profession and joined ZEALCON Engineering. While discussing the company and different areas of business at home she felt that she had to do a lot with human capital. So she joined and heading the Human Capital department of the company. She is the biggest lawyer for all the employees and believes in the quality of living standards for people. We both believe that all our employees deserve to drive their own cars, their children deserve to receive the same education that our children receive, and they deserve to enjoy the same health benefits which we enjoy so that’s the area where we came along to protect the human capital from any politics.
There was a time when I was too busy for my family. I missed my children’s childhoods, and years when they needed me, but now we have an excellent team here in ZEALCON and I take off every four months to try to manage the balance.
Luminary: How do you manage your anger and stress?
Shaikh Azhar Ali: I am quite good at managing stress and anger. The control has come after decades of practicing yoga and anger management techniques but the rule of thumb is to keep away from the stressful atmosphere when making decisions or either postpones them for the time being. One should not take decisions in anger or haste it’s better to stay calm, give other people a room to think about it and give room to yourself to come out of it. If you look at things while you are angry, you will make the wrong decision. Trying empathy in decision making is very important to come up with rational. I do exercise and yoga to achieve inner peace for myself and suggest the same to my colleagues.
Luminary: What advice would you give to people going into a position of leadership for the first time to the younger generation of CEOs, managers, startups, entrepreneurs and business leaders?
Shaikh Azhar Ali: Just pick up one field and stick to it. Believe in Allah and be honest, straight forward and focused. You cannot become an entrepreneur without going through failures. All entrepreneurs have failures; some of them learn some of them don’t. The one who don’t learn failed miserably. Pakistan is very fertile in genius minds and brilliant people. For example, people like Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Mr. Abdul Qadeer khan, Mr. Imran Khan and businessmen like Mr. Mian Mohammad Mansha.
Luminary: What are you doing to make sure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
Shaikh Azhar Ali: I will be going for a course in HARVARD in 2017. I feel the need for continuously enhancing my skills because, from last five years especially, I have been staying with my own ideas. I have been staying with my thinking ways and understandings. But now that we have management in place, I would be taking off for the next year, to improve upon on my thought process, philosophy, and ideas.
Luminary: What are a few resources you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader?
Shaikh Azhar Ali: I keep on reading the biographies of different people. I have a huge library at home where I have more than 200 biographies. So, I keep on reading those success stories and keep on learning from what they have done. The market leaders who have succeeded and also who failed. Although, people don’t like to write much about their failures and reasons behind failures, so mostly we get to read the success stories only. But, one should learn from failures, and try to understand the reason behind it. I learn from the failures, not from success.
Luminary: What are your personal future plans?
Shaikh Azhar Ali: Planning to retire in the next five years, and will contribute towards the society. I have already contributed towards my family and company, but now I want to give my hundred percent to society, which has given me a lot.
Luminary: What are your company’s ambitions for the future?
Shaikh Azhar Ali: With a total managerial staff of around 261 and impressive construction equipment ZEALCON is geared to take its National and International share of business. I think that in the coming years ZEALCON Engineering would be fragmented into six different companies Insha’Allah. We will be developing and owning certain technologies. We are working on the process industry and we are trying to bring in technologies which will be exclusively held by us.
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