As one crosses through the gate after wading through two security checks, there is this in-your-face red shark painted across the huge wall of the main building stares. The Nixor College’s message is loud and clear: it is intent on preparing its young guns in the manner of a shark, fit enough to not just survive but thrive in the dog-eat-dog business world outside.
Apart from the shark, as intimidating as the building seemed from the outside, the interior was quite the opposite. In one corner there was a Wall of Kindness (Deewar-e-Meherbani), adjacent to a basketball court followed by various offices of the executive student body. The staircase on the right leads to ‘sky boxes’ – the cafeteria where one finds students engaging in chit chat as well browsing through books, notebooks and digital apparatus.
Welcome to the virtual corporate world of Nixor College, where you can find an 18-year old CEO of Nixor Financial Services dressed up like a hotshot, conversing with people elder to him by two or three times with the kind of aplomb that you probably wouldn’t find in postgrad student. Ditto for the CFO, similarly a teenager, hosting an event with such ease and polish that even a graduate student for once might feel intimidated. And where regular students are busy in ensuring that all arrangements for the big-do are executed as planned. This is the kind of exposure most people never think of gaining in their college life.
According to many students, on the day of the event the college was more crowded than it usually is. Freshmen were rushing towards the auditorium, tightly gripping their laptops. One followed them to the auditorium. The occasion was ‘Summit 2.0’ – a three day entrepreneurial competition hosted by the Nixor Financial Services.
Doing it on their own
Initiated in 2011, the Nixor Financial Services (NFS) is run by the Nixor students. “The aim of NFS is to promote the idea of doing things on your own, and to educate our students on how to manage finances,” said Huzaifa Usman, the 18-year old NFS CEO. Brainchild of Ex-CEO, Shehryar Bachani, the entity was initially known as Nixor Bank.
“Aspiring to be an investment banker, Shehryar realized that Nixor had all types of entities, ranging from welfare and community service to photography. But there was none related to finance or banking,” said Huzaifa.
Small in scale at the time of its commencement, NFS had its tough days, demanding sweat and toil from its team to lift it from its bootstraps. “Much of the credit goes to our seniors who never gave up. Unlike other entities, it was very hard for us to get sponsorships. We are not a social service body, so it’s not easy to raise finances for sponsors are not easy to come by,” said Manahil Qadir, the CFO.
Summit 2.0: Simulated corporate environment
‘Summit 2.0’ is the second version of the NFS Summit, introduced last year. The Summit is a business competition for aspiring entrepreneurs, its objective being development of participants’ entrepreneurial knowledge through an experiential environment. It comprises of various rounds modeled around the corporate world.
Amar Lal, the NFS COO said, “The Summit is all about taking risks and adapting according to the situation.”
Spread over three days, with all the freshmen competing in teams, with the core element being coming up with a complete business concept, including marketing and corporate social responsibility strategies and operational and financial plans.
Atif Amin, he winner, with finance and banking being the subjects, said: “The Summit 2.0 was like a crash course for me.”
All activities were simulated from the real corporate world, such as virtual stock market and virtual currency. As each round ends, the participants are rewarded with points based on their performance. On the third day, the event comes to an end with the judges (financial experts and Nixor alumnus) pronouncing the winning outfit, which bags Rs15,000 prize.
“The simulated environment is created to instill a sense of financial responsibility and hone investment techniques among participants, and prepare them for the real financial market,” said CFO Manahil Qadir.
Previously called as Nixor Bank, NFS initially planned to operate as a bank with its own credit card – as their flagship product. The idea was dropped due to the obligatory legal procedures. To replace it, NFS came with a Student Utility Interface Terminal (SUIT) – designed to facilitate the students facilitate the students in the manner of a credit card.
This too had various technicalities attached it, so NFS is in collaboration with Digital Pass – one of the most renowned third party digital payments ecosystems in Pakistan – to handles the entire technological aspect of the SUIT card. Each month reports and bills are generated to keep everyone updated about the usage by the customers.
When a student wants to get a SUIT card, they have to deposit a security deposit of Rs5,000 – the spending limit being Rs1,000 a day. Similar to a credit card, it can be used at outlets under an agreement with NFS, like BellaVita and Subway. Since the area is popular amongst students at Nixor for outings, usually the outlets selected are located in Shahbaz Commercial.
“The outlets send transactions under the SUIT to NFS through email. At the end of the month,” Manahil said.
The major reason behind the alliance between NFS and Digital Pass is discounts – by 14-15%.
“For instance if we are getting a discount of 15%, we pass on 13% to students – the rest being the service charge, or the margin,” said Manahil.
At its initiation in 2012, SUIT was an instant hit amongst the students, eventually pushing NFS towards an increased pace of growth and popularity. The NFS executive student body dubs SUIT as their flagship product or service.
In 2014, one council member of the society, Muhammad Aziz introduced the concept of NFS Capital, including NFS Mutual Funds and NFS Bonds. The Nixor family took time to absorb it, but last year it was revived by Faizan Athar, its former COO.
NFS Mutual Funds
Previously a mock setup, today NFS Mutual Funds is a real phenomenon – with 17-18 year olds deciding which stocks to invest in. The service though is restricted to the administration and teachers of Nixor College, who provide a certain amount of cash for investing in the bourses.
Investing is not haphazard. Two financial analysts and a portfolio manager thoroughly trained by the previous council are equipped to take real-time decisions. These analysts and managers are indulged in research, thus are aware of the market.
“Since my interest lies here, I personally look into the mutual funds very carefully,” said Huzaifa. “I’m more inclined towards short term investments, whereas my portfolio manager, Yasub supports long term investments. Thus, most of our money lies in the blue chip stocks – a safer option, although every now and then we do take risks.”
Run by students independently, one mutual fund clause states clearly that it would not be responsible for the losses incurred in the stock market. “Our investors do not expects large profits. The motive is experience, and not profit”, said Huzaifa
To expand their horizons for the future, Nixor Financial Services has come up with yet another idea: NFS Bonds, extending the concept of mutual funds beyond the administration and teachers, enabling various college societies to invest their money in stocks.
“We would be Asia’s only mutual fund run by students,” said Huzaifa.
Recently, NFS launched its own internship program for students who are halfway through their A-levels. “A-level is advanced learning, so students are required to work beyond their capacity. This factor does not allow most students to go internship,” said Amar Lal, NFS COO.
To fill this void, Nixor collaborated with several insurance companies and banks like Allied Bank, Al-Baraka Bank, the EFU and Falcon Trackers. “Last year we launched a pilot project where five to six of our students did internship with several financial institutions and banks. At the project’s success, this year we sent around 8-10 students, among them was our portfolio manager Yasub, interning at Karachi Port Trust,” said Huzaifa.
Alongside its many ventures, Nixor strongly believes in the concept of financial knowledge and training – which is why it regularly takes its students on trips to the Pakistan Stock Exchange and several other financial institutions.
All the revenue that the student body earns is deposited in an account. “It is very important for us to have a specific amount in the bank account at all times. In case it depletes, the management holds us accountable. And if the body is unable to replenish it within the given period, the account would be closed down,” informed Huzaifa.
The NFS is not a completely independent entity. In the Nixor Corporate World, there are certain board members above each society who play the role of intermediaries. “For instance, if an event is to be organised, we would need to submit a comprehensive plan to the board member, and if found feasible, it would go to the administration for a final verdict”, said Huzaifa.
For NFS the board member is Asad Abbas Bilani, who is called “very supportive”. Huzaifa talks about the structure of administration at Nixor, “Everyone is very supportive in terms of our project plans. Although the structure is bureaucratic, it comes with a lot of exposure as well.”
To summarize the future endeavours of the entity and describe their present stance, Huzaifa said, “Profit is not the purpose; continuing the legacy is the objective. We want to follow the legacy of the people before us, as well as add on to it for those who follow us.”
As one attended the Summit, one witnessed the contestants’ urge to win, the predicament of the judges over making the right decision, writ large on the face of the eventual victor were emotions of pride and achievement. But most interesting of all, it were the organizers – displaying passion and dedication rare to find among students so young.