Interview with Mr Abrar Hasan – CEO, National Foods Limited
Mr Abrar Hasan has been with National Foods since 1993 where having worked in different areas of the organization, he was appointed as Chief Executive by the Board of Directors in the year 2000.
Prior to joining NFL, he was Plant Director at Precision Rubber Products Limited, where his responsibility was to overview all the manufacturing operations.
Moreover, his work at National Foods played an instrumental role in the invitation to join the Board of Cherat Packaging in 2010.
He has a bachelors’ degree in industrial Management (with a minor in Industrial Engineering) from Purdue University, USA.
National Foods Limited was started in 1970 by his father Mr. Waqar Hassan and his friend/partner Mr. Abdul Majeed as a spice company. It has evolved as Pakistan’s leading multi-category foods company with over 250 different products in 12 major categories.
At NFL, they are committed to achieve their vision 2020 of becoming a Rs50 billion company by the year 2020.They are already on their way towards becoming a globally renowned brand while having presence in over 44 countries.
NFL holds ISO 9001, ISO 18001, ISO 22000 and HACCP certifications along with SAP Business Technology to drive its strong commitment for high quality and management excellence.
PAGE: Your views on budget allocated for csr activities in Pakistan:
ABRAR HASAN: For us at NFL, CSR isn’t just about giving money for charity or asking people to print less paper. It is more about realizing that NFL cannot work in isolation and hence considering it essential to manage relationships with its stakeholders, be it suppliers, customers, or employees. It is about advocacy, creating awareness and engagement and giving the less fortunate to capitalize opportunities.
More importantly, CSR for us is about cultivating an organizational culture where there is emphasis on ethics, personal care, and respect, ownership and accountability.
Currently, we are aiming at contributing a sizable percentage of our profit towards CSR and hope that we sustain it over the years.
PAGE: Could you kindly tell us about the csr activities being carried out by national foods?
ABRAR HASAN: Committed to the concept of sustainability and in creating a positive change in the community, NFL’s CSR operates primarily on improving health, nutrition, education, empowering women, and engaging in community development, all in sync with the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
A brief summary of our CSR programs are:
NFL in association with The Citizens Foundation (TCF) has successfully managed to impart basic literacy and numeracy skills to more than 38,000 women. Another education program in collaboration with a distributor from Mauritius by the name of “Aasmum Lootfun Primary Girls High School”, imparts education to young girls in the outskirts of Karachi where the law & order situation hinders the community from sending their children to the schools.
On the health front, NFL has partnered with “Aman Foundation” through the platform of “Aman Ghar” in order to provide nutritious meals to the school-going children of Khuda ki Basti (a less privileged, sub-urban area of Karachi).
To date, NFL and “Aman Ghar” together have served over 3,000,000 meals – free of cost.
Moreover, NFL has taken a step towards upstream value chain integration by adopting modern post-chili harvesting techniques like the use of geo-textiles. These geo-textiles work as catalysts for reducing the presence of a harmful substance called Aflatoxin, while ensuring higher crop quality yields.
Linked to NFL’s Value Chain initiative, NFL has also worked for improving the life of its share croppers by installing three reverse osmosis water filtration plants in the vicinity of chili growing locations in order to provide them clean and safe drinking water.
We have also established a focused “nursery system” which ensures that only the healthiest and strongest seeds are hand-picked and later planted in our chili farms.
Internally, CSR caters to various health and awareness sessions for its employees through free medical camps, breast cancer sessions, and discounted medical facilities. It also promotes regular volunteer drives like; clothes drive and other donation opportunities in order to involve employees in charitable activities.
PAGE: What do you think is the most important corporate social responsibility activity which must be done in Pakistan for the benefit of masses?
ABRAR HASAN: I believe empowering women is what can bring about the much needed waves of change. Ensuring their right to good health, nutrition and education is what makes a healthy, socially and economically aware woman, and consequently a healthier and educated generation.
PAGE: How could improvement be made in education sector of Pakistan:
ABRAR HASAN: Over time, we all thought that access to education was the bane in our society. The misconception was debunked, when a few studies revealed that even with improved enrolment rates in schools across the country, the learning outcomes measured in terms of quality of education had actually proved dismal.
Hence, the quality of education remains a pervasive problem which needs to be tackled more aggressively. One recommendation for bringing improvement in this sector is to develop teacher’s capabilities and knowledge base, which is currently grimly underdeveloped.
Furthermore, investments have to be made in early childhood nutrition. It is said that the impact on learning outcomes is massive when children are well-fed, as malnutrition on the other extreme, damages the children’s ability to learn.