Interview by Mansoor Ahmad, published in “The News”
Shah Faisal Afridi is the President of Ruba SEZ Group, one of Pakistan’s biggest investors in the last decade. His group has invested heavily in automobiles, tyres and tubes, home appliances, packaging, power sector, textiles and property development. Afridi is also president of Pakistan-China Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry. This group has entered joint ventures with Chinese companies.
Q: Why have you concentrated solely on Chinese technology?
A: China is a true friend to Pakistan. The Chinese will go out of their way to help you if you are fair with them. They are very generous in transferring technology to Pakistan. The products we produce through collaboration with our Chinese partners are world class. Moreover, they supply top technology at very competitive rates compared to other developed countries.
Q: Do you have confidence in Pakistan’s economy?
A: Pakistan is a blessed country; we only have to put our house in order to grow at the same pace as China. In 1979, Chinese exports were only $14 billion. That’s when they started putting their house in order through prudent reforms. Today, Chinese exports have crossed $1.9 trillion. We want to see Pakistan emulate China in this respect so it produces world class products at competitive rates.
We brought down the prices of home appliances to a level that has enabled our competitors to increase their efficiencies and export their refrigerators, TV sets and split air conditioners in other countries. We intend to do the same with tractors, automobiles and tyres and tubes as well. Our people deserve the best products at the most competitive rates.
Q: You chose to collaborate with the Chinese even though Japanese automobile brands are by far the most famous in Pakistan. Why?
A: We are confident that by providing Pakistani consumers top quality vehicles with modern after sales service, we will shatter this myth. Pakistani consumers have seen high end imported hybrid cars on the roads but the first Pakistani 800 cc small hybrid car will be on the roads by the end of 2014. Its arrival will revolutionise the automobile sector in the country as the car has the capability to run 400 km on one battery charge of eight hours. At current rates, it will cost the consumers 20 paisa per km.
Our plan is to produce 50,000 small hybrid cars initially. We will expand our capacity based on consumer demand. We have 70 percent equity in the project while 30 percent equity comes from Shifieng Group, the largest automobile producer in China.
We have introduced the first EURO II compliant tractor in Pakistan. Despite better and clean technology, its price is the same as that of tractors already being manufactured in the country. In the first year, we expect to market 3,000 tractors on low localisation. However, within a year we aim to achieve 80 percent localisation and increase production capacity to 15,000 units.
The company aims to increase its capacity to 40,000 units in the next few years and target export markets. We aim to export our automobile products in the Middle East and India.
Furthermore, we will introduce LCVs of one ton, 1.5 ton and 3 ton capacities in the Pakistani market from June all Euro II compliant. Our group will launch its jeep in 2014 and passenger vans next year. We are also introducing harvesters in the local market and numerous agricultural implants to boost mechanisation in agriculture. Our tyre manufacturing plant will be operative in 2014. It will initially manufacture tyres for passenger cars and tractors. We are also eying export markets for our tyres.
Q: How do you manage so many projects single handedly?
A: We have a strong corporate culture. Projects are managed, executed and run on professional lines. We are moving according to a plan. We entered the home appliance manufacturing under the Haier brand name in 2005 and have achieved 50 percent year on year growth during the past eight years
Our total turnover, in terms of home appliances, was over Rs32 billion – of which Rs8 billion represent exports. Today, we are a market leader in home appliances in Pakistan.
Additionally, we will commission Pakistan’s first solar project of 20 MW by October 2013. We aim to increase solar power production to 200 MW in the next three years. At the same time, we will add Pakistan’s first biomass power project of 36 MW in the national grid by the end of 2014.