Exclusive Interview with Kanati Company Co-Founder Liam Massaubi

Source:  Pakistan Herald Published in Business & Economy on Saturday, February 21, 2015

Last month I wrote an article for The Pakistan Herald titled "Western companies continue to exit Pakistan citing corruption" and it gained a lot of attention particularly because it mentioned two well known companies. One of those companies was Canadian menswear label and retailer Kanati Clothing Company. I quoted co-founder and designer Liam Massaubi from a press release the company had released concerning its exit from Pakistan. I was interested in speaking further with Mr.Massaubi to get further information and perspective about doing business in Pakistan so I reached out to the companies media representation and was granted an interview.

Let’s start from the beginning. How long have you done business in Pakistan?


We have done business in Pakistan for about six years. Pakistan is not the only country we have done business in but we found it to be one of the most reliable for our needs and quality requirements.

 

When did things start going downhill as far as ease of business in Pakistan?


Doing business in Pakistan has always had challenges.  Most of these you adapt to and plan for as that is just the nature of doing business in a global economy.   For us, mid 2014 is when business in Pakistan began to experience interruption with flooding and what appeared to be an ongoing, rather than situational, energy crisis.  Lack of energy brings with it transportation problems, prolonged down times and loss of communications. These obstacles make it very challenging to meet deadlines and retail requirements.

 

What kind of problems did these present to your company and clients? Did this create problems with client relationships?


Any time there are delays, clients become anxious as they have planned their work, and use of resources, based on dates given by us. Some clients listened to and understood what we could report to them and a very small amount became upset. We work with a mixture of larger clients and smaller private brands. For the most part, all of our clients realize that the service we provide has benefits that outweigh setbacks or minor delays. Those with offshore experience understand the issues that can arise in a global market. There is always going to be a problem and you plan ahead for that. Unfortunately in Pakistan these problems have become more frequent and unpredictable.  The younger and private/boutique clients have particularly come to us to further their dreams, as they do not have the resources or experience to enter the clothing business on a large scale. It has taken a lot of effort on our part to help them understand the situation in a way that is not making excuses and still responds to their expectations and needs for service and products. We aim to avoid issues like this in the future by producing in Canada moving forward. 


It is reported that your company experienced corruption in Pakistan. Do you care to comment?


I won’t comment on this as there may be ongoing actions and it is very difficult to assign blame when you are not physically present and having face to face interactions. I will say that this is the smallest of the problems and from an outsiders’ perspective there seems to have been so much else going on in Pakistan creating an environment that could support this.  Any time there is instability anywhere people will act outside of their normal if they see an opportunity. My problem was more with the way my concerns were handled when reported and how little protection there appears to be for businesses willing to invest.  


What are your thoughts on the increase in violence and its effect on business in Pakistan?


My observation from anywhere in the world is that violence definitely creates instability and scares off business investment. Though I am concerned for our business, I am more concerned about those who are affected by violence. If media can be accepted as representative of what has been happening in recent months, it seems to me that this is such a complicated issue and there is really no one easy answer to solve it.


How can independent business in Pakistan improve trade with western business?


Every business and relationship is different but I do not think that the main problems are with the independent businesses or people in Pakistan. In fact, we have found the people of Pakistan are more than willing to do business but it is not their fault that they have limited access to resources and tools that western business takes for granted. The issues that create problems seem to me systemic and ones related to infrastructure and policy, which are the responsibility of those in power. 

Outside of the issue of having the resources to conduct business they then need to get past any negative images that people may have of the country.

Will Kanati Co. do business in Pakistan if conditions improve?


Right now we are excited and focused about our Canadian production.  We feel we can control everything we can’t overseas and are now able to offer more options to our customers. We do not have any plans to continue business in Pakistan at this time but you never know what the future holds.


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Written by Nondo Bezi

Author Information: Nondo Bezi is a business analyst who spent years in the financial sector before...


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