LEADING THE MARKET AS PIONEER
MILLAT EQUIPMENT LIMITED
IS AMONG THE MOST TECHNOLOGICALLY ADVANCED TRANSMISSION GEARS & SHAFTS MANUFACTURING COMPANY IN PAKISTAN.
Luminary: How did you start your journey?
Mr. Ahsan Imran Sheikh: After completing FSC from Govt. College I got admission in UET Lahore in Mechanical Engineering. Later on joined Fauji Fertilizer as a Training Engineer, and just after spending six month with Fauji Fertilizer got another oer from Millat Tractor Limited and I accepted the oer as Assistant Manager Quality Control at the age of 25 due to my love for the city of Lahore. During the job completed my Masters in Administrative Sciences from Punjab University. I spent good five to seven years of my early career in the various department of Millat such as production, quality assurance and industrial production division. Then I got a public scholarship for Masters in Business Administration from University of Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA. I completed my degree with majors in Finance and minor in marketing. In 1998 I came back to Pakistan and join the same organization as Deputy General Manager Marketing for Industrial Products Division. Then for next ten plus years I served in, Millat Tractors in various roles like Deputy GM, GM Production, and Director Technical. Afterwards, a new challenge was given to me to identify core competency of our organization and come up with a new product. After some thought and brainstorming identication of core competency was completed undoubtedly as “engine manufacturing”. At that time we were the only company manufacturing engines under a license. Then there was not stopping and we developed and introduced Generator Sets with engines for fifty (50) and seventy (70) horse powers. Later on added diesel generators, fork lifter’s and other pumping solutions. It was a great assignment to build new business unit within the organization.
Luminary: How do you tap cost oriented market of Pakistan in terms of quality?
Mr. Ahsan Imran Sheikh: One thing is Certain we produce quality products the generators which we fabricate are the best by all means. Our major target market was industrial establishments and settlement having energy issues and looking for customized solutions. I remember the very first client we nail was Pakistan telecommunication authority (PTCL). We developed and supplied generators as per their requirement and specication to provide back cup for their exchanges. At that time, U-Fone was in launching phase. I feel cost is not such big issue to handle if you are providing customizes solutions with quality. We had good start initially and take o was great. Later on, we join hands for technical collaboration with Heli Fork Lifter which is a China based company.
Luminary: How do you balance the long term versus short term when thinking about innovation?
Mr. Ahsan Imran Sheikh: To be very frank with you innovation is very critical and without it you are gone. You will be forgotten soon and will not be able to survive in market. I feel innovation has two facets; Short term and long term. In short term, we deal with all tactical level such as production, process efficiency, and operational procedures. While in long term, we have develop hydraulic pump, engines and tractors. During my time with Millat Tractors, we even develop Euro Compliance mechanism and engaged eminent professors from National University of Science & Technology (NUST). We manage to meet every deadline. I remember we produced 42000 tractors and also achieved other quality milestones. At present we enjoy almost 65% market share. On the other hand, we are now taking advisory from NUST professors in equipment section as well. I feel Industry and academia linkage is very important. Knowledge and research are useless without application and practical implementation Industry-academia linkage are very important. Sorry to say the attachment of industry and academia is not functioning as required. We have many brilliant people and a mammoth talent but regrettably that is not used practically. But we should provoke beyond ourselves. We need to project the spirit to carry out a lot.
Luminary: How do you ensure your organization and its activities are aligned with your “core values”?
Mr. Ahsan Imran Sheikh: Core values of any organization are basically operating systems and we consider them very essential here at Millat Equipment. Core values play a similar role in the organization as CPU plays in a computer. The parameters that govern the whole organization its direction and its values are very critical and we never compromise on them at all. I do not conict with my core values and only encourage those values in the whole organization which I practice myself so that others can follow the trend.
Luminary: How do you dierentiate your company from competitors in industry?
Mr. Ahsan Imran Sheikh: Differentiation is different with respect to different criteria. Technology wise we are the only company in Pakistan at this level and capacity with production of such precise range of parts and consumables. There are two or three other companies but they are public sector organizations. Initially we were getting parts from them but due to some quality and delivery issues we start producing ourselves. Our USP is simple, for instance you walk in with a sample or reference item in hand, smaller or larger doesn’t matter and we can manufacture it for you. We can work with multiple ranges and kinds of precise parts and no other company can beat us. When it comes to professionalism we are the best in the industry. We always comply with all guidance given by SECP. You can walk around in the organization and feel the difference yourself.
Luminary: What are your company long-term environmental goals?
Mr. Ahsan Imran Sheikh: Yes we are always concerned about the environmental goals. We have a separate department for energy management and we have also installed control fuel units all around in assembly plant to control fuel extraction. Most important is health of workers as well their working environment and conditions. We are very much aware of our obligations and following all regulations applicable to engines and automotive manufacturing concern.
Luminary: What other CEOs do you admire? Can you name a person who had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?
Mr. Ahsan Imran Sheikh: Well, to idealize someone is essential in our life. Yes, I really admired two persons throughout my life and one of them is Jack Welch Jack. I never worked with him but watched his inspirational thought videos, lectures and clips over the internet and I like so much and consider him as my mentor. He is very compassionate and never compromise on integrity. He rightly said, if integrity is there but skill is lacking hire the person and he will improve but if there is any doubt on integrity than don’t bother.
Second is my chairman whom I report Mr. Sikandar Mustafa Khan. He is such a great person with amazing management skills and unique philosophy. I admire him to the higher degree.
Luminary: How you manage stress and maintain work-life balance?
Mr. Ahsan Imran Sheikh: Stress is a situation that you have to be cool you have to be calm and quiet you have to be witty and you have to be breezy and tranquil as well. In my case, I crack few jokes and stay quiet for some time. I can’t stay for a long time with stress and trauma and I have some inbuilt mechanism which helps me get out from that phase and gives me flexibility to cover my stress. To be frank, I am a sensitive person. Basically, I love nature and manage somehow to visit North Pakistan twice a year. I really like north side of Pakistan and visited almost all parts of it few I would like to mention here as Ata Abad lake, Hunza, Naran, Kaghan, Deer, Chitral, Waha Trail, Shandoor Top, Landscape Chanarbar, Bhunda, Astoor and Kalash Valley and I am also a life time member of adventure foundation of Pakistan. We are the only people in Pakistan who have traveled through river from Lahore to Karachi in 1985. These types of activities make me alive.
Once a year I also plan visits aboard to spend more time with family so far one of my favorite international destination is Hawaii a worth enjoying place Langkawi in Malaysia is also good. I feel affection for nature. That’s why I would love to go there again and again. I heard lot about Rio but didn’t like it much.
On top of everything and like every second business leader I am golfer too. Is not just a game and I am playing from last eighteen years. One can get great company, peace of mind and spare time to chat with friends. I am also fond of reading magazines and economic pages like Dawn business and economics section and business recorder.
Luminary: What is one unique or quirky habit that you have?
Mr. Ahsan Imran Sheikh: I am compassionate at time. On the expression, I am very authoritarian but at the inner side, I have malleability in myself.
Luminary: What is the one behavior or trait that you have seen derails more leaders’ careers?
Mr. Ahsan Imran Sheikh: I think you cannot compromise and conciliate on merit. Leadership is building teams that how smart you are to build teams how courageous you are to give and deliver. Leadership is the quality which builds in you within time. It depends on Leader how one builds and encourages people. Being positive in a negative situation is not naïve. It is leadership. Leadership is an action, not a position.
Luminary: What was your biggest missed opportunity?
Mr. Ahsan Imran Sheikh: I have no regret although I refused many good offers just to stay in Pakistan. Later on, the situation proved me right and I am quite satisfied with my current state and position. I have a lot of plans for further travelling. All I want to do now is travel, travel, and travel.
Luminary: Would you like to share your achievements?
Mr. Ahsan Imran Sheikh: Once your reach on a good position you have to pay back to the society. Education is the most powerful tool which you can use to change the world. We as the group of seven friends started collective eort with the name of Progressive Education Network (PEN) and running schools in more than ten major cities which is accommodating around 25,000 students. A complete chain of this system is there and it was not built overnight. We are not running this organization with own names. It is very professionally run and managed by us and we perform the role of rotating CEOs. We control it as one board and have some industrialist and some known leaders as well on the board. I feel this is the only way Pakistan can survive and prosper. You may consider it an achievement or not but I think it’s a humble service from my part to the country. I think we all have to go one day and this is what left behind the good work and footprints.
Luminary: What was the most critical decision you have made so far? How they contributed to the company
Mr. Ahsan Imran Sheikh: We work on a strategy to make additional ten percent (10%) prot. To execute this strategy we struggle a lot to boost sales. We didn’t achieve that in the first place we struggled for it. Then we look it the other way and work on cost side. We make 10 percent prot easily by improving operations and through optimization of resources.
We save in our purchases and achieve next level of efficiency. I believe this become the reason of second extension in my tenure. The chairman and board are happy with such performance.
Luminary: What’s your leadership style and how you manage your subordinates?
Mr. Ahsan Imran Sheikh: I believe in my people and trust them. I strongly believe in Development of human capital. When you give freedom and trust to people, they deliver better. I always give them fresh air and at the same time stay vigilant. All information stays with me all the time. That is why my team never disappointed me so far. I don’t like to control them because leadership is all about building teams.
How smart are you to build teams. How courageous are you to give authorities. Leadership is about giving and sharing, it is a complex thing to learn and comes with time and no one can learn it overnight.
Luminary: What steps have you taken for training and development of your sta?
Mr. Ahsan Imran Sheikh: We do send people on individual training and as well we organize in-house training sessions for them by inviting different speakers and trainers. We have good facility here for training. Recently four of my team members came back from Germany after completing their training. Without further training how can one improve skills and come up with new ideas and products? We allocate yearly budget for training and development activities regularly.
Luminary: Your advice to people becoming leaders for the first time?
Mr. Ahsan Imran Sheikh: The lesson which I have learnt from my life leads to forgiveness and forget these are the best practices to lead a good life. If you don’t forgive you cannot forget then there will be much agitation in your mind. The same principle we should follow because if someone makes mistakes we should realize him but on the other hand we should forgive him and lead him to avoid and repeat the mistakes. To err is human and mistakes lead us to a great goal. Give the space to the people to grow because through their mistakes they can proceed further. “If you don’t forgive you’re not a leader”.
Luminary: Would you like to give any message and share few resources for upcoming young professionals and
Mr. Ahsan Imran Sheikh: Young ones have to work very hard as business environment is much more competitive than of before. There is no alternative to hard work and noting can be achieved without it. Intelligence is good but hard work and consistency is the key. I would say spend your time in reading and comprehending business journal, articles such as Harvard Business Review. Attend marketing and management association seminars and lectures because listening to marketers will boost your brain to think more we also send our technical staff members on such seminars and on contrary management staff to attend technical briefings. As this way they will be enriched with the knowledge required to succeed.