Joint Ventures and Technology Transfer is the way forward for local manufacturers

Engr. Fahim Siddiqui shares insights in an exclusive conversation with Engineering Post

In the bustling city of Karachi, where the pulse of Pakistan’s engineering sector beats strongly, stands Engr. Fahim Siddiqui, the visionary CEO of FND Consulting Engineers— a distinguished firm specializing in Mechanical-Electrical-Plumbing (MEP) Building Services. In an exclusive interview with Engineering Post, Siddiqui provides a glimpse into the journey of FND, the challenges faced in the industry, and the role of engineering in shaping a better future for Pakistan.

Engr. Fahim Siddiqui sheds light on the evolution of FND. The foundation of the company was laid in 1987 by the three partners Fahim Siddiqui, Ghulam Abbas Nanji and Roland DeSouza. Over the years, the firm has expanded to a 115+ company, with eight directors currently providing the leadership for FND’s growth. FND Consulting Engineers has recently achieved a noteworthy milestone in its journey by expanding its office space. The company had commenced its operations with a modest space of 3500 square feet on the first floor of the building. Subsequently, recognizing the need for additional room, another 2500 square feet were acquired on the mezzanine floor.

However, as the company continued to thrive and welcomed new personnel, the existing space became increasingly congested. In response to this growth, FND Consulting Engineers took a momentous step by securing an entire floor spanning 10,000 square feet. This strategic move allowed the company to relocate all its personnel, providing a more spacious and conducive work environment.

Recognizing the importance of employee well-being, the company has also acquired an additional 5000 square feet on another floor. This dedicated area will house an auditorium designed for training sessions and presentations, accommodating an audience of 50-60 people. Moreover, this floor will feature a break area equipped with recreational facilities such as table tennis, foosball, carom, fostering a dynamic and engaging workplace culture.

Engr. Fahim Siddiqui takes pride in the fact that the company transitioned to a private limited entity and, in 2011, engineers working for FND were given shareholding in a strategic move aligning with the principles of corporate governance and employee empowerment. As he discusses the dynamics of FND, he emphasizes the significance of a well-thought-out succession plan for the future of the company. “Succession is vital for the sustainability and continuity of any organization. We have put a plan in place to transition FND into an employee-owned company, as none of our children will be taking over the company in the future, “he states, underlining the importance of ensuring a seamless transfer of responsibilities and leadership.

The conversation shifts towards the broader context of the business environment in Pakistan. Engr Fahim Siddiqui acknowledged that the impact of the country’s situation, particularly political uncertainties, can influence the business landscape. He quoted  a senior industrialist who told him that business must be divorced from politics,  asserting, “Business needs to go on but should not be hindered by politics. We need to develop a pragmatic approach, and persevere despite political uncertainties,” he said.

Engr. Fahim Siddiqui believes that to bring about change we need to change our focus from creating a new Pakistan to taking on some personal responsibility and creating a new Pakistani “We need to work on ourselves as individuals and create a new identity as a nation;  an identity where adherence to laws is prioritized, all the taxes are paid religiously and people emulate qualities of good character taught by our religion. Only then we can hope to create a better version of ourselves,” he explained.

Reflecting on the current state of affairs in the country, Engr. Fahim Siddiqui expresses concern about the challenges Pakistan is facing. He draws parallels to the injustices he witnessed in 1971 in East Pakistan. He emphasized the need for those in power to prioritize the betterment of the nation over individual institutions; “I just hope that sense prevails and those in control of the country start thinking broadly about the betterment of the country rather than just one institution,” he remarked. Engr. Fahim Siddiqui stresses that the only possible way out of this era of uncertainty is through free and fair elections, highlighting their pivotal role in boosting investor confidence and fostering positive economic conditions in the country.

Discussing the challenges faced by local manufacturers, Engr. Fahim Siddiqui delves into the complexities of manufacturing good quality equipment. He noted manufacturing quality products takes years of experience and evolution for which we do not have time as a country, so we need to jump-start the process. The only way that is possible is by engaging in Joint Ventures with international manufacturers and executing technology transfer deals so we can benefit from the expertise of international quality manufacturers in the world. “Industrialists need to be involved in technology transfer and joint ventures with international quality manufacturers of Europe, Turkey, China, etc. Only then our manufacturing quality can become competitive enough to be feasible for use & export” he asserted, highlighting the importance of building partnerships that promote knowledge exchange. “All of us know the way towards improvement and what steps need to be taken including the people involved in manufacturing in Pakistan. We just need the ability to think long term and the will to do it,”

Engr. Fahim also emphasizes the significance of obtaining third-party certifications for local products. He explained that building a commercial building currently costs around Rs 22000- Rs 25000 per square ft. An investor who is investing such a huge amount of money needs to make sure that once the building becomes operational; his core operations are not affected due to low quality products used on his project, which is why people use products which have 3rd party certification. “Until local manufacturers start getting 3rd party certifications for their products it is very difficult for us as consultants to recommend local products as we have the responsibility to ensure that MEP systems in buildings operate efficiently, reliably, and last long. That is why our local manufacturers need to realize that maintaining quality along with getting 3rd-party certification is very important,” He emphasized the need for a long-term perspective and a commitment to excellence. In his view, joint ventures with international manufacturers can catalyze advancements in the quality of local products.

As the conversation shifted towards the core operations of the consultancy sector, a field Engr. Fahim Siddiqui considers crucial for ensuring the success and sustainability of construction projects, he elucidated the role of a good consultant in delivering quality, sustainability, longevity, and low operating costs. “People need to understand that quality is not by chance; it is achieved by hard work,” he affirmed, stressing the importance of recognizing the value consultants bring to a project. He explained that the consultant fees, which are typically 2% of the cost of works or even lower, should not be perceived as a burden but as a long-term investment in ensuring project success. Of course, savings must be made, but surely trying to save on consultancy fee, which is less than 2% of the cost of works is counter-productive, and the real savings lie in the 100% of the cost of works, and a good consultant by proper & optimum design is able to generate savings that far outweigh the consultancy fee. Engr. Fahim Siddiqui, while reflecting on FND’s journey, stated that, “FND has maintained its integrity in the market, and our source of revenues is only through fees paid by Clients. This is why people trust us to get them the best possible solutions available in the market” Despite the challenges and the prevailing tendency of some clients to prefer unsustainable fees, he remains optimistic about the future. His vision for FND and the engineering sector in Pakistan revolves around a commitment to quality, ethical practices, and a focus on long-term success rather than short term gains.