Descon: Pakistan’s best-kept secret

Khalid Butt


We often hear about different multi nationals entering the Pakistani market and we celebrate it with quite enthusiasm but we rarely, or let me say, have never heard of any Pakistani company turning into a multinational and working in other countries. Unfortunately, this is a stark reality that very few Pakistani companies have turned into a multinational. Compared to India, we do not have any companies of global scale while India has many. India’s Tata, Birla, Hinduja group, Mahindra and Mahindra are global entities worth over billions of dollars while Pakistani companies do not even match their scale.
One of the primary reasons why Pakistan has not been able to produce multinational companies is due to the absence of a long term global vision, corporate structure, practices in Pakistan’s family enterprises and the presence of a ‘Seth’ culture. Most of the enterprises in Pakistan are family enterprises and were not able to turn themselves into corporate entities who could even survive without the Seth.
However a notable few of the Pakistani companies were able to make a transition from a family business into a corporate entity and successfully turned into a multinational company operating in many countries. Some of them are in the pharmaceutical sector e.g. Getz Pharma which is operating in 24 countries having an annual worldwide revenue of around Rs24 billion, CCL Pharma which is operating in 12 countries; revenues of more than Rs 10 Billion while some are in other sectors.
But, the most successful among them is Descon, which can surely be termed as a jewel in the crown of Pakistan’s most successful multinational companies having a revenue of around USD 1 Billion (according to their company profile handbook). Descon, which at the time of its birth was known as Design Engineering and Construction Services was founded by Mr. Abdul Razak Dawood in 1977 as an engineering company and has contributed significantly in building the backbone of Pakistan’s engineering expertise to contribute in building the country’s infrastructure. It is also serving Pakistan’s textile exports by providing international standard quality hydrogen peroxide to Pakistan’s textile industry through its chemical business, Descon Oxychem Limited.
The secret behind Descon’s transformation from a small startup of four engineers into a USD 1 billion conglomerate lies in the philosophy of its founder, Mr. Razak Dawood. While delivering a speech at LUMS, he said “How do you dream it is how you play it. That’s another problem with Pakistanis. We don’t dream enough; we day dream a lot. We don’t dream greatness. If you can’t dream it you can’t do it. Nobody is ever poor because he doesn’t have the capital. He is poor who doesn’t have the vision”.
Companies like Descon are a role model for Pakistani startups, entrepreneurs and companies aspiring to go global. They are not only contributing to Pakistan’s growth but they are also contributing to Pakistan’s foreign exchange earned from abroad. In the age of falling exports, promoting Pakistani multinationals is also another way to earn foreign exchange, build a soft image and increase exports for Pakistan. The government should help these companies and the Pakistani missions abroad should form a union with these companies who want to promote the “Corporate Pakistan” brand.

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