Scientists are like magicians, they are trying to prove extraordinary claims by extraordinary evidences every day. They get an idea, perform the research and disseminate the results through publications. But with the passage of time, the paradigm has shifted; the world needs more than just a bunch of spells on paper. In this century, it’s all about taking your work beyond a publication by patenting and commercializing it. However, trading experimental design for a business plan is not for everyone especially a woman.
Dr Farrukh’s Journey
At the platform of OPEN, Dr. Farrukh describes her journey to excellence. She was born with a silver spoon in her mouth in the textile capital of Pakistan, Faisalabad. Everybody in her family was well settled in the business domain and they never had any financial problems. Dr. Farrukh however, wanted to move against the tide. She had different interests; as a child, she loved reading storybooks, literature, detective novels, and Muslim history. Always willing to try new things, in 10th grade she gained interest in Urdu poetry and made her name successfully through poetry competitions by winning one after the other.
Her winning streak did not end there, after breaking the stereotypes in her society and successfully negotiating with her parents, she enrolled for a bachelors degree in Botany, Zoology and Chemistry instead of medicine. She completed this challenging course successfully but found herself debating again with her mother who wanted her to pursue Urdu Literature next. But she aspired for more and saw herself at one of the prestigious universities; Punjab University seeking her masters. None from Dr. Farrukh’s family had ever studied at this institution and they were skeptical about her admission. Still she tried her luck and got listed in the first merit list for both Masters in Botany and Zoology.
Yet she considered MSc Botany better for her and completed the degree. Creating records, Dr. Farrukh paved her way to Mphil Biotech program of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and went into “Biofertilizer” research. Her supervisor, on basis of her excellent performance, got her training for Transition Electron Microscopy- TEM from National Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (NIBGE). Her venture continued to Scotland, and she became the First Pakistani to get full fledged training for TEM. Later on, she established the facility of Electron Microscopy at NIBGE along with her colleagues.
Education grooms a person and teaches us values. If an educated person cannot see his direction, his education is of no use to him
– Dr. Farrukh (at OPEN Islamabad Annual Forum 2015)
The Development of Pakistan’s First Biotech Company
Dr. Farrukh did not believe in overnight success. Many times she had the chance to take a short cut and fabricate her research data but she had strong professional ethics. She had belief in her research work and this is why in 2009 she thought of commercializing her thesis (in biofertilizers). She did not start big but she did start right. To take the first step in industry, she started by distributing biofertilizers under the name “BioPower”. For this, she put tireless efforts by reaching out to various villages and as many farmers as she could. To effectively communicate with the farmers she read science in Urdu and learned the villager’s linguistics.
In 2010, Dr. Farrukh laid the foundation of her Biotech company. At this point she faced a lot of opposition by the Bio Scientist community, but this did not hold her back. She started preparing Bio-Fertilizer from her own domestic kitchen waste. With the passage of time, her company grew stronger and stronger and developed a reliable revenue stream. She was invited by the Multinational Company, ICA, for partnership. Afterwards the Bio-Fertilizer product was recognized nationally and proper standards were developed for it after being registered by the government.
The Way to Excellence
After the success of her first product, she went ahead and introduced her second product called Bio Organic Phosphate. She also published her research on BioOrganic Phosphate on both national and international level. Her third product was also an innovation which defied the previous researches and proved that bacteria could grow on urea.
Dr. Farrukh’s company not only maintained its quality but also developed a competitive edge in the market by coming up with innovative products. It was only due to her timely commitment, passion and hard work that she gained new partner companies and established great projects with them. Dr. Farrukh is a true icon for women entrepreneurs proving that commitment and resolve can overcome all obstacles.
She rightly believes in Allama Iqbal’s verse:
You are neither for the sky, nor for the earth
The world is for you, and not you for the world.
Interview Credits: OPEN Islamabad Annual Forum 2015