ESMAIL ALI of Jamnagar, India, set up a small factory in Bombay. In his early days of struggle, a son was born to him in 1878 whom he called “Habib”.
As a child in school,Habib excelled in studies and sport. However, a promising school career ended abruptly when his father died in 1891. At the tender age of 13, the young boy had to shoulder the responsibility of looking after his widowed mother and sister.
He joined his maternal Uncle Cassum Mohamed, the owner of KhojaMithabhaiNathoo, merchant and manufacturers of copper and brass utensils. The young Habib joined as an apprentice for six months without remuneration and his first pay was Rs5 per month. The conscientious Habib worked day and night arriving before the opening of the shop and going home by walking late at night to save bus and tram fare. Unmindful of what he was paid, he always followed his uncle’s advice of faithfulness, honesty, integrity and hard work. By the time he was 18, he became a partner in the firm of KhojaMithabhaiNathoo and President of the Copper and Brass Merchant Association.
Early success by God’s grace gave him tremendous encouragement. He soon established relationship with big and lucrative customers in Bombay, Karachi, Madras, Calcutta and Rangoon and established two more shops in the bazaar and built several factories for manufacturing utensils.
Having captured over 60 percent of the local utensil business, he concentrated on export and in addition to copper and brass utensils he got into iron scrap, manganese ore and cotton which he exported to East Africa, Italy, France, Great Britain and other European countries. He was so successful in iron scrap that he entered the ship breaking business and dismantled many ships, including S.S. Lindula, S.S. Paris and H.H. Highflier-a battle-ship.
Being a person of tremendous foresight, he sent his representative to Europe in 1912 and followed that up by establishing branch offices in Genoa and Vienna. Simultaneously, he began business relationships with Japan and China importing hosiery, yarn, glassware and cutlery and exporting cotton.
The young Habib’s reputation for honesty and fair play was so well known that his customers and local merchants in the market would leave their surplus funds with Habib for safe keeping and investment, thus the foundation of merchant banking was established for “House of Habib”.
He started the firm “Habib& Sons” in 1921 and changed the family name to “Habib”. His four sons Ahmed Habib, DawoodHabib, Mohammed Ali Habib and Ghulam Ali Habib joined him in the business as well and the firm expanded rapidly – banking remaining a core business.
At the age of 35 he commanded a worldwide organization and was ready to deal in anything that was legitimate and remunerative.
HabibEsmail died at a relatively young age of 53. He was an exceptional man and a firm believer in God. His conviction was that one’s prosperity should be shared with the less fortunate, which made him very charitable.
His golden rules were: faithfulness, honesty, hard work, courage, humility, generosity and charity. He was able to instill these traditions in his sons and it is significant that these values continue to be followed by Habib’s grandsons and great grandsons to this date.
The original Habib Bank began modestly in Bombay in 1941 when it commenced operations with a fixed capital of 25,000 rupees. Impressed by its initial performance, Mohammed Ali Jinnah asked the Habib Bank to move its operations to Karachi after the independence of Pakistan. Habib Bank Limited established itself in the Karachi in 1943 and became a symbol of pride and progress for the people of Pakistan. The Habib family would own and manage the bank until the Pakistan government nationalized it on 1 January 1974.
Under the privatization policy of Government of Pakistan, the Dawood Habib Group was granted permission to set up a commercial bank. Bank AL Habib was incorporated as a Public Limited Company in October 1991 and started banking operations in 1992.
Recognizing the demand for natural commodities, the group set up sugar and textile mills in the 1960s. During the years, the sugar division expanded into allied manufacturing setting up a distillery plant to produce Industrial Alcohol which further led to the conversion into Ethanol Fuel. CO2 was another division created to manage the resources efficiently and today they are a major supplier to beverage and food processing companies.
Today, the Dawood Habib group is involved in the manufacturing of Sugar, CO2, Ethanol, Textiles and auto motives.
Mohammed Ali Habib
Mr. Mohammed Ali Habib showed exceptional qualities of leadership and vision. In India of late 30′s, when the independence movement gathered momentum, the Muslim League, led by Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah began to promote the cause of a separate state for Muslims.
The Habibs were close family friends of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, and soon after the Declaration of Lahore in 1940, Mohammed Ali Habib, with the full support of his brothers, particularly DawoodHabib, established the Habib Bank Limited in August 1941, as a Public Limited Company with a paid up capital of Rs2.5 million. In this way, he formalized the Habib merchant banking activities, paid tribute to the memory of their much loved father and created a landmark for the Muslims of India.
The Bank was organized from the very beginning on the principles of British banking tradition, with the main difference that the young and forceful Mohammed AliHabib broke away from the dogma. It is said that when a British banker visiting Habib Bank Limited remarked on the absence of imposing leather bound ledgers, Mohammed Ali said “What is important is not the shape and size of the books but their contents”.
The Bank filled a vacuum in banking in the subcontinent, playing a pivotal role of bringing the banking habit to the middle class masses in general and Muslims in particular. To open 34 branches in 5 years was to change the very pattern of branch banking in undivided India, where local banks preferred to restrict their activities to the province of their incorporation. It was all the more remarkable that this happened during and immediately after the Second World War and in the uncertain conditions of the pre-partition period.