Top News
Check latest news Read →

Q&A with Qaiser Sharif

  • Posted On: 10th June 2013
  • By:
Q&A with Qaiser Sharif
Country Manager of Procter & Gamble Pakistan Qaiser Sharif talks to Blue Chip about his experiences with one of the world’s leading multinational corporations. The first Country Head of P&G Pakistan, Qaiser has seen the organisation evolving and reflects on the changes the organisation has undergone since its operations commenced in 1991. In a highly competitive market, P&G retains its premier position and is responsible for bringing a considerable amount of investment into the country
When did you get involved with P&G? Please tell us a bit about yourself.
Qaiser Sharif: “I grew up in different parts of Pakistan, including Karachi and Rawalpindi. I left the country after completing high school and studied Business at the Middle East Technical University in Turkey. From there, I went to the US for my MBA at the University of Cincinnati.
After my graduation, I joined the Procter & Gamble head office in Cincinnati, where I worked as Assistant Brand Manager, Brand Manager and Assistant Marketing Director.With the launch of Procter & Gamble operations in Pakistan, I moved back to the country at the end of 1990 as the first Country Head. A large part of my initial years here were spent building the foundation for the business – from distribution structure to advertising agencies and, of course, the organisation itself.In 1996, I moved as P&G Country Head to Ukraine; finally going back to P&G United States in late 1998. During this time, I worked in the Marketing department of P&G, managed several systemic intervention projects for the Global Customer Business Development Organisation and for Global Operations.

I came back to the Pakistan office as Country Head in October 2006.”
Having been with P&G since the time of its launch in Pakistan in 1991, how has your experience been and what are the changes you have observed?
QS: “There have been a lot of changes since the startup of P&G operations in Pakistan in 1991. The P&G business is very different today from what it was 18 years ago. The company has grown to become one of the leading multinationals in Pakistan. Today, we have several premium quality brands fulfilling the everyday needs of Pakistani consumers.
Looking back, I can say that when I came here initially in 1991, efforts were focused primarily on two broad areas; one was building the organisation and the other was understanding the Pakistani consumer market. It was about learning market dynamics, understanding the consumer and working with research agencies. Today, we still do all those things but the focus is more mature now.
As the organisation has evolved, my personal interaction with it has also evolved. In the early 1990s, my focus was on recruiting, training and developing people. That focus still remains but in a different way; now there is a senior leadership team with me so I rely a lot more on the various functional heads to work on their own functional aspects. I have a lot more time to dedicate now towards thinking about the overall business direction as well as communicating with the head office and the regional head office on where to take the Pakistani business.”
I believe P&G has an extensive CSR programme. Could you please share some highlights with us?
QS: “Corporate Social Responsibility is an important part of what we do. Our main focus is towards running the business, but at the same time, we operate in this community and therefore, we take it as a serious responsibility to give something back to the community above and beyond our normal business operations. We believe that all our brands, being premium quality products, help in improving the lives of the consumers and through our brands we support a number of community programmes. In addition, we are also involved in CSR programmes under the P&G corporate umbrella of Live, Learn and Thrive, focused on children in need. In Pakistan, our Live, Learn and Thrive cause is brought to life in many different ways.
First and foremost is education for children who are from the economically disadvantaged segments of society. In this particular area, we are working with a local NGO, HOPE, in Karachi and Thatta and have a multi-year commitment to this project. Under this partnership, we are funding 60 informal schools through which around 2000 underprivileged children are able to receive education in their own neighborhoods. Additionally, we are working with READ Foundation in Azad Jammu and Kashmir to help rebuild schools that were destroyed in the 2008 earthquake – to date educating more than 2000 children. We recently ventured into our first community project in orphan care in partnership with SOS Children’s Villages to build a P&G SOS home for orphan children in the SOS village on the outskirts of Islamabad. We have already laid the foundation stone for this and are very happy to be partnering with SOS. This is a slightly different field from education but education will be a part of this and we hope to be the ongoing sponsors for this P&G orphanage. It will help the orphans from the very start to the time they are grown up and go out and find work for themselves.
Another important area of focus for P&G is Safe Drinking Water. Our plant at Hub produces the P&G water purifier brand called PuR. This comes in the form of a sachet which when mixed in a bucket of water purifies dirty water, making it fit for drinking. Our Hub plant in Pakistan is the only P&G plant that produces PuR and distributes it globally under the Children’s Safe Drinking Water Programme. There is a high need for safe drinking water especially in the areas that are struck by disasters and since the start of the programme, over a billion liters of clean drinking water has been distributed in Asia and Africa under this initiative.
Our brands also support strong community programmes and run various health awareness programmes aimed to help our community become stronger and more informed. I am pleased to share that our Pampers Hospital Education Programme and Mobile Clinics educate young mothers annually on healthy babycare practices, importance of immunisation and vaccination, and aims to play a key role in mother and child healthcare. It has, to date, reached 5.6 million mothers. Furthermore, Safeguard has been active in educating five million children on basic hygiene and the importance of hand-washing via our Safeguard School Education Programme and conducted 700,000 handwashes amongst children through the Global Handwashing Day initiative. To convey the basic message of personal health and hygiene to young girls and guide them on how to cope with the pressures and demands of growing up, the Always School Education Programme runs across top cities of Pakistan, to date educating four million young girls. This fiscal year alone, our various brand programmes are reaching around five million mothers, children and young girls in Pakistan on the benefits of health and hygiene.”
How has the financial and economic crisis affected P&G operations in Pakistan? Does political instability figure into all of this, or it has little or no impact?
QS: “We are working in an economy that has been through recessionary periods during the past few years. First, there was severe global inflation starting with the oil prices and then food prices. We cannot deny that this has definitely put pressure on the consumers and affected their purchasing power. Lately, however, we see that the oil prices have receded and the inflationary pressure on the commodity prices has eased a little bit; I am very hopeful that in a few months we would start getting back to the historical business growth.
Some of the factors that came into play at the same time include global inflation, commodity inflation, recession across the globe and financial instability. I think these are things that are affecting businesses. However, the political situation also does have an effect on the economy.
Nevertheless, we have a lot of faith in Pakistan and so does the global management of P&G. We will continue with our commitment to Pakistan and Insha’Allah grow together. Evidence of that commitment is our latest investment in a $100 million manufacturing facility at Port Qasim near Karachi for which we have already laid the foundation stone and started construction.”
Being a consumer of various P&G products myself, I have noticed a dramatic rise in prices of P&G products. Inflation has really affected the general consumer. Is there anything being done for price control? Please comment.
QS: “Rise in global commodity prices and devaluation have propelled increases in prices of all products including consumer goods. In such high inflationary times, unfortunately, the consumer bears much of the burden. But the long history of the company that has in the past gone through many recessionary periods and depressions will help us face this crisis. With the exchange rates stabilising and the global commodity prices coming down, I am hopeful that these factors will help release the pressure on the prices. However, even through the current circumstances and business environment, P&G will maintain its expansion plans and steadily increase its range and reach.”
Does P&G recognise Pakistan as a market with potential? What factors play into this?
QS: “Absolutely. Pakistan is a very important market for P&G. I think the most important driver of that is the population of Pakistan which is above 160 million. Until recently, the economy of Pakistan has also demonstrated a health growth rate; about 6-7 years of growth with over 5%. As a result, the incoming demographics have improved, with many consumers having moved from the lower income to middle income levels, and that has raised the consumption level. We still feel that the present size of the Pakistani market is small compared to the potential it has and therefore, we expect high growth. As shared earlier, we are committed to investing in Pakistan and are in the early construction phase of a manufacturing facility in the Port Qasim area in Karachi. This project is estimated to bring in investment worth $100 million.
We have also recently facilitated distribution in Pakistan and helped a Saudi company to establish its distribution network here. In many ways, P&G is helping to bring investment in Pakistan and developing the talent in the country.”
Would you say that P&G operates in a competitive market in Pakistan? Also, has the market reached a saturation point or is there still space for more players/products?
QS: “There are a couple of things. Firstly, the branded consumer products business is a highly competitive one, not only in Pakistan but globally. As there are many companies in Pakistan that are offering high quality products to the consumer, they all have their own positioning, their own way of marketing and bringing the brands to the end consumer – who, as a result, has many choices.
Yes, it is a very competitive market that we operate in. We also believe that competition is healthy as it compels us to work efficiently, makes us think carefully and focus more on quality and winning with consumers. However, our key focus remains on finding out what consumers want and continue delivering it.

In my opinion, there is no such thing as a saturation point. There are different markets that we are operating in, different product categories we cater to and most of them continue to grow at a healthy pace. Others that are not growing may have been matured or they have inflationary pressure on them so the consumer has to think carefully. I would say that there is always room for other players to enter but the situation varies from category to category. The way this business works is that when a company decides to enter a market they do not only base their decision on who else is operating in that market; they enter because they think that they have something to offer that the consumer would like. They create a market of their own and even sometimes the existence of competition helps in a market’s growth. The important thing is to convince consumers about the key benefits the product has to offer.”

P&G Pakistan
Procter & Gamble Pakistan (Pvt) Limited was established in Pakistan in 1991 and has grown to be one of the leading consumer product companies serving the Pakistani consumers, with 12 high-quality brands including Ariel, Safeguard, Pantene, Head & Shoulders, Pampers and Always.
Three years after its establishment in Pakistan, P&G acquired a soap-manufacturing facility sprawling over 7-acres of land at Hub, Balochistan, in 1994. By 2002, the plant tripled its soap manufacturing capacity with an additional investment of $3 million.
In 2004, the organisation made an initial investment of about half a million US dollars to establish a manufacturing facility for PuR – water purifier. The facility is equipped with state-of-the-art manufacturing technology and quality assurance processes and systems. The P&G Pakistan Hub Plant is the only P&G plant in the world that produces PuR.
P&G has attracted outstanding individuals since the day it began operations in Pakistan. The company employs approximately 300 people of whom 99% are Pakistanis and creates more than 4,000 jobs through distribution networks.
What factors have contributed to P&G’s success in Pakistan?
QS: “I will mention two factors here. The first is the strength of our brands. Our brands are known all over the world. The brands that we have brought to Pakistan; many of the Pakistani consumers were already exposed to when they traveled abroad or when they watched advertisements on TV in some part of the world. Our brands are a result of many years of research and development and a reflection of in-depth consumer research and understanding. They are built on the promise of delivering convenience, value and care to our consumers and in return, consumers have trusted our brands to improve their quality of life. The other factor is the strength of our organisation. I am proud to say that P&G has an exemplary system of recruiting and training people. P&G is one of the largest companies in the world that recruits at entry level and promotes from within. As a consequence, our focus is on interacting with college campuses and university campuses and identifying the best people from there. We also place a lot of emphasis on training and development with a centralised training curriculum based on 175 years of best practices including extensive local, as well as regional, training opportunities. We only hire fresh graduates and we need to have very strong training and development opportunities for them. It’s not all classroom training but we train them in a very practical environment. In this way, the organisation remains young with many young people. Many of them go abroad and even pursue their career with P&G globally. Presently, more than 40 P&G Pakistan employees are working on international P&G assignments across the globe.”
How does P&G maintain its premier position in the market? What sets it apart from the competition?
QS: “What has made us maintain this position in the market is our focus on the consumer. “Consumer is the boss” – this is the slogan that we use and believe not only in P&G Pakistan but globally as well. We are continuously trying to understand true consumer needs and bring forth brand variants that are best suited. As long as we are serving the consumer in the best way we could, we can uphold their confidence in our brands and our company.
Our consumers know best – what sets P&G products apart from competition – it’s not for me to say. But, I think there is a very simple scorecard in our business and it’s called the market share. Until our market share is healthy and is growing that means that we are doing well.”

What challenges do you face?
QS: “Every market poses its unique set of challenges. Pakistan is a very rich and complex market. The population size is huge and diverse and two-thirds Pakistanis lives in the rural areas. Efficient access to those areas is a challenge. Making sure that we offer products to the consumers at a price that they can afford, particularly in these inflationary times, is another challenge.”

P&G Pakistan laundry plant at PQA
Pakistan has been identified by P&G Global as a high potential market. P&G sees itself as a long-term investor in Pakistan, committed to the prosperity of the country and the well-being of consumersThis is echoed by the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) P&G aims to bring into Pakistan of around $100 million to establish a dry laundry detergent and diapers manufacturing facility at Port Qasim Authority (PQA) Industrial Zone near Karachi.
The dry laundry detergents plant has been designed to support the production of P&G’s premiere brand Ariel and other detergent brands. Starting with the production of 30,000 tons of detergent in Year 1 of operations, plant capacity will be increased gradually to 80,000 tons by Year 5. The diaper manufacturing plant will enable local production of P&G leading diaper brand Pampers at a production capacity of 540 million diapers (at 80% utilisation).
This laundry detergent and diaper plant will occupy only one-third of the total 25 acres of the land purchased. Envisioning the future growth of the Pakistani market, P&G has purchased a large tract of land; thereby, creating a provision to increase the capacity of these plants and to serve the domestic market with the full portfolio of P&G products that Pakistani consumers deserve – many of which are currently being imported from other countries.
By using the latest European technology, P&G will ensure that the plant complies not only to Pakistani requirements but also with the strictest American, British & German standards by not only minimising the impact on the environment but also using less energy.
What is your vision for the future?
QS: “Today, we have a strong operation in Pakistan; however, seeing the size of the country and the population, we see a huge potential to grow, e.g. if you see baby diapers or the feminine hygiene products; the consumption of these products Pakistan is low compared to other similar developing nations like Egypt and Morocco. Therefore, in many of these categories, there is sufficient room to grow as we make consumers aware of the benefits of these brands in improving their quality of life. In some of the categories that we are in, we are still relatively a small player and our vision is to make sure that P&G becomes the premier consumer goods company in all categories it is operating in.”

Leave A Reply