Javed Afrid CEO – Haier, Pakistan
Research to innovate, innovate to sell and sell to grow
Javed Afrid is a Pakistani businessman and the current CEO of Haier Pakistan. He has promoted many sports tournaments in Pakistan and also owns the franchise Peshawar Zalmi in PSL. He joined Haier as Marketing Manager and is now a chief executive officer at Haier Pakistan. He is young, dynamic, successful and powerhouse of energy. In an interview he said: “Peshawar and KPK are close to my heart, and I want to develop the infra- structure around the game in my homeland”.
The key to success so far has been planning and systemization at all levels complemented by the empowerment of our employees
EVOLVE: What is the secret of your company’s continuous and consistent growth in Pakistan?
Javed Afridi: Haier has always followed a highly pragmatic marketing policy, one that is based on three main factors – market demand, market intelligence and the needs of the people of Pakistan. This has enabled Haier to achieve a high degree of customer satisfaction which in turn has generated positive word of mouth publicity.
Market demand has enabled us to exactly tailor our products to, as I said, the needs of the people we serve. A prime example is energy and the high cost of consumption associated with it. This led Haier engineers to design highly energy efficient products and appliances, and the consumers recognizing the real savings inherent in the technology responded with their confidence in the Haier brand.
Internally within the company, we strive to build a spirit of greater ‘loyalty and belonging’ in all our employees regardless of their rank or position. This policy is based on a system of mutual respect, reward and recognition. For example every Haier employee is encouraged to think of himself or herself as ‘the CEO’, to nurture in them and inculcate in others a team spirit. The central idea is for every employee to contribute towards the growth of the company, and the common good of all employees in terms of ideas and single minded determination to succeed. If the employee succeeds, the team succeeds; the team succeeds the company grows, eventually it becomes stronger.
EVOLVE: You must be facing a number of business challenges. How do you address them?
Javed Afridi: Yes undoubtedly we face many challenges and will continue to do so. It’s the nature of our business, but then challenges are there to be met and overcome. I will go further and say challenges can be tuned in to real opportunities and be the catalyst that drives innovation, growth and expansion.
Again take the example of the rising cost of energy and burden it places on the consumer. As I stated earlier, we met that challenge head on and turned it into a real opportunity for innovation which, in turn resulted in products that are so energy efficient that they literally pay you back their price tag over years real savings in electricity cost.
Westrive to build a spirit of greater loyalty and belonging in all our employees regardless of theirrank orposition
Another example is the rising cost of living and its effects on disposal income of families. What did we do here? We took up the challenge, turned it in to an opportunity to bring down the sales price of goods that would otherwise been out of reach of the common householder. Fully automatic washing machines to day cost far less than just a few years ago. Large screen TV sets are today half the price they were just a few years ago and so on.
EVOLVE: How do you manage a rapidly growing company while focusing on operations?
Javed Afridi: Yes we have grown by leaps and bounds, at times bucking the prevailing economic trend. Since its inception just 15 years ago, Haier Pakistan has risen to the top of the rung, in the process opening up new opportunities both for the company and other investors. The key to success so far has been planning and systemization at all levels complemented by the empowerment of our employees. If the systems are there, companies tend to run them- selves. It is the same with employees – empower them to take performance related decisions and let them do the job.
In short put the systems in place, decentralize decision making and make every employee feel that he she is really the CEO and as such, has a stake in the company.
The best person to compete with is yourself because this will put you on the path of self improvement on a consistent basis. You can’t be dishonest to yourself
EVOLVE: What is the importance of values in sustaining a company? Do values repel change?
Javed Afridi: Values are the life blood of nations, societies, communities and yes even companies and commercial enterprises. Without values we would be poor human beings. At Haier we put the customer first, because it is the customer that keeps us alive as a business. We must strive to serve him and his needs to the best of our abilities. This gives you credibility in the market and the hearts and minds of customers. Internally our strength lies in our people and their attitude. We encourage them to be truthful and honest in whatever they do. To learn on the job and from each other in the knowledge that one person’s failure is the failure of all and vice versa. We encourage them to be bold and never be afraid of making a mistake, as long as it is made in all honesty, because it is through our mistakes that we learn to be better in what we do. The best person to compete with is yourself because this will put you on the path of self improvement on a consistent basis. Do better that you did yesterday and so on. All Haier employees know this.
EVOLVE: What kind of culture you have main- tained at Haier and how would you throw light in its significance?
Javed Afridi: Ours is a culture of mutual respect and self improvement, respect for your colleagues embodies and encourages a team spirit, and self improvement tells you that the best person to compete against is not the next guy but you yourself. If you compete within yourself, you will take each day as a new challenge, which will spur you to do better than you did yesterday and so on. And as I said earlier every employee is encouraged to think of himself as the CEO. This helps to build loyalty and a sense of ownership in each employee. Let me elaborate on employee ownership. By thinking of himself as his own CEO brings out a person’s best qualities. You can’t be dishonest to yourself. You can’t be half hearted to yourself, and you can’t work against your own interest. Therefore, if an employee accepts to be his own CEO he will deliver with honesty, pride and hard dedicated work.
EVOLVE: How do you prevent mistakes and practice damage control?
Javed Afridi: Mistakes will happen. It is a part of every work environment. Again dedication and hard work backed by a system of checks and balances is the way to go. The key is to minimize mistakes or errors, and to ensure they are never repeated. We take the best system from our principles in China, and devise our own methodology of checks. This helps us balance out things at the end of the day.
EVOLVE: How do you look at the home appliances and consumer electronis industry in Pakistan and its current market trends?
Javed Afridi: The home appliance sector is growing by leaps and bounds. There are several well founded reasons for this. New technology and innovation in terms of engineering design and user friendly features encourages replacement of old appliances. Another factor is growth within the market. Technology has made it possible to produce more affordable products in certain categories, like fully automated washing machines bringing in first time buyers in to the equation. Continuous innovation, like energy efficient ACs is also forcing early replacement in homes and offices.
Haier has built a reputation for quality – a reputation that has taken it to the top of the home appliance market in the world
EVOLVE: How do you see the quality of your prod- ucts and customer service in a highly competitive market?
Javed Afridi: The two factors you mention are synonymous with success in our business. In fact any business whether products or services. Haier has built a reputation for quality – a reputation that has taken it to the top of the home appliance market in the world, and here in Pakistan it has become by far the major player in certain major categories. We back up our products with excellent and comprehensive after sales service. Our motto is to take our products and the service back up to the doorstep of our customers. We therefore have a nationwide network, the most penetrative in the industry, of showrooms, dealers and service centers manned by fully trained technicians.
These two elements are perhaps the most important, in any marketing mix, but even more so in Pakistan where the competition is intense and calls for concerted efforts to convert, win and most importantly keep customers happy. Yes a quality product backed by a top notch after sales and maintenance service are the key to success.
EVOLVE: What distinguishes your company from its competitors?
Javed Afridi: Primarily innovation. Innovation in product technology and here Haier brand is the world leader, and innovation in marketing. However innovation for its own sake may win you praises and laurels, what counts is innovation that meets the needs of the people, at a price they can afford and which enables them to improve the quality of their life and protect the environment we live in. Innovation demands market driven research and development – R&D. At the R&D center we are engaged in a continuous endeavor to improve our product line up and meet the needs of the consumers.
EVOLVE: Is there any company that has ever impressed you?
Javed Afridi: Yes there are examples. We are not the only ones in the game. As I said com- petition is intense and we have to work hard to keep ahead of the competition. Our competitors are good, that is why we have to be better.
EVOLVE: What is the recipe to achieve long-term success?
Javed Afridi: Vision, investment, planning and strategy and you must possess the staying power because success is hardly ever achieved easily and in the short term. If you want your enterprise to grow you must be prepared to be in the game for the longer haul. Work at it continuously and work hard, have faith and confidence in your abilities, back it all up with the needed investment, and keep your eye firmly on the market trend and the future. Here is where the role of R&D and innovation comes in. Research to innovate, innovate to sell, and sell to grow.
EVOLVE: Where do you see yourself and your organization in next 5-10 years?
Javed Afridi: We are in it for the longer haul. Although we have achieved great success in Pakistan setting an example in international cooperation and technology transfer, we can’t afford to rest on our laurels. New players will come in as times goes by, older brands will improve, and the competition will get more in- tense. We are prepared for it. In fact right now as we speak we are Haier Pakistan is looking ahead, planning, strategizing and innovating its systems, products and services. We have to maintain our lead and keep growing. So to answer your question we are here today, we will be here tomorrow and for the long term and Insha Allah serve the Pakistani nation by putting a Haier product in every household in the country and making a difference in their lives.
EVOLVE: Any message for the readers of EVOLVE magazine?
Javed Afridi: Evolution is a continuous natural process. You see it all around you, every day, everywhere. So try and evolve on a personal level, and at the corporate level to stay ahead of the times and success will be yours.
If you want your enterprise to grow you must be prepared to be in the game for the longer haul. Work at it continuously and work hard