Seema Aziz
Pakistan
Seema Aziz
  • Founder, CARE Foundation; Managing Director, Sefam (Education and Retail)
Born in 1951 in Lahore, Pakistan. College of Home Economics, 1972 (B.A.); Punjab University, 1987 (L.L.B.).
“I understood that an education [is] the only gift which no flood can take away, which becomes a part of a person and changes lives like nothing else can.”

Summary

Seema Aziz is the founder and managing director of Sefam and the Chairperson of CARE Foundation. In this interview, Aziz discusses the trajectory of her career, from retail to education. Along with her brother, Aziz founded Sefam in the early 1980s, with the idea of creating the first high-quality fabric made in Pakistan. She describes how they took control over each step in the production process in order to ensure consistent quality. She also discusses some of the cultural challenges that she faced, both in terms of finding a market for her unusual product and with respect to the social stigma that accompanied going into business. Despite these obstacles, however, Sefam was highly successful and became one of the first major brands in Pakistan. Aziz narrates Sefam’s expansion outside of Pakistan and explains some of the challenges she faced remaining competitive in a global market.

Aziz goes on to describe the circumstances that led her to found CARE Foundation in 1988. What started as one school built in the wake of a destructive flood has today grown to 716 schools throughout Pakistan that serve more than 230,000 students. CARE has frequently brought her into contact with the Pakistani government. Aziz relates how she asked to assume responsibility for failing state-run schools and describes that challenges that accompanied this undertaking. She concludes by reflecting on some of the parallels between her two businesses, emphasizing in both a commitment to quality and a conviction in leading by example.

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Seema Aziz is the founder and managing director of Sefam and the Chairperson of CARE Foundation. In this interview, Aziz discusses the trajectory of her career, from retail to education. Along with her brother, Aziz founded Sefam in the early 1980s, with the idea of creating the first high-quality fabric made in Pakistan. She describes how they took control over each step in the production process in order to ensure consistent quality. She also discusses some of the cultural challenges that she faced, both in terms of finding a market for her unusual product and with respect to the social stigma that accompanied going into business. Despite these obstacles, however, Sefam was highly successful and became one of the first major brands in Pakistan. Aziz narrates Sefam’s expansion outside of Pakistan and explains some of the challenges she faced remaining competitive in a global market.

Aziz goes on to describe the circumstances that led her to found CARE Foundation in 1988. What started as one school built in the wake of a destructive flood has today grown to 716 schools throughout Pakistan that serve more than 230,000 students. CARE has frequently brought her into contact with the Pakistani government. Aziz relates how she asked to assume responsibility for failing state-run schools and describes that challenges that accompanied this undertaking. She concludes by reflecting on some of the parallels between her two businesses, emphasizing in both a commitment to quality and a conviction in leading by example.

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Additional Resources

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Interview Citation Format

"Interview with Seema Aziz, interviewed by Taraun Khanna, September 18, 2016, Creating Emerging Markets Project, Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School, http://www.hbs.edu/creating-emerging-markets/."