Chief Executive Officer Mitsubishi Corporation Pakistan Kimihide Ando has spent over 13 years in Pakistan during his two stints in the country. Ando talked exclusively to Safety & Security Today about his time in Pakistan.
S&ST: Tell us something about your career background?
Kimihide Ando: I was born, grew up and studied in Japan. During my childhood, I stayed in London for three years. I attended the International Christian University, Tokyo from where I graduated with a Bachelor of Liberal Arts in 1982 and joined Mitsubishi Corporation straight away. I was asked by the company to move to Egypt where I spent the next two years in Cairo. I came back to Japan and after a year I was sent to Baghdad, Iraq. My stay in Iraq was also short as the Iran-Iraq war was going on at that time and the economy of the country was not in good shape. After roughly a year in the Iraqi capital, I was transferred to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where I spent three years. During my time in Saudi Arabia there was a boom in the petrochemical industry in the country. I was also part of the chemical group of Mitsubishi and we were primarily engaged in marketing petrochemicals in Japan, South Korea and South East Asian countries.
I returned to Japan in 1989 and spent the next eight years in my home country. After that, I was stationed for a year in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I was moved to Malaysia as part of a team that was conducting the feasibility of a project between Mitsubishi Corporation and Petronas.
The project did not work out and I was moved to Pakistan where Mitsubishi was conducting feasibility for another project. During the latter stages of that feasibility, I became part of the team. The project in Pakistan materialized by the name of Engro Asahi Polymer and Chemical Ltd. Asad Umar who is the current Finance Minister of Pakistan was the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Engro Polymer at that time. So, from 1998 to 2003 I was in Pakistan on secondment to Engro Polymer and Chemicals Ltd, (EPCL). I went back to Japan and subsequently came back to Pakistan in 2010 as the country head of Mitsubishi.
Apart from my position at Mitsubishi, in 2013 I was elected as the President of Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce & Industry (OICCI) for one year. It is pertinent to mention that OICCI is the oldest chamber in South Asia and represents foreign investors in Pakistan, with more than 190 foreign investors as members.
Currently, I am also the Director of Punjab Board of Investment and Trade (PBIT). I am also on the Board of Trustees of the Liaquat National Hospital. Last year I was conferred Sitara-i-Pakistan, which is a matter of great honor for me.
S&ST: What is the scale and nature of Mitsubishi’s business in Pakistan?
Mitsubishi Corporation opened the Karachi office in 1954, offices in New York and London started working in the same year. As far as your question regarding the nature of business is concerned it has kept on evolving since the company first stepped foot in Pakistan. Initially, we were involved in the export of cotton from Pakistan to Japan. Then we started selling textile machinery in Pakistan, however, we are no longer involved in textile related business. We have also built cement and sugar plants in Pakistan but that chapter is now also closed. Something we are still doing is the aid projects of the Japanese government in Pakistan. Currently, we are involved in trading in petrochemicals and steel products and have joint ventures with several local companies. We are also planning to set up a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal in Pakistan with the primary objective of supplying reliable and economically competitive Re-Gasified Liquefied Natural Gas (RLNG).
Mitsubishi Corporation is also doing a lot of purchasing in Pakistan. We are probably the biggest purchaser of ethanol in Pakistan right now. Out of Pakistan’s total ethanol exports we have a share of around 30-40%.
S&ST: How would you describe your stay in Pakistan?
My stay in Pakistan has been both exciting and challenging. Pakistan is the kind of country that does not bore me, there is something new happening almost every day.
S&ST: How would you compare Pakistan with Japan?
As far as the problems facing both countries are concerned both have varying problems. Pakistan has numerous social problems that it has to deal with but all of these problems can be fixed. However, as in any case you require will and integrity to fix the problems. Japan, on the other hand, has one major problem which is the problem of the aging population. This is a problem that is hard to fix. Japan has a median age of around 47, compared to mid-twenties in Pakistan. So in terms of potential, you can well imagine which country has more potential due to human capital.
Moreover, culturally both Japan and Pakistan are altogether different. But I do feel that the value system in both countries is similar. I have worked in numerous foreign countries and have heavily interacted with people from China and India but I feel most at home when I am dealing with people from Pakistan.
S&ST: How was your family’s experience of living in Pakistan?
I do not have any kids but my wife was with me during my first tenure in Pakistan as well as during the second. I have never really asked her this but I think she liked the first tenure better. The reason is that moving around the city was easier back then. She used to roam the streets of Saddar Bazar in Karachi all alone. But later the law and order situation deteriorated and mobility was restricted. As we speak the situation has improved a lot but her mobility is still restricted. She can’t socialize and move around as freely as she could back in 1998-2003.
During that time my wife was also a member of the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-Pakistan). One fine morning she told me that she wanted to go to the West Coast of Gwadar to watch Flamingos. The birds migrate from Siberia to Kenya and during their flight, they land near Gwadar for a rest. My wife as part of the WWF-Pakistan team went there to count the Flamingos. I do not think this would be possible now due to the security situation.
During her time in Pakistan she also learned the Kathak dance, she was a student of Sheema Kermani and later learned the art from another dancer as well. We also traveled to the northern areas of Pakistan like Hunza and we loved that place. So, apart from the law and order situation that was rough for a couple of years, we had a great time in Pakistan.
S&ST: Which is your favorite city/place in Pakistan?
Karachi and Hunza are my favorite cities in Pakistan. I love Karachi because of its people. The friendships I have made here are very dear to me. Some friends I have made here in Karachi are closer to me than my friends back in Japan. On the other hand, Hunza is tranquil and peaceful. I, along with my wife, visited Hunza at least four times and maybe we will visit the city once more.
S&ST: How do you see the potential in Pakistan’s tourism industry from the prospect of foreign tourists?
Pakistan has great potential to attract foreign tourists but investment is needed in the infrastructure for that to materialize. Deosai region is full of natural beauty but there are hardly any hotels where foreign tourists can stay. The same is the situation in many cities in the northern areas, so investment is of utmost importance to attract more tourists.
Another thing I have noted which is very unfortunate is that many Pakistanis do not realize how beautiful their country is and that they need to protect it. I say this because I have seen local tourists in northern areas polluting the area.
S&ST: What was the most interesting/memorable event during your stay?
There are so many such moments and it will be difficult to list just one or two. Nowadays, I get to speak in front of students from various universities a lot. Seeing all the young students eager to do something for Pakistan and the spark in their eyes makes me believe that Pakistan is on its way up. And this is something that pleases me because I love interacting with youngsters.
S&ST: How do you see the future of Pakistan’s economy?
It will be full of challenges and the only way to deal with these challenges is sheer will. Problems in Pakistan’s economy are known to all. Everyone knows that you cannot sustain an economy if the imports are much higher than the exports. Decreasing imports is not easy so exports should be increased which again, is not going to be easy but is the only way forward.
S&ST: How do you view the future of the Pak-Japan relationship?
The relationship between Pakistan and Japan has always been very good. Pakistan used to be the largest recipient of Japanese aid in the world. Unfortunately, this stopped for a period of time in 1998 after Pakistan conducted the nuclear tests. In the last two years, Japan has once again started to focus on Pakistan with numerous high profile delegations from Japan visiting Pakistan and vice versa.
S&ST: Any advice for foreign entrepreneurs who want to do business in Pakistan?
Patience and resilience are the keys to doing business in Pakistan. You also have to be ready to fight with stereotypes and double standards that rest of the world and the company headquarter.
I personally always have to convince people back at the headquarter as they have certain stereotypes when it comes to Pakistan.