In Talks With Zeeshan Habib | From the Desk of CEO

Insights he shared about his life and role as a CEO reflects his years of experience

We have the honor and privilege of interviewing Mr. Zeeshan Habib Teli who is the CEO of Mehran Bottlers, one of the giants ruling the industry of beverages. The insights he shared about his life and role as a CEO reflects his years of experience.

Q. What was your journey like to get where you are?

Ans. I was born in 1979 in Karachi and got my education from the UK. When I was six years old, my father got ill and we all had to shift to the UK, as he was being treated there. I continued my education in the UK, from basic schooling to doing my Bachelors and Master’s. However, in 2001 I had to come back to Pakistan to join my family businesses. Although I have been working here for twenty (20) years now and I think that it is really difficult to work in Pakistan and as it has been strange for me as there is no control here, no rule of law and no such thing as accountability. It did take me some time to adapt to the working culture here, but now it is all good and we are expanding the business now.

Q. During these challenging times, how have you restructured the workplace to make it more efficient and safe for both – the company and your employees?

Ans. We have been following COVID-19 since it came to China in November 2019. In fact, I guess we were one of the very first company in Pakistan to bring in SOPs of working under COVID here, probably since the start of January. I can’t remember the date, but it was back then somewhere. Moreover, we have a monitoring system in our office since January. Temperatures are being checked there and we also have a hand sanitizing system at various places. These SOPs were later released in Pakistan. We took the precautionary measures long before they were announced by the government. We were following what was happening abroad. Hence, we started distancing, using cars as a medium of travel within Pakistan rather than airplanes. We had started spreading awareness initially so that people know what was coming ahead. We were well prepared. Other than that, we have been giving ration bags to our employees in the holy month of Ramadan along with Vitamin C drinks and tablets, which would help them fight COVID-19.

Q. What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?

 Ans. I think honesty is really important to be a good leader. You have to be open and straightforward. I mean, one can surely take short cuts but they always come back to you. Also, one must be able to accept and adapt to change. By which I mean, change within an organization and change in the external environment which isn’t controllable.

Q. What are your three biggest accomplishments?

Ans. The first accomplishment, in my career, was working alongside Coke. No one ever thought Coca-Cola will work with a smaller company like ours, a company that didn’t even have capabilities like Coca-Cola. But no doubt Coca-Cola changed us and gave us the freedom to learn, work and to be accepted. We have made like more than 25 million cases of Coke. So yeah, that was my first accomplishment.

The second accomplishment is of Heineken coming on board. I was thinking of making a malt drink for the last 7-8 years and I did a lot of research, sampling and sensory work on it. Nevertheless, I was never satisfied with launching a product of my own. However, one day I got a message on LinkedIn from Heineken’s Export Director, and they approached me. Later, it took us a couple of years to know each other and come on the same page, and now we have launched the product with the help of Heineken. It’s amazing what social media can do!

The third achievement would be setting up a factory in Punjab. It is really difficult to set up a factory anywhere in the world, but if you are from Karachi and are setting up a factory in Punjab, this is unheard of usually. But it was a dream to have a facility there. It gave me access to the market there and opened doors to new opportunities and I hope this factory is a success for everybody.

Q. What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?

Ans. There are lots of decisions that a leader has to take. From day-to-day production planning to whom to hire and the sorts of marketing strategies to be used. There are lots of things to be very honest. So yeah, every decision is an important decision. One wrong decision can lead to destruction, be it professionally or personally. You take a wrong turn on road, you go the wrong way. So every decision is important, be it big or small.

Q. What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Ans. In my free time I like to go out, I like to travel; I like to drive and I try to do some sports but I am not much active in sports. Probably should work more in that area. Apart from that, I like watching Netflix, nowadays I am watching Ertugrul drama and it’s quite interesting. These dramas and soaps are not only entertaining but also informative. Programs like Friends teach you a lot about a person’s life. Also, I like to spend a lot of time with my son too.

Q. What other CEOs do you look up to?

 Ans. In the beverage industry, I would say I’m quite amazed by the way that Mr. Yasin Kassam Teli works. He has achieved so much, MashAllah; he is around 80-years-old and he has been working in the factory for the last 50 years and is the King of Beverages in Pakistan. He probably would be in the top 10 beverage company’s CEO worldwide. I think he has done an amazing job. The way he manages different facilities – with so much production and sale, I don’t know how he even does it. I can surely say all the other beverage CEOs are jealous of him due to this work style and ethics. If you ever talk to him, you will see that he is really humble and kind-hearted. So he is an elder person I look up to but in the new generation, I would say Muhammad Ali Tabba, who is the head of Lucky Group of Companies. This guy has done an amazing job. They are in such vast fields, in textiles, in chemicals, in shopping malls, into milk, etc. His diversified portfolio of companies impresses me as he manages all these things on his own. I wish these two the best of luck and happy life ahead.

Q. In one word, describe yourself.

Ans. Dedicated.

Q. What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first?

 Ans. Well, a good leader is a good listener with situational awareness which is a thumb rule for being into leadership first of all. So lead from the front by setting examples and develop people with expertise that you carry.

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