In this episode of Conversations@Jazz, we speak to the CEO and Managing Director of Sefam. Seema Aziz is a stalwart in her domain and is one of the first women CEOs to command a leading textile brand in Pakistan. She talks to us about the importance of education in terms of empowerment for women and the barriers Pakistanis face. In addition to being a corporate leader, she is also a successful philanthropist. What set her apart was her belief in early innovation and cutting-edge technology.
She believes in the equality of resources and also equality of the challenges that both men and women face in order to excel in their careers. She also believes that women are sometimes victims of perceived barriers – whether it is the perception of society or the perception of their own self-worth. “Barriers can be social, cultural, or based on customs. The number of educated women in Pakistan is far less than the number of educated men, so that automatically reduces the confidence to succeed,” she states.
Seema started Care Foundation in 1988 where the mission is “Empowerment through Education”. They opened the doors of their first school in January 1991 in the flood areas and around 250 children stood out on the first day. Today, they have 900 schools nationwide and over 300,000 children enrolled in those schools. She opened her first store under the brand name Bareeze in 1985 despite the fact that everyone doubted her vision to create export quality textiles in Pakistan. The concept was to create a product made in Pakistan that is equal in quality to the best in the world. Seema adopts digital technology both in her business and in her engagement with employees. Technology is a leader’s best tool to scale up. What matters is how you tweak the technology to get results that matter most. In Seema’s case, her competitive advantage was superior quality.