Ukrainian Oligarch Mohammad Zahoor

One would never expect a former Soviet Union Oligarch to be called Zahoor. Boris, Sergei, Vladimir… Sure, but Zahoor? Pakistani-born Mohammad Zahoor went to study at a University in Ukraine in the 1970’s. He studied metallurgy and worked in a steel mill while married to a Russian he met at university. “Having a Russian wife limited my career development there and the secret services were very active in the 80’s, it was better to leave,” he told Newsweek.

A short while later, Zahoor moved back to Moscow and began working for a Pakistani steel mill. He made his fortune exporting steel after the Soviet collapse. Taking advantage of the political and economic instability, Zahoor would buy steel from struggling mills that had no idea how to pay their bills and export it worldwide through a company he set up with a Thai partner. He remembers it as a crazy time where he had to pay railways and other companies and parties separately, even though it was all part of one deal. But margins were high and he fared well.

He then went on to acquire his own steel mill and faced some problems along the way, which led him to buy a dying newspaper — The Kyiv Post that he not only kept afloat but managed to revive. After the steel business, Zahoor invested in prime real estate and made media investments. His wife is Ukrainian pop star Kamaliya, whom he intends to invest in. “We intend to send Lady Gaga into retirement,” he was quoted telling The Spiegel.

UK’s James Caan

Born Nazim Khan, the British-Pakistani entrepreneur later changed his name to ‘James Caan’, as it was easily recognizable and he had a feeling it would be more beneficial in the long run.

According to AP, Caan’s family migrated to the United Kingdom from Lahore, where his parents worked in a garment factory and later had a leather garments business. James’ entrepreneurial spirit showed early on, when he would sell leather jackets to his school friends for a profit. He decided to fight his own way and quit school after his O-levels, much to the dismay of his parents. Caan rented a flat in Kensington, paying rent through different jobs he worked at the time. He began to work for a recruitment company, where he would dial random numbers in the Yellow Pages to see if companies had any vacancies, and then hire and shortlist on behalf of the companies, earning a hefty commission.

He started his own recruitment company dubbed ‘Alexander Mann’, and opened an office in Mayfair giving the impression that his company was financially stable. Although his office was the size of a small cupboard, Caan would hold meetings in coffee shops and give clients the impression that they were too busy to take on new clients. The company did well over time and in 1993, Caan co-founded the recruitment firm Humana International, eventually growing the business to over 147 offices in 30 countries. In the same year he launched the trade magazine Recruitment International, which he later sold in 2000. In 1999 Caan sold a minority stake in Alexander Mann Group to a private equity firm.

Caan was approached to star in the hit reality TV show ‘Dragon’s Den’ as one of the investor judges. He lives with his wife and two daughters in London. According to the Independent, he regrets not having an education in his CV, although he did take an advanced management program at Harvard Business School. “Both my daughters scored 10As in their GCSE’s and three A’s at A level, my wife completed her masters in Art and I got an honorary Doctorate from Leeds. My daughters had to work for their degrees – I got mine in the post,” he remarked.

America’s Shahid Khan

For years, Pakistani business tycoon Shahid Khan went under the radar. It wasn’t until he purchased Pro NFL club the Jacksonville Jaguars and English Football team Fulham FC that he came into the spotlight. Khan is officially the wealthiest person of Pakistan origin.

Khan moved to the USA from Lahore in 1967. According to AP, his mother was a mathematics professor and his family was involved in construction. He supported himself through various jobs while studying Industrial Engineering and started working at an automotive company Flex-N-Gate. He then started his own business in 1978 called Bumper Works which made bumpers for trucks and custom repair shops. According to the New York Press to be able to do this, Khan took a $50,000 loan from the Small Business Loan Corporation and invested $16,000 of his own money.

Khan then purchased his former employer, Flex-N-Gate in 1980 and grew the company to supply bumpers for ‘The Big Three’ — Audi, BMW and Mercedes Benz. In 1984 he began supplying a small number of bumpers for Toyota pick-ups and by 1987 he was the sole supplier for Toyota pick-ups before becoming the sole supplier of the entire Toyota line in the United States… Not too shabby for a once laborer.

So there you have it… The top Pakistani tycoons and their inspiring journeys to success!