The influence of British Pakistanis is difficult to quantify. The economic changes are the most visible signs for most people but many people also expend considerable energy and vitality in helping to create a better life for everyone in Britain through their social, communal and cultural activities. Such work is invaluable but often invisible to the majority.
Nevertheless there are many selfless individuals pursuing these interests recognising the greater good shall be served by their endeavours. One such person is a British Pakistani entrepreneur Shahid Azeem, who has done exceptional extra work in the promotion and development of British as well as Pakistani community. Aside from his exemplary work for the community, he is also one of the most successful businessman in UK.
He was born in Meera Matore, a village near Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, and joined his father, Mr. Mohammad Azeem, who had arrived five years previously in 1969. He was 10 years old at the time and found it quite difficult to settle-in because he was unable to speak English.
His school experience was not happy either, those were the days of skinheads and soccer violence and he experienced a fair number of fights in the playground and outside the school while trying to learn how to speak English.
He then moved from the tough Slough Comprehensive to the Independent Clark’s Grammar School in Guildford to do O levels but failed to do so and left school without any qualifications.
In 1977, he went back to Pakistan where his relatives wanted him to join army but after a short break he came back to UK and decided to become a professional footballer. He played as youth level for Aldershot but after acquiring an injury he was unable to continue with his footballing career.
Since he had no qualifications he found it very difficult to find a job. Eventually he was lucky enough to land a job with the Ministry of Agriculture where he quickly realized that he was well adapted to IT. He also found that he was a fast learner and impressed his bosses who decided to fast track him in the data processing department which led to promotion as a shift manager and then moved into the telecommunications and networking sector.
In 1986, Shahid Azeem was asked to work at the Government’s top secret Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) Cheltenham but he decided to return to Guildford and started working for Immigration service at Heathrow from where he moved to London Docklands Development Corporation before joining Price Waterhouse which saw him go to Montreal to work with the huge American IT firm AT&T.
He came back from Canada to set up a division for AT&T in the UK. After a while Shahid Azeem realized he can do this for himself and decided to set up Rosewell Computers in partnership with Mr. Rupert Sebastian Daley supplying hardware for companies moving to new IT platforms but company was short lived due to Mr. Daley decision to leave the company.
That was the turning point in Shahid Azeem’s life, he established A&P Computers, which he built from nothing to being a Euros 120 million turnover business. Among his most significant customers was NTL for whom he supplied all their hardware. Others included Surrey Police, Surrey University and Gilbarco Veeder-Root, the company that has installed practically every IT enabled petrol pump in the country and A&P were supplying all their IT kit.
Shahid Azeem’s company was winning awards and was voted top ten fastest growing companies, which prompted many to buy him out but turned out to be the French company Arkenis who in 2005 struck a multi-million pound deal to buy A&P, the company which he established in 1989. After years of hectic life this deal provided Shahid the opportunity to spend more time with his family and to take part in other good causes which he always thought are important.
Shahid has put himself at the heart of the community and is heavily involved with the Guildford and District Rotary as chairman of fundraising, and has personally raised thousands of pounds. He is also involved with Jubilee Action, a human rights organisation committed to children and families at risk.
He is the chairman of the Woking Asian Business Forum which provides guidance to Asian businesses in the area and is obliged to the Woking Borough Council and Surrey Chamber and Business Link for their assistance in setting up this forum. He believes there are still great opportunities to set up successful businesses out there, but for Pakistanis, it can be difficult because in our community parents usually encourage their children to go for professional jobs such as doctors, lawyers and accountants. He seriously believes that if you work hard enough, you can achieve anything.
He is in the process of setting up a Vocational Training College in Islamabad, Pakistan in collaboration with Surrey University, where he is a Visiting Fellow to help the disadvantaged families of Pakistan to get their children educated locally because they cannot afford to send them abroad for higher education.
His motto is to treat people the way you would like to be treated yourself and never forget about the people who helped you along the way. His biggest driving factor is “fear of failure” which enables him to work very hard.
Shahid Azeem is now the Managing Director of “Arcom IT” a Guildford, Surrey based Company. He got married to Sameena in 1985. He is a proud father and has three children, two sons Zahid and Ali and a daughter MAheen.