Founding Partner of Spencer West’s Pakistan Office, Ishtiaq Nawaz-Chechi’s interview is ESG Director, Ian McDowell and his initiative to impact underserved communities in Pakistan
Real Estate, Lending and Commercial Partner Ishtiaq Nawaz-Chechi’s irrepressible energy and creativity has put him in a leadership role in the Firm’s expanding Pakistan practice as well as its operations in Dubai. Ish is currently working to make a major international football initiative that will have measurable positive impacts for underserved communities in Pakistan as well as professional football in the country.
Ish, I know you’re speaking from Portugal where you’ve just been to a Benfica match [Portuguese football club Benfica are a major partner in the initiative]. How was it?
Unfortunately, we lost! There were a few long faces, and people are obviously disappointed given it was a Champions’ League Match.
Where on earth do you get your energy from?
Once I joined Spencer West I regained my passion for law. Running my own law firm, I’d become quite disgruntled because it was dragging me away from actually being lawyer. Now I can do that again, and in a global firm that’s expanding all the time. It’s networking and building the business up that excites me, and making the difference to communities internationally which is so different from the limitations of my old high street firm.
Tell me about the hopes you’ve got for the community side of the football initiative.
We’ve got a big vision. Football’s a minority sport in Pakistan, despite the fact that they manufacture most of the world’s footballs! Puma, Adidas and Nike footballs, including the World Cup football itself, are all made there, but they don’t have a team at that level themselves. It doesn’t make sense.
What the reason for the gap?
It’s simply because the knowledge and expertise doesn’t exist there. The vision is to have a national academy based in Karachi, residential, like a university campus for kids from 14-18, that will produce great players. Benfica already use the Cambridge Exam Board system to teach the children they develop in Portugal, so the kids in Pakistan will get academic development of a high standard alongside football. Those who don’t become footballers can pursue careers in sports management, personal trainers, physios, doctors, nutrition and all the jobs that are already in existence in the sporting industry and elsewhere.
Will there be scholarships?
There will be scouts going into the villages and twenty-five per cent will come from less privileged backgrounds. The money privileged families spend will subsidise this, also FIFA, and the hopefully the UN as well.
When is it starting?
At the end of March next year there will be boots on the ground from Benfica
Is there a plan to include girls and women?
Pakistan already have a women’s football team and there was a qualifier recently that they played well in. it will be a mixed academy, but they will split the dorms and the training to work with cultural sensitivities. Another partner we have lined up is a Pak-Turk schools. They are a Turkish schooling system that operates in Pakistan and has 50,000 school kids already registered
Where is the initial funding coming from?
The initial funding is coming from one of the firm’ existing clients, Ekuitas Plc; and they are also considering crowd funding, and Spencer West Pakistan is acting for another client who is investing in a professional football league. There’s a top-down league going down, and there’s a growing bottom up grass roots movement in the villages. Spencer West Pakistan are sitting right in the middle, joining the two together. As a Firm, we created the projects and brought the clients in.
Is that unusual for an international law firm?
It’s a unique service we’ve offered. We could walk into any emerging market and replicate what we’ve done. Benfica are potentially looking at African countries now, and this because we’ve built up so much goodwill. We’ve quite simply shown the client where the value in the project is, and the financial incentive links to the community engagement incentive.
Sport teaches aspiration, and can bring people out of poverty, so we’re potentially transforming a whole generation. Sport also gives people an escape from the hard things of life.
Yes. It’s an example of what ESG should be, an example to emulate in and beyond Spencer West. What’s the next thing you’re aiming to achieve?
We’re talking about taking care home providers in Portugal and the UK to serve the senior citizens in Pakistan who don’t currently have the infrastructure for their old age. Demand is growing because perceptions are changing and people are demanding more professionalised service. Fifteen per cent of people in the care homes will come from less privileged backgrounds so this will have a community benefit as well.
Ish, thanks so much for speaking with me.