Aziz Memon has built a business empire called the Kings Group of Companies in Pakistan with $100 million in annual revenue while simultaneously devoting much of his time and energy to charitable purposes, especially the eradication of polio.
About half of the annual revenue from his businesses comes from King’s Textile Industries, a textile business that includes farming of organic cotton and production of organic cloth. He says, Walmart and other customers like to include 5 to 10 percent organic cotton in their products. As he built the organic cotton business and began farming the cotton, he built schools for the farmers’ families.
He also owns a solar power business called Orion Solar Power that provides solar power for street lighting and for operating swimming pools. Pakistan’s climate is well suited for solar power.
He owns a number of retail franchises in Pakistan as well, including a United Colors of Benetton store I visited in Islamabad. In addition, he also owns a medical supply business and also develops real estate.
Most of his business interests have a social purpose in their mission. Memon also places an emphasis on treating employees well and fairly. In the textile business, he says the clients, including JC Penny and Sears in addition to Walmart and a variety of European companies, have strict standards for working conditions and employee benefits.
“Everything is written down in the social compliance agreement. We feel a pleasure doing all this. We feel our workers are our partners,” he says.
Memon, always socially minded, joined his local Rotary Club in 1995. That decision not only had a remarkable impact on him, but on the country.
In the 1980s, Rotary announced a global effort to eradicate polio. At the time, polio was still endemic in most countries outside of the U.S., Western Europe and Japan. Today, Pakistan is one of only two countries where polio is endemic—the other is Afghanistan. With most cases originating in Pakistan, eyes of the public health world have turned to Pakistan.
At the center of that attention sits Aziz Memon.
Now, devoting himself almost full time to the effort as a volunteer, he sheepishly notes that his brother and nephew now run the day-to-day operations of the business, while he, as Chairman, weighs in only on strategic issues.
Memon has served in a long list of volunteer leadership positions in Rotary, including serving as a District Governor for the 2007-2008 service year. Today, he sits on the Rotary’s International Polio Plus Committee and as the Chairman of Rotary’s National Polio Plus Committee.
Even the WHO could not provide good records for the number of polio cases in Pakistan prior to the early 1990s. In 1995 when Memon joined Rotary, there were 2,555 cases of polio in Pakistan. So far this year, the WHO has tracked 11 cases in the country.
This progress fills Memon with a sense of urgency. “We are running short of time. There is no tomorrow. We cannot postpone,” he told me in a meeting in Islamabad.
He added,“Getting rid of polio is the top priority” in his life.