Witnessing increasing business for his bank in Gwadar port, a used-to-be remote fishing village in Balochistan province in southwestern Pakistan, Shakeeb Yusuf said he made the right choice at the beginning as the robust business growth helped pave the way toward his promotion.
Yusuf has been promoted as the full-time manager of Habib Bank Private Limited's (HBL) branch at the port's free zone after he managed to sign contracts with some international business groups to handle their finances in Gwadar.
The manager, who was introducing his bank's products and services at a booth set up at the second international exposition held in the port's free zone, told Xinhua on Friday that his branch has opened at least seven active company accounts and over 500 individual accounts during last one year after they entered in the free zone in the first quarter of 2018.
"We started business here after our analysts saw a great potential following the speedy development in Gwadar during last five years which turned a barren place into a proper port city," said Yusuf, adding that the development of the port and its free zone is leading it towards industrialization and making it to become a regional trade hub, a prospect which can boost their business many times.
The HBL, the largest bank of Pakistan, was the first Pakistani bank to have opened its branch in China in 2017 and was allowed to handle end-to-end Chinese yuan transactions. It has proudly claimed to have facilitated around six billion U.S. dollars for different projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Gwadar, the small fishing town located at the Arabian Sea, has achieved several development milestones of having regular departure and arrival of shipments at the port, a business center, a free zone and others under the CPEC.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan broke ground on Friday for the construction of the China-funded New Gwadar International Airport. Khan appreciated the speedy and quality work by the Chinese companies and individuals in Gwadar, adding that Gwadar has become an engine of growth for the country.
The new airport project, which would be completed in a period of three years and have the capacity to handle the world's largest planes like Airbus A380, is further opening Gwadar's doors to the rest of the world.
Shakil Hashmi, global business manager for the Kontel Technologies from the United States, told Xinhua during the Gwadar Expo that his company has decided to set up a permanent office in Gwadar to grab the opportunities emerging out of several ongoing and future development projects to sell their water desalination solutions.
Being in talks with several other companies to provide them solutions, Hashmi said his company has already set up a water treatment plant in Gwadar and has signed another agreement on the sidelines of the Expo. "Water is the basic need of life and industry. When we see a lot of companies rushing to Gwadar to establish their industries, our belief further gets strengthened that our business will flourish quickly and for a long time," he said.
According to the China Overseas Ports Holding Company (COPHC), the operator of Gwadar port, dozens of companies in different businesses such as hotel, bank, logistics, food, steel, fish processing and renewable resources have entered the free zone.
Chairman of the COPHC Zhang Baozhong said that several Chinese investors and Pakistani businessmen have reached their cooperation agreements on the sidelines of the expo in different fields which would bring mutual benefits.
Zhang said that there is a lot of scopes to invest in Gwadar and he was told by Chinese investors that they can import as much as goods, such as marble, seafood and others from Gwadar.
The Yuling Holding Co., Ltd., a Chinese company dealing in urban ecological and industrial investment, also participated in the expo and offered its services and modern technology to improve the environment through garden engineering, landscaping, maintenance and management, seedlings planting and investment and development of fields.
A representative of the Yuling Holding said that their company sees opportunities in Gwadar and other areas of Balochistan as they look barren with too little greenery.
"We shall provide the best suitable solutions to Balochistan and especially to Gwadar so that a sound environment will be formed with all business sectors organically combined with and mutually support each other," said the representative, adding that their expo booth has received a very healthy response.
Chairman of Gwadar Port Authority Naseer Khan Kashani said the development efforts made in different sectors during the last few years have started paying back with the participation of foreign and local investors.
Kashani promised to speed up the development pace of Gwadar by providing the best facilities to investors and traders, including the best available tax exemptions, which he believes would create an ideal atmosphere for investors to do their businesses in the hub of Pakistan's future development.