Jahangir Siddiqui Group is one of the biggest financial services providers of Pakistan. This group is also the 2nd largest shareholder of the insurance company EFU. Jahangir Siddiqui was Pakistani Rags to Riches Business Tycoon, who founded JS group about 4 decades ago. The group comprises businesses with over 18,000 employees and profit after tax of $510 million in 2007
When most fourteen-year old boys were flying kites or playing cricket in their spare time, young Jahangir Siddiqui was busy running his business as a distributor of Coca-Cola in Hyderabad. Impressed? Well…there’s more. He also set up a swanky café in his father’s garage called Dreamland Cold Coffee Shop. Happily for him, it was adjacent to Firdaus cinema (owned by his uncle) and young Jahangir used to reap the benefits of customers pouring in during the intervals of three matinee shows.
“In the first year I made Rs.40, 000 and in the second year, I made around Rs.70, 000 which in those days was a lot of money,” laughs Jahangir Siddiqui. For a fourteen-year old, it still is a lot of money! Most young professionals have a starting salary of less than half of that!
Fourteen year old young boy, who is son of Govt. Servant, invested only Rs. 6000 in his Café Business at his father’s garage and distribution of Coca Cola in the 60s.
Many years on from Dreamland Cold Coffee Shop, Jahangir Siddiqui, the veteran stockbroker and pioneer in the development of Pakistan’s stock market is sitting at his desk in his modestly sized, sleek office in Karachi. He is impeccably well dressed in a suit and I am momentarily reminded of the elegantly attired JR Ewing from the 80’s hit series Dallas — minus the cowboy hat of course! But don’t get me wrong: JS is no JR. Far from it in fact. He was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth; he didn’t inherit a business empire from his father; he didn’t come from an incredibly wealthy family. No. Mr. Jahangir Siddiqui is a self made man. Despite the immaculate and formal suit, Jahangir Siddiqui is refreshingly casual and has a wonderful way of putting people at ease. He is jovial, chatty and remarkably frank.
Built over four decades, JS Group is one of Pakistan’s most diversified and progressive financial services groups.
Born in Hyderabad, Sindh on 28 July 1948, Jahangir Siddiqui was the ninth of ten children — a big family even by the standards of the day. His father was a government servant and his mother a housewife. “I grew up in Hyderabad which in those days was a very clean city. In fact, in pre-Partition days, it used to be called the ‘Paris of the subcontinent’!” He laughs at my look of disbelief. “Really, it is true! I remember going for walks with my sisters on Thandi Sarak and the road was lined with trees. There is not a single tree there now though.”
A “reasonably religious culture” permeated the Siddiqui family. Jahangir Siddiqui’s father built a mosque which today stands opposite Sindh University’s city campus in Hyderabad. “We used to take care of the mosque and I remember once when there was no imam, my brother led the prayers. I used to collect donations,” reminisces Jahangir Siddiqui.
Every day after school, the young Jahangir would go the mosque for the afternoon or Asr prayer. He would not go home until he had also offered the sunset or Maghrib prayer. During the two-hour wait between Asr and Maghrib, Jahangir Siddiqui would pass the time with a friend of his who prayed at the same mosque. This friend owned a shop. “I used to sit in that shop and I’d see how many bottles of Coke they were selling on a daily basis and how much money they were making. I calculated all this and I thought to myself that I can start doing this business as well. All I needed to do was to make an initial investment of around Rs.6, 000.”
Showing an initiative and enterprise uncharacteristic of a fourteen year old, Jahangir Siddiqui decided to discuss the matter with his father. One can only imagine the father’s amusement when his fourteen-year old son told him that he wanted to start business immediately as a distributor of Coca Cola! “My father was a very straight guy,” laughs Jahangir Siddiqui, “but he never discouraged me. All he said was that ‘you don’t have the money.’ And that was the only thing he said.” The determined young boy took his father’s response to mean that his father did not disagree in principle with his son starting a business and the only problem was that his son didn’t have the money. Young Jahangir made up his mind to remedy that situation forthwith — by selling his father’s car.
“My father being a government servant went away on a four-day tour and I immediately called a kabari (second hand dealer) and told him that he could buy my father’s car,” says Jahangir Siddiqui. “What?” I exclaimed in disbelief.
“It was a standard vanguard car — a 1952 model,” he explains apparently oblivious to my concerns of the ethical question of selling your father’s car behind his back. “So what if it was?” I asked still reeling from shock. “I got Rs.1, 800 for it,” says Jahangir Siddiqui well humouredly.
“What! That’s nothing!” I didn’t know what worried me more: the fact that he sold the car or that he sold it and, to my mind, got practically nothing for it. “In those days you could buy a brand new Volkswagen for between Rs.5, 000 – 7, 000,” he smiles.
One had to admire his bravery – and nerve! I don’t think I would ever have the guts to sell my father’s car without him knowing! But then, I’m no Jahangir Siddiqui. Jahangir Siddiqui sold a lot of the coal and wheat stored in his father’s garage. “In those days there was no gas in Hyderabad so we used to use coal for fire and therefore there was a demand for coal. I sold all of it but I kept two sacks of wheat and coal for the house.” N He then cleared out the garage to make space for the café he would set up. “I needed a café or an outlet to sell cold drinks so I set it up in my father’s garage,” says Jahangir Siddiqui.
When his father returned home after his four-day tour, he was alarmed to see or rather, not see, his car. It was time for young Jahangir to explain himself: “I told him that I sold his car to raise money because I wanted to start my business and he had told me that I could do so only if I had the money. Well…now I had.”
Surprisingly, Jahangir Siddiqui’s father was not at all angry. “He laughed and gave me some more money because he knew that I was determined to start a business.” Jahangir Siddiqui’s father must have been a truly remarkable (and benevolent) individual! And two years later, Jahangir Siddiqui bought his father a brand new car —a Fiat 600.
Jahangir Siddiqui still remembers the day on which he started his business: “It was 15 May 1962,” he says. I would soon discover that Jahangir Siddiqui has a penchant for remembering dates.
Because he was doing so well in his business (he also was a distributor of ice cream and had a refrigerator shop) young Jahangir naturally lost interest in his studies: “Unfortunately, I was not able to clear two subjects in my Inter-Commerce examinations – I had lost interest in education.” His father was concerned. “My father was strict about education and he told me firmly but politely that he was not interested in my money making and that I had to study and become a professional.”
He may have been a willful child but he was certainly not disobedient: “I sold my business and gave my cold coffee shop on lease. As it is, the Coke distribution was automatically cancelled in 1964 because Coke set up its own factory in Hyderabad. I then started studying regularly just to please my father,” says Jahangir Siddiqui. The hard work paid off. He managed to complete his Inter-Commerce examinations and went on to do a B.Com in 1966 and secured a first division.
But during this time, he did not suppress his entrepreneurial instinct. He invested the money he had made from his business in two other businesses: “I invested some with a family friend to finance the purchase of a fishing trawler and the rest in the transport business of my elder brother. So that is how I became a private equity investor!”
In 1967, Jahangir Siddiqui started his training as a chartered accountant. He became an articled clerk to a firm in Karachi called Gangat & Co which was situated in the Securities & Safe Deposit Chamber on I.I Chundrigar Road in what is now the Al Falah Bank building. He used to go to work every day on a motorbike. But near his office was the Karachi Stock Exchange and one day, Jahangir Siddiqui decided to walk in.
During his student days in Hyderabad, Jahangir Siddiqui had bought a few shares in Adamjee Sugar Mills and Mirpurkhas Sugar Mills which he decided he now wanted to sell. The only trouble was that he didn’t know how to do it. Luckily, his friend’s brother was a member of the Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) and he handed Jahangir Siddiqui two transfer deeds which he told him he was giving him free of charge. “I thought he had done me a great favour only to discover later that transfer deeds are always given free!” laughs Jahangir Siddiqui who didn’t even know how to fill out a transfer deed! However, with a bit of help from his friend, Jahangir Siddiqui managed to sell and transfer his shares.
Something about the stock exchange excited Jahangir Siddiqui. Perhaps it was the thrill? Perhaps the buzz? Perhaps the potential to make a quick buck? Whatever it was, the young articled clerk was enamored and found himself going to KSE everyday on his lunch break. He would wander around absorbing how things worked. He got to know some of the brokers who advised him on what shares to buy. Unfortunately, he did not have much money back then. But he did have some money coming in from his investments in the trawler business of his friend and the transport business of his brother. With that money he bought shares in Habib Bank for Rs.16 per share. He later sold these at a profit: some at Rs.22, others at Rs.23 and some at Rs.27 per share. He also bought shares at Rs. 28 each in Habib Insurance and sold them for Rs.45 and Rs.50 and received cash dividends of 80%. This was big money for an articled clerk and the thrill was intoxicating. In his first year at playing the stock market, Jahangir Siddiqui, made around Rs.200, 000. In those days, the salary of a director of a big multinational was around Rs.2, 500.
Jahangir Siddiqui celebrated his success by buying himself his first car — an Opel Rekord: “When I came to Karachi, I lived with my brother in Garden road and used to get around on a motorbike. Every day, I used to see the car of my boss, Mr. Ahmad Adam Gangat — he had an Opel Rekord and I wanted the same car as him. The car was delivered to me on 1 January 1968.”
Sadly, Jahangir Siddiqui’s father had died two days before on 30 December 1967 — the day that his new car was actually meant to be delivered. But the son never forgot his father’s advice and his success in the stock market did not mean that he neglected his studies and he managed to pass his chartered accountancy exams on the first attempt. “So long as my father was alive, he was genuinely concerned about my education and was always telling me to focus on my studies and get a professional degree. That is why I did chartered accountancy,” says Jahangir Siddiqui.
By 1970, Jahangir Siddiqui had made a fair deal of money on the stock exchange which he entrusted to a broker friend of his. “He was a dear friend of mine and all my securities and shares were lying with him. In those days there was no Central Depository Company so brokers would have custody of your shares.” Seven days before his final chartered accountancy examination, the said broker called Jahangir Siddiqui to his office and told him that he was unable to pay his debtors and was filing for bankruptcy.
“I asked him what happened to my money and he told me that it was all gone! He was really upset and he was feeling terrible that he had lost his friend’s money. I tried to console him but he was naturally devastated. While we were discussing this, he got a chest pain and had a heart attack so I immediately took him to the hospital. I spent the night there and the next morning I went to his office just to open it and all the creditors were there.”
A week later, the broker’s condition had stabilized and he told Jahangir Siddiqui to take his office in the stock exchange in consideration for that entire he had lost: “He was an honest and honorable person and he didn’t want to be indebted to his friend,” explains Jahangir Siddiqui. “He said that if he started afresh, nobody would come to him so it would be better if I started a business and he would work for me as an agent. So that is how a career in the stock market was imposed on me!”
Jahangir Siddiqui started a small company called Jahangir Siddiqui & Co which essentially comprised of four persons. Today, Jahangir Siddiqui & Co is one of the largest and well respected financial services companies in Pakistan with several subsidiaries which include Abamco, Pakistan’s largest non-government asset management company, Jahangir Siddiqui Capital Markets and Jahangir, Siddiqui Investment Bank.
The broker also sold Jahangir Siddiqui some shares in companies such as National Shipping Corporation, Megana Jute and others: “I bought these shares at a higher value just to let him know that he doesn’t owe me anything. I bought these shares in May 1971.”
But trouble was just around the corner for a few months later the 1971 war between Pakistan and India started and this heralded the start of one of the most difficult periods in Jahangir Siddiqui’s life. “The market was not behaving properly and most of my shares were in East Pakistan companies and these just became worthless pieces of paper. I could not get anything for those shares. Then Bhutto came to power and emergency was declared and the market closed. So, I couldn’t afford to pay salaries because there was no commission coming in. It was a very bad situation. Then Bhutto began nationalization and everybody was a seller in the market when it opened and there were no buyers. It was terrible— even when the market opened we were not able to generate Rs.300 a month in commission and there were expenses of about Rs.2,000 in salaries, rent, petrol etc. Those were really bad days right up till 1975 because there was constant nationalization.”
But Jahangir Siddiqui survived the hardships of that period through sheer hard work and ingenuity. “I thought to myself that now I have started this business, I can’t go back. That is not what Jahangir is. I was determined to fight it out. And I fought it out. I developed the fixed income business —selling and buying bonds and government securities. By the grace of Almighty Allah, in the 80’s, 75%-80% of the daily volume traded in fixed securities was ours. So I became a broker of fixed income securities and I have never looked back.”
But the stock market, dominated as it was by Memons, was difficult for a Sindhi to break into: “It was very difficult for a Sindhi to be a broker,” says Jahangir Siddiqui seriously, “It wasn’t so difficult for Punjabis as Khadim Ali Shah Bukhari was a Punjabi and was a highly respected broker. There were quite a few Punjabis but I was the only Sindhi. So I didn’t have a proposer or a secondary. My father was not a businessman and no company listed on the stock exchange belonged to a Sindhi so I couldn’t even become a consultant to an issue nor did I have a potential customer base as there weren’t many Sindhi businessmen. Even if I went back to Hyderabad to ask the Sindhi community to give me business, they wouldn’t have known what I was talking about! Most of them didn’t know how to spell ‘share’ and thought immediately of ‘sher’ as in a lion!”
Basically, Jahangir Siddiqui did not have the right connections. This disadvantage in the long run turned out to be an advantage as it prompted him to concentrate in developing institutional clients. He began networking with directors of small institutions who were impressed when they met him.
“I would meet the General Manager of Deutsche Bank or American Express and they became my clients. I started getting business from institutions which in those days were very small such as Investment Corporation of Pakistan and National Investment Trust. That is how I transferred myself from retail business to institutional business and into the business of fixed income. So although it was very difficult for me as a Sindhi, because I was educated (and very there were very few people in those days in KSE who could communicate with those sort of clients), I could develop institutional clients. What made it easier for me was that they were not investing in equities but in fixed income and that is how I started doing the business of fixed income rather than equities because it was very difficult for me to get a customer base in equities.”
Luckily, Jahangir Siddiqui managed to develop a niche for himself and from 1975 onwards, he was only dealing with banks and financial institutions and not with individuals.
Despite being a Sindhi, Jahangir Siddiqui was fortunate enough to find two Memon brokers who helped promote him in the KSE: Mr. Z.A Saya and Mr. Amin Tai. “Mr. Saya promoted me a lot,” he acknowledges, “I really respect Amin Tai — he is a genuine person who also helped me a lot. We became friends in an interesting manner. There was a case in the arbitration committee and I was a board member. I argued and Amin put his views forward and after that he came up to me and told me that he liked my idea and I also liked his idea. We became friends and I started to treat him as a senior who would give me the right guidance. That relationship continues to this day.”
In time, Amin Tai and Jahangir Siddiqui would also be known as “the original corporate raiders.”I asked Jahangir Siddiqui about this with some trepidation as it was a delicate question and I wondered how he’d respond. He gave a ironic smile.
“There are two ways of looking at it,” he began, “you may call it corporate raiding but I would refer to it as being a value investor. This was in fact the training I got from Amin Tai as he is a value investor. There were certain companies in which I and Amin Tai bought blocks and tried to turn them around. We used to pick up companies which were either under-performing or there was a lot of potential for them to grow. It was not hostile corporate raiding. I can give you two examples. One is EFU. It was a friendly type of investment — one of the families controlling the shares was selling it through their broker and I bought the lot for myself and a client of mine. Till today, I haven’t sold them. I am on the board of EFU and it is one of the finest companies. Another example was Nafees Cottton in which Amin Tai and I had substantial holdings. Initially the management didn’t like that and they were very uneasy with me. But now we have a very good relationship. The company has changed its name to Azgard Nine and it is one of the finest denim producers in the country and we are two of the largest shareholders in that company. So I cannot say that we were corporate raiders. I was buying for the value and trying to turn around those companies, give them guidance if I could and if the management was willing to listen.
“I came into contact with a lot of entrepreneurs who had their own philosophies. I told them that if you run a public limited company, you have to have a corporate culture. You cannot run it as a sole proprietorship. Some of them didn’t agree and didn’t like what I had to say.”
Things didn’t always run as smoothly as Jahangir Siddiqui would have liked. The management of some companies resented his presence and the owners of one particular company even threatened to have him murdered!
“It was not always easy,” says Jahangir Siddiqui trying to suppress a smile. “We did have trouble with one company. The management was very hostile to us and I kept on telling them that I was not out to destroy the company — I would have been a fool of the first order if I was because I had purchased the company’s shares from the market to make money. And I can’t make money unless the company is turned around. If you improve the company, the share value goes up. But the management was still very hostile and we were threatened with murder or kidnapping. I wasn’t at all afraid of any of these threats because as I told you, I come from a very religious family and I firmly believe that our time of death is fixed. When you have to die you have to die — nothing or no one can stop it. So I wasn’t at all intimidated. In those days my mother was alive and she would pray and read the Qu’ran and tell me that all would be well. I really believe in those things.”
Fortunately, Jahangir Siddiqui survived the threats and the company was turned around and the management is now on friendly terms with him. And, Jahangir Siddiqui does not appear to hold a grudge: he achieved what he had set out to achieve. “We sold our shares on the market and we made money. Our intention was always to improve the company.”
Boosting the performance of foundering companies was not the only area where Jahangir Siddiqui made improvements. His contribution to the development of Pakistan’s stock exchange has been outstanding and will no doubt earn him a place in corporate history…and Jahangir Siddiqui subconsciously appears to have quite a penchant for the historical. “I studied a lot of profiles of different people. I really feel that you should be on the top of any profession you are in. Take lawyers for example. Mr. Jinnah was on the top of his profession, so was A.K Brohi. There are certain professionals who have gone down in history. Based on this, I went into stock exchange politics and was promoted by Mr. Saya. I was a board member for 13 years and Vice President for two years. Whenever I travelled abroad to say, Sweeden, India, Amsterdam, I used to meet with people from the stock exchange. And I thought we could change the culture of the KSE — in around 1987 or 1988, I really felt that we needed to revolutionize the KSE. Initially nobody supported any of my ideas except for Nasir Ali Shah Bukhari who was a young boy in those days but he believed in me. He always calls me ‘Bhai Jan’ and he kept on telling me that I was right about corporate membership and that it was something that we should do. So we went to the president of the stock exchange and his attitude was ‘over my dead body!’”
This was not the sort of response that a man like Jahangir Siddiqui could settle for; particularly when he felt that he was right. He decided to fight it out. “I thought that I would have to fight it out myself, become the president of the stock exchange and change the culture.” And…he did.
Jahangir Siddiqui contested the December 1989 elections for the presidency of the KSE and won against Arif Habib (the current Chairman) by one vote. He was president between 1990-91 — a revolutionary period in the history of the stock exchange. “Within six months, we changed the entire culture of the stock exchange,” says Jahangir Siddiqui, “corporate membership rules were made as were rules for minimum qualifications of brokers; I set up a library; I asked Mr. Iqbal Ismail (whom he fondly refers to as the “Professor”) to conduct classes for the brokers and agents to educate them; I went to see IFC and we established CDC.”
But Jahangir Siddiqui is not one of those men that love “the chair.” After a year’s stint as president of the stock exchange, Jahangir Siddiqui decided that he had done enough. “I think that whatever I wanted to see changed in the stock exchange I had changed. That is why after 1991, I didn’t contest any election. You have to leave when you are on top.” Again that awareness of history displays itself.
Jahangir Siddiqui also made history as far as his company was concerned. Ignoring the advice of practically everyone in the market, in 1991, Jahangir Siddiqui & Co became the first corporate securities brokerage in the KSE. “Nasir Ali Shah Bukhari got his company listed before mine. We got listed in 1993. People kept telling me not to do it and that I was a fool. They kept telling me that you own 100% of your company —why do you want to dilute your ownership to 30%? But my argument was, would you rather own 100% of a company with equity of Rs.20m or 50% of a company with equity of Rs.3bn? If you need capital and if you want your company to grow, you have to go public and share your prosperity with small shareholders.”
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Jahangir Siddiqui & Co was also the first securities brokerage with a Wall Street stamp. “We joined hands with Bear Stearns, one of the largest and most respectable firms in New York,” smiles Jahangir Siddiqui. A joint venture with Bear Stearns was no mean feat. Among its many achievements, Bear Stearns issued the first sovereign bond for Israel. After entering into a joint venture with Jahangir Siddiqui, it can now also boast of the fact that in 1994, it issued the first sovereign Eurobond for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in an amount of US$150m. The fact that Bear Stearns decided to do business with a Pakistani (and Pakistan in those days did not enjoy a good reputation in the international business world) speaks volumes about the faith they had in Jahangir Siddiqui. “I brought them to Pakistan, they bought 30% of my company and so the name was changed to Bear Stearns Jahangir Siddiqui and I was appointed CEO and Chairman. I was very touched at the faith they had in me. I mean, theirs was a US$55 bn company at that time and they lent their name to a company in Pakistan.”
Another landmark achievement was the establishment of Abamco in 1995, which is a subsidiary of Jahangir Siddiqui & Co. Abamco is a joint venture between Amvescap Plc (one of the world’s largest fund managers), IFC and Jahangir Siddiqui & Co. “I was told by the government that there is no private sector asset management company in Pakistan and there were no rules for this either. They said that they wanted to establish one and they wanted me to help. For three years I was in negotiations with people and I contacted Amvescap and they bought 30% equity in Abamco and they are joint venture partners with us till today in spite of all the difficulties Pakistan is facing.” Abamco is Pakistan’s second largest asset management company and the largest non-government asset management company. As at June 30, 2004, it managed approximately Rs.14 bn (US$ 240m) in assets.
More recently, Jahangir Siddiqui wanted to introduce another innovation into Pakistan’s capital markets: an electronic stock exchange. A company called Pex Ltd was formed for this purpose and was granted approval by the Securities & Exchange Commission to set up an electronic stock exchange. However, the boards of the Lahore, Karachi & Islamabad stock exchange created uproar notwithstanding the fact that the government had invited them and other brokers to establish such an exchange and they had been present in all the meetings in which the Pex Ltd matter was being discussed. All three stock exchanges filed a suit and went to court and obtained a stay order. The matter is still to be decided. As the matter is sub judice, Jahangir Siddiqui would not discuss it.
The ‘powers that be’ in the stock exchange are usually suspicious of and react strongly to change. “When automation of trading occurred,” says Jahangir Siddiqui, “they said that they would not allow it and they attacked the computer system of the KSE just to destroy it. And now, they cannot do without it. Similarly, they were not happy with the establishment of CDC, registration of brokers, capital adequacy rules, margin regulations. So, they don’t have a vision. That was the problem. They only realize the benefit of something after they have used it for a couple of years!”
But what would be the benefit of an electronic stock exchange? “The concept of a demutualized stock exchange needs to be there,” says Jahangir Siddiqui, “Demutualization is where the management of a company is different from the members who have trading rights. Presently, the stock exchanges do not have a demutualized system and the members are running it. In my opinion that is unfair — it is absolutely unfair. Let me give you an example. Think of the stock exchanges as a car. A car has four wheels. Now if you imbalance those wheels by making some bigger and some smaller, the car won’t run smoothly. Similarly, in any exchange, you have four prominent players: the issuer, the investor, the members (who are the brokers) and the regulator. If these four are not kept in balance, the car won’t run smoothly. What happens is that they are the judge as well as the jury as well as the prosecutors. Tell me: is there any representation of any issuer on the stock exchange? The answer is no. Tell me: is there any representation of any investor on any stock exchange? The answer is again no. But if you have a demutualized exchange you can have members representing the issuers, the trading community, and the regulator. What is the harm in it? Why do you want to manage the entire stock exchange yourself?”
I then asked Jahangir Siddiqui if he thought the three stock exchanges should be merged. “It’s a financial decision to be taken by the exchanges and they should do whatever is good for them. In my opinion, it is best to have competition. If, for example, all the telephone companies are merged into one, is it good or bad? It is certainly not good. You must have competition. Even if they do decide to merge, they should not stop anyone else from establishing a stock exchange. They shouldn’t merge simply to eliminate the competition. So if anyone is setting up an exchange, a merged stock exchange should not turn around and say that they will not allow another exchange.”
Our conversation then turned to the topical issue of mutual funds. “I think mutual funds are the future. We need to spend more time and energy on educating people about them. Individually, a person cannot invest in 700 companies, they cannot trade. With a mutual fund you just tell the fund manager your requirements i.e. whether you want a regular income fund, aggressive growth, a blue chip portfolio. Somebody else manages the fund for you. You don’t have time as an individual investor and you are at the mercy of brokers.”
Jahangir Siddiqui is so frank and forthright that I have difficulty reconciling his persona with the stereotypical image of a stock broker. Generally, people have very negative impressions about stock brokers and see them as wily people who can manipulate and “drop” the market as and when they feel like. For instance, if they don’t like the idea of CVT, they’ll protest by manipulating the market in such a way that it will ‘drop.’ Once again, a wry smile appears on Jahangir Siddiqui’s face. “It’s not that easy to simply ‘drop’ the market. I do tend to agree that unfortunately the perception of stock brokers is not that good. But not all brokers are like this —there are several good brokers. Of course, there are also so called ‘black sheep’ but you get those in every trade.”
Jahangir Siddiqui picked up on my passing reference to CVT and wanted to discuss it. “I entirely disagree with people who say that CVT is not good. I think CVT is one of the best solutions Shaukat Aziz has given in the budget. CVT is 0.01% — what is the total impact if you are buying shares of PSO? 3 paisas only. So are you really going to stop doing your business for 3 paisas? And if you are paying those 3 paisas to the government you are helping them to do a lot of projects and reducing the budgetary deficit. That is not a bad thing.”
“Your son disagrees with you,” I pointed out remembering that Jahangir Siddiqui’s son Ali wrote an excellent article for Blue Chip disagreeing with the imposition of CVT. Jahangir Siddiqui gives a broad grin.
“You know, we father and son are both independent people,” he says good humouredly, “I have always tried my level best to ensure that both my sons, Ali and Ali Raza should be independent and I am pleased that Ali has the courage to state his own opinions. If they don’t agree with me, I am fine with that. I have never imposed any decision big or small on either of them. I listen to them and if I have a different point of view, I argue with them and either I’ll be convinced or I’ll try and convince them.”
Jahangir Siddiqui has two sons: Ali and Ali Raza. Ali is a director of Jahangir Siddiqui & Co and is already making waves in Pakistan’s business scene a “I have the best of relationships with my sons” says Jahangir Siddiqui proudly. “When Ali decided to come back to Pakistan after his studies and join the group, I resigned as Chairman and director because I felt that if I remained, it would not be possible for him to grow. Smaller trees do not grow in the shade of larger trees. And Ali has grown the business far better than I could have done.”
Smaller trees do not grow in the shade of larger trees. His son has grown the business far better than he could have done
It is said that behind every successful man there is a strong woman and in this respect, Jahangir Siddiqui is no exception. He readily acknowledges that his elegant wife Mahvash has been a towering pillar of support. “Mahvash has done a lot for the family,” he says smiling. “We got married in 1975 and she is solely responsible for bringing up the children. I used to come home from the office very late – sometimes as late as 8.30pm and then straight away we’d have to go out for dinner. Ali and Ali Raza have good manners, good education and outlook and that is all because of their mother. She is a wonderful companion. She never complained that I didn’t give enough time to her or the children which I do realize now. In earlier days, I’d spend most of my time at the office and frankly speaking, up until about the year 2000, I wasn’t giving them enough time. Of course, I’d take them on vacation. They’ve traveled with me a lot and seen the whole world.”
Suddenly, his eyes light up. “Did you know that Mahvash was a professor of English? She was head of the English department at Khatoon-e-Pakistan College which is just opposite Agha Khan Hospital. She used to take the kids with her to lectures when they were young. So from a young age, my kids knew all about Shakespeare!”
These days, Jahangir Siddiqui comes to the office between 9.30 – 10.30am. He spends his first 45 minutes reading the newspaper clippings that the relevant department in his office has cut out for him to read. Now that he has retired as Chairman and director of the Jahangir Siddiqui group, he devotes a lot of his energies to the companies of which he is a director. “I do enjoy working on different boards,” says Jahangir Siddiqui, “I normally read the entire agenda before a meeting!” Jahangir Siddiqui is currently on the board of SMEDA, Gwadar Port Authority and various charitable foundations.
In the little spare time that he has, he likes to watch films. However, his choice of film depends on whether or not his wife is with him. “When I am alone, I watch a lot of films. You won’t believe this but my favorite ones are the Indian movies that come on Zee TV!” He laughs heartily. “I’m being completely honest with you! You see, there are many channels and Indian movies and Pakistani songs are the only things I like because you can enjoy them even if you catch those 30 minutes after they have started. They follow the same formula. But if Mahvash is with me then I watch what she likes. She is very fond of English movies — and if we are abroad, we go to the theatre.” He also has a small collection of coins. “It’s a small collection of coins of the subcontinent. Collecting those is a part time hobby of mine. I also have an old Qu’ran collection. When I was young, I used to collect stamps. I have quite a lot of stamps actually!”
I asked him if he was fond of reading. “No. I’ll be very honest with you,” came the reply. “The only reading I do,” he said picking up a bunch of papers on his desk, “is commercial reading.” I admired Jahangir Siddiqui’s confidence in him. He is proud of what he is and he does not try and pretend to be something he is not. There are no airs and graces about him; there is no arrogance or false pride that one so often finds in other businessmen. He exudes confidence but it is a confidence tempered by humility. This didn’t surprise me. Men of achievement, that is, real achievement, are also men of great humility.
Before ending our chat, I asked him what moments in his professional life he looked back on with pride. “As a stock broker, I did some work for a huge foundation who was investing a lot in the stock market. In 1979, we were closing down our equity section and concentrating more on fixed income. I wrote them a letter setting out this position. Our equity section then closed and didn’t re-open until 1991. When we resumed it, I called them and asked if they would like to give us business and they said that the original trustee had died and that when our company stopped doing business in equities, they passed a resolution saying that they would not do business with any stock broker but Jahangir Siddiqui. I became so emotional. I still become emotional when I think about that.”
Today’s JS Group
JS Group has grown from its roots in Pakistan’s financial services industry. JS Financial operates market-leading companies in asset management, investment banking, securities brokerage, commercial banking, insurance and trade finance.
Your browser may not support display of this image.The group also includes five vertical businesses: JS Industrial, JS Infocom, JS Property, JS Resources and JS Transportation. They believe each of these sectors, in itself, offers an exciting and attractive long-term investment proposition in Pakistan. Their diversification across these sectors allows JS to ride out each sector’s individual business cycle and take a long term approach to investing in and building their businesses. They started from stock trading and now Pakistan’s most diversified business group with Interest in Telecom, Media, Energy, Financial services, Real Estate, Transportation, and Industries.
The group has offices throughout the major cities in Pakistan and manages its international operations from its London and Dubai offices. The group comprises businesses with over 18,000 employees and profit after tax of $510 million in 2007.
JS Group Portfolio:
They owned and partially owned Al Abbas Industries, Al Abbas cement, Azgard-9, PICT, Dadex Eternit, TRG, Eye Television (Hum TV), Pak American Fertilizer Company, JSDL, JS Property, Sprint Energy, Hascombe Oil, AirBlue, JS Air, Accor Group – Hotels, Allianz – Insurance, Dubai Bank – Islamic Banking, Experian – Consumer Credit Bureau, Global Investment House – Securities Brokerage, International Finance Corporation – Asset Management, Ulker – Food, JS Financial, Jahangir Siddiqui & Co. Ltd, JS Global Capital Limited, JS Bank Limited, JS Investments Limited, EFU Insurance Group, and Bank Islami.
Success Analysis By: Salman A. Sheik
- He grew drastically because he had no family’s responsibility as majority of young entrepreneurs have.
- He invested Rs. 6000 in 60s that seems very small amount these days but it had huge worth those days.
- He started from humble beginnings and grew gradually, but majority of Young ENTREPRENEURS want to become business tycoon overnight. It concludes that Business has no shortcuts; everyone can’t become visionary Bill Gates.
- He had no formal business training but he was enthusiastic enough to learn business, so he learned gradually from his seniors in the business field.
- He was real genius and has immense intellectual level and analytical skill.
As we know that smaller trees do not grow in the shade of larger trees, so Jahangir Siddiqui had no limit of his experiences and entrepreneurial spirit.
- He didn’t leave formal study for his business, and achieved Chartered Accountancy, which opened new horizons in Capital Markets.
- He became President of KSE by his strong leadership abilities.
- I noticed that Children of Employees have more potential than children of Businessmen, because Children of corporate class have all material goods.
Source: The Blue Chip Magazine