Master of many arts

Rhonita Patnaik
Filed on March 23, 2021

Salman Iqbal is a multi-faceted personality. From being the Founder and CEO of ARY Digital Network to being the Owner of Karachi Kings and the President of World Memon Organization, Iqbal handles all his responsibility with ease and élan. Excerpts from an interview:

Balancing multiple roles

Talking about donning the garb of many roles, Iqbal says that balance comes with time.

"With the growth and expansion of a business, you start to automatically compartmentalise your thinking according to various sectors. I would be sitting in A creative programming meeting one hour, the next hour with my cricket team, and then with my contractor later. But at each meeting, I would be 150 per cent focused on that specific matter. It is also extremely important for me to delegate  matters to a great team around me that helps me run each division."   

Social/online media influence on the entertainment sector

With the advent of social media and digital content consumption, we are witnessing revolutionary changes to the entertainment sector globally, says Iqbal.

"Our television industry is still very strong in Pakistan as well as globally. Yes, web series and content, of course, is slowly taking over. But I would not say that they have completely taken over and replaced television as a medium - there is still time for that to happen."

According to him, the Covid-19 pandemic has sped up some of these changes. "Over the last year, we have seen movies releasing on digital OTT platforms instead of theatres; more content is being made for digital distribution avenues. We are fully aware of this and therefore have a lot of work going on for the digital world. Social media engagement and online viewing is one of the most important pillars of our network today.

Huge success of the movie production house

Iqbal attributes his success to the love that the people of Pakistan have given him. He adds that in the olden days, the Pakistan film industry was a giant but then it saw a downturn and it eventually lost its popularity.

"I had a dream of restarting and reviving the Pakistani film industry. Driven by this goal, we rolled the dice and invested in the film industry and by the grace of Allah with our decisions and strategy we are now an integral part of the film industry and the all-time highest grossing films of Pakistan are all from the ARY stable. We are now beating our own records at the box office. Our first movie did a business of Rs250 million, then we did Rs500 million and then we went up to a billion rupees."

The inception of ARY Laguna

Iqbal's company has been very active in the real estate sector and has been a part of many construction projects in Pakistan and the UAE as well. However, in Pakistan, they were never under the brand name of ARY. So, in that regard it was the first time that ARY launched its real estate arm in Pakistan and offered something really unique for the end consumer.

Iqbal reveals: "The uniqueness comes from the fact that ARY is the only company in Pakistan, which has managed to procure the Crystal Lagoons Technology. This is a Chilean patented technology and is manufactured in the US. We managed to negotiate and convince them to build a project in Pakistan. This is a feather in ARY's cap that we signed them on and then launched the 'ARY Laguna'."

He adds: "Initially, we have launched 'ARY Laguna' in Karachi and Gujranwala and we are planning to go to Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar. Our target market is just Pakistan for the time being as the country itself is a huge market with great potential. So, we want to see how this project fares in Pakistan and then we will see if and how we can replicate it in other global locations. It is a mammoth project, which has received encouraging feedback and an overwhelming response."

 Entertainment opportunities across ARY Digital

ARY Digital provide its viewers with a 360-degree experience across our network, something for everyone's likes and choices, Iqbal maintains.

"With women-centric dramas and other social dramas captivating male audiences as well, live game shows like 'Jeeto Pakistan' for the entire family, we help start everyone's morning with 'Good Morning Pakistan'; news and current affairs throughout the day on ARY News, religious programming on QTV, food programming, etc.

"Apart from television we produce a variety of Pakistani feature films in many genres. Also, the ARY Zap app showcases all of these."

New role as the President of World Memon Organisation

The World Memon Organisation (WMO) is an international umbrella organisation of the Memon Community serving humanity through its seven chapters in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Middle East, Africa, Europe and North America.

According to Iqbal, "The WMO was established as an international representative organisation to cater to the needs of the Memon Community and also humanity at large. I have big shoes to fill in. My uncle, Haji Abdul Razzak Yaqoob (ARY), who was the founder president of the WMO, was a businessman par excellence, a great visionary, an ardent educationist and a deep sympathiser of an ailing humanity and, above all, a community man.

"I must fulfill the dreams envisioned by Haji Saab, the founding fathers of WMO and my predecessors. I have an amazing team of people with special skill sets that work with me. We are working towards our goals to ensure our future generations are educated and self-reliant. A dream that all my brothers and sisters have a roof over their head. A dream that effective healthcare remains firmly within the reach of everyone and much more. There is a lot of work to be done."

Honours of the hour

Iqbal has won many accolades - the Sitara-e-lsar, Young Global Leaders Award by the World Economic Forum, as well as featured for the last four years as one of the '500 Most Influential Muslims' in the world in 'The Muslim 500'.  He adds: "But the biggest gratification has always been the love our people have showered on me and ARY Digital Network and all our projects. Nothing is more satisfying and important than that."

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