Amidst the economic ramifications of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become even easier to blame the government for the current circumstances – but there is one business leader who thinks we can do better than that.
“The private sector has to step in, it is our duty to help,” says Ahmad Ghulamhussain, CEO of APAG (Pvt.) Ltd., outlining the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility and the role that Pakistani companies need to now play in contributing to the solution – rather than the problem.
The first step in fulfilling that responsibility, is taking care of the organization’s own people – ensuring a safe and healthy workplace for them, facilitating testing, and complying with all requisite SOPs – but once that requirement is taken care of, Mr. Ghulamhussain feels that the company also has a responsibility to fellow citizens.
Responding to the disparate effects of the COVID-19 lockdown on the most underprivileged, the company’s flagship brand, Soya Supreme, changed its thematic campaign ‘Thora Aur Khao,’ which was launched in 2019, to ‘Thora Aur Khilao’ – using its advertising platforms to promote meal-sharing and charitable distribution, a practice that APAG also generously partook in throughout the campaign, making sure its messaging was duly backed by its own actions.
Ahmad Ghulamhussain’s perspective on CSR is a refreshing break from convention – which states that under economic duress, companies should lower their expenses, not raise them. But he believes that recessions, while difficult, should in fact be viewed as opportunities in crisis – to reevaluate, plan, and become a more efficient organization.
Throughout its history, APAG and Soya Supreme, have been consistent in their support for impact-enabled initiatives and social welfare organizations, providing both direct monetary support as well as subsidized rates to facilitate food operations.
The list of APAG’s beneficiaries includes names such as Indus Hospital, Special Olympics Pakistan, Mary Adelaide Leprosy Centre, House of Hope, Children Cancer Hospital and SOS, etc.
But more than just responding to crises, under Ahmad Ghulamhussain’s leadership, APAG has also been proactively involved in setting up its own internal capabilities to launch initiatives and solve public challenges… such as cleanliness.
As part of the Clean Up Karachi initiative, APAG took on the responsibility of cleaning up the area outside its factory in the SITE area, with regular follow up cleaning drives to ensure that the effort is sustainable, and not just a singular event.
The flagship CSR project that the company runs, however, is Soya Supreme’s ‘Neiki ki Recipe’ – where every Ramazan, the brand partners with a worthy charitable institute – to provide daily meals to thousands of people.
This year, because of the Covid-19 lockdown, the company modified the program to include ration-distribution among families in need of assistance – maintaining the requirement of social distancing, while serving the underserved.
But the CEO is well aware that any meaningful change takes its time and will only be possible as a result of sustained effort – involving every Pakistani, in their own capacity. There is no other way.
As we collectively move forward into a post-pandemic future, let us find strength and optimism in examples such as APAG, and in business leaders such as Mr. Ghulamhussain – whose history of positive contribution can remind us to start thinking in terms of what we can do around ourselves to enable change – rather than what is being done, everywhere else.
As for the immediate circumstances, which still may seem quite uncertain – let us remind each other that the whole world is in this together, and it is together, that we will overcome this.
As the Persian saying goes: ‘This too shall pass’.