Mr. Tahir Jahangir – Chairman Punjab Oil Mills Limited
I started off with a small towel company and from there I grew into a much bigger company – it became one of the top towel companies of Pakistan. From there I set up Punjab Oil Mills in 1983
EVOLVE: Kindly let our readers knowabout the road map of your career path uptill here. Moreover, we know of Punjab OilMills Limited (POML), as a leading manufacturerof edible oils and fats. Brief usmore on the company
Mr. Tahir Jahangir: I graduated in Economics from the Cambridge University. In 1960s, those were the heady days for Pakistans economy when Ayub Khans period was coming to an end and there was development everywhere. I had decided not to join my family business as I wanted to do something on my own. Since I did not have much money to start off with a big venture, therefore I thought of doing a small textile venture in Dhaka.
As things started developing, in the late 1960-s, I realized that they were not well for me, and that there was no long-term future of the West Pakistanis living in the East Pakistan and doing business. I was advised by a very good friend of mine to go back. I came to Lahore for few days, things started worsening, and one thing led to the other and even the Country also started facing security issues due to the security operations in Dhaka University. Hence, I decided to leave that project just the way it was. In the meanwhile, my father had divided his property with his brothers and then we were on our own; since I was the only son, he handed a vegetable ghee mill, called the Punjab Vegetable Ghee. It was located near the Shalimar Gardens.
Its construction was started before the Second World War, and the machinery was to arrive before the war started. So the project was left incomplete. After the war the Krups company which made the machinery, contacted my father and grandfather, and asked if we were still interested in pursuing. They repliedwith a yes, and the company supplied the equipment. The Germans, after having been completely devastated in the Second World War, were still willing to pick up the pieces and get going. Anyway, the mill was set up, came into financial problems and when I came back from Cambridge, it was closed. My father asked me if I could revive it. So I went and revived the company and it started doing quite well, until September 1973, when Mr. Bhutto nationalized the ghee industry. My father in law, Malik Ghulam Jillani was in politics and he opposed Mr. Bhuttos elections as Prime Minister.
He said that the joint session of the Parliament should be held, and whoever has the majority in the Parliament should become the Prime Minister; and that was Mr. Mujeebur Rehman. Mr. Malik was put behind the bars and my family did not get any compensation for the mill which was nationalized. Nevertheless, I started with a small towel company then, and from there I grew into a much bigger company – it became one of the top towel companies of Pakistan. From there I set up Punjab Oil Mills in 1983. In the Islamic Era of Mr. Zia ul Haq, he passed on a resolution to denationalize all the flour mills which got me thinking if the vegetable ghee industry will be denationalized as well. After a long trail of back and forth, we received the sanction to set up a ghee mill. The mill was set up in 1983. From then on my father and brother in law would run the vegetable ghee plant actually I was
busy with my towel company, Hala Enterprises. Apart from the ups and downs, since then it has been doing very well over the last ten to fifteen years. We had fresh input, my nephew, who is a Wharton graduate, joined us about ten
years ago and brought a new life to the company.
I was the Director of the company, but after my fathers demise I joined in very actively and then we tried to broad base the product range and our reach and so on. Hence, rather than becoming just a ghee company we became a
cooking oil company. Cooking oil was never popular in Pakistan. Mostly Mustard oil or Rapeseed oil was exported
to East Pakistan, where people predominantly used Rapeseed oil as a cooking medium and not cooking oil. It was this way before because they normally had lighter foods, unlike our heavy based Punjabi food. To start with the 1980s, the market for cooking oil was only 5%. 95% was the vegetable ghee but we pushed ourselves into the cooking
oil market and after our regular base line was established, we started a new product called Canolive, which is a little different from the other oils because of having olive extracts. Canolive oil is now, in fact the only cooking oil as such which sells above even the price of Dalda, which is the leading brand in Pakistan. We have the honor to sell our product at about ten percent higher prices than Dalda, because it is perceived as a better quality product.Punjab Oil Mill is now a Public Limited Company. It is the only Banaspati cooking oil or vegetable Ghee Company which is quoted on all the three Stock Exchanges.
EVOLVE: On what measures can we, beingunaware of the food technicalities, distinguishbetween organic and inorganic cookingoil? Kindly share with us the process ofoil refinement.
Mr. Tahir Jahangir: Ill answer this question by giving a very simple example. When food goes inside your body, it has to be digested. If you put an apple on the window shelf, it lasts for few days and then it begins to rot, you put a
can of tinned apples on the window shelf, it can last for two years because of so many preservatives and it has been treated with a lot many chemicals. Now if you stop having fresh fruits and start having tinned fruits, your whole body
physiognomy changes. The build-up of the preservatives inside your body initially inhibits the digestion of the food that you eat. It takes much longer and a lot of effort for the body to breakdown the preservatives in your food and
cooking oil. If it is an organic and natural food, not prepared with chemicals and does not contain any preservatives, then it is much easier for your body to digest it.
In the case of oil, if I will describe all that happens, to produce a normal cooking oil you will be quite amazed. This applies to all the major brands today, including ours. The oil seed is first taken to a Solvent Extraction Plant. There the seed is crushed and put in through a solvent process. It is a moving belt and you throw the crushed seed onto this belt and from the top you spray Hexane – a petroleum product. If you put it in your car it can run on it. This dissolves the oil inside the seed and falls to the bottom of the vessel. On being heated, hexane, being a petroleum product, evaporates quickly, and the oil is left behind. Questions arise like are we sure that the hexane has evaporated completely? Is it a good process? Our new brand Naturelle is an oil of the first press. We never allow it to go through the hexane process. We take the seed, we crush it, and whatever oil is extracted, is taken by us to produce Naturelle cooking oil. This oil is a little more expensive because the extraction process is not as efficient.
If for example, there is 28% oil contained in a sunflower seed, or in a canola seed, if you do the crush you only get 20% and the 8% remains in the residue. If you do a solvent extraction you extract 27% and only 1% remains: but then you have to go through the Hexane Solvent Extraction process which we dont do. So, the fact that we take the first press oil is to start with a much healthier, much cleaner oil than the solvent extracted oil. We take this first press oil and refine it to the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) standards, and we have also applied to Eurofins for testing. They dont certify, they give a lab test report which indicates whether its edible or not, as per European standards. In the normal refining practice, as people prefer their cooking oil to be of a lighter color.
So all refiners then bleach the oil, which is why it has to undergo a bleaching process in which the carotenes are bleached out as well. We do not bleach the oil chemically i.e. with chlorine or peroxide. These chemicals are poisonous by their very nature, and if any residue is left in the oil, it can cause serious health injury. We do not bleach the oil chemically and so our oil is a slight gold colour which we feel looks equally attractive. We refine by heating the oil 220 degrees C. This evaporates almost all impurities including the free fatty acids. The oil that emerges is now free of almost all free fatty acids or moisture and so forth. Now to clean the dirt, leaf particles and other items, we filter it through a very fine micronair filter and the oil is ready for bottling.
As we do not refine with chemicals in the first place we do not use activated carbons and acids to neutralize the refining and bleaching chemicals afterwards. Once all of this has been done, others brands put a preservative in the oil, because they want the shelf life of two years for the distribution process. You may pick up any oil, I will not name the brand but it will give you an expiration date of two years from now. Whereas, if you pick up our oil, it gives you an expiration date of four to six months, as we do not use preservatives, we do not use any chemicals, no bleach and no alkalis. We are now working on adding an organic material to improve the shelf life because one of the major complaints that we are getting from our shopkeepers is that the shelf life of the oil is very low. This is our unique selling point but simultaneously it is tough in the beginning to convince people on this point. Yet, it is a plus point!
EVOLVE: Punjab Oil Mills Limited (POML)has recently launched Pakistans first everpremium Organic Cooking Oil Naturelle.How is it unique to other cooking oils availablein the market?
Mr. Tahir Jahangir: We deal in Sunflower oil which is a very good oil for reuse. The reason why I prefer Sunflower to Canola is, that Sunflower seed is not genetically modified, whereas Canola seed is actually a Mustard seed, which has been genetically modified by the Canadians and hence is named as Canola.
EVOLVE: What are the health benefits ofNaturelle?
Mr. Tahir Jahangir: If you use Naturelle against other cooking oils, you have a better digestive system, there will be no preservatives build up inside your body, there is no chance of any trace chemicals having been left unrefined
in that oil, no trace of bleach or other acids is to be found. For example, if you buy flour or pulses, you dont want any adulteration; likewise Naturelle is a pure cooking oil. It is an oil which has been pressed, contains no solvent and that oil which has just taken the rancidity out of it, odor has been taken out and any dust particles we filtered that out through a micronair filter. Hence, it is a much healthier oil.
EVOLVE: What are your upcoming projectsafter Naturelle and how do you see yourselfcreating a change in the food industry?
Mr. Tahir Jahangir: If it succeeds, and I think it will, then I intend to give you a whole host of healthy oils options. For example, people talk about coconut oil being a healthier option to regular oils. Therefore we will bring in organically pressed coconut oil. Also, I am working with the government of Punjab to set up their olive valley initiative, and provide you with domestically produced olive oil and not imported. Along with that, I want to couple it with cold pressed oils where no heat is required because the heat destroys any enzymes or any other natural part of it.
EVOLVE: What is that one goal which isleft unaccomplished in your personal orprofessional life that you wish to accomplish?
Mr. Tahir Jahangir: I want to write a couple of books. I already have written a book called the Travel Companion to the Northern Areas and was published by Oxford University Pressabout ten years ago. Writing and photography are my hobbies and my passion includes the charitable hospital in Faisalabad, of which I am the Chairman of the Board. We have made a lot of changes in it and are still working on its betterment. It cannot be free due to lack of resources but is actually a very low cost hospital where you do not have to pay for the buildings or the equipment. Whoever visits the hospital has to take a receipt of just rupees twenty and their disease will be diagnosed in just that amount. Similarly, the general ward will cost just two hundred rupees per day. Hence, we are trying to bring down the cost of medical care for the people who cannot afford expensive hospitals.
EVOLVE: Your message for our readers EVOLVE Magazine.
Mr. Tahir Jahangir: If you do not have good health, all the money and success is worthless. Eat healthy and stay happy.