You are here : Home Profiles jan-09 IFTHEKAR SHAREEF

A proud Indian and American

Ifthekar Shareef with his wife Gazala and President Bill Clinton

Warren Bennis, an American scholar widely regarded as a pioneer of the contemporary field of leadership studies said, “Good leaders make people feel that they’re at the very heart of things not at the periphery. Everyone feels that he or she makes a difference to the success of the organization. When that happens people feel centered and that gives their work, meaning.” This has been the secret to Ifthekar Shareef’s success. He is not only one of the highly successful businessmen in the Indian Diaspora but also noted community activist with an unflinching faith in his motherland, India.

Shareef with President-Elect Barack Obama

It is a common knowledge that he never misses to raise the slogan, “Jain Hind or Bharat Mata ki Jai” each time he has the opportunity to address an Indian gathering. Critical, where due, his speech is forthright and inspires people of his native land with a sense of unity and often instructive to those who are not learned about India.

An ardent supporter of Indo-US Nuclear Deal, he is one of the architects of the small and elite group of Indian Americans whose indefatigable efforts ensured its passage. He firmly believed that it will revolutionize India’s economic and industrial base and will change the face of India’s social, economic and even political bases. He immigrated to US in 1980 with only $20 dollars in his pockets like many of his compatriots and joined the rank of a select few individuals who can claim being successful in their adopted country through determination, passion and hard work. Thus he has built a solid portfolio of highly successful companies under the IGS Group as founder and CEO.

Shareef receving the first-ever certificate of
Dual Citizenship by Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India.

His successes, however, have not overshadowed his sense of humor and love for sports, fine arts and appreciation for talent and a desire to encourage arts and artists. A person of many interests his multi-dimensional character is evident by his active pursuit of varied social, political and artistic activities. It was truly demonstrated when he received the first-ever certificate of Dual Citizenship by Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India in January 2006 during the 4th Pravasi Diwas, immediately after the Indian Parliament passed a law offering dual citizenship to the NRIs settled abroad. Commenting on this distinct honor, he says that his involvement, both in his native country and adopted country, is equal.

Shareef with Ambitabh Bachan

“I keep perfect balance in my political and social affiliations both with India and the U.S. Whether Congress or BJP, Communists or Socialists, I keep balanced relationship without any regard to race, religion, political persuasions.” He said that he believed in keeping alive old time favorite games like Atia-Patia, Kabaddi, Tug-of-War etc. besides also encouraging budding artists seeking opportunity but without any clout or connections, modern day imperatives. He said that he has promoted and brought to USA many budding artists.

Iftekhaar Shareef also sponsored many entertainment shows, big and small, in the Midwest notably Salman Khan Show in 2005, Alka Yajnik in 2004, Asha Bhonsle and Manna De, among others. He was the chairman of the recent “Desi Idol” Show. Today, Shareef divides his time between India and the United States as he oversees many of his successful organizations, such as the National Bank Card Corporation, Secure Check USA and Skin Care Systems specializing
in anti-aging technology…another one of his big entrepreneurial undertaking, which he says has the potential to go big in view of the recognition of some of these cosmetology products received in US and India. His products are already marketed in 51 countries. Nine of his revolutionary products to create beautiful skin have been so successful that he admitted there were no complaints for last six years.

His real estate projects in Hyderabad, India, especially 100-acre ultramodern real estate development near the airport with an accent on Western comforts and eastern life-styles, proposes to bring state of the art designs and concepts for modern living. He said that India was ready to have these amenities and people are anxious to find them. Ever enthusiastic about India’s progress he is often heard saying that India’s distinct contribution is her success in living up to the principles of democracy and secularism, pluralism and freedom, seldom achieved by other countries in the developing world.

He not only reminds people of her checkered traditions of harmony but also takes pride in emphasizing that “India is the biggest democracy and true secular country where 80 percent of Hindus, 14 percent of Muslims and 2-3 percent of Christians, 2 percent of Sikhs and rest of all other religions have been living in harmony. We set an example in choosing a Sikh, Dr. Manmohan Singh, as its Prime Minister, recently a woman, Pratibha Patil, as its President, and another woman, Sonia Gandhi, as president of the Congress Party, that headed the coalition government. The just retired President, A.P.J. Kalam, was a Muslim.”

He was the 2008-banquet chairman, Chairman of the Board of trustee’s, a past president, and has served FIA since 1982. He is recipient of many awards, including Pan Asian Community Businessman of the Year, 2007 and Jessi White Community Service Award. He served as the Chairman of the Asian Advisory Committee as well. Married to Ghazala, he has four children, two boys, Azfar and Azhar and two girls, Iram and Simra. They live in Lincolnwood, a suburb of Chicago.