Man of many facets
Kasim S Mehdi. Photo: C.V. Subrahmanyam
"Every time I see a beggar or rag-picker or for that matter anyone from the downtrodden segment I am moved by their plight and think of doing something for them. In most cases I end up giving them a five-rupee coin or a 10-rupee note and advising them to have some food. But that very action of mine hurts me more when I recollect the day's happenings in solitude and find myself guilty of really not doing something for them. A mere tip of a few coins will not serve the purpose and neither will it eradicate poverty from this country. There has to be a massive movement from the Government's side that has to be enthusiastically supported by the people," opines the thoughtful veteran of this city, Kasim Safi Mehdi.
Kasim Mehdi set his foot in this city way back in 1935 and has grown with it to become one of the luminaries of this port city. He was only 10 years old when his father Shaik Safi Saheb, migrated lock, stock and barrel from Nagpore to Vizagapatam, in search of greener pastures. Madras or Bangalore was his initial destination, but he stumbled on Vizag, with which he fell in love at first sight. And that was the beginning of the saga of the `Mehdi clan' in the city.
Shaik Safi and his eldest son Mohsin set up the oldest general merchandise shop near the harbour, and Mohsin Brothers - that was how the firm was christened - is still at the same building, but dealing in hardware and industrial products.
After completion of Intermediate, Kasim had the opportunity to study at King's College, England, but at the behest of his father and elder brother stayed back to take care of the family business.
"Till 1954, we continued with the general store but realising the bleak future in this business as our shop was located at the end of the Old Town and with the cream of our customers moving towards Waltair Uplands we slowly diversified into hardware trade. The shift in trade was justified by the coming up of major clients like Hindustan shipyard, Caltex, Visakhapatnam Port Trust, Vizag Steel Plant, to name only a few. By 1965 we were a fully industrial and hardware product shop. Today we are a complete multi-brand industrial shop under one roof."
After taking over the reins of the business, he built his empire over the years carefully charting its course. His firm belief in two principles - `The customer is always right' and `Customer satisfaction' added with good behaviour, timely delivery and fairness in dealing - has won him accolades from all quarters. Teaming with his sons he set standards for quality management services, and Mohsin Brothers is one among the few to be awarded the ISO 9001- 2000 in `industrial equipment' trading in AP.
The personality of Kasim will not be complete without a mention of his contribution to society. He is not only an active member of the Lions Club for the past 35 years for which he has been awarded the Melvin Jones Fellowship - he is also one of the initiators and founder-members of the Lions Cancer Hospital and the Mohsin Eye Bank - but also member of the governing bodies of a few educational and philanthropic institutions.
Education and health care have always been his areas of concern and to fulfil his desire he has helped to educate several poor and deserving candidates and was instrumental in setting up the Urdu Department in Andhra University.
Kasim Mehdi is the recipient of couple of honours that include the Vijayshree Award and the Best Citizen Award that embellish his distinguished career. The Vedic Seva Trust in Visakhapatnam has felicitated him for his `outstanding record of public service and secular views'.
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