Authoring a change
New writers out of Pakistan are bringing in some fresh air, not just through their books, but also with a promise to change the face of the country’s publishing scene
A couple of writers from Pakistan are now putting the pukh into literary action these days. If you’re baffled about what exactly that strange word is, seasoned entrepreneurs Faraz Khan and Farhad Karamally do the explaining in their debut book as writers — Pukh Theory.
“Pukh Theory is probably Pakistan’s first business parable on leadership and succession planning in published form, that offers examples and solutions in indigenous, corporate environments, and how business success stories can emanate and be emulated,” says Khan, banker-turned-entrepreneur and now author and owner of 11 businesses.
Pukh Theory, along with two other books by fellow Pakistani authors — Midlife and Naked by Shaista Ayesha, and The Euro Journey of Lailamah Giselle Khan, who is Pakistan’s youngest author at just age 8 — officially launched at the Kinokuniya bookshop at Dubai Mall this week, to a great public response and turnout by many of the Pakistani expat population here.
The title and wisdom in Pukh Theory is inspired by none other than — hold your horses — the humble donkey! “Yes, on the streets of Pakistan, you commonly see carts being drawn by two donkeys — one big and the other smaller, the latter being called the “pugh”,” says Karamally. “The book takes off on the concept of how the bigger donkey ‘trains’ the smaller one in pulling the heavy cart effectively, gradually reducing the strain on both. This process is akin to the acclimatisation that a new management trainee goes through. After a few months of drawing the cart, the ‘pugh’ trades places with the other donkey, and starts pulling the cart from the other side, which is again contextualised in the book as how employees take on greater responsibilities, and begin following the values and orientation of the organisation.”
Karamally should know, with almost two decades as an organisation development consultant, management trainer and entrepreneur, and seven companies of his own.
For the duo, moving into the new territory of penning books — albeit on topics they’re both highly experienced in — is also about upping the literary and intellectual profile of their country.
“Given the stories that come out of Pakistan these days, with every sort of crisis highlighted, we wanted a change in how our country is perceived. Hopefully, you’ll soon be hearing about fantastic news and initiatives coming out of Pakistan, not just about the people but about the economy and market as well. For us, this book is about bringing in a breath of fresh air, and that’s what prompted us to launch it internationally,” states Khan.
Karamally chips in, “Apparently, you have the world’s best everything, here in the UAE. So we wanted to find out where we stand with our books internationally — it’s a great market to enter as a starting step.”
Successful entrepreneurs they may be, but Khan and Karamally faced their share of pitfalls in trying to bring out their maiden publication. “The title, for one — we were pushed to call it ‘The Theory of the Horse Cart’ and the likes, but we zoned in on this. Pukh Theory also reflects our mindsets, the Pakistani attitude of applying ourselves when push comes to shove. You’ve heard of many business parables — the cheeses and the whales and the fishes — so why not the “pugh”?” say the duo.
“Many of the characters and situations in the book are what we’ve seen and experienced over the years, working in our multiple businesses together. We’ve started businesses that actually make money and have a strong social impact in the community. We’ve started about 20 businesses in the past ten years, out of which 11 failed! But that experience contributed to our learning, and the remaining ventures have done fantastically well,” said Khan.
“Obviously, we have lots of experience in launching businesses and taking it to the next level, so it was a good synergy of effort — and a creative and emotional experience — between Faraz and myself, working on the book,” reveals Karamally.
The friends and authors say they have more management books in the pipeline — including Pukh Theory 2, in the works. But nurturing and getting their own work published is hardly their priority. As social and social-minded entrepreneurs, they’ve also started their own publishing company — FKSquared — an amalgam of their initials and that of Khan’s business associate Khusro Ansari.
“To keep it short and simple, we did not like the way we were treated and the questions we were asked when we approached other publishers for Pukh Theory. So we pondered, if we can start so many other businesses, why not publishing? But as always, when we launch something, it’s not just about us,” say Khan and Karamally.
“We realised it’s very, very difficult for local writers, new writers, and people who enjoy writing, to actually get published, as the industry is very difficult to break into. The objective of FKSquared is to make it easy for others like us, so they don’t have to go through the struggle we went through. We’ll lay down the bricks and pave the way for them. In fact, the next few titles we’re publishing — about 14 of them — are not our books but others’, while we too grow in our writing aspirations.”
According to them, Pakistan is a great market for aspiring writers, but conventional publishing houses don’t think they’re good enough. “So there’s a huge pool out there who have the talent, but just need the right guidance. What we’re doing is encouraging the large number of young, upcoming authors. For example, we thought let’s kick off the reading-writing habit for the younger age groups, and hence we have Pakistan’s youngest author in our ranks!,” says Khan.
Lailamah Giselle Khan, who already has two books to her credit — The Hajj Journey of Lailamah Giselle Khan and The Euro Journey of Lailamah Giselle Khan — has two more adventures all planned out. “We will train any child who wants to write — assist, develop and mentor the kid — and that’s where our motive as a publishing house lies,” states Khan.
As for the founders of FKSquared, the topics they choose to write about are very human and universal, they say. “Our books may be set in Pakistan, but they are also global in the context of entrepreneurship and management principles. They are meant for anyone who wants to read them, and applicable in everyone’s life,” they say.
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