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Workers ownership of privatised units is rewarding.

The Privatisation Commission has handed over Sindh Alkalis to Employees Management Group, led by Mr. Sajjad Ahmed Mirza, Managing Director. Some 730 workers and experts are working in the unit. Mr. Sajjad Ahmed Mirza speaks about the post-privatisation scenario. Following are the excerpts:-

Q. What is your policy after controlling the affairs of Sindh Alkalis by the Employees Management Group?

A. Our policy shall basically remain the same during the interim period. We do not want to create vacuum at this juncture. We are going to engage reputable management consultants. In the light of that we will form constitution of the company, specially for the Group. We will try to settle all the issues involved. Now these issues are to be tackled at the Group level. Though we have a heavy agenda but we will try to maintain the dividend rate. Since we are already running successfully in the public sector, we don't want to shake that structure drastically. It is a good structure except we will try to improve it in the sphere of decision making. In the public sector there had been a long chain of command. That chain of command has been reduced.

However, the government should encourage the workers to run their units by providing a frame work for its smooth running. Moreover the government should provide a financial plan and help the workers to raise funds for the projects. The advantage with the workers is the technical know how and this should be given concessionary benefits.

Q. Will you be able to maintain the profitability trend of this unit after privatisation?

A. We will not only try to maintain the profitability but will certainly improve the previous profitability. Our main effort will be to enhance the production of the plant. There is a lot of potential in the plant. We will try to improve our decision making scales. More team work will be generated. At the moment we are quite confident that people have really started feeling this thing. People are more motivated than they were previously. Inshallah we will improve our profitability by cutting our expenditure, enhancing productivity and improving upon the efficiency.

Q. Your manufacturing technology of Soda Ash is too old. Are you planning to acquire new technology?

A. This technology suited the company when the gas was too cheap. This technology has to be updated now. We will try to introduce new technology as soon as possible. For that a lot of work and planning was already been done. We hope that we can start the work within next few months, if every thing goes well as planned.

Q. Are you keeping the same strength of workers as it was before privatisation?

A. Of course we are going to keep the same strength of employees not only of workers. We will work with the same strength of both officers and workers. The basic philosophy is that the excess staff will be absorbed in forthcoming expansion. There is no question of throwing anyone out of service. At present there are 600 workers and 130 officers. There are two unions. One of them is CBA. It is because of the co-operation of workers that we managed to get Sindh Alkalis. About 98 per cent of the total strength supported us in our effort to bid for the company. The workers were forced to be united by the circumstances. As a result we are large hearted without fear of being thrown out. No body of us is an industrialist. We are sailing in the same boat, and struggling hard for the best.

Q. What has been the effect of migration of skilled workers and personnel in chemical industry. Have you increased your wage structure to keep the technical hands in the country?

A. So far the Sind Alkalis is concerned, wage structure and working conditions are good in our organisation. As a result there is no drain in our company. There were instances when people left the company and went abroad but they rejoined us soon after coming back to Pakistan. Really the atmosphere of the company counts more than the facilities extended. None of our employees left the company at his own except in case of retirement after attaining the age.

Q. What are your expansion plan?

A. We want to expand immediately after we put the house in order. We have to take so many new steps. Our technical people are already working on the expansion plan which is quite in an advanced stage. Earlier we wanted to double this plant. Now we have decided to do it in two phases which has been necessitated by the expansion plan of ICI. Now to expand in one go is quite difficult because lot of money is required. At present there is no backing or support of government, we have to generate our own resources. Unfortunately we are now undergoing through an interim phase. It will require sometime before we establish our credentials and credibility in the market for which we will take a year or so. When an employees group takes over the company there are certain apprehensions going into the minds of public. However, our record has been very good during the past few years, we have been making our repayments right on times to banks and DFI's. Whenever we needed Bank guarantees that have been given to us by the Banks. Foreign collaboration is also expected because of our good image in the previous years. All these things are very likely to help us.

Q. According to our estimates Sindh Alkalis and ICI are fully capable to meet the demand of Soda Ash in the country? Your comment!

A. At the moment both the companies are fully capable of meeting the demand of the country. Sindh Alkalis and ICI together have sold 180,000 tons of Soda Ash during 1991-92. Inbuilt capacities are there to cope up the future demand. More has been done by ICI in this regard. They have been taking over all the increases. We enhanced the production just once from 30,000 tons to 50,000 tons. Rest of the increase in the demand was met by ICI. At present there is no shortage of Soda Ash in the country. The market is quite satisfied.

Q. What is the future of Chemical Industry in Pakistan?

A. Future of Chemical industry is very bright in Pakistan. Chemical industry has to be installed yet in real sense. People are worried because of environmental effect. That is the root cause which is affecting the progress. There is uncertainty about the infrastructure in Pakistan. We need financial encouragement only from government because we have an inbuilt expertise which no industrialist possesses. In this regard we have to create credibility first then we would have no financial problem.

Sajjad Ahmed Mirza passed M.Ss. in Chemistry from Punjab University, Lahore in 1960. He served as lecturer for six months then joined Antibiotics (Private) Limitted, Iskanderabad Mianwali as shift chemist and ultimately rose to become the Chief Executive of Pakdyes & Chemicals located in the same area in 1979. He took over as Managing Director of Sind Alklis Limited in May 1985. At that time SAL was a real sick unit. Since then the company had made substantial progress and was one of the most profitable ventures amongst the FCCCL/MOP units which has recently been handed over to Workers by the government. Major achievements include a big Energy Conservation effort and substantial savings on account of carrying out a successful replacement programme of costly imported refractories with those locally produced SAL was awarded the National Energy Conservation Award for 1989 and A Grade Company Award by Experts Advisory Cell (EAC), Ministry of Production, Islamabad during 1989-90.
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Title Annotation:interview with Sajjad Ahmad Mirza, managing director of Employees Management Group
Author:Raza, Moosi
Publication:Economic Review
Article Type:Interview
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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