CTD Advisors are at the forefront of UK business, advanced and highly focussed, in a world that’s perpetually morphing, and finding itself somewhat overwhelmed. “Since the time of the Second World War,” Shoaib, founder of the specialist strategic intelligence firm, told us, “Britain has gradually lost influence in commonwealth states and the emerging markets. It has constricted itself by the EU and kept itself tied to that region.” The company wants to help construct new economic corridors, from within places such as Nigeria to countries and continents that are as far flung as India and Asia. Essentially, rebuilding a “Global Britain” in modern times. Another key reason why investors, corporates and governments have refrained from expanding Eastward, Shoaib elaborated: “is the volatility of those particular political landscapes.” It seems Western businesses are challenged by unfamiliar obstacles such as great social upheaval, foreign business models and state ideology, and ultimately a severe lack of insider knowledge: “navigating through these international, emerging markets then becomes high risk. Let’s take the small example of Pakistan. There is a huge market of 220 million people, a lot of whom are under the age of 35 and whose first or second language is English, in a country where the GDP is moving at 5%.
Additionally, the location is prime for UK business to invest: it’s in-between the two largest growing economies, China and India, where the former is a new superpower with opportune trading channels to the Middle East. However, Pakistan is also a country complicated by multiple uncertainties.” This includes military rule for “over thirty years, religious extremism and terrorism.” The broader factors make UK businesses more apprehensive about investing when there are still massive business opportunities available. “Those populations especially,” i.e. those in developing worlds, “require services, from basic housing and consumer goods to basic healthcare and other essential products.”
To this end, the collected business leader and his executive team at CTD Advisors are inimitably placed. Spanning the arenas of politics and academia to security services and business, the team is compromised of the most experienced, senior professionals, all of whom have “extensive practise in advising prime ministers, cabinet members, multinational corporations, and even security agencies on business, commercial and geo-political issues.” The company then possesses the proverbial quality goods as well as the stellar advertorial vision. “We can provide the strategic communication, engagement and strategic intelligence needed to make informed decisions and gain that competitive advantage,” Shoaib aptly summarised. The CEO himself has scores of knowledge in investment banking and international business, always having kept a keen eye on the changing contexts and patterns of international affairs. “It’s a pleasure to be able to combine so many of my natural interests in one, very rewarding job,” he commented, “and to help develop so many businesses and the economy at large. We can advise on the best areas of a country to invest in, local partners integrity assessments, on the reputational and political risks, on whether an investment should be long or short term from changing geo-economics circumstances, the time periods which are smartest, and the geopolitical impact on the industry into which a company or state is trying to tap.”
Here, Shoaib emphasised the “importance of human capital”. Not just abroad with the respective target consumer, but for CTD Advisors’ signature methodology and the company’s own team: “a big mistake many businesses make is to obsessively chase sales and neglect good relationship management. Good relations are integral to a booming business, and if you upset people, the sales fall through anyway. As we are so connected and socially aware, we’re able to help foster the best business communications which garner both profit and respect. It’s better to be patient and invest in mid to long-term strategy then to rush. The business culture around emerging markets is still very communal, and recommendations spread through word of mouth. Again, my group has first-hand experience in this respect and can negotiate with the utmost receptivity. CTD members have worked closely to advise Presidents and Prime Ministers, and big corporations to make informed business or national security decisions from emerging markets perspective while our talented staff members have written much on economic opportunities and geopolitical situations.” This means CTD Advisors are also in the unique position of providing clear analysis of otherwise mystified and unexplored foreign business: “with a lot of these emerging markets, public information is not reliable or at all transparent.”
Thus, crafting an effective business venture that has as much socio-political impact as it does financially, Shoaib promisingly demonstrates the power of meditated and nuanced thinking to restore the balance in times of great bureaucratic uncertainty. This was even reflected through the founder’s sensitivity to a truly multicultural terrene moving forwards. “One must remember that Western values might not always translate to Eastern communities,” he replied when asked on the compatibility of moral values with corporate ethic: “yes, they generally go together, but we must try to understand individual local and regional backgrounds, and these can be entirely different worlds. Our standards can be harsh in social isolation.” CTD Advisors will open new offices in Washington DC next year, bringing its targeted yet equalising intelligence to the influential powerhouse that is the USA. “I want British businesses to be as bold as American enterprises,” Shoaib finally asserted, “and to have a footprint outside of Europe. Britain can emerge stronger while taking calculating risks.”
What have been some of your most successful, highlight moments as a specialist intelligence strategist?
We recently worked with a client who provides oil and gas related services to emerging markets, in one of the high-risk country of North Africa. Obviously, there are multiple power corridors etc. and our recommendations from managing geo-political risks angle were correspondingly on point. We advised that investments be made from a 6-month to 6-month basis over careful instalments. We advised on what regions were more feasible and politically sound to provide their equipment, and who would most demand that product.
What are some general pointers for what ‘works best for business in the Pakistani market’?
Just by tapping into the market a lot can happen. There is a huge market for the British industry who have a vast past knowledge of consumer goods. Secondly, there are many internet users in the country: 45 million. There is then great scope for digital businesses such Fintech outfits and E-commerce websites. This would also mean more British Angel investors and private equity could thrive. Alibaba is doing really well there, but there aren’t such British investors there.
Finally, what grabs you most about your work with CTD Advisors?
No one day is ever the same. As a bespoke strategic advisory firm, every client engagement is always different and needs a lot of research and planning. You always navigate delicately and think creatively outside of the box for the clients.