It takes a determined and ambitious man to establish a world class business. But only a great man can have that taken away from him yet still retain the energy and vitality to carry on. Such a man is Sher Mohammad Rafique
Sher Mohammad Rafique
It takes a determined and ambitious man to establish a world class business. But only a great man can have that taken away from him yet still retain the energy and vitality to carry on. Such a man is Sher Mohammad Rafique who has achieved so much in his life it is hardly credible that he was only born in Faisalabad, Pakistan.
His ascendancy in the business world has been meteoric but began humbly after he arrived in Liverpool in the mid 50's for further education. He studied for his O-levels while staying in a hostel and then went on to do his A-levels in Bradford. Determined to continue his education, which he values very highly, he went to Leeds and London.
The value of education is great among the Pakistani community and Mr Rafique felt that it was vital that he should gain as many qualifications as possible if he was to succeed. Despite enduring considerable hardships and great effort by studying and working at the same time he continued with his education. While studying in Bradford he worked with Bradford Transport as a bus conductor. He initially began working there in the holidays but continued during term time by working late shifts after he had finished college. This was an early example of his determination to succeed through hard work and application.
Before he departed from Bradford for London he owned four houses which he bought with small deposits, private mortgages, and a loan from the bank. All the future payments were met from the rent received from the houses. He was determined that his business should grow and so he re-invested all of the capital income from the rentals of the properties to ensure that he would increase the overall value of his investments without eroding the profits by taking anything out by way of payments to himself.
This long term view has paid off in the intervening years but is a policy of strict financial control which many would find difficult to sustain particularly when they have had a life of considerable hardship up to that point. After completing his further education he started working as an accountant, improving his position as he went along. Within six years of completing his post qualification work experience he became the Group Chief Accountant in an international conglomerate earning a salary, which the newspaper, the Evening Standard said, was the highest ever paid to any coloured executive in London.
He got married in 1969. While he was working he set up a joint venture with two close associates to open a grocery chain business. Unfortunately, this was not very successful as his partners wanted him to work in the grocery stores alongside them, yet he had an excellent job which he had no interest in giving up. He kept the grocery businesses until 1971 when the partnership was eventually dissolved. Sher Rafique then employed his friends as managers to run his interests. In 1972 Sher Rafique decided to leave his work to concentrate on expanding his business. This would later prove to be the crucial moment when Sher Rafique became involved in a business that would become central to his life for the next 20 years. At this time he bought an abattoir in Ireland. He had already gained some contracts to supply meat to Kuwait before purchasing the abattoir. The following year he moved to Ireland having sold all of his business interests in London.
During this period Mr Rafique was concentrating his attention on learning the details of the business which was primarily exporting meat to the Middle East and Europe. The profits were good and, by this time, he felt he knew the business inside and out, and decided to expand. In 1973 he had 20 employees and over the next six years this figure had risen to a workforce of over 450. He had 12 different plants in one industrial complex which consisted of two slaughterhouses for sheep and beef, two boning and packing plants, and separate plants for canning, convenience food processing, lard making, and animal feed and pet food plants etc.
In the early 1980's they moved from that site to a larger development and ended up with seven lamb abattoirs (which made them the largest lamb processor in Europe during the 1980's and early 1990's slaughtering up to 160,000 lambs a week); eight beef abattoirs, 15 cutting, deboning and packing plants including primary and retail packing for supermarkets throughout Europe, five bakeries, one flour mill, three fish processing plants, and offices in France, Germany, and Holland. By 1989 the company had over 5,000 employees and they were among the top ten lamb and beef meat traders in the world. At this time the company had a turnover of over a billion pounds a year and was the fourth largest private business in Ireland.
The main areas for export, apart from Western and Eastern Europe were to Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and Japan etc. Sher Rafique met senior politicians and world leaders and his life was hectic but fascinating. It is at times like these that you believe nothing can usurp your position but an unlikely sequence of circumstances were about to conspire against Sher Rafique and cause himself, his family, and his company to suffer greatly.
The Gulf war began and he found his major destinations for his meat were embargoed by the UN sanctions. His company was also one of the main suppliers of beef to the Eastern European block and the disintegration of the Soviet Union had a serious affect on the business in that area as well. But there was a final blow dealt to Sher Rafique which set the seal on the fate of his business. While he was away with his wife performing Umra an unfortunate hazard took place and a un-control-able fire consumed the whole place. The fire burnt for seven days and could not be put out. The cause of the fire remains unknown. The result was that his empire, so long in its creation, was itself engulfed and crashed. There were debates in the Irish parliament for three days over the matter. The Speaker had to suspend parliamentary proceedings on five occasions, yet still his business collapsed from its mighty pinnacle. After the difficulties in Ireland most of the members of the family moved to Britain and carried on with what little they had left.
Whilst he had tumbled from the very peaks of power and influence he is by no means at the bottom of the hill. Sher Rafique is a great believer in education and has always encouraged his children to be educated since he believes that one must have studied and acquired knowledge to know to apply ideas in a practical way.
Sher Rafique is very proud of two sons, Imran Sher Rafique and Arfan sher rafique and two daughters, Aneela sher Rafique and Syma Sher Rafique. The family are devoted Muslims.
Sher Rafique believes that it is precisely because his family are so close and because his wife has been so supportive and helpful that his business has been such a success. Sher Rafique believes that without his wife, Begum Kausar Sher Rafique's, total commitment and dedication to both her family and business he would not have achieved all that he has.
Sher Rafique is a true survivor and an inspiration. Despite problems out with his control which lead to the destruction of his business empire he has remained optimistic and is once more tackling his problems head on and developing a business which aims to compete with the world. He thinks in a big way and has the background, the knowledge, the energy and the ability to achieve whatever he sets out to do. His experience not only enriches him, it allows him to gain a vital perspective on the vagaries of life and help him to cope and deal with anything which may arise in the future.