Yusuf Shirazi

November 05, 2019


I KNEW the late Yusuf Shirazi quite well. He passed away last month. He was one of my closest friends. We had been friends for more than 60 years. Our families were friends, our children have been friends and even our grandchildren are friends.

I first met him in 1956. He was working for the income tax department and I had just joined Pakistan Customs Service. We were introduced by my late brother-in-law who knew Shirazi because of their Sahiwal contacts. In fact, Shirazi’s ancestral village and my family’s village shared a common boundary, not far from Sahiwal (then Montgomery).

We remained in close touch when I was posted in Quetta, Karachi and Islamabad. We also remained in touch when I moved to Geneva, Switzerland. In fact, he used to visit Geneva sometimes on business trips and vacations with his family.

Shirazi was an exceptional person with a multi-dimensional personality. He had been a journalist, a civil servant, an intellectual, a prolific writer, a well-read person, a philanthropist and an enlightened progressive businessman.

I think what put him on the road to becoming a successful businessman was an assignment that he was given when he was working in the income tax department. He was asked to make a study of income tax evasion in the stock exchange. Rather than make a superficial, run-of-the mill study, he decided to immerse himself in deeply studying and understanding the working of the stock exchange. This developed his interest in stock investments.

He was quick to realise the emergence of Japan in 1960s as an upcoming economic superpower. Hence his projects of Atlas Honda Motor Cycles, Atlas Battery and Honda Atlas Cars.

He passionately believed in professional management. I remember he sent many young professionals to renowned business schools abroad at the company’s expense.

His outstanding extraordinary achievement is that he started from a scratch, with no family business background, and during his lifetime created a vast empire consisting of automobile industry, batteries, engineering industry, insurance, banking, asset management and power generation.

Mohammad Saleem

Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2019