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Exclusive Interview of Mr. Murtaza Hashwani, Deputy Chairman & CEO of The Hashoo Group and Chairman of Hashoo Foundation

Mr. Murtaza Hashwani is Deputy Chairman and CEO of Hashoo Group, a business that spans many different industries. Five of its core verticals include hospitality, energy, technology, manufacturing, and property development. Hashoo Group owns and operates the luxury Pearl-Continental and Marriott Hotels, and operates limited-services brand Hotel One – three leading hospitality brands in Pakistan. These brands have become synonymous with international service standards, efficiency, convenience, and guest satisfaction. Murtaza is overseeing further expansion of Hashoo Group, which will open 3 new hotels in 2019 and will expand into new verticals. On the philanthropic side, Murtaza is Chairman of Hashoo Foundation, which is a knowledge based and impact-oriented organisation with the mission to leverage knowledge as capital to help bring about socio-economic transformation. Promotion and protection of the environment to reduce negative effects of climate change is also one of Hashoo Foundation’s focus areas. Brands Magazine has an exclusive session with Murtaza Hashwani where he shared how he ended up in the business and carries on the legacy brought down from his forefathers.

Belonging to an industrialist family, was entering the family business a choice or compulsion and where did it all begin?

I’d say this was both a choice and compulsion. Hashoo Group is a business with a long-standing heritage that dates back to my grandparents. With entrepreneurship running in my blood, it’s something I was interested in from a very early age. That’s what makes it a compulsion for me. Of course, it was the efforts the and hard work of my father the Chairman Saddrudin Hashwani, a self-made man that built this empire in very difficult and discouraging circumstances in the 1960s, way before I was born. I’vebeen witness to his struggle and adopted the resilience which brought the group to where it is today. This is what makes it a choice.

What are your core responsibilities at Hashoo Group and Foundation?

I’mDeputy Chairman and CEO of The Hashoo Group, and Chairman of HashooFoundation, which means I have to oversee two separate functions that aresimilar in many ways. Guiding the business strategy and vision of both is my core responsibility. In short, I’d say, when it comes to the group, running all its verticals, and ensuring the expansion of the company stays aligned with this. Not to forget the people. The professional talent and teams that make this possible, which is where supporting the growth and innovation of the workforce as Pakistan grows.  When it comes to the Foundation, the philosophy of corporate social responsibility is what its vision is based on. Even though it’s governed by independent trustees, I ensure the social investment combined with modern knowledge and expertise produces measurable results and impacts to make a difference.

How would you define the legacy of Hashoo Group build by your forefathers?

To me, the legacy lies in the fact that everybody knows us and our workforce feels proud to be associated with the group. A well-known name in Pakistan so to say. We owe this to the fact that we stuck to our fivevalues of believing in the betterment of employment, growth, recognition, innovation, and trust. Thousands of people are directly employed with us and thousands of more jobs have been created indirectly through our supply chain. Our employees are very loyal and have a sense of belonging to the group. As a matter of fact, results from this year’semployee engagementsurvey placed us amongthe top ofemployers of Pakistan, right up there with popular multinational companies. It was heartening to see that strategic alignment, belonging, and trust in leadership were the areas we scored the highest in.Going forward, the main part of ourlegacy is to bring in innovation and modern hospitality. For this,we’re investing in technology and service solutions that will help our whole industry grow, not just the company. And it’s this very workforce that will carry on this legacy for decades to come.

How do you foresee to maintain the standard and services of the group, nationally and globally?

With nine hotels, two of which are an international brand and threemore coming up, maintaining standards and services is vital to the business. We do this by continuing to cultivate the talent we have in the group. With a learning and development department in the organisation, a lot of time is invested intraining our employees. And then there’s the Foundation, which has the one of the best Hospitality Management Training Program among others, which was set up in the late 1990s. We’vetrained hundreds of thousands of men and women through its programs. Which of course, is not justhelping us, but the industry in general and is an important part of our vision. In parallel, we are very optimistic with the new leadership in the country which has placed travel and tourism as one of its top focus areas in the ‘New Pakistan.’ Since travel and tourism in is the main part of our vertical, the relationship between public and private sector is very important for private enterprise sustainability so that we have the support we need to get the goods to maintain the standards we need at our hotels. For example, the infrastructure (roads and transport) for our guests to be able to get to our hotels.

Hashoo foundation was forced to a pause in the recent past, however, has gained pace again for the well-being of the people. How would define the hurdles and journey of the Hashoo Foundation?

Hashoo Foundation was purely created for the wellbeing of people. Which again was a concept that we inherited and came into being several generations ago by one of my ancestors Mukhi Hashoo. The foundation however formalised and institutionalised in 1988, the essence of which is to constantly evolve and adapt to the needs of the communities in Pakistan. Its main focus areas have been economic development, human capital development, and social protection. But this year, we have gone into environment and climate change. The foundation has now expanded its presence outside of Pakistan with a UK and USA chapter.

You and your organization are seen to be active in the newly made Government’s Tree Plantation Drive, enlighten us about the project?

As I mentioned above, environment and climate change are one of the areas recently taken up by the Hashoo Foundation. As corporate social responsibility does not stop at the Foundation, this is an area we are committed to focus on through the group as well. With our hotels in nine different locations from the valley of Muzaffarabad to the coast of Gwadar, we’re initiating and joining hands with the plantation drive in every location. Just this year, we planted more than 3,000 trees in Muzaffarabad, AJK and 1,000 in Islamabad the capital,ensuring the plants were indigenous to the area. The sustainability of the project isalso very important here. We’re planting in areas which don’t fall in development plans in the future, such as green belts, hilly areas, and barren areas next to the main highways. So, with the new government havinginvited the private sector to the support them in the initiative, we are committed to taking part nationwide.

With such a vast professional portfolio on your name how do you manage time for your personal life?

No matter how busy I am, I make sure each day begins and ends with family time. My family is my driving force for success. Other than that, it’s all about prioritizing between the two which shifts, depending on needs. Making sure you’re there for your family as well as your teams. We’re lucky to be living in digital age, when things can be managed from anywhere with the right device in your hand. So, it’s all about integrating work and personal life, regardless of how many things you have on your plate. Having said that it’s also very important to completely log off from work once in a while and give your undivided attention to the family and make some time for yourself.

You were recently sworn in as the Honorary Council for the Kingdom of Belgium, tell us about your role in strengthening bilateral trade?

Following in the footsteps of my father,I was sworn in as Honorary Consul to Belgium in Karachi this year. Belgium is one of the top European trade partners with Pakistan, and my father was recognised for his role in promoting good relations between the Kingdom of Belgium and Pakistan. It was an honour for me to host a Belgian Trade Delegation visiting Pakistan in early November made up of representatives from 24 leading companies from all three regions of the Kingdom. The objective of their visit was to further strengthen the trade relationship between Pakistan and Belgium. This is a great time to be in Pakistan, we are’ undergoing a process of economic liberalisation, and we are optimistic about the potential for foreign investment. Trade visits like this play an important role in strengthening this partnership.

What message would you like to give especially to the youth?

With more than 60% of the population in its early 20s, Pakistan currently has the largest population of young people ever recorded in its history. This tells you a lot about the important role youth can play, not only for the nation, but the region itself and they can’t be reminded of this enough. In the current scenario, entrepreneurship among the youth is vital to put the nation on the right path of sustainable growth. And part of our corporate social responsibility vision is to focus on and explore avenues of passing on knowledge on digital entrepreneurship. We’re starting off with an ‘Every Corporation’ project at the end of this year. In this project, we will partner with industry leaders across Pakistan, and invite youth to listen to them speak about their journey to success. Projects like these offer opportunities for young people to get involved in the future of the country. I’d also remind them of our founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s philosophy of self-determination. If you work and take chances, you can build something great.

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