Khuda Buksh Tributes from the field

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Khuda Buksh Tributes from the field.

It’s this part of the tribute that moved me the most. I know many of these names and they were all a class above what we consider classy today. In 2016 very few of them remain. I remember how fondly they spoke about him, the far away look in their eyes, the light in their smiles, reliving the day as if it had happened just yesterday.

And now back to 1964….

While on daily rounds of field offices, Khuda Buksh would accept invitations for sharing the lunch boxes brought in by the field people irrespective of their positions. On these occasions, he would interact or mix with the field force freely as though he was among his family. He would take these opportunities to find out about their achievements, problems, aspirations, and needs. He believed the most important thing:

The Master Key to success in any profession is to develop personal relationship on all possible levels. 

Fasihuddin says,

Khuda Buksh was a very kind hearted, loving and caring person and possessed the finest human qualities. Whenever I had the occasions to meet him in functions of EFU, I found him very kind to the young officers. Whenever he saw us (Executive Officers) he would call us and inquire how we were doing; whether we were facing any difficulties; or any thing he could do for us. Although I was not on the life side of the business, but even then, he would call me and ask how I was progressing in my studies of the Chartered Insurance Institute’s qualifying examinations; and, how much I was learning.

I used to observe him moving about quite frequently in various departments accompanied by three or four senior officers of the company. Besides overseeing the day-to-day operation of different departments, Khuda Buksh would greet and ask about the welfare of each and every staff and field worker without any rank or file. I can see from their faces, when they saw Khuda Buksh, the love and affection that he had generated among them. It was not because of his position as the head of life operations of the company, but because of his human qualities. He was so caring about his staff and field workers.

Khuda Buksh had an astonishingly sharp memory. He would remember the names of all field officers, executives and staff members. He kept himself well informed about their family backgrounds, emotional needs, strengths, weaknesses, and wants.  He would visit their homes and families to discover their life styles, values, perceptions, hopes, aspirations and fears. He encouraged and guided his workers to have a better standard of life, and better education for their children and dependents. Whenever a colleague needed a reference or for some advice for the admission of his wards or dependents in prestigious institutions, Khuda Buksh, without fail, would extend all help as though he was the family member, too.

He believed that for motivation it was essential to establish the personal financial goals for enhanced social status of individuals.  To take care of and monitor the budgetary needs of an individual salesperson is the core driving force for achieving an extra ordinary performance from him or a group of people. Whosoever visited Khuda Buksh, he would always first inquire about the welfare of the family and about the specific action taken for betterment of their housing, education, etc.

In early 60s, most of the insurance marketing people would assemble and socialize in the evening at Frederick’s Cafeteria, Shehzan or Ampies – the three tea and coffee houses of Karachi. When Khuda Buksh came to Karachi he also started to visit these places for socialization and finding outstanding marketers for Eastern Federal.

Sharafat Ali Qureshi and Hanafi say that whenever Khuda Buksh visited these venues he would not let anyone pay bill. He would just go to the counter and instruct the cashier to send the bills directly to him at the company. Abul Mahmood says,

“You would not find a team builder better than Khuda Buksh in Pakistan. He was far better than the team builders of foreign companies like Wisaluddin or Risaluddin. He brought people from other companies. Other companies also tried to take me.  I told them, ‘I will never join any other company. I have joined Eastern Federal to stay. My dead body will be carried by the Eastern Federal people and not by others.’  I am still with Eastern Federal!”

Abul  Mahmood  died in 2006  still soliciting  business  for  Eastern  Federal Union General Insurance.

Hanfi narrates another incident, describing Khuda Buksh’s simplicity, and his love for his people in the following words,

Mr. Muhammad Ali Akbar, a not very prominent and active field officer, resigned from Eastern Federal and joined another insurance company. I casually told Mr. Khuda Buksh that Akbar has left Eastern Federal and sent in his resignation. He asked me whether I knew his residence.  Those were the winter days. Late at night, I received a telephone call from Mr. Khuda Buksh. He asked me, ‘Can you talk to me?’ I said,

‘Why not.’ He again asked, ‘Where does Akbar live?’ I replied,

‘He lives in my locality.’  He told me he was coming to my house. My house was eight miles away and it was one O’clock in the morning. Khuda Buksh came to my house and said, ‘You told me Akbar has resigned and I could not sleep. I thought I must visit that person at his house. You guide me to his house. Shall we go?’ I said, ‘It is such an odd hour. I can bring Akbar to your Office tomorrow morning. I don’t feel comfortable taking my General Manager to him.’ Khuda Buksh said, ‘Don’t say all this. I am not the General Manager, and, he is not a small worker. He is my man.’

I took him to Akbar’s house. All the people in the house were asleep on the floor. There was not even a chair in the house. When I told Mr. Akbar that Khuda Buksh has come and he wants to see you, Akbar started weeping. Amidst tears in his eyes, he said, ‘Why has Khuda Buksh come to my house?’ In any case, Akbar came out and sat in Khuda Buksh’s car. Khuda Buksh asked only one question. ‘Akbar, why did you leave? Why didn’t you tell me if you had any difficulty?’ Akbar was still crying. He said, ‘Sir, I am not leaving Eastern Federal.  I will stay with the company until I die.’  After creation of Bangladesh all those people who had come from East Pakistan were allowed to go back to the Eastern Wing. Akbar, who was from East Pakistan, refused to go and told me, ‘I had told Mr. Khuda Buksh that I will work for Eastern Federal until I die!’ Akbar died in 1973.

Syed Kaiser Abbas (late), Deputy General Manger of Adamjee Insurance Company narrates an incident regarding his differences with the then Regional Manager, late  S.A.A. Hassani, on account of which he resigned from Eastern Federal in1967.

In those days, Khuda Buksh was on a tour of the Eastern Wing of the Country. When Khuda Buksh returned to Karachi at late night, there were many people to receive him at the Airport. Wasif Ali informed Khuda Buksh about Syed Kaiser Abbas’ resignation. Khuda Buksh took Wasif Ali and A.J Dias with him who knew the residence of Syed Kaiser Abbas, and directly proceeded from the Airport to Syed Kaiser Abbas’ residence. He also left instructions to find Hasani and direct him to reach forthwith Syed Kaiser Abbas’ house.

Syed Kaiser Abbas was surprised and proud to find the General Manager together with two of the top most executives of the company at his residence at 11:30 PM., and inquired about the  reason  of  their  visit  at  such  an  odd  hour  of  the  night. Khuda Buksh replied, ” If you don’t like me visiting you, I will go back.” Syed Kaiser Abbas welcomed the guests and opened the doors of his house for the visitors. Khuda Buksh said, “Mr. Kaiser, I don’t know the way to the homes of my teammates in West Pakistan. In Eastern Wing, I know their homes and visit most of the field workers’ homes irrespective of their status in the company.”

Sharafat Ali Qureshi (late) narrates,

Whenever Khuda Buksh would visit Karachi, he would inquire about each and every fieldworker’s progress. He would question why someone was not working. He would try to find out their strengths and weaknesses. When he would know that some field officer was not working or was not attending the office, he would visit his residence, accompanied by his Regional Manager, and, request the family members very politely, ‘Bahen dekho aap ka bhai ham say naaraz ho gaya hai! (Sister, your brother has become angry with us). Aap hamara sifarish kar du! (Please plead on our behalf). Is nay ham logo ko chor diaa yai! (He has left us). Ham is ko lay nay aaya hai!‘ (We have come to take him back.) Khuda Buksh never differentiated between individuals according to their status in the company. For him, each person, whether a poor or outstanding producer of business would carry the same respect.

Abul Mahmood says,

For personal use, Khuda Buksh had a very small ordinary car like Fiat, but with field officers he was very generous. He provided them lavish and new cars such as Mercedes-Benz, Ford Mustang, Volkswagen, Toyota Crown, and Corona, etc. He wanted to see his sales officer use good cars. He did not mind using a very ordinary car himself. Having full conviction that the field officers are the pillars and backbone of the company he would keep a vigilant eye on the conveyances used by them. Whenever he observed that a field officer’s car was giving some  trouble,  he  would  immediately  provide  a  replacement.

Hanfi narrates,

“One day I left my office at around 5 PM. Khuda Baksh was still in his office. I came to the parking lot. I had an Opal car which was hardly two years’ old. It was giving some starting trouble, so I asked the chowkidar to push the car.  Suddenly. Khuda Buksh also appeared there, and told me in Urdu, in his typical Bengali accent, ‘Nai nai hum bhi dhakka lagayega, hum bhi dhakka lagayega ( I will also help push the car).’ I came out of my car and said,  ‘Sir, please don’t do this. He replied again, ’Nahin nahin hum bhi dhakka lagayega, hum bhi dhakka lagayega.  I said, ” Sir, there is something wrong with the battery. I will go to the workshop and get it fixed.” After a great difficulty, we managed to put him back in his car.

“Next day, when I came to my office, our Deputy General Manager of Accounts, the late A. J Dias, called me and said,

‘Mr. Khuda Buksh inquired about you two or three times.’ I asked, ‘Why?’ Dias said he did not know the reason. When I went to the office of Khuda Buksh, he was reading some papers on his desk. Suddenly, he asked me, ‘Hanfi do you have your car?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ Khuda Buksh said, ‘Give me the keys.’ I took them out of my pocket and handed them to him. Then he asked for a cup of coffee. When we finished the coffee, he said, ‘I need your car. Go and see Dias.’ When I again visited A. J. Dias and narrated to him what had happened in the office of Mr. Khuda Buksh, and asked, ‘What do you have to say to me.’ Dias replied, ‘Go to Munnoo Motors, the dealers of Toyota Cars. Mr. Khuda Buksh has already talked to them. You choose whatever colour you want and take a car from there. We are keeping your Opal!’ That was the kind of boss I had in Mr. Khuda Buksh.”

Ahkam Siddiqui, former Zonal Head, State Life Insurance Corporation, quotes a similar incident while he was posted in Hyderabad. He purchased an almost brand new car in 1964, which was giving him starting trouble in the mornings. One evening, at about six o’clock in the parking lot of Eastern Federal in Karachi, he, his driver and the guard on duty, were trying to push start the car; but the car would not start. Meanwhile, Khuda Buksh also came down from his office. He inquired, “Ahkam, what happened?” Ahkam replied, “The car is creating problem for me.”  Khuda Buksh said, “That’s really sad! You should dispose it off! Leave it here and buy another car. Come to my office tomorrow, and you will have another car, a Volkswagen!”

Next day, early in the morning, Ahkam visited Khuda Buksh in his office. Late S.G. Jillani and Hasani, the then Regional Managers, were also there. Khuda Buksh told them about the car’s trouble; and asked them to accompany Ahkam to buy him a new car.

Khuda Buksh gradually built the prestige of Eastern Federal in every nook and corner of Pakistan by generating the kind of enthusiasm that motivated, energized and inspired people around him to achieve outstanding performances year after year. He not only established his credentials but also gained the confidence of his teammate by being honest, down-to-earth, humble, sincere, fair, and straightforward, with himself as well as with his subordinates. He earned their trust by empowering people around him and by delegating the real authority to his lieutenants. He nurtured his associates by always honoring any commitment made by them thereby embedding in them the needed confidence for their jobs.

Hanfi says,

Khuda Buksh was a man who never liked to have all the power with him. He would share it and authorize other people. Whenever he would entrust some job to someone, he would have complete faith in him. He would delegate powers to officers with full authority and complete confidence that whatever the officer would do he would do the right thing. He would never doubt his people.

I started my insurance career from American Life (ALICO) in 1962. (late) S.A.A Hasani, the then Regional Manager of EFU, introduced me to Khuda Buksh who asked me to join Eastern Federal in 1964. I was reluctant to switch from ALICO to Eastern Federal and to work under Mr. Hasani. Thus, I declined the offer.  Thereafter, (late) S.G. Jeelani, the then Regional Manager, also approached me with a good package to join EFU in 1965; and again I was formally introduced to Khuda Buksh for finalization of my appointment with the company.

After approving my appointment, Khuda Buksh said to Mr. Jillani, “Mr. Hasani originally introduced Mr. Farid to Eastern Federal.” Jeelani got the hint and asked the administration to place me under the supervision of Mr. Hasani. Recruitment of a marketing person in life insurance business is an extremely tedious and difficult job in Pakistan because in a span of 5 years the retention rate of a sales person is about 1%  instead of the 20% globally. And, it is most rewarding because the recruiter receives an overriding commission over the field force working under him.  Khuda Buksh was very fair in giving Jeelani the hint!

Soon after my joining Eastern Federal in 1965, war broke out between India and Pakistan. An immediate Agency Meeting was called and it was announced that the field workers should fully participate in defending the homeland. Eastern Federal, irrespective of the flow of new business, would honour all the commitments made to them, so they should not worry.  Fortunately the war ended in 17 days.

Mr Saifuddin N. Zoomkawala says,

I started my career with Eastern Federal in 1964 as a part-time Salesman. Khuda Buskh was always made it a point to meet and honour the smallest people especially the ordinary agents. My manager took me to Khuda Buksh because I sold some policies of big amounts. By recognizing my efforts in a small function I was garlanded by Khuda Buksh, the General Manager, himself. My first impression was a humble person, a very simple person, down to earth. I was thinking being the big shot. He was a person to be motivated.

M. Fasihuddin, the former Deputy Managing Director of EFU, narrates, Whenever Khuda Buksh returned from his frequent East Pakistan tours, a large numbers of people used to receive him, at their own, at the airport. I used to wonder why so many people, thirty or forty at a time, going all the way to receive him; and always made a beeline in his office. He would patiently hear everybody and resolve their problems.

Khuda Buksh could motivate people to work and give their best to the company because of these small but important things. If you care they pay you back in term of hard work, devotion, and gratitude. This is the quality of leadership that I found in Khuda Buksh.

Khuda Buksh always remembered his benefactors. In the early years of my career (1962) for organization building I used to visit frequently Pakistan Insurance Corporation’s office on M.A Jinnah Road, where I cultivated friendship with Late Jamal Haider son of K.F. Haider. When I joined Eastern Federal, Jamal along with two of his friends from Pakistan Insurance Corporation, used to visit me at my office regularly where we shared latest gossip and chatter over a cup of tea. It was in our knowledge that Jamal was seeking a job in Eastern Federal but was facing some hurdles and, as such, waiting for Khuda Buksh to return from East Pakistan.

One day he happily narrated that, by chance, in the parking lot of Eastern Federal, Khuda Buksh saw him and as usual enquired about the welfare of Haider’s family members. Jamal told Khuda Buksh that he was trying to find a job in the company, but he was thrown as a shuttlecock from person to person and places to places but of no avail, except promises. Khuda Buksh asked Jamal to visit him in his office after two days to find out what he could do for him.

Fasihuddin told me Khuda Baksh called an emergent meeting of the office bearers of the Staff Union, and told them forcefully that he would issue an appointment letter as Superintendent to Jamal Haider the son of the founder member of the Eastern Federal. The next day Jamal Haider got the appointment letter as a Superintendent in Eastern Federal.

Khuda Buksh was highly respected by his peers.  Chisti says,

Khuda Buksh was always very obliging and did not have any airs. When you met him, you instantly liked him. He was absolutely humble and never posed as he was the chief of the life department of the largest insurance company in Pakistan. He was a very good leader and team builder – he could train not one but thousands of his associates. In East Pakistan, Eastern Federal was not a very well received company. But when Khuda Buksh joined Eastern Federal it started progressing by leaps and bounds.

All his subordinates were just like his children. They were loyal to him, and would have sacrificed their lives for his sake. When he left Eastern Federal the people working with him were prepared to resign and join him. That shows that he was a leader, a team builder and he was a manager in the true sense.

Mr. Mohammed Choudhury, Managing Director & Chief Executive, Adamjee Insurance Company, writes,

It was the month of September that I had the most interesting encounter with Mr. Khuda Buksh in London. The year was 1967. Mr. Khuda Buksh and I were staying at the Mount Royal Hotel on Oxford Street, but we did not know that we were both there at the same time. It was only per chance that we met each other outside the Hotel. Mr Khuda Buksh was wearing a dark blue coat and the gentleman was short with a small built but had a very powerful personality and a Bengali by all means. Both him and I have always been proud of our origin, except that I always pulled his leg by saying that he was too short to compete with me!

The few reminiscences quoted show the quality of the leadership of Khuda Buksh; and how well respected, loved, and trusted he was.  I know a lot of people who were associated with him and loved him just like the family head. I remember in early 1966/67, late S. A. A. Hasani, the then Regional Manager of the company, invited about a hundred insurance industry people to his residence for a dinner party in honour of Khuda Buksh’s son and daughter-in-law who got married at that time. When Khuda Buksh arrived with his family and observed the reception was in a shamiana (large decorated tent), and the grandeur of the event, he remarked, “Hasani, it seems as if it is your own son’s marriage reception!”

The President of Pakistan, Field Marshall Ayub Khan, wanted a dynamic person from East Pakistan as the Federal Minister for Commerce. It was commonly known that Ayub Khan offered the position to Khuda Buksh. Khuda Buksh politely refused the offer by saying ‘I am not a politician.’ However, he suggested the name of his friend, a well-respected politician, Mr. Wahidduzzaman, who was subsequently appointed by Ayub Khan as the Federal Minister for Commerce. Referring indirectly to this event, Karnowski writes,

One of the great things about this remarkable man was that he never really, openly boasted about whatever he was able to achieve. We, his immediate colleagues in those days, were, of course, not aware of the advances made to him by the then President of Pakistan. We were only wondering why the then Commerce Minister, Mr. Wahiduzzaman, was making quite a few flattering remarks about his old school mate from Faridpur, praising him even more… as anyone attending the Convention could   see   for   himself.   (The   EFU   Saga,   pp.   312)

A. Chisti remarks,

This episode should be interpreted in another context. Had Khuda Buksh been after money, or had he been a greedy person, he would have joined as the Minister, and  would have made a lot of money and prestige. Since he was honest, and straightforward, and his integrity was above board, he decided to stay in his own profession instead of joining the cabinet. Khuda Buksh’s  leadership  caliber  has  always  been  an uncontested fact amongst his colleagues.

After Abbas Khaleeli, Roshen Ali Bhimjee was enhancing the prestige of the company by inducting the ex-ministers, judges of the superior courts, and retired bureaucrats, on the Board of Directors of the Eastern Federal; and maintained strong contacts with politicians, adopted the strategy of employing the best people from the market; and retained the company’s valuable employees even after an executive’s official retirement from the company at age of fifty-eight or fifty-nine years.