The Challenges of Business Leadership in Pakistan

Berger Paints is one of the leading companies of Pakistan and has been operating in the country for more than 50 years.

Bashir Ahmed reveals the secret of his success as the CEO:

“I am a Punjabi and belong to a village. I have been educated in various parts of the country. I am very proud of my heritage and hold it very dear to my heart. I have had the opportunity to live in the different provinces of Pakistan, which has given me a deeper understanding of the local culture at the grass root level. This awareness has been a great asset for me, when it comes to marketing products as well as services.”

In the last chapter, we covered the skills and attributes required to be a successful leader and concluded that business leadership requires a wide range of attributes and skills. To make it even more interesting, leading a business in developing countries can be much more challenging than in the developed world. The reason for this is that apart from the routine issues that go hand in hand with running a business; countries like Pakistan provide business leaders with a whole new genre of trials and tribulations to deal with. What’s more, some of the qualities identified earlier, such as integrity and strength of character may, in fact, prevent you from reaching your potential in the hustle and bustle of the business environment here.

Before we begin, let it be known that our aim here is not to criticize the business practices of Pakistani organizations, nor to pass judgment on the brand of values and ethics practised in our business environment. It is an accepted fact that developing countries are especially prone to certain amount of corruption and businesses have to operate within the constraints of that environment. Each company has its own unique way of dealing with such malpractices. Nonetheless, the fact remains that this problem does exist and the leader needs to be able to deal with it.

Some of the stumbling blocks businesses have to contend with in Pakistan include:


• Law and order situation— since Pakistan’s involvement in the war on terror, the country continues to suffer from an unprecedented amount of turmoil, in the shape of suicide bomb attacks, protests and general political unrest. Needless to say, it’s no walk in the park to operate profitable businesses in this environment.

• Economic Management—there is a lack of effective policies for addressing the current economic crisis the country faces. For example, the exchange rate fluctuations. In recent times the Pakistani rupee has suffered a dramatic Leadership Insights 33 fall in its value. The lack of economic certainty and effective policies makes it harder for company leaders to devise long-term strategies. As in the past, the recent governments have also been struggling to develop and implement much needed policies to control inflation, effectively manage the budget and create employment.

• Lack of Meritocracy—often the most capable person is not necessarily the one to be chosen for a particular job or promotion.

• Ego Management—within the working environment in Pakistan, you will be surrounded by sycophants. As everyone knows, these people specialize in extolling your extant and non-existent virtues. In such a situation acknowledging your limitations often becomes a challenge.

• Lack of qualified workforce—the Pakistani economy continues to suffer from a shortage of qualified individuals, this is partially due to a lack of distinguished higher education institutions. Even so, there is no lack of talented and motivated individuals eager to learn the ropes and demand a relatively low remuneration in the marketplace as compared to the foreign qualified candidates. Let’s focus on some of the above points in more detail.