BOL Exclusive: ‘Do or do not, there is no try’

Hassan NaqviReporter

16th Aug, 2021. 07:08 pm

Cheetay, Pakistan’s fastest growing NOW-Commerce platform, recently announced the appointment of Syeda Shehrbano Kazim as chief of staff to build the best-in-class, homegrown company.

Shehrbano Kazim has more than 20 years of diverse experience working in the development, microfinance and, now, corporate sectors.

Previously, she led the resource mobilisation and donor outreach efforts at the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund. She also worked with prestigious institutions such as the Pakistan Microfinance Network, the Pakistan Telecommunication Company and Asiatic Public Relations Network.

Talking exclusively to the BOL News, Shehrbano Kazim shared her experiences and future plans.

After working in the development sector, why did you join the corporate world?

A: The vision of Cheetay resonates with me. It is a company geared towards sustained growth that meets the needs of the people who value quality, time and convenience. The app delivers everything a customer could need in their daily lives: fresh milk, every day and premium groceries, and fantastic food from a wide variety of restaurants. It has truly evolved into a complete lifestyle solution.

How does your background in the development sector transform your approach to your work at Cheetay?

A: A lot of my work in the development sector, at least in recent years, was designing interventions and programmes that matter and that last. Structuring things, whether they be departments, activities or businesses, to achieve outcomes is a skill that easily translates into the corporate world. It helps at Cheetay, we are committed to being responsible and doing our best for our communities.

What does a work week look like for you?

A: I work closely with different department heads to achieve our targets. This includes regular meetings and follow-ups with all the stakeholders involved. We are always experimenting, so a typical week includes brainstorming creative ideas and strategies with various business heads and setting priorities for the upcoming weeks, months and quarters.

What do you do in your spare time? What are your hobbies?

A: I enjoy cooking, and at Cheetay, that (almost) falls under R&D. We have been experimenting with making various cheeses out of Sahar milk. Having access to fresh, raw cow’s milk means that I can spend some time, technically spare time, attempting to make ricotta and mozzarella. We’re also going to introduce a range of pure spices at Cheetay Grocery, so we get to make serious desi handis like karahi, brain masala, et cetera.

Before the pandemic, I would travel frequently abroad and within this fascinating, diverse country! One of the most fun things about travelling is trying unusual cuisines. Since I come from a serious foodie family, I would carry back cartons of treasures like chutneys and achaars from Shikarpur, the melt-in-your-mouth gulab jamuns from Sharakpur, kehwa from Mardan, gurr from Charsadda and so on.

Since travel isn’t relatively as easy as it used to be, we just launched the “Taste of Pakistan”, a new category within Cheetay Grocery that brings some famous and some little known regional delicacies from across the country to your doorstep.

What are you currently reading?

A: I just started “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries, but that’s studying for work. Some of my all-time favourite books are “Good Omens”, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” (I love the fence painting ‘scene’), “Pride and Prejudice” (with all its parallels to Pakistan), and the “Recluce Saga”, among others.

How do you ensure there is diversity and inclusivity at Cheetay?

A: Ensuring diversity during recruitment is relatively simple but making people’s voices heard once they are hired takes conscious thought and effort. We aspire to have high-performing and inclusive teams and focus on creating a value-driven culture and continuing employee engagement.

Tell us more about social impact programmes at Cheetay?

A: “Cheetay for Her” is an ongoing social impact campaign, focusing on women’s empowerment. As part of the campaign, Cheetay celebrates the trailblazing efforts of exceptional Pakistani women and the tenacity of the everyday woman of Pakistan. We are also offering flexible shifts to encourage more female riders to join.

In addition, we are a green company with plans to reduce our carbon footprint by 50 per cent over the next decade. To do so, we have introduced inverters to reduce electricity consumption, reduced plastic waste in our packaging and reusable eco-friendly grocery bags.

What are the challenges that women leaders face in Pakistan?

A: I recently had a fascinating conversation with a potential supplier. I stated what I needed in what quantities and when. He responded with, “This is not how things will happen. You won’t tell me what you need; I will tell you how to tell me what you need.” He then proceeded to tell me over half an hour how I should tell him what we needed, in what quantities and when. This is one of many challenges women face at work, being heard, having things mansplained and, my favourite, having men repeat what I’ve just said, as if it is a newly-minted revelation.

One of the challenges of leadership generally is making time to help your people grow. Making sure the people in your team have bought into the vision, are committed, and set up to succeed is an important part of leadership.

I’ve found it can be easy to assign more and more work to people who are good at what they do. I had a boss a few years ago who had the audacity to assign me enough work for three people and tell me that work flows where it will get done. That is a mistake, I don’t want to make, people should be motivated, challenged and inspired to do their best, but they shouldn’t be exploited.

What is your message to the youth of Pakistan?

A: I want to be Yoda here, making the message truly universal: “Do or do not, there is no try.” There is no substitute for putting in the hours, for working hard and just getting stuff done. If you decide to do something, truly commit to it. Choose the outcome you want to achieve and then have Plans B, C, D and E to make it happen.

Build and draw on a network of people who you trust because of their integrity and their competence. That network will help you do whatever it is you want to do.

And of course, you’re in Pakistan — wear sunscreen!

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