Syed Babar Ali proved himself a real titan when he spoke during a session titled “Unveiling the Titan: In conversation with Syed Babar Ali” at the concluding day of the fourth edition of Lahore Literary Festival (LLF) on Sunday.
Ali narrated his success story before the audience as he is regarded as Pakistan’s leading businessman who envisioned a number of business ventures including Packages Limited, IGI Insurance Company and LUMS.
The session was moderated by veteran journalist Khaled Ahmed who was well-read about Ali’s life and pushed him to unveil the golden moments of his life.
Babar Ali laid the foundation of Packages Limited in 1956. Today the major clients of this company are Unilever and Pakistan Tobacco Company. The sales of Packages Limited exceeded $141 million in 2013.
According to Ali, 25 per cent market shares of the packaging industry are held by his company and the remaining 75 per cent shares by those who once worked for his company.
On how he conceived the idea of launching Lahore University of Management Sciences, Ali said, “I went to Harvard Business School in 1973 to study business management and stayed there for 13 weeks. Those 13 weeks were really an eye-opener for me as I realised that there must be a well-established business university in Pakistan.”
He further said he consulted Abdul Razak Dawood, who used to teach business administration at the Punjab University, at the time and he agreed to work with him. “LUMS was founded in 1985 and I became its first pro-chancellor” he added.
About establishment of LUMS, Ali said that when the USSR invaded Afghanistan towards the end of the 1970s, the US also jumped in to counter Russia and gave millions of dollars to Pakistan for fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. “Several programmes were funded by America at the time, including USAID to help Pakistan and Afghanistan. I approached the US government and convinced the US ambassador to release an amount of $10 million under USAID to help build LUMS,” he added.
At the end, Babar Ali said with pride that LUMS had produced more than 10,000 alumni since its inception and 33 percent of them were women.
The audience gave Ali a round of applause when he said that more than 90 percent female alumni of LUMS were working women who did not sit idle after getting education. According to Ali, he planted a single tree in 1985 in the form of LUMS and now there are over a hundred business school in the country.