- M5 Groupe founder advises startups to set up holding companies abroad to boost investor confidence
Khawaja Munir Mashooqullah - founder of M5 Groupe, one of the 10 largest apparel global supply chain companies – has said Pakistan will have more than half a billion dollars’ worth of direct investment in startups in the next 12 to 18 months.
However, for this to happen, he believes the country’s startup sector, currently undergoing a bit of a crisis, needs to fix its culture.
“They can’t work in a ‘desi’ way,” he told Asma Mustafa Khan during Aaj News’ In the Arena.
“Even if you are young and have a good idea, at one point you will need to show operational efficiency, you will need to follow legal laws, be fiscally responsible and give reports to your investors.”
He also said startups should take advantage of the fact that the Pakistan government has allowed businesses to have a holding company abroad in places like Dubai and Singapore.
He explained the money that comes to the holding company can then be invested in the Pakistan subsidiary. Companies that do this give confidence to their investors that if they have any concerns they can apply the laws of the country in which the holding company has been set up.
“This improves valuation and the startup gets a cover,” explained Munir.
The interview took place in Dubai where Munir has an apartment. He is not based there permanently but visits often. Being based in the city has many advantages, he says.
For one, it is a great hub for client meetings because of its central location. There is also a huge talent pool which allows businesses to cater to different tastes.
“Everyone can say I am a good designer, but every country has its own taste. To get to that taste level, if it’s Spanish or German for instance, you get them [people from that country] here and then they can travel around and there is knowledge transference.”
There is also the added benefit that Dubai is close to home and getting a visa is easy.
What’s more, he says, “Dubai is constantly evolving and that’s what the world needs today”.
Munir explained that since the pandemic hit, “I have become much more positive about Dubai and the UAE because you have to see how people handle things in a crisis.
“When things are good, it is easy, but at a time of crisis it is about how you manage things and what incentives do you give? Here, they started the golden visa scheme and visa extensions. If you want to live here you can have an emirates ID card within 15 days.”
“The other thing is connectivity, which is very important today - there are 5 flights from one city in the UAE to Pakistan and 20 to 25 flights from the whole country. If you want to go from Karachi to Islamabad you could be faced with delays but you can get to the UAE very easily.”
Not an overnight success
Munir says his primary focus with M5 Groupe is to bring affordable sustainable raw material to the apparel and textile supply chain.
Under the M5 portfolio comes Synergies Worldwide, an established global supply chain manager formed in 1987. Two more companies, Dreuss WorldWide and Oculas, also operate in the supply chain space.
Munir has also invested in Cyclo - which recycles pre-consumer textile waste from garment manufacturers - and PRESSTAR that invests to reduce water consumption and chemical pollutants in the textile supply chain while positively impacting CO2 emissions and an online uniform supplier.
And that’s not all - the group has a foot in the food and beverage sector via Sacha’s Cakes in Karachi.
But Munir didn’t find success overnight.
When he was younger, Munir worked in the packaging industry and used the money he earned to buy small plots of land with his friends, build houses, and then sell them.
“I would not travel anywhere or buy anything for myself. Even my leave encashment, I would put in that project. So one day I couldn’t afford a bike but the day we would sell a house I could buy a car.”
Then in 1987, he started inspection work. “My driver and I would do textile inspection in mornings, on holidays and after work.”
This is what eventually led to M5.
According to him, “only busy people have time.”
“If you want to progress, don’t think you have 8 or 10 hours in a day. You have 16 hours to work, plus 2 hours for yourself and 6 hours to sleep. At one point in my life I was doing almost 2 and a half jobs.
“It’s important to have experience, education and not be scared of hard work. If you are lazy, ungrateful, you think things will keep going, then when the time comes you won’t be able to get back up.”
The key to his success now is that “I take loss to the extent that I can tolerate it. I will make an investment to the extent that if I end up making a loss it won’t have a huge impact on my life.
“This way perhaps, you can’t be extremely successful but at the same time you can’t lose everything.”
His advice to youngsters is whether you are a copywriter or a barber look at how you can improve and upgrade your work. This could be looking at a new software or offering free tea with a haircut.
“There is always room to innovate. If people start thinking like this, the longevity of their work and career will increase.”
To watch the complete episode, click here