Rethink for Sustainability and Progress – 6th Edition of LEADERS IN ISLAMABAD BUSINESS SUMMIT

Islamabad: Nutshell Conferences Group and Martin Dow Group, in strategic partnership with Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Unity Foods Limited, hosted Day 1 of the 6th Edition of LEADERS IN ISLAMABAD BUSINESS SUMMIT, with the theme “The BIG Rethink.”

The sub-themes on Day 1 varied from the need for the Big Re-Think, to Leadership in the Age of Disruption, to Disrupting the Future. The day comprised nine individual addresses, three panel discussions, and one conversation

Addressing the Inaugural Session, Prof. Ahsan Iqbal, Federal Minister for Planning, Development; Special Initiatives, highlighted the need to streamline policies for facilitation and building a collaborative environment. He shared his vision of five essential Es for a sustainable and stable future: Exports, e-Pakistan (digitization), Environment (water security and food security), Energy (move to renewables) and Equity & Empowerment. Highlighting the need for equity he said; “We are looking at education, health and population control as our drivers and are targeting 20 poorest districts for an accelerated development program to end disparity.”

Khurram Dastgir Khan, Federal Minister for Power, stated that as a result of disruption of the Ukraine war and ensuing rethinking, Pakistan‘s electricity generation will now be indigenized for sustainability and growth. “We will have five sources, out of which four will be domestic and one will be semi-domestic.” He further added that despite immense devaluation, they have been holding on to the base tariff for electricity since September 2022, owing to the new energy source from Thar Coal.

Muhammad Azfar Ahsan, Founder & CEO Nutshell Group, and former Minister of State & Chairman Board of Investment, in his welcome address, elaborated on the theme “The BIG Rethink” for progress. “I blame incompetence, lack of political will, absence of collaboration between stakeholders and lack of continuity of policy framework for bringing us to the present condition.” He reinforced that Pakistan’s progress lies in uplifting education, health and digitalization, and that we need to model after ASEAN and the Central Asian Republics to expedite our progress.

Ali Akhai, Chairman, Martin Dow Group, focused on the importance of embracing transformation. In his opening remarks, he said; “In a world that is constantly evolving, change is the only constant. It is the responsibility of us leaders to reimagine and rethink. I believe we should all embrace The BIG Rethink with open minds and hearts. Together, we can defy the norms, envision a brighter future, and seize the infinite opportunities that lie ahead.”

Dr. Zeelaf Munir, Managing Director & CEO, English Biscuit Manufacturers (Pvt) Limited, stated that if Pakistan has experienced a collective failure, we need a collective rethink. On an impassioned note, using the analogy of a ship, she refused to sink and encouraged the 220 million pairs of hands and hearts to be on the deck and to rise like a phoenix from the ashes.

Faisal Rehman, Managing Partner Middle East, SoftBank Investment Advisers, spoke about the urgent need to head towards digital transformation; he lauded NADRA’s role in doing so. He added that, to streamline progress, NADRA must use the unique data most effectively for economic growth via analytics.

Talking about the digital future, Kaan Terzioğlu, Group CEO, VEON, said; “Pakistan needs to transform data into useful information that can be used for the creation of value-added services. Let us make sure that every Pakistani uses the Internet for personal and professional development. We want 4G for all and not 5G for a few.”

The Summit included a soft launch for Dr. Ishrat Husain’s new book titled ‘Economic Challenges and Solutions for Pakistan.’ The second session had Dr. Ishrat Husain, N.I, H.I, Author, Economist, former Federal Minister & Governor, State Bank of Pakistan, in conversation with Sajjeed Aslam, Regional Lead Public Affairs – Asia Pacific ACCA. Dr. Husain stated that contrary to popular belief, there has been a consensus. The real issue, he said, is instability and lack of accountability. “We need our youth to be equipped in the field of Sciences, Engineering, Creative arts, Mathematics, etc. Education is a game changer and teachers of STEM need to be facilitated.”

This was followed by the first panel discussion of the day. Dr. Moeed W. Yusuf, Pakistan’s former National Security Adviser; Muhammad Aurangzeb, President & CEO, HBL and Chairman Pakistan Business Council & Pakistan Banks’ Association; Ghias Khan, President & CEO, Engro Corporation; Aamir Ibrahim, President & CEO, Jazz & Chairman, Mobilink Microfinance Bank; Maheen Rahman, CEO, InfraZamin Pakistan; and Sajjeed Aslam were part of this illustrious panel.

Muhammad Aurangzeb, expressed his desire to make banks equally involved in financial partnering and get rid of collateral mind set.

Reinforcing the need for renewables, Ghias Khan, said; “The biggest challenge is the rising cost of energy, which we need to address urgently. Wind and solar alone cannot manage the load; we would need to include the Thar Coal project to curb the price surge.”

Maheen Rahman lamented the lack of innovation across sectors; “Companies in Pakistan have been operating for 50-60 years, but they have been unable to innovate their processes.”

Aamir Ibrahim emphasized on the importance of Internet availability for all and said that Internet shutdowns would only push the country backwards. He said that RAAST has shown the potential of digitalization. “We need to shift gears to rethink trade across borders and use digitalization in our favor.”

Yousaf Hussain, President & CEO, Faysal Bank Limited, in his address following the panel discussion, shared that the bank’s journey to Islamic instruments is a testament to the possibility of rethinking and reimagining. “There must be minimization of disruption. Customers, stakeholders, and investors all must be brought on the same page alongside regulatory compliance.” He highlighted to need for an increased awareness of Islamic Banking and urged the academia to play its role.

The third session was a dialogue titled ‘Leadership and Strategy in the Age of Disruption.’ Panelists included Irfan Wahab Khan, CEO, Telenor Pakistan & Chairman, Telenor Bank; Ayla Majid, Global Vice President, ACCA and Founder & CEO, Plaintive; Samina Rizwan, Founder, CalmKaaj; Mujeeb Zahur, Managing Director, S&P Global; and was moderated by Saquib Ahmad, Managing Director, SAP Pakistan, Iraq & Afghanistan. All speakers, who are leaders in their respective fields, echoed the need to empower teams, celebrate the failures and think of ‘long-term’ in terms of generations and not number of years.

The fourth session continued the discussion on disruption with a change of panelists, including Asif Peer, CEO, Systems Limited; Adil Farhat, CEO, Procter & Gamble Pakistan; Dr. Ayesha K. Khan, Regional Managing Director, Acumen; Syed Moonis Abdullah Alvi, CEO, K-Electric Limited; and Sami A. Wahid, Managing Director, Mondelez Pakistan Limited. They shared their views on the need for disruption to achieve progress. The country, they agreed, is going through an existentialist crisis; disruption is no longer an option for Pakistan rather it has become a necessity to address food insecurity and sustainability. Asif Peer elaborated “When we talk about disruption, we must understand that it does not look familiar, and we need to change in order to combat it.”

Moonis Alvi stressed on the need for privatization by referring to the loss incurred by K-Electric as to how it is not contributing to circular debt in any way, and was accounted for. “Disruption in the power sector can be brought about through privatization. A non-exclusive distribution license will shape Pakistan’s future, especially concerning the power sector.”

The fifth session comprised the closing address by H.E. Nicolas Galey, Ambassador of France to Pakistan. Referring to France as a ‘Land of Innovation,’ the Ambassador highlighted the contribution of training institutions that changed the game. He said that France can aid Pakistan in its journey towards green energy. The trade between Pakistan and France grew by 20% in 2022 and he looked forward to fostering ties between both countries on collaborative and stronger footings.

The event was moderated by Rabia Ahmad, Director & Chief Operating Officer, Nutshell Group, and Shaha Tariq, Head of Content & Storytelling, Nutshell Communications (Pvt) Limited.

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