Family business in Pakistani-IV Valika, Fancy and Ispahani | By Ikram Sehgal


Family business in Pakistani-IV Valika, Fancy and Ispahani

VALIKA: Kamruddin Valibhai of Bombay, the founder of the dynasty that came to be known as the Valikas, had four sons, Fakhruddin Valibhai, Najjamuddin Valibhai, Saifuddin Valibhai and Nooruddin Valibhai.

One of the leading Muslim industrialists of Mumbai known for his unflinching support to the cause of Pakistan, Kamruddin Valibhai enjoyed close association with stalwarts of Muslim League and donated generously for their political activities.

He shared the idea of setting up a textile mill in Mumbai with the Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

The Quaid advised him to opt for Karachi- the future capital of Pakistan moving to Karachi. The family bought land in the New Queens Road of Lalazar, which presently houses the extended family of the Valikas.

On his death Kamruddin’s eldest son took over as the head of the family, becoming Director of 20 business enterprises.

Fakhruddin Valibhai Valika’s interests included shipping, banking, insurance, cotton textiles and cement and head of one of the richest families in Pakistan in 1971.

Since independence in 1947, the name ‘Valika’ has been synonymous with leading-edge manufacturing projects contributing to the rapid industrialization of Pakistan during the economic growth of the 1960s.

These included, among others, Valika Textile Mills (the first in Pakistan), Valika Art Fabrics (Polyester & related products), Valika Cement (the first after independence), Valika Chemical (built on world class German technology), Mohammadi Shipping Company (the 1st locally built ship, Al-Abbas become operational in 1967), Valika Steel (specializing in manufacturing special stainless steel).

By the time Fakhruddin died in Dec 1972 at the age of 60 in New York, he was a founder] member of the Karachi Stock Exchange and a patron of sports, particularly cricket and field hockey.

A leading philanthropist he established many charitable institutions. The family has been deeply involved in community-based philanthropic activity benefiting from schools, hospitals, subsidized housing schemes and charitable trusts for education and the needy, mainly in Karachi.

The family became so influential in Karachi before 1971 that visiting foreign dignitaries like Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai would visit their industrial units.

Nationalization in the 1970s fragmented the business units but made the group venture into trading and supplying different commercial businesses like export & import catering Pakistan State Oil, Pakistan Steel Mills, Power Generating Units & various Cement Companies..

While many family members have moved abroad, the group is still operating two archaic textile mills in Karachi.

A financial house was created for investment in properties, debt & equity markets in Pakistan & the United Kingdom.

After 9/11 Valika Projects catering for Real Estate Investment and Construction were opened.

The influence and dominance they once commanded in the business has waned, the Valikas are still wealthy and big individually but nowhere near the Valikas of yesteryear.

Fancy: Pre-dating to 1880 in East Africa the Fancy Group was established in Pakistan in 1947.

These included: Steel Corporation of Pakistan (SCOP Steel – now renamed as Metropolitan Steel), Karachi Gas (now Sui Southern Gas Company), Commerce Bank, Pakistan Chrome Mines, Pakistan Fisheries, Corning Glass, New Jubilee Insurance, some jute mills in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan), FIAT motor vehicles etc.

The Group lost a majority of its businesses, after the 1971 war i.e. separation of East Pakistan and then the government’s nationalization of heavy industries in 1972, subsequently nationalisation of banks in 1974 and even large private businesses in 1976.

As CEO Amin Fancy managed businesses ranging from industrial management services (ready to eat & frozen food processing/corporate catering/manpower deployment/transport/chemicals & equipment manufacturing & engineering services), operating private schools and managing the Groups philanthropic activities.

The Fancy’s never really recovered from the losses they suffered in 1971 and the subsequent nationalisation between 1972 and 1974, while still wealthy individually their businesses do not have the corporate influence they once had.

Ispahani: In 1820, Mohammed Hashim (1789–1850) moved from Isfahan in Qajar Iran to Bombay and established the Ispahani Group business.

In the 1830s, the business extended to Calcutta in (then) Bengal. Hashim was notable as the first Muslim of the Assam Tea Company’s Calcutta Committee.

The family business also expanded to Madras in the south and then to Burma in the east. Many of their descendants were educated at English private schools and top universities in the UK.

Hashim’s grandson, Mirza Mehdy (1841–1913) made Madras as the business’s headquarters.

He spent twelve years in Cairo, Egypt trading Indian produce such as leather, tea, turmeric, tamarind and peanuts amongst others.

In 1888, he established a branch in Dacca. The son of Mehdy Mirza Mohamed Ispahani was born in 1871. He established the Calcutta office of M.M Ispahani & Sons in 1900.

In the same year, a branch office was also established in London. Mirza Mohammed died in 1925.

His eldest son Mirza Ahmad Ispahani (1898–1986), joined the partnership in 1918 and established the private limited company, M.M. Ispahani Limited in 1934 in Calcutta along with his younger brothers Abul Hassan Ispahani and Mirza Mahmood Ispahani.

The final move of headquarters was made in 1947 with the shifting of the corporate headquarters to Chittagong in the then Pakistan (now Bangladesh) where it stands today.

Along with corporate offices in Dhaka and Khulna it employs over 20,000 people in many sectors such as tea, textile, real estate, crisps, poultry, shipping and internet services.

The company continued operating as a foreign company in Calcutta until 1965 when its operations in India were taken over by the Government of India.

It was under the visionary leadership of Ahmad that the company rapidly expanded its business.

By 1947, M. M Ispahani Limited was a leading exporter in shellac, kapok, hessian, jute bags, tea and chemicals.

In 1948, Mirza Ahmad Ispahani left the family business for public service.

When the family moved to East Pakistan after the Partition of India, they purchased a vast swath of land in Dhaka’s Maghbazar area.

The area was named the Ispahani Colony and continues to serve as the family’s estate right in the centre of Dhaka.

Mirza Ahmad Ispahani’s son, Mirza Mehdy Ispahani (1923–2004) was made Chairman of M.M.Ispahani Limited in 1949 and remained in that post until he died, his son Mirza Ali Behrouze Ispahani was then elected Chairperson of M.M.Ispahani Limited.

The Ispahanis in Bangladesh that dominated business after the fall of Dacca till the early 80s have now been dwarfed by dozens and dozens of Bangladeshi business groups.

In Pakistan they are wealthy and doing all right but simply no comparison to pre-1971.

(The fourth article on the major family business in Pakistan).

—The writer is a defence analyst and security expert, based in Karachi.


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