A Homage to Proficient - Pakistan’s Only Locally Produced Automobile
During the mid-eighties, a Pakistan-based engineer Mr. Khalil ur Rahman (late) came out with the very first locally manufactured 1,000cc pickup. His magnum opus is deemed as a novel invention as at that time it directly competed against the Suzuki trucks which was a great feat in itself.
Contrary to popular belief, Rahman was not a roadside mechanic. In fact, he was a certified Electrical and Mechanical Engineer who graduated from Sheffield University in the UK. He was a licensed professional who worked as a consulting engineer with Pakistan Engineering Council.
Proficient trucks were at par with the international trucks but were more cost-efficient for the buyers as they were manufactured locally. It had the potential to become a notable player in the small pickup or medium truck market.
Most car enthusiasts have not heard of the iconic Proficient trucks as they were made at a time when there were no digital archives or social media.
Key Reason for Company Closure
The auto company had to eventually close down due to a lack of support and encouragement from the government and bureaucratic impediments. This promising project didn’t garner any funding or attention from the government even though it had the potential to grow into a bigger enterprise.
The government introducing a policy of concessionary rate on CBU of Suzuki pickups (Known as Suzuki Ravi today) was the last nail in the coffin for its doomed future. This indigenous startup required a lot of support and funding from the government but when they preferred Suzuki over it, it was bound to shut down eventually.
Only if the government or bureaucracy hadn’t been so shortsighted, we would not be relying on imported pick-ups for a steep and unjustified price. Maybe we would have a local, cheaper, and technologically advanced option that would’ve made us all proud!
Dawn’s Herald originally posted an in-depth article on the Proficient Truck back in 1989. It highlights how personal vendettas trumped national interest. If this local company has all the support it needed, it would’ve thrived.
The article stated that ‘red tape-ism’ and ‘inefficiency’ is frequently faced by the entrepreneurs in our country which is probably the biggest hurdle on the road to the self-sufficiency of industries. The local products have never been supported by the authorities which is probably the biggest obstacle to the success of our domestic industry.
The Factory Setup
As was prior mentioned, Proficient was the brainchild of KhaliIur Rehman who was always reluctant to display the headquarters of Winmark Industries. The primitive and obsolete setup is a two-thousand-yard plot located in the North Karachi industrial area. When someone enters the factory, they see that most of the equipment is outdated and most of the work is done manually without any automatic machinery.
All the nearby areas were electrified but the factory was not given an electricity connection nor any telephone connection.
Lack of Popularity
Visually the Proficient is very similar to any other widespread truck like the popular Ravi Suzuki we still see to this date. And even though Proficient did get featured in the local press of that time, most people don’t know that it was manufactured locally in Pakistan. The main reason behind this anonymity can be the lack of social media which is a digital diary and a local archive.
Moreover, the government or the national media didn’t give it any traction which contributed to the anonymity. The name ’Proficient’ should have been emblazoned on billboards and given ad space on the first page, but what it got was resistance.
Like any new entrepreneurial project, it needed support from numerous government bodies to get assistance and approval of various things like gas, electricity, export licenses, sales tax immunity, etc. But these agencies claimed that they need solid proof before they could help in any matter.
The main incentive of this startup was to prove the narrative that modern vehicles can be manufactured in Pakistan without importing any high-tech machinery.
Rahman’s biggest achievement is the manufacturing of the engine block and gearbox using a cost-efficient and local method. First of all the outer mold for the engine block was prepared using clay then molten alloy was cast using a tandoor-like oven. Then local lathe machines were used to ground the uneven surfaces.
This method was although very unique but very labor-intensive and the lack of amenities and necessary help from the authorities made it even more difficult.
What happened to ‘Proficient’ is a classic case of neglect and monopoly by the authorities. We must ask ourselves how will our local startups will prosper when we give leverage to outsiders and corner our domestic projects. To this day, this situation prevails and auto enthusiasts are scared to take the leap and design a car that they can call their own.