Umair Kalhoro is the Head of Internal Audit, Oilfields Supply Center Ltd (Dubai, UAE). He is also the founder of JAG-TECH, The Kalhoro Green Acres Agricultural Farms & Progeny Livestock Farms in Pakistan. We were able to ask him a few questions about his career and how he got to where he is today.
Tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today:
Originally, we are an agro-business family from Larkana, Sindh. My grandfather, being a keen agriculturist and a visionary entrepreneur moved to Karachi in 1954, which has been our home since then.
After completing my schooling in Karachi, I graduated from the Institute of Business Management (IoBM) with a bachelor’s degree in business, an MBA in Corporate Finance and Risk Management, followed by an M.Phil in Human Resource Management.
In the past, I have spent 2 years with Land O’ Lakes, Inc (Pakistan) as Finance Manager, during which I was given the opportunity to register for ACCA, UK which I completed successfully in 2007 as an Affiliate and was awarded the prestigious Fellowship in 2012.
Since 2005, I am associated with Oilfields Supply Center Limited (Dubai), as Head of Internal Audit, which is a Government of Dubai company. The Company was established in the early 1960s and is primarily focused on the upstream oil and gas industry for the Middle East and North Africa Region (MENA) and also has operations in North America, Europe and the Far East. The prime focus is the development and operation of oilfield logistics bases in addition to its main activities of oilfield logistics services.
I have over Seventeen years of experience in Corporate Finance, Internal Audit, Governance, Policy & Procedures and Risk Management. I am used to working with all levels of management on a varied range of engagements, both assurance and consulting in nature.
How did you start JAG-Tech and what is the idea behind it:
Academically, I am a Risk Management professional however agriculture continues to be my passion. It was during my initial years in Dubai, in 2008, which helped me to identify the institutional voids in Pakistan’s economy, especially the rural economy. This led me to utilise my hereditary agriculture lands and apply my experience as a professional to develop a modern Agro-Management complex with a vision to synchronise the latest technology for enhancing the domestic food production to achieve self-sufficiency which happens to be in alignment with Pakistan’s Food Security Strategy along-with a strong sense of responsibility towards the community. The project was named “JAG-Tech” located in Jangisar, District Thatta, Sindh.
The project consists of several integrated crop and livestock breed improvement projects. It spread over 3 phases spanning 10 years.
Phase 1 was to improve crop yields by introducing scientifically improved varieties of crop seeds and setting up a Livestock breed upgrade project by cross-breeding high yielding exotic beef breeds to achieve hybrid vigour.
Phase 2, involved developing the infrastructure required by a modern-day farm such as acquiring and using modern agriculture equipment, develop crop logistics, construction of warehousing & storage facilities, water conservation projects and efficient on-farm water management practices.
Phase 3 aimed to achieve synergistic benefits from an integrated farming model. The project was completed in 2019 and continues to operate successfully.
Needless to emphasize the project continues to have a positive impact on the many socio-economic factors by generating employment for hundreds of local villagers apart from supporting multiple philanthropic initiatives.
What are your job responsibilities?
My specialization is in applying Risk Based Internal Audit Methodology to lead a range of projects in the areas of Operational and Financial Audits with a proven track record of conducting and leading internal audit assignments throughout OSC operations globally. This has allowed me to develop a rich & in-depth experience of business processes, financial audits, compliance audits and policymaking.
Take us through a recent/typical workday.
My office starts at 7:00 am. I begin my day by reviewing emails and organizing the priorities based on regulatory and audit deadlines.
After communicating with the companies we audit to obtain any additional information needed, I spend most of my day reviewing work prepared by staff. This includes audit work papers and testing procedures, financial statements, tax work papers and completed returns, and various risk management projects. I also spend time answering any questions from the staff while they prepare the work mentioned above.
Being a senior member of the management team, my presence and input are required at meetings to discuss audit and tax work, industry happenings, and new accounting standards that are pertinent to the Oil and Gas industry and specifically to any subsidiary which we are auditing.
I think the variety keeps things interesting, with different issues and challenges from every audit we typically work on about 43 audits each year for the 16 subsidiaries globally.
My workday, oftentimes, continues late into the night as I catch-up on the developments and progress of the various projects at my farms over audio-video conference calls with the farm management team.
What’s your workspace setup like?
What apps, gadgets, or tools can’t you live without?
Working as the Head of Internal Audit for a global Oil and Gas company with multiple operating divisions worldwide, thousands of employees and hundreds of auditable processes which interact with several Information technology (IT) Systems, we relied on a variety of home-grown and off-the-shelf systems and spreadsheets for risk assessment, audit documentation and work paper tracking. In 2013, I developed a proposal for the management to replace the very basic collection of auditing tools with a state of the art centralised audit solution.
After exploring several options the management chose the Protiviti Governance Portal based on its configurability and true integration of risk assessment results into the audit plan and process along with ACL for data analytics.
Essentially with the help of these 2 solutions, we were able to consolidate all our risk assessment and audit data into a single system, allowing risk assessment activities to support and drive audit activities, thus empowering us to perform paperless audits. Additionally, it has helped to reduce average time from 140 hours for an audit assignment to under 100 hours which in turn has helped us to perform insightful audits and thus increase our efficiency.
The application of technology is a standard practice in my agro-based projects as well. We use smart drones to initiate “drone scouting” to support our business model of precision farming. Additionally, the use of GPS guided laser land levellers supported by a vast network of brick-lined water channels has helped in conserving irrigation resources apart from improving soil fertility, enhancing crop yields and saving us millions in fuel cost.
What perks does the country you work in bring to your job?
Dubai is a city of extremes in many ways; determined to hang on to its cultural heritage, the emirate continues to race into the 21st century, embracing the technological advancements of the modern world. Working and living in Dubai can be an exhilarating experience if expats arrive here with an open mind and are sensitive to the cultural norms of the region. There is a long list of goods, services and expertise needed in the region and professionals with unique skill sets, can thrive in this country.
What advice do you have for people opting for this career?
Honestly, I don’t feel that I have done enough to give advice. However, there are certain core principles in which I strongly believe which I would be happy to share. Firstly, as my father often repeats that we are born as human beings but being human is what is required. We should learn to respect everyone, regardless of their caste, colour or creed. Secondly, we should be more aware of the professional, economic and technological changes around us as this would help to develop a vision of what the future holds. By 2035, most jobs that we know of today might not even exist so it is important to be aware and to realize what the future will bring. Finally, I am of the firm conviction that one should always follow one’s true calling and passion, as they say: “Don’t work for money but make money work for you.”