Serving Customers - Serving Voters: Entrepreneur & Politician
Interview with Irfan Daultana, Member of Parliament in Punjab and Managing Director of three hotels in Lahore.
He comes from what you could call a political family – his grandfather a former Chief Minister, his mother a member of parliament for more than 25 years. Still, Irfan Daultana put personal independence above everything else and hence went into business. He already founded three hotels in Lahore’s Gulberg district before entering politics. Since 2013, the Cambridge graduate represents the constituents of PP-234 (Vehari-III) in Punjab’s provincial assembly.
You do both: you are a member of parliament but you also own three hotels. How can you do all that work at one time? How do you manage that?
Well, I am a member of parliament in Punjab and also the managing director of Maisonette Hotels. It is a passion, because we have to do business to earn a living. You have to have your own business to earn your own bread and butter and also for the economic growth of the country. Honest politicians, they have to run their own businesses to serve the country – to serve the people of their constituency and the people of Punjab and Pakistan. Politics is a passion which you do to help the people and to contribute towards the legislation of Pakistan and to have a better Pakistan and a better Punjab.
Inside you don’t just fight for election, you have a passion for the people, you want to do something for your country, you want to bring change.
So what did you do first – you started first as a businessman or as a politician?
I started my business in 1993 with construction. Alongside that, we were working in hotels with Maisonette and in hotel construction with Maisonette Constructions. In 2013 I fought in the election for Member of Parliament in Punjab, in Vehari. So I worked in my business for almost 20 years and then after 20 years I decided I should come into politics, too. My mother was a member of parliament for more than 25 years and my grandfather was the Chief Minister of Punjab from 1951–1953.
Wow – you have an amazing political legacy in your family!
Yes, my mother was a Member of Parliament for 25 years and before that she was the president and general secretary of the Pakistan Muslim League. So she has fought a political career of more than 35 years.
So you would say it were your family roots, but also your desire to change the country that led you to go into politics?
It was definitely both things. My brother was also a politician. He was district president of Vehari. But he was a British national and therefore was not able to fight for election. Then I committed myself in front of my mother as I wanted to participate and carry on the legacy of my family. And definitely inside you don’t just fight for election, you have a passion for the people, you want to do something for your country, you want to bring change. And on top of everything, the most important thing is that there are no corruption scandals. My family, we are totally neat because we have our own land, we have our own businesses. We want to do politics to serve the country and to have a better Pakistan.
Politics is 100% for the betterment of the people, to serve the people.
So you say what is special for you is because you are a businessman, you have more independence than other politicians.
We do business to earn our own honest living and to definitely support people who are deserving. Politics is 100% for the betterment of the people, to serve the people.
When you compare what you do in politics and what you do in business, is it the same qualities that make you successful or is it different qualities?
There are some things which are in common, like you have to be honest in politics as well as in business. You have to have a good name in both areas. And in both areas you have responsibility for people. In business you have got 500 people working for you. You are responsible for them. You have to pay them salaries on time. You have to do your business properly. In politics, when people elect you, you have to represent them, to make sure all their problems are mitigated and you have to make sure you are a good representative of the people of that area. But there are also some differences, like politics is not there to make money. Business is to make money. Politics is to serve the people of this country, where education is concerned, health is concerned. You have to be very passionate about people. In business you have to be more business-minded, more profit-oriented.
You say that responsibility is very important to you.
Agreed, agreed! Responsibility is most important whether it is in business or in politics.
When you think about relationships, would you say this is also very important in both areas?
Totally agree! In politics you have to meet people. You have to go to their marriages. You have to go to their funerals. You need to have a good bonding with the people. And the same condition applies to business. All the colleagues, all the staff who are working with you, you have to have a family relation with them. It is profit- oriented – that is most important – but the appreciation factor should also be there and they should feel that all of them are part of one family.
(In Politics) you have to be very passionate about people. In business you have to be more business-minded, more profit-oriented.
You work in the hospitality business – which is also core for METRO. Hospitality is about making people feel welcome and invite the basically to your place. So do you believe that people in the hospitality sector have a special touch to them that might be close to what is asked of you in politics?
The hotel industry, the hospitality industry is a service industry. So you have to give proper services, you have to meet your customers, you have to have a good relation with them, you have to ensure they are feeling comfortable when they are staying in your hotel. They should have good food and good atmosphere. And the same is true for politics. It is also a service which you are providing. It is a service you are providing for the betterment of the people.
When I talk to other business people – and we at METRO also come from business – I often hear that people complain about politics. And then, I very often want to defend the politicians, because I think it’s a very challenging job, you have a lot of responsibilities. Do you also hear a lot of these complaints about politicians and how do you feel about that?
People definitely blame politicians – for the good things and the bad things. But politicians really sacrifice their life, in the way that they sacrifice their family life. They go to their areas, they meet people, they service people with all their time. In business, you are there for a restricted time, like nine to five for five or six days. The other time, you have got for yourself or your family. In politics it is not the case. If anyone is coming, you have to be there for them 365 days a year, seven days a week. When they make you a politician, when they elect you for parliament, then your life is bound for them. I think this applies to all the politicians. Anyone who becomes a member of parliament has to listen to phone calls, has to go to marriages, has to go to the funerals, has to represent the area in the assembly. If you are in government, you have to take funds from your leadership. So you are all the time thinking about your area, thinking about the benefits you can get from the government for the people. This is why the people elect you and if you don’t do it, the next time you are out.
It is important that people have their own business and be in politics. To be an honest politician and to know the problems, the crisis, the business community is facing. If you are only a politician, how will you earn your bread and butter and how will you know about the economy and the business conditions of the country?
As you have a business background: do you think it is easier for you to transmit the decisions that politicians make to other business people?
It definitely helps. If you are a businessman, you know both sides’ problems. You can support the business community because you are also suffering from the same things. So again, I think that’s why it is important that people have their own business and be in politics. To be an honest politician and to know the problems, the crisis, the business community is facing. If you are only a politician, how will you earn your bread and butter and how will you know about the economy and the business conditions of the country.
Just one follow-up: Would it be good if compensations for politicians were increased so that they could have more independence?
I think politicians’ wages should be increased so that they can have an honest living. When I became Member of Parliament in 2013, our pay was around US$250 per month, which was nothing. Because when you are a politician, you need your secretaries, you need to visit your areas and you don’t have any government transport. Still, I feel if you are a business man and a politician that would be best.