SALMAN IQBAL, CEO – ARY

ARY Family plays a vital role in the betterment of Pakistan. It has played a very important role in enlightening and educating the people, with aiding public involvement through advocating issues and transferring knowledge, skills and technologies. Furthermore, it has also awoken people against many evils prevailing in the society. In doing so ARY News has exposed a number of corrupt practices, hidden deals, thus, putting a check on Cancer in the form of corruption in the society.

The family of ARY has always served the country by bringing foreign exchange. They have always spent on the nation, what they have earned from the nation, unlike those who earn from there nation but spend on themselves.

Salman Iqbal is the manpower which led to the success and fame of Pakistan’s leading television channel, ARY. He is a man of honour and respect; he stands for what is right regardless of any fear of the aftermath. He is known for his passion for ARY and Pakistan. He is a true leader, an inspiration, an optimist, forthright and outspoken, well-dressed and a very down to earth personality.

Brands Team had an exclusive session with Salman Iqbal where he took out the time to share his valuable views and experiences.

BM: Tell us about your educational and professional journey and how did you become a part of ARY?

SI: I have completed my double bachelor’s degree with the majors in Finance and General from the University of Houston. I belong to an economist background, so basically started my career with banking. I entered the world of media (television) in the year 2000.

WHEREVER PAKISTAN WILL STAND, MY CHANNEL AND I WILL BE FOUND STANDING BESIDE AS PAKISTAN WILL AND SHALL ALWAYS BE MY FIRST PRIORITY

Salman Iqbal 2

When I resided in London there was a channel named TPC, “The Pakistani Channel”, which broadcasted for 9 hours out of 24 hours, with the collaboration of Bangladeshi broadcasting company. One day the owner of TPC came to my father and said that the channel is not doing business and so they are deciding to shut it down. Since my family is very possessive when it comes to Pakistan, my father said that this channel should not be shut down, that is when he called me one morning and told me that he had bought a TV channel, TPC (which today is ARY). I asked my father how would he manage, and that is when he gave me the responsibility instead. All this took place by the end of the year, 1999. I told him that I had no knowledge about the media industry as I was completely related to the banking sector. So my Father told me to look after the financial department on his behalf as he was going to Pakistan, there, when he would find a suitable person, he would hire him as the CEO.

“It’s been 16 years, and still no CEO has been hired yet”, he said laughingly.

As CEO I then worked on the channel, launched it from UK to USA, from USA to Pakistan, and now ARY is broadcasted in 123 countries.

BM: What is your vision for ARY? What new ventures are there to be seen in the future?

SI: My vision for ARY is everlasting and ever-growing. We are planning new ventures for the year 2016. As you must know we have already published our first print publication by the name of “NEWSWEEK” in Dubai, and are now planning to launch it here in Pakistan soon. Secondly, we are also planning on opening a channel for sports lovers, but everything takes time and so they shall too. Apart from these there are more plans about which you will find out in the near future. Our number one priority is the entertainment and wellbeing of our people who we keep in mind while planning our ventures.

I HAVE BEEN VERY LUCKY REGARDING THE PEOPLE I HAVE WORKED WITH; WE HAVE A TEAM OF HARDWORKING AND DEDICATED EMPLOYEES WHO ARE EMPOWERED TO MAKE DECISIONS THAT ARE FAVORABLE FOR BOTH THE COMPANY AND PEOPLE

BM: A few months ago there was a war seen between the leading channels of Pakistan which included ARY, what was the reason behind the chaos?

SI: We have never been in a war with any individual channel; our war has always been and will solely be for the cause and concept of Pakistan. We didn’t target any individual channel; we were fighting on the fact that every channel, every institute and everybody is answerable to the higher authority. If Allah has given me the power of decision making, I intend not to use it in the wrong way. It was nothing personal. In fact, GEO is my competitor for the past 10 – 15 years, why would I realize this competition just 2 years from now? Why didn’t we stand against our other competitors; Dawn, TV One, Hum channel, Express, etc. they too are our competitors right? Basically our fight was in favour of Pakistan and whosoever will go against the betterment of Pakistan, we will stand against them, whether it’s any channel or institute. In fact we are fighting a judicial case against them till now, even though now it is UK based, but we are fighting and we will pursue it sooner or later.

BM: The time you announced to take over BOL channel, a fiasco was seen in the media, what were the reasons behind both decisions of taking over and then letting go of BOL channel?

SI: BOL TV was purely a business decision, both ways. Our conversations with BOL TV members were that we would first, settle the financial terms of the company and its employees and then announce publically about the management take over, however, they refused the idea and asked us to announce it directly and take over the management. You may look at all our press conferences regarding BOL TV; we have had always used the term Management Take-over, there was never a statement where we made the audience come to the idea of us owning the channel. We had decided that we would look into the whole matter, their strong assets and decide when they would be able to launch again, because I was against the idea of first announcing the news and then taking over the management. But we did the announcement because of the persuasion of the previous owners. The next big thing we found difficult at BOL was the availability of human resource, as it takes years to build human resources, so there were a few more issues like these due to which we had to call back our decision and let go of BOL TV.

BM: What were the reasons behind producing and sponsoring movies in Pakistan on both national and international levels?

SI: Three years ago, my team and I went to India and proposed a budget of Rs. 50 crore to invest in the film industry. We sealed the deal with Star Studio, Later a thought came to my mind and I told my CEO that we were doing what they want us to do and the ball would always be in their court. So I decided to invest that same amount in my country and bring about the revival of Pakistani cinema. And now it can be seen how much we have grown in the past three years, with Ho Mann Jahan being our 9th movie till now.

ONE OF THE REASONS BEHIND PRODUCING AND SPONSORING MOVIES IN PAKISTAN IS BECAUSE I WANT TO STRENGTHEN THE ECONOMY AND FILM INDUSTRY USING MY OWN RESOURCES

BM: PSL is now going to be a great venture, maybe one of the biggest for ARY. What are your thoughts and expectations regarding it? Why did you choose the team Karachi Kings?

SI: PSL should have been launched three years ago. There is so much talent in our young boys that if they were not given a chance it would have been a misfortune for us. As I was one of the team selectors, it was a very tough decision as to whom to choose and whom to let go off. It was basically a decision between experience versus fitness, fitness versus age and age versus strength & weaknesses. When we were making our team we had decided three factors which every player had to have; fittest of the all, young boys and best fielders. Now we have a whole team of all-rounders and the problem we first thought we would face was which player we would ask to sit on the bench, so we then decided to play with a new team with every new match so that every player is given a chance to play and show his talent to the world. Our young boys will have the chance to play with international players and this way they will have an opportunity to groom.

I chose Karachi as it is the largest city in Pakistan with reference to its population. Karachi is the only city in Pakistan which is cosmopolitan; you will find every caste, culture and creed of Pakistan here. So I have basically bought a mini Pakistan.

BM: How do you balance your personal and professional life, as being the owner of one of the leading media channels of Pakistan?

SI: If you ask about my personal life I always make sure that I have breakfast with my family, daily. Furthermore, whenever I opt to skip office, I also have my children skip school so that I may spend as much time with my children as possible, due to which my wife always has to face many complaints from the school admin. So apart from being the owner of ARY, I tend to be a family person as well.