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INTERVIEW: A self-made leader speaks out.

Pakistan, June 27 -- "I always used to study the psyche of the people wherever I went, so as to equip myself with the diverse manifestation of the human psychology"

By Afnan Khan

These words spoken by renowned scientist Albert Einstein seemed to have materialised in a man who started his career as a store manager and rose through the ranks to become the first-ever Pakistani managing director of a multinational company - Bata.

Muhammad Imran Malik, who has great exposure of foreign markets, runs the operations of the shoe company in Pakistan. He has led the company to new levels of success, winning the Brands of the Year Award for the second consecutive year by synchronising modern standards with the traditional ones prevalent here in Pakistan.

This has turned Bata into an ever-growing brand, so much so that it has created a monopoly in certain styles and designs of shoes, adaptable with the needs of the customers in Pakistan.

This fusion of modern and traditional ideas has proved fruitful, resulting in the effective introduction of designs appreciated by all sections of society. The company's graph of sales has ascended drastically under his management, resulting in increased contribution to the total GDP of the country.

Imran Malik, who holds a double masters degree in economics and business studies, revealed that he started his career as sales management trainee in 1990. He strived hard, and has worked at nearly every career position in the industry, which thus made him aware of the problems and sentiments of the employees placed at various posts. He devised an employee-friendly policy, winning their trust and bringing the best out of them.

Talking to Daily Times, he said he had risen from the grass-root levels in the organisation, thus knowing the sentiments of the employees. He said he had always tried to caress their problems, which in turn ensures their loyalty to the organisation and the management. "My employees could relate to me, thus enhancing their morale and motivating them to follow the available precedent to work hard and climb to the top," said Imran Malik. He further said that people at different career stages had worked with him and could come to him without any hesitation. "All employees of this company work as one team," he said.

He revealed that, due to nationality differences with the management, many of the company employees had not been able communicate their problems earlier, despite the will of the management to provide the best solutions to these problems.

He further said that we have emphasised a lot on the induction of young blood into the company, creating a unique amalgamation of experience and innovation, which then helps us in winning the various national awards. He said that, taking into account the diverse sections of the society and the differing age groups, the company have introduced the new idea of a "concept store". Defining the idea, he said that specific stores would be established keeping in view the demands of the specific sections of the society, wherein the arrangement of the product is displayed according to the needs and demands of the people living in a particular locality.

He said that three kinds of concept stores are established taking into account the needs of the elite class, the middle class and the economy class. In concept stores for the elite, all the demands of the people are met, with proportionate price tags. Similarly, for the other classes, the shoes are displayed as per the people's needs.

Imran Malik said that he had successfully worked in various other countries, including in South Africa where the idea of the concept store was implemented, and it proved to be very successful in meeting the cultural demands of the diverse sections of community living there. The concept has now been introduced in Pakistan, so as to meet the various needs of the diverse sections of the community, and to ensure the cultural adaptation of the product. He said that there are over 40 concept stores in Pakistan, which have been established on parallel lines to the ones set up in the international market.

Talking to Daily Times, he said that he had gained a masters degree in arts and economics, and upon completing this he did a masters in business education. He began his career as a management trainee at Bata, and his first job was as store manager. Following this he was assigned as district manager. In year 2000 he was promoted as brand manger for Bata's 'Bubblegummer' brand, wherefrom his success story began in the real sense.

This ambitious man climbed the ladder of success to become the managing director of Bata in 2008. In the meanwhile, he had equipped himself with various training courses from many different countries, and he had also been assigned responsibilities in South Africa where he successfully fulfilled his responsibilities.

This ambitious man used his skills and the foreign exposure, to creating a unique combination of human value-based corporate management systems, involving great deal of participation by the employees. All this ensured the growth of the company.

He revealed that he had gotten the opportunity to work for a multinational company established by a self-made man, Thomas J Bata. He said that T.J. Bata shifted from Czechoslovakia to Canada during World War I and began the business from there. He successfully penetrated into new markets throughout Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, extending his business worldwide.

Bata now operates 63 companies in various industries, yet footwear remains the company's core business with 60 million pairs of shoes sold per year in more than 30 countries. He further revealed that Bata started its operations as a company in 1942 in what is today Pakistan. It now has operations across all the four provinces and Azad Kashmir, managed by three regional offices with a large network of 370 outlets nationwide.

He added that he feels very blessed in working for an organisation whose owner valued hard work, as he himself had been a self-made person. TJ Bata had followed a management style of giving liberty to the skilled professionals to run the decentralised set ups, yet with a centralised main policy which largely involved brainstorming by the managing directors of all the countries so as to pool their experiences together for a better working environment. He said that a decentralised working of the setups established in the various countries helps the managements to pursue the effective policies formulated by the management residing in that specific country. He added that he had fortunately been the first Pakistani to become the managing director of the company, with sufficient knowledge of the cultural, religious and climatic conditions of the country's environment. This has proved to be more effective and useful for the company.

Talking about his work-experience abroad, Imran Malik said that he had completed several workshops in several countries, which, he added, had helped him a lot in broadening his horizon. "I always used to study the psyche of the people wherever I went, so as to equip myself with the diverse manifestation of the human psychology; helping me a lot to bring the best out of ourselves, for our customers," he said. He added that wherever I go to new place, I study the environment to analyse the traditions and psyche of the people, which then reveals to me the trends that the people follow. All this helps a lot in devising strategies about the sales, taking into account the diversity of the people, in terms of classes as well as age groups.

He said that by harmonising the demands and needs of the people as per their environment, we devise strategies to deal with those particular needs. He said that we always take into account the customer's needs and demands, which ensures maximum penetration into the market.

Elaborating on the secrets behind his success he said that he had always tried to ensure maximum participation of the team members, thus synchronising the needs and demands of the team members. As a result, aggressive growth policies could be implemented which have proven to be very fruitful. The influx of unique and diverse ideas presented by team members, create a sense of ownership among the employees when adopted and implemented; this is key to the successful working of employees on a team. He said that we at the company believe that in the corporate world, teamwork is of the utmost importance, and that every successful venture is the outcome of teamwork by skilled professionals.

Imran Malik told Daily Times, that he has always strived to pursue human values, which, he believes, is the only way you can possibly win the hearts of people; this will also guarantee brand loyalty from customers as also the loyalties of your team.

He added that the key to his success is that he has always tried to apply a participatory approach, which ensures the participation of every employee as well as people who could be the potential customers.

He said that Bata had also started aid programmes for the local communities to support the suppressed sections of the society. Under these aid programmes, vocational training institutes and education for the disabled include the more prominent aspects, while the idea of a 'Bata School System' is under the final stages of finalisation. In this school, an opportunity to gain high-quality education would be provided to everyone, completely free of cost.

He said that we at Bata believe that since the company is working here in Pakistan, we should seek to win the hearts of the people in this country, so that they may relate to the multinational organisation. He added that "being Muslims, we believe that helping others ensures their satisfaction, which in turn guarantees ones own internal satisfaction".

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Daily Times. For more information on news feed please contact Sarabjit Jagirdar at

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Publication:Daily Times (Lahore, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Jun 27, 2010
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