A hoisting equipment loads containers onto a freight vessel at the Gwadar port in Pakistan. The deepwater port has become fully functional in late 2016 under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. It welcomed its first liner in March 2018. (Xinhua)
Once a small backward fishing town off the Arabian Sea in Pakistan's southwest Balochistan province, Gwadar now is rising fast in the economic landscape of the country and is attracting more businessmen by offering numerous business opportunities.
The deep-water port became fully functional in late 2016 under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and welcomed its first liner in March 2018.
According to the port's operator, China Overseas Ports Holding Company, some 20 companies in different businesses have already joined the Gwadar free trade zone with direct investment of around $460 million.
Planning to open a fast food chain restaurant in Gwadar, Muhammad Umair, an American of Pakistani origin, heard about the rise of Gwadar a lot from media as well as from his friends in Pakistan.
"So, I conducted a survey and decided to establish an international fast-food chain restaurant in Gwadar," Umair said recently during his business visit to Gwadar.
Umair migrated to the United States in 1996 and now is the owner of a couple of pizza restaurants and a superstore in Houston, Texas.
"I chose Gwadar because it is a growing port city with enormous opportunities which can give me good earnings. This restaurant will be a start. I have the plan to invest in other businesses also. It might be a factory," said Umair, who looked very optimistic after visiting the modern port and other ongoing development projects in Gwadar.
The development of Gwadar is laying a strong infrastructural foundation for the future development as well as creating new employment and business opportunities. The continuous progress through swiftly completed projects has increased Pakistanis' trust in Gwadar.
Dostain Jamaldini, chairman of the Gwadar Port Authority, said that "with the development of the port, a number of business people are showing their interest to start their new businesses in Gwadar. China has helped us develop port as well as the city. As a result, the businesses of locals are flourishing".
Gul Zamir, who first migrated from Pakistan's Punjab province to the US in 2010 to run a business but returned home after one year when he failed to adjust abroad, has been running a real estate and construction business in Gwadar since 2014.
"Upon my return, I didn't know what to do, but finally, a friend guided me to Gwadar and I started a construction business in partnership with a local partner. Now, I am very happy with my work," said Zamir, who is also planning to establish a private college in the city of Gwadar.
Zamir said he was very disappointed when he first reached Gwadar, but he remained persistent and, finally, opportunities started knocking on his door.
"There was nothing near my office except a poor road and several shabby houses. But now, a large number of modern houses have been built on both sides of the fully carpeted road," Zamir said, talking about the big change in Gwadar. "More and more people are coming to Gwadar for investment and for businesses, which is boosting my construction business."
The rapid development has also caused a surge in Gwadar's population. It has increased from some 85,000 in 2007 to around 140,000 currently. Seeing the influx of a big number of people in Gwadar, the telecom companies have also started upgrading their services there and now people enjoy the speedy 4G mobile connections.
Khurram Khan, another businessman from Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore, shifted to Gwadar in 2014 on his father's advice and started his own business as a supplier of construction material.
Khan said his father urged and facilitated him to start the new venture, saying "it would be good for your future" and the senior's words have come true. "It has been proven right as my business is picking up day by day."
Chinese companies have changed Gwadar within a short period. People can now see a well-developed port, business center, free zone, water desalination plant, improved health and education facilities, a change which is laying a foundation for Pakistan's prosperous future, said Khan.