Reading Corporate Pakistan

Reading Corporate Pakistan
It is sad to watch a respected name in the banking world try to pull a rabbit out of a hat (following the publication of a pleasant book on management) for the second time – and fail. This unfortunately is what happens when a text is reliant far more on veneer than value. While Sirajuddin Aziz could have got away with stringing together essay-style writings for his book on corporate life preceding this one, The Art and Craft of Management, Corporate Pakistan does not present anything particularly new or insightful (incidentally, while this is a minor side point, the very title is grammatically flawed—one presents ‘insights into’ things, not ‘to’ things).

There is nothing technically wrong with cobbling together a collection of essays and passing them off in book form, and even a less perceptive reader would realise that op-ed pieces are precisely that: opinions as opposed to truly solid constructs of wisdom. But in that case, it is misleading to present such a work as a serious guide to navigating the corporate world. In fact, the author does no service, especially to his younger and less experienced readers, by consistently touting the concept of what is regarded in the corporate world as a soft-sell policy.
Title: Corporate Pakistan: Insights to Leadership and Governance
Author: Sirajuddin Aziz
Publisher: Paramount
Year: 2021
Cover: Hardback
Pages: 438

Corporate life, be it in Pakistan or elsewhere, is far harsher, grittier and more uncompromising than Siraj’s book indicates. He appears to be going on a minor personal crusade against tactics such as intimidation without realising that the higher one goes up the food chain of banking and other major sectors, the more such tactics are needed. While the text dwells a fair amount on the role of HR in corporate circles, it almost completely neglects to underscore how phenomenally crucial the finance arm of any organisation is to its successful running, both in the short as well as the long term. A few chapters on that would have helped, as would have emphasising huge importance of good accounting and finance training programs when it comes to young people entering multinationals, banks, and other corporations.

Astonishingly, it seems to have escaped Aziz’s notice that corporate sectors such as the above-mentioned one are intensely male-dominated, not simply in Pakistan but also abroad. Women find it inordinately difficult to survive (both psychologically and professionally) in the finance domain. And given how much Aziz emphasises the importance of guidance and mentoring, the book as well as its female readers would have benefited from such advice on this front.

Were Sirajuddin Aziz simply a layperson, these glaring omissions could have been excused. However, given that he himself has a respected career in banking, these oversights are troubling at best and laughable at worst. In terms of writing style, the book cannot be faulted much, since he presents his ideas with ease and fluency born out of a sound education. Yet given that the title purports to be about corporate life in Pakistan, it is strange to note that 90% of his chosen quotes and platitudes come from non-Pakistani writers.

Perhaps the central problem is that his views are too idealistic, and hence primarily unrealistic, to be of any actual use when it comes to negotiating the treacherous waters of corporate life in this country. But even his international points leave much to be desired, since he only chooses those that fit his idealistic agenda. Had the book consisted of essays such as one on the Boeing disaster that (due to the failure of its MCAS plane-stabilising system) resulted in the completely fatal crashes of two planes in recent history it might have been able to succeed as a cautionary text whereby a reader would know what not to risk on the professional level. Especially since the dropping stock price of Boeing resulted in its outgoing CEO receiving a far lower financial exit package than he might have otherwise. Money makes the world go round, not single-line quotes from famous figures that have had to either work hard to get where they are, or simply to survive in challenging positions. Frankly a person gains far more from reading John LeFevre’s Straight to Hell: True Tales of Deviance, Debauchery, and Billion-Dollar Deals than by perusing Aziz’s book.