OICCI President Bruno Olierhoek speech in the Nutshell conference “FOW 18 – Future Of Work Summit”

Leadership in the age of disruption

There is an urgent need for Pakistan to change as there will be disruptions and we will need leadership.

The Government has very well managed the security and energy challenges over the last years and the economy despite many constraints is now giving about 5% growth. But that is not enough and well below the potential of the country. Pakistan has the capacity and the need to deliver over 7% consistent growth to meet its potential. With CPEC investments taking more visibility, I see many opportunities for current and new industries.

My name is Bruno Olierhoek and this year I am the President of the Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce & Industry, or OICCI for short. I grew up in the Netherlands, studied in France and have worked my whole career of over 23 years, with Nestlé in France, South East Asia, Switzerland, Africa and since 2015 in Pakistan.

I thank you for giving me the opportunity to be part of this event, gathering highly competent and well known leaders of industry, commerce and the Government.

As President of OICCI, let me start by informing the distinguished leaders present here today some brief facts about OICCI. By now everybody knows that we are the oldest chamber in the whole of South-Asia and that we are the largest chamber of commerce in Pakistan in terms of economic contribution. Our approximately 200 members are coming from 35 countries and operating in 14 key sectors of the economy. We contribute about 18% of the GDP, one third of the tax revenue and have in the last five years re-invested about $ 8 Billion USD in expanding our facilities in Pakistan. 50 of our members are subsidiaries of Fortune 500 companies.

For the Future of work summit, I have been asked to share my perspectives on the topic of “Leadership in the age of disruption”.

The theme clearly consists of two parts; leadership and disruption.

Let me start with the first part “Leadership” and focus on leadership in the corporate sector, where OICCI members are active. OICCI’s purpose is to promote overseas investment by leveraging our combined global experience for its members and Pakistan’s benefit. OICCI members are indeed recognized for the thought leadership that they have provided over the years. We are looked upon as agents of change and our latest initiative of “OICCI Women: Empowering for a brighter tomorrow” is a land mark initiative to build a more gender balanced work force and to make women equal contributors to the socio-economic growth of Pakistan.

The second part of the theme is “the age of disruption”. Is the age of disruption new? Not really as Heraclitus of Ephesus, a Greek Philosopher, already talked about disrupting the future in the 6th century BC. In his doctrine, change is central to the universe and you all know his most famous quote: “the only thing that is constant is change”.

While indeed there has been change though all ages, the level of change we are experiencing in the new reality is exponential. Yet I have personally come to the conclusion that while we are living in ever faster changing times, we must also learn from the past, as time and again, I see that timeless fundamentals hold true. It is just that the processes are expressed in new ways, utilizing new technology and evolving with more speed.

So in order to demonstrate leadership in an age of disruption I believe there are three key ingredients.

The first is a strong “Learning agility”. Whether we talk about individuals, companies or the government, we have to constantly “Learn, Unlearn and Relearn”. We have to stay open minded, borrow with pride and then modify to our local realities. That is why the OICCI’s access to global best practices and the international experience of our Management Committee is so powerful.

Second and equally important is the “Willingness to change” and at the right speed to keep up. While Pakistan clearly has expressed its willingness to change and established the Board of Investment to focus on improving the ease of doing business in Pakistan since 1992, Pakistan has been sliding in the ranks of the World Bank’s survey “Ease of Doing Business”. Pakistan was ranked ‘75’ in 2010 and was down to 147 out 190 countries in 2018. It is not that Pakistan did not try to improve, however, the reality is that other countries have been faster and made more effective efforts.

The lack of institutionalized decision making is one of the reasons for Pakistan’s poor rating. Pakistan has lagged behind in simplification of processes and their timelines.

For example, why does it take 208 days in Pakistan and only 25 days in Indonesia to register a property?  Similarly, it takes 260 days to obtain Construction permit whereas in Sri Lanka it takes only 115 days. To “Start a Business” it takes 12 procedures and 18 days in Pakistan whereas only 9 days and 7 procedures are required in Sri Lanka and only 1 day in Singapore.

The third and final ingredient I want to talk about is “Leveraging technologies”; adopting the latest technologies allow companies and countries to leapfrog. Technology makes processes not just more efficient but can equally improve and transform lives.

Let me illustrate what I mean by telling you about one of Nestlé’s projects in our Milk Shed. We buy milk from small farmers that live sometimes over one hour away from the closest bank, many cannot read nor write, but they can now, not only receive their payment for the milk they sell us by mobile-wallet, but also use that same phone to apply for a loan, without leaving their house and without collateral. They receive the money within 48 hours and with a decent interest rate of just 15%. This way of working drives financial inclusion and most importantly our small farmers do not have to go to the loan sharks that loan money at 50 or even 60% interest. These technologies are not only a new way of working, they are changing paradigms, they are changing lives!

Equally the government has to leverage technology to use data and simplify processes. It has so far not kicked-off a unified process to computerize and deliver efficiency for businesses; which would attract more investment, create jobs and above all huge revenue to the Govt. In this age of technological advancement, e-filing, e-reporting and e-monitoring can substantially ease the burden of compliance on the society. OICCI has been consistently saying that broadening the tax base in Pakistan is possible through data mining and investment in technology to monitor trends and compliance and equally important monitor the non-compliance.

I want to state clearly that OICCI members believe in emerging Pakistan and are in general very positive about Pakistan with the firm belief that this is a land of opportunities and has considerable potential due to its demography, resources availability and potential to grow. This overall perspective has been further reinforced by an improved security and energy situation which is widely recognized.

Unfortunately we have not been able to realize this potential or to take full advantages of the “bright spots” in the economy. The main areas of concern relate to an unfair tax regime, inter provincial coordination issues, less than satisfactory engagement by authorities on policy implementation and growing ad-hocism. This makes for an uneven playing field for the regulated, compliant, formal sector and makes it too easy to do business for the unregulated, informal, non-tax paying players in the economy.

To help overcome these negatives the OICCI recommends to set up a “Pakistan Economic Council”, an Advisory Body that consists of key people from the federal and provincial government together with BOI and representatives from the private sector to jointly work on pressing issues we all face.

So let me bring it all together by saying, the only thing that will not change is change itself, so let us embrace change and show leadership. Let us be open minded, leverage technology and let us work together, the Private and Public sector, on our common issues for a better and brighter tomorrow, Insha Allah.

© 2012 Overseas Investors Chambers of Commerce and Industry
The Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce & Industry (OICCI) serves as the national point of reference for foreign investors in Pakistan. Established in 1860 as the Karachi Chamber of Commerce, it is the oldest of the existing chambers.