“Everyone knows I have two babies – one is my daughter, Sophie, who is a year and a half and the other is the business that I run” says Mehreen Obaid, the Managing Director of Towelers Ltd. She is an inspiration for all those women who fear going to work because of the multitasking required, especially after beginning a family. She is the perfect example of a woman who, with the support of her family, can manage her professional and personal life with panache. For the past six years, Mehreen has been at the helm of affairs of the company her father started about four decades ago. The company manufactures towels, bed linen, socks, blankets and garments. It has a turnover of about $35 million and is continuously growing its operations.
When her father passed away, Mehreen found it to be a real challenge to be on a plane just ten days later, going all over the United States and Europe, explaining to the clients that she is taking over the company and that it is not going down. “In the initial stages there were some hiccups” she admits, “because of the lack of examples of women in the male dominated textile industry for the position that I was going to be brought into the company for.” But with the passage of time, she has found strength in the fact that she is a woman and has learnt how to turn that into an advantage. She has, contrary to the beliefs of her competitors, led her company not just towards survival but to further expansion and that’s something she is extremely proud of.
Having so much on her plate is not easy, of course. “Time management, trying to perform the roles of a mother, as well as a wife, a daughter and a daughter in law simultaneously while running a company is difficult,” explains Mehreen, “I have to juggle all the balls and make sure they all fall in the right place.” She loves her daughter as well as her career and has learnt how to strike that critical balance. “My personal gain is to see the growth of both of these babies. Some days you love one more and some days the other, some days you have to make a sacrifice on one side to help the other. If it’s a big day at my daughter’s pre-school – I have to be there. But when there are crucial business trips, I know I have to be away from her for the next ten days, ensuring my company makes enough sales and the three thousand people who work for me continue to have a job,” She explains.
Mehreen finds the support of the family for a working woman to be crucial. “When I travel, I’m blessed that my in laws step in and take care of my daughter. On a day to day basis, my sisters help out a lot.” In addition she is a firm believer of the fact that financial independence is extremely important in the times of today. “I think no matter which income strata you belong to, today life is fairly expensive and dual income is extremely important to run a household.” A working woman can allow the household’s entire environment to change.
The most inspirational figure for Mehreen is her mother, who got married at the age of seventeen, lived a traditional life but always knew she wanted to have it different for her six children. She made her the independent woman she is today. Rather than having a miracle moment, Mehreen says she has had a Miracle Year – the year she gave birth to her daughter as well as led Towelers Ltd to making its first profit in the 2014-15 fiscal year. With women such as Mehreen Obaid steering the country towards success, the stereotypes that only a son can take over the family business or that a working woman cannot care for a family well will soon be replaced with positivity.