Pervaiz Lodhie: A True Renaissance Man
By Saman Mahmood
It would not be an exaggeration to call Pervaiz Lodhie a power house personality: as an engineer, inventor, businessman, philanthropist, educationist and diplomat, his multifarious achievements can leave many amazed. How has he done it? Balance, discipline and focus are the three life rules he lives by.
LEDtronics , established by Lodhie in 1983 in Torrance, California is one of the world's leaders in designing, manufacturing and packaging of energy efficient, environmentally friendly light emitting diode (LED) lamps. LEDtronics clients include some of the biggest Fortune 500 companies.
Mr. Lodhie is the recipient of the United States Small Business Administration's Award for Excellence. He is an active member of US Congresswoman Janice Hahn’s Small Business and Job Creation Advisory Council. In addition, Mr. Lodhie has served as Chairman of the Industry Advisory Board for the College of Engineering, Computer Science and Technology at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA). He is one of the Founding Directors and Trustees of the private sector part of the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD) in Pakistan, which was founded in 2002, with the primary objective of providing free primary education through public-private partnership.
Pervaiz Lodhie came to the US in the late 1960’s to pursue his Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from CSULA, and was honored as its Alumni of the Year in 1999. After graduating, he started his career working at a company that specialized in making electronic products. He was amazed by how much energy was used by incandescent bulbs and their short lifespan.
“As a child, I would often go to my father’s automotive assembly facility after school. Written behind his desk, were the words that shaped my attitude to life. They read: ‘Impossibility is done at once, miracles take a little longer.’ I learnt early in life looking at my own father that success is achieved through persistence, perseverance and hard work.”
The family tradition of encouraging entrepreneurial skills at an early age was a significant factor in developing his business sense. A very vivid sign of his grounded personality is the fact that, having lived in the US most of his life, Lodhie does not have the slightest trace of the American lingual accent. He is completely comfortable with who he is, and where he comes from.
Lodhie started his company LEDtronics from a garage in Torrance with his wife Almas, and seven facilities later, he owns their headquarters on Kashiwa Court, Torrance. A plant set up in Pakistan, Shaan Technologies, supports his US business. Together the two companies employ over 300 workers.
The company is a family business and is run like one. “Most of the people who work for me have been with us for years. I never lay off my workers. Even through the roughest part of the economic downturn, we managed to stay afloat. You have to understand people – how they blossom or fail, how to give them the right perspective, challenges and goals. Key to business management is the right delegation of authority - it is not aerospace science. And ultimately your team is your real strength. It also leaves me completely stress-free. I sleep like a baby at night,” he says with a broad smile.
At the onset of his career and family life, he made a pact with his wife. The first of their three children was on the way, and the company was only five months old. They came to a mutual decision of never sacrificing family life for business because “the business was started for the family, and not vice versa.” For the last 30 years, Lodhie leaves his office at 4:30pm. He prides at being an active part of their children’s life every step of the way, and calls them his real investment. His eldest daughter, Kiran, teaches English literature at a high school in Northern California. The second, his son Shaan, has joined his father’s company, and the youngest, Kaval, is studying at UC Irvine. “I often heard successful people regretting not having spent enough time with their families, and I made a conscious decision not to follow that path.”
What is the secret then? “Working smart”, he says. “I easily do 80 hours of productive work in 8 hours of work day. Though it might sound very cliché, discipline is really the answer. I have a system of thinking things through, and a constant process of self-analysis. I never let go of commonsense. It is my experience that some of the smartest people don’t use their commonsense or have unlearnt to do so; and they suffer for that reason. I am also an excessive optimist. Simply, ask yourself: Will pessimism help me? The answer is no. The failures you encounter are merely the path that takes you to success.”
Where does the company stand now? “We have embarked on a more mature phase at LEDtronics. Earlier on, we were not only responsible for creating brand new solutions, but too busy creating the market for LED lights. The industry of LED lights then exploded.”
So has the creative process slowed, and is the focus now primarily on production and business? “We haven’t even started! We rigorously research and analyze data pertaining to LED’s on a daily basis. A new solution is put forth almost every day.” Seminars are held every month at LEDtronics’ head office in Torrance to educate architects, contractors, distributors and students of cutting-edge LED technology. To the question of his newest product, he takes out a light barely an inch long and as wide as a chunky screw. He switches off the lights of his office, and in the pitch darkness plugs it in. The entire room illuminates. “In LED light design, less is more.”
Like most achievers of his stature, Pervaiz Lodhie is actively giving back to this country through various forums, innovation and a successful business. But he has not forgotten the country he came from. With the noble intention of affecting lives, he addressed the darkest issue of the poorest of Pakistan: illuminating rural villages with no electricity. “There are 80, 000 villages in Pakistan that do not have electricity. With soaring temperatures during the day, and the threat of snakes, scorpions and ditches at night – they basically do not have a life. Especially the women, children and elderly are left helpless and trapped. Kerosene lamps are used, but due to poverty and price of the oil not used often – and are mostly saved for guests or special occasions.” Lodhie devised small solar panels that can produce enough energy to light the night for a longer time with LED technology, since it takes less amount of energy to light the bulb.
He started providing LED lights embedded in a shape of a traditional lantern in 2004, and saw immediate change in the quality of lives of the villagers; children would read at night, women continued with their cottage industry skills like embroidery, handicrafts, etc. His work was noticed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and soon a collaborative Small Grants Program, formalized the project
“I grew up listening to the stories of immense sacrifices made in the creation of Pakistan. These sacrifices are being slowly forgotten. I consider myself as truly blessed for having the opportunity to work in rural Pakistan - these are the poorest of the poor. I am also privileged to be a citizen of a country that has rewarded and recognized my aspirations and hard work.”
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