People Magazine
Interviews

An Exclusive Interview With Shafiq Akbar, CEO – Graana.com

Who is Shafiq Akbar? From a very successful businessman abroad to developing Graana.com tell us about yourself.

Shafiq Akbar is a Pakistani – a die-hard patriot who has returned to Pakistan after many years of being an Overseas Paksitani, ambitious to contribute his bit for the betterment of the country. All of my vision, mission, work and brands fall in line with the same aim to change the image of Pakistan for better.

Why did you return to Pakistan? How did the journey begin and what pushed you towards creating the brand?

I would say an early self-actualisation was the reason behind my return to Pakistan.

Like everyone else, initially I had materialistic goals at the onset of my career – things like  being well-established, having a good car, a home, a secure job, were on top of the list which I achieved through hard work quite early on.

I was successfully running different businesses in UK for many years, but there was a persistent & deep sense of  lacking purpose. I wanted to do something that added value to people’s lives and make them better in some way- hence my decision of returning home to Pakistan to work for my country.

You talk about simplifying The real estate sector is very complex. How do you take on simplifying this for a simple man?

Real Estate is the biggest sector of every country, as it holds about 80-90% of the asset value of any economy. It’s a mega sector that encompasses all – Agriculture, Industry and Allied, construction, tourism. RE transactions are perhaps the most difficult to carry out in Pakistan, hence my team’s purpose is to simplify the real estate experience for every Pakistani.

What are the main issues that you think you can resolve ?

Pakistan’s RE sector broadly has 4 main issues:

. Lack of planning

. Lack of authority

. Lack of access to information

. Malpractices

and i can tell you that all of these problems can be solved within one year or if not, at least basic groundwork to tackle these can be set up and we as a brand are working to do just that.

With a more ambitious approach we can even bring Pak’s RE sector at par with international standards within 5 years.

Since landing in Pakistan what strategic target have you achieved so far?

I’d rather call them contributions. Since you ask – the biggest contribution from our end has been the digital mapping of Real Estate in Pakistan and the technology  we have thus-far developed to introduce the real estate transaction-free system service.

We are going to launch in Pakistan an online land registry and transaction system to offer the most advanced service compared to most modern countries in the world.

What is Graana.com to a common man?

Graana.com is ‘Real Estate Simplified’

Real estate is an amalgamation of different industries, various stakeholders, and technologies working together-our aim is to bring a hassle-free, transparent and secure service for the people.

Over the years Pakistan RE sector has lacked experts and leaders. How have you contributed to bridging this knowledge gap?

Pakistan is the 5th most populous country in the world, with a big chunk of our people with no formal education especially in the RE Sector.

In an effort to educate, Graana.com has introduced Pakistan’s first RE certification course in collaboration with NUST. This has kickstarted a chain where universities have recognised this gap and are now working on introducing formal education relevant to this sector which in fact is the 2nd biggest employer in the country.

Graana.com launched nationwide. Why did you choose Shaan and why do you think he fits into the graana vision.

Graana is a Pakistani brand. When we are looking to represent Pakistan, who better than Shaan?

It is being projected that Graana.com may become Pakistan’s first home-grown unicorn, what do you have to say to that ?

That is possible with our very ambitious business plans over the next few years.

Starting from 2021, Graana now has an inventory worth 1 Billion up for sale. Our booking value for sales is expected to rise to Rs 80-90 billion in 2023, which is just from one revenue stream and we have over 30 revenue streams.

Sky is the limit, Graana now plans on launching worldwide.

Are these targets too overwhelming for your team?

If you talk to my team they will give you even higher targets, and they do achieve those as well. As a matter of  they over-achieved during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How many people have you fired during COVID?

None, infact we were one of the biggest employment generators during COVID. We set up 10 new offices in 2020 with 13 more in the pipeline and presence across 30+ cities.

Right now your team 60% of your team is the young lot. How do they fall in line with the vision?

The formula is simple :

Good tea & coffee + great food + a sense of purpose = they do wonders.

That’s just on the lighter side, honestly speaking it is more like they motivate me. The youth here in Pakistan is immensely gifted, many even without any formal education do wonders.

From my personal experience, I have seen people do wonders within my teams given opportunities of growth. In a small span I have seen surveyors turn into some of the top-performing sales agents in our company and people in all departments rise from smaller roles to fill much bigger shoes.

As a part of your CSR campaigns we see Graana doing a lot of community activities, what’s the idea behind it?

Pakistanis are an activity starved nation. As our core value, we are working towards nation-building and the same reflects in our CSR activities. One of our activities- cycling sunday that started in twin cities brings together people from all age groups and walks, it received such a  now it’s being replicated across many cities.

Is Graana a gender inclusive company? How safe should women feel while joining any one of your offices?

Absolutely. We put in a deliberate effort to especially protect, empower and facilitate women in our offices. Women have been given equal opportunities and today, we have some of the very best in our top management.

What is your long-term vision? And, how is it split into short-term goals?

As far as our  group of companies is concerned, it will transform the real estate sector of Pakistan. Bringing it at par with international standards.

As for our broader vision : We aim to contribute towards our national goals of rebuilding Pakistan. Pakistan has everything – systems and processes, technology, infrastructure and a talented pool of human resources… the only difference is in thinking. For far too long we have been looked down upon as children of a lesser god- this needs to change and it can only happen when all of us play our part.

What do you see next for overseas Pakistanis, who want to come back to their homeland?

We have all heard over and over that Overseas Pakistanis are Pakistan’s biggest asset. We must work to facilitate them as this diaspora has the potential to bring heavy investment back into the country.

Overseas Pakistanis have the right exposure and experience to set up businesses and create job opportunities in Pakistan and can help redefine other sectors and opportunities. Government must also work to offer the overseas Pakistanis a platform where they can add value to Pakistan.

In one word, the current state of Pakistan?

A country with great potential. Which with the right planning can become one the fastest-growing economy in 5 years.

What is a perfect Pakistan for you?

The Pakistan of Jinnah- Jinnah in his first speech in the Nation Assembly said;

Pakistan can become one of the greatest nations in the world.

Pakistan has the right potential to compete with every leading country – we should be graded as equals. It’s a journey that will not just happen overnight, but it is a journey that has to start. We need the confidence Mr. Jinnah had when he gave that speech- a country that believes in itself. We have the example of China – how they turned around their image to redefine the international order.

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