Shahjehan S Karim – Visionary Social and Ethical Leadership

Founder President of IoBM, Mr Shahjehan S Karim left this world for the hereafter today. Inna lillah e wa inna ilaihi rajioon. Several thoughts came rushing to my mind about this great man and his achievements that have been an inspiration to me and to countless others. [July 16, 2017]

Each day as I walk past the array of the growing number of impressive buildings lining the IoBM’s main boulevard at the Korangi campus, I remind myself of what a vision can achieve. I look at the diversity of programs being offered by IoBM and the impact and the goodwill that the students graduating from these programs have built over the last two decades, and try to envision the hard work and toil of thousands of hours of meticulous work every year that he must have invested over the last 23 years in developing such a fine institution. Mr Shahjehan Karim retiring after an illustrious 37 years career in civil service launched this institution in 1995 in a rented dilapidated building with a few rooms of a rundown government school at PAF Korgani Creek Base.

I try to visualize a civil service officer who had worked in the top positions of Pakistan, who had been Chief Secretary of Sindh, who had served as the principal secretary to the Prime Minister during his career, mustering the energy to make a brand new start after his retirement to serve the cause of education. There had been many thousands of government officers who had retired from such high positions, but there are very few, if any, who had mustered such a courage and achieved so much in their second innings.

I try to visualize myself and also ask my colleagues to picture themselves at age 60 years mustering the courage to start a project like this from nothing and then having the determination to continue to grow it over the next 23 years to this impressive size. I often ask my colleagues and students to visualize the immensity of this achievement in the light of what vision and leadership can do. If this is what a person retiring after 37 years of active civil service can dream of in his second innings, and starting from scratch, build an impressive institution, then what can the youth achieve when they are starting their lives in early 20s, when they have the energy, when they have the physical endurance and when their ambitions know no bounds!

Life is real, life is earnest, life is not an empty dream! … Footprints on the sands of time, remind us that we can make our lives sublime!

Although my association with Mr Shahjehan S Karim had only been 4 years, but I think what I have learned from him during this time surpasses my decades of experience. In 2013, I was honored by him and the higher management of IoBM to lead as Dean the flagship school of business of the Institute, CBM (College of Business Management) and additionally CES (College of Engineering and Sciences). Here I would try to summarize few of the many important things that I have learned.

I think his ability to galvanize support from prominent business leaders and government functionaries through their constructive and meaningful participation in the Board of Governors and other statutory positions of the institute had been among the major reasons for the growth of the institution. Unlike members of boards of many other institutions where often their participation is ceremonial, I have found the active involvement of the board members of IoBM with their expert advice, guidance and generosity a major reason for ensuring the sustainability of the institution. I had witnessed how a board member who is a prominent business leader, transformed in a few minutes a debt based investment proposal into a self sustainable proposition through a smart readjustment of the cash flows and creating an additional injection from self generation of resources. There must have been countless such decisions that have provided the institution with strength. I can now appreciate why the higher management takes pride in stating that the entire institution has grown to this size without any external aid.

Mr Shahjehan S Karim would inspire the people in a subtle way. He knew their strengths and weaknesses. I am still trying to learn and fathom the art of how he used to create this bond with senior executives. He would inspire them with trust, confidence and guidance without losing track of the vital signs regarding deliverables. His personality was perceived universally as a benevolent fatherly figure, who held positive expectations without being overbearing, exacting or unreasonable. I think his long association of getting work out of senior people in government where there are scores of conflicting considerations to balance, had perfected in him this art of motivating, leading and directing without appearing to be overly intrusive. I don’t know how he did it. But, without being given explicit deadlines, I somehow would know what he would be requiring when. I could feel the pressure building in me when I knew that I must submit some thing in the next few days. One can study from books the importance of planning, scheduling, directing, leading and controlling. But, how to achieve a balance among them through informal engagements is the difficult art that I only recently became aware of through his example and was trying my best to learn from him.

Many of the statements in IoBM’s vision, mission and goals seem to me to be an expression of his deeply internalized values and expectations from life. Many of the uninitiated including those from the inspection committees of regulatory bodies would often insist on modifying this or that part of the vision. They think that this articulation is just a collection of some statements picked by a committee to satisfy HEC’s requirements. Explaining them the roots of certain statements in this articulation takes some time as one needs to trace these statements to some fundamental assumptions about what is education and how it relates to life and personality.

Emphasis on ethics in the vision articulation is real and material. His emphasis on high ethical standards and transparency can be seen in the working of the institution and from the policies, and their implementation. It also seeps through the thought processes of the higher management and their decisions and also in the strict implementation of policies related to ethical and disciplinary committees.

The vision of IoBM to be among the leading institutions nationally and internationally is not just a bold claim. His interest in international linkages and enabling the institution to meet the standards of the top accreditation bodies of the world was quite visible through his efforts. Despite his advanced age he would bear the toil of foreign visits to attend the fora of international bodies and establishing linkages with the foreign universities. A few days after my joining he sent me a magazine of AACSB, the top accreditation body of the world for business schools, and expressed his vision for CBM to get this accreditation. This was a huge challenge. His and higher management support in providing systems and resources to enable this vision had been instrumental in the launch of several new initiatives over the last few years that have brought us closer to the expectations of higher quality. Among these had been his support for research programs and his personal interest in the engagement of highly qualified PhD faculty. A detailed enumeration of all the various initiatives where his support had been instrumental would require a separate post.

His commitment to the social uplift was real and material. His interest in creating scholarships and support for the needy was aggressive. The way he took over and led the Outreach Program of IoBM where students from the needy and backward districts of Sindh were identified, examined, admitted, and their progress monitored and the sustainability was planned gave me a first hand experience of why he had been invaluable support to the government. His ability to take a project from the idea stage to the implementation stage and to a successful sustainable stage with existing resources must have been his major strength. The outreach program is a fully subsidized scholarship for needy students of backward areas of Sindh with all their tuition, boarding and lodging covered.

I must admit that our speed of execution would often lag behind his expectations of what needed to be delivered in a short time for the betterment of the community and the country. He had ambitious programs for developing the Institute as a multi-dimensional institute which would be renowned not only in the field of management but in other disciplines such as those in social sciences and in engineering. A statement to this effect is part of the vision of IoBM. He had grand plans for growing the engineering program and extending its reach to technical training.

He was eager for us to develop programs that would encourage and contribute to social development. He provided his full support to our idea of BS Social Entrepreneurship and Social Leadership program and we were honored to have his presence in the first advisory meeting of the program. He encouraged us in getting a good mix of high level social leaders in our advisory board which has been a source of its success.

His ability to remember the contents of different multi-page documents and meeting minutes submitted over several months was phenomenal. Once during the first year of my joining, I submitted a proposal of several pages and several months later followed it up with its updated revision. I was surprised when he asked me incisive questions about the minute details where the two documents had differed, especially so, because the difference was in the implementation sections. This alerted me about the need to be very precise about any document that would eventually go to him. Till the very end he would keep track of the vital signs of the major events in the institute.
There are so many things to be written about him and his contributions. The above are just a few thoughts that came racing to my mind. More on this later.

May Allah give him the best of abodes in the hereafter. Aameen

Orientation Speeches for the New Students inspired by SSK’s Vision and Mission Statement for IoBM:

Mr Shahjehan S Karim appreciated these speeches that I was honored to present at the grand orientation ceremonies for the new students at IoBM at the start of the Fall Semester of the years mentioned.

See Also:


20 responses to “Shahjehan S Karim – Visionary Social and Ethical Leadership”

  1. Ameen. Thanks for sharing insights about his life, really an inspiration for all of us.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Truly an inspiration and a great legacy to be followed by many!

  3. Areeba Khan Avatar
    Areeba Khan

    May Allah grant him the highest place in Jannah, Ameen!

    He took my interview for entry into the IoBM BBA program back in 2012, I remember him as a soft spoken, graceful and inspirational man. It would not have been possible for me to fund my studies at IoBM without his advice as he was the one who informed my mother regarding the Sindh Endowment Fund program and the method through which I could apply for the scholarship.

    His legacy shall live on forever!

  4. Scintillating writeup about a giant, a great societal mentor … Thank you Dr sb

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    Alhamdulillah the Multi Disciplinary Research Series (MRSS) at the IoBM has been quite a success story so far at the IoBM in the research related activities. The spirit and persistency that the MRSS team has shown has a direct relation with the motivation derived from our late president Mr. Shahjehan S. Karim. When the proposal for establishment of MRSS was afloat we met the president and I asked him whether he carries a dream of developing this institution into a Research University to which he had an emphatic 'yes', this aligned our dreams with his. Then sometimes later I was in Dean CBM's office and the president entered the office lead by the rector. The rector introduced me to the president, "abajan do you know Dr. Abid" and he reverted "yes I know him, he is doing a very good job"; this remark has been so stimulating for me. His innovative approach has inspired many like me in this institute. May Allah Almighty rest his soul in peace and keep us motivated in taking this institution to where Mr. Shahjehan Kareem had dreamed and worked for.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    Truly a great person an irreparable loss to all of us. He would always support innovations BE ( Telecommunication now Electrical Engineering, Environmental Management, Logistics & SCM program are there because of his kind support. His motivation approach can be seen in Excellent remarks he would give to all of us.May Allah give him Jannatul firdaus. Ameen.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    Founder President of IoBM, Mr. Shahjehan S Karim was a true leader who rendered great services to the fields of education and social welfare. He served the nation with dedication and devotion, establishing an educational institution, fora for education and the training of children, besides serving on very high ranks in the public service departments.

    May Allah grant him highest place in Janat-ul-Firdous. Ameen

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    An inspiration for us

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    Inspirational blog Sir…..

  11. What an inspiration! What a noble and kind human being! May God bless his soul.

  12. May GOD give him highest place in Jannah. Ameen
    Great Inspirational Blog

  13. A true inspiration for many. It is a huge loss to this nation. May Allah grant him a higher place in Jannah – Ameen.

  14. Mr Shahjehan S Karim blessed us with knowledge corridor – He knew and envision that only education could take the youth and and nation to the next level in the global society. May Allah give him Jannatul firdaus. Ameen.

  15. Sheeraz Avatar

    He was indeed a humble and a kind hearted person. I got chance to interact with him he even offered me to have lunch with hin. I will always be greatful to you for founding an insttitute like IoBM. What ever I am today I am because of this institute Thank you Sir may Allah bless you in highest place of Jannah

  16. He was truly a great man. I even think in other way that how his hard work is paying to others. He work hard to build this institution, now he is no more with us, but we as employee getting reputation, respect, and even good earnings due to his hard work. Students are getting recognition, respect, and even good earnings too. How, vision and hard work of that brave man. May His soul rest in Heaven.

  17. Need to have more people following his footsteps in establishing institutions

  18. We must carry the torch forward

  19. As long as we are committed to following the footsteps of people like him.

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