Most professionals in the communications industry claim to be workaholics who spend most of their waking hours at the office and have no time for anything else. In this regard, meeting Menin Rodrigues is a refreshing change. He is a man who seems to have mastered the art of balancing his work and his interests. In addition to running his business, SHAMROCK Communications, which he established 18 years ago, he is the publisher and writer of three books which centre on various aspects of Karachi’s history.
Soft-spoken and gracious, Rodrigues was able to merge two of his interests – sport and writing – early in life, when he began to freelance for Morning News, a prominent Karachi daily newspaper, while he was still a student at Government College in the late seventies. There, he was mentored by the prominent sports writer, Hafeez Mirza Saleem (HMS) Baig, whom he describes as a “fantastic and unique character and a great influence”. He continued to freelance for the newspaper for several years, covering national and international sports matches. One in particular stands out.
“In 1982, I went to Mumbai to cover the Hockey World Cup final between West Germany and Pakistan. We won and what a tournament it was! Amazing! At one point India was cheering for Pakistan and Sunil Gavaskar was nearby. Memorable times.” Despite his soft-spoken tone, the excitement in his voice is difficult to miss, as he recalls this exhilarating moment in Pakistan’s hockey history.
After graduating from Government College, he joined National Advertisers in 1979, after a short stint at the Star. National Advertisers were in the midst of launching a travel magazine called Wings which Rodrigues edited and wrote for. Due to the popularity of his articles, he was offered a job at the Holiday Inn (now the Marriott) which he joined as Manager, Sales & Marketing. As it turned out, he spent 17 years in the hospitality industry in various positions, including Corporate Manager at the Pearl Continental, Director, Public Relations/Marketing, Sheraton Hotel (now Mövenpick) and Director Marketing at Avari Hotels.
During this time, he launched several in-house magazines; Sejour for Sheraton, Bonjour for Pearl Continental and The Avari. He also played a pivotal role in organising several high-profile events; one which stands out for him was called Yesterday Once More which showcased Pakistan’s history from 1947 to 1984.
“It was held in 1984 and everything that happened within that time period, whether it was the 1965 War, our fashion and our films, all were brought to life through a series of dramatisations. It was Pakistan’s first ‘live extravaganza’ and was held at the Sheraton. I worked with several people like Hameed Haroon, Ehsan Malik, Imran Aslam, Kaleem Omer, Remmel Khan among others to organise it.”
Another feather in his cap was organising the “first-ever fashion show with live bands and lifestyle awards with TJ (Tanvir Jamshed) and the Jang Group at the Holiday Inn.” He also mentions that he met several celebrities like Mohammad Ali and Dilip Kumar, as well as several heads of state; one person whom he fondly remembers meeting was Judy Gesson who starred in the film To Sir With Love.
In 1996, Rodrigues joined Asiatic Advertising Group to head Asiatic PR – one of the first dedicated PR agencies in Pakistan. He served as CEO and Executive Vice President there. Clients included Ciba-Geigy, Debeers and Indus Motors. “It was an exciting time; I once went to London for training, to learn how to tell the difference between a diamond and a zircon when working on Debeers.”
Eventually the entrepreneur in him took over and in 2002, SHAMROCK Communications came into being. Rodrigues, as he says, “never looked back”.
Since then, the company has gone from strength to strength with an impressive roster of clients, ranging from Mobilink to Microsoft. He is especially proud of the fact that he was able to organise several media training sessions for reporters in Pakistan on the subject of writing about telecom and technology, both in their nascent stages in the early 2000s. Among his many achievements, he is proud of the fact that SHAMROCK has to its credit the organising of several successful conferences on specific sectors such as energy, telecom and microfinance.
However, he is of the opinion that PR is still not well understood in Pakistan.
“Unfortunately, many people think that PR is just about having a press release published in DAWN; yet it is so much more. It is very different from marketing and has ‘a backstage role’. Whatever happens in the life of a nation, a leader or even a country’s economy is a result of the background work which a specialist PR outfit conducts, and this entails strategic messaging that goes out in an unseen but effective manner.”
Rodrigues moved to Canada three years ago and shuttles between Toronto and Karachi. Living abroad, however, does not pose a problem when it comes to running his business – “we live in a global village now”. In Toronto he spends a great deal of his time making connections aimed at promoting relations between Canada and Pakistan and works tirelessly to promote brand Pakistan.
Although his work may well be his passion, another one that is equally important is documenting history for “the sake of posterity”. To this end, he has worked on three books detailing Karachi’s history.
The first is Gold to Platinum (1981-2006) which was published in 2016 and centres on St Lawrence’s Church in Karachi. “It is the sequel to a book written by Oswin Mascarenhas called The Origin and Evolution of St Lawrence’s Parish, Karachi, Pakistan: The Garden Area with the Settlement of the Christian Community which covered period between 1931 and 1981. I moved to Garden West where St Lawrence is located in the seventies. It is the only church in Pakistan to have domes (similar to a mosque’s) instead of steeples. Gold to Platinum is about how the area changed over time and St Lawrence remains the centrepiece of this book as well.” The second is The Glorious Tradition of Saint Patrick’s High School where he recollects his memories as a schoolboy, and the third, slated to be published later this year, centres on the Goan-Catholic community and is called Footprints on the Sands of Time (1820-2020) and is based on the content published on the website goansofpakistan.org which he co-runs.
All of these endeavours stem from a passion to write and document history for “future generations”. He is extremely, albeit quietly, patriotic and says that “whatever I am, is because of Pakistan.” This possibly explains why he makes it a point to travel to Pakistan frequently from Canada, where his wife, two daughters and son currently live.
“One of my daughters is a communications design specialist, the other is an aspiring social sector activist, and my son is an aspiring soccer player.” When I comment that his children seem to have combined his passions for communications and sport, he smiles in acknowledgment.
Despite his many projects, Rodrigues is extremely accessible and down to earth. However, the one thing he values is time and a comment with regard to this leaves a lasting impression on me.
“Time is off the essence, so whatever time you have, you should use it for the benefit of someone else, to make someone happy, or to do something that has not been done before. If you think you can do something, do it – don’t wait for someone else to help.”