An architect by profession, Athens native and once-upon-a-time hotelier, Maria-Rubina Markopoulou is truly a force to be reckoned with. The Founder and President of the Greek – Pakistani Chamber of Commerce and Industry, an independent non-profit organization founded in February 2018 that focuses on the promotion of bilateral trade and investment between Greece and Pakistan, Rubina is a champion of greater business cooperation between the two countries.
What prompted the formation of the Greek – Pakistani Chamber of Commerce and Industry?
MARIA-Rubina MARKOPOULOU: I am a business development professional, and also happen to be well acquainted within diplomatic circles in Greece. I was requested by Pakistan’s envoy to Athens to develop ideas to generate business ideas between our two countries and that is how the GPCCI came to life.
An independent non-profit organization focused on the promotion of bilateral trade and investments; what is planned by the GPCCI to take forward this newly formulated alliance between the two countries?
MM: In order for the Greek Pakistani Chamber of Commerce and Industry to develop, we are looking at curating delegations, conferences, and B2B meetings in different business sectors. We intend to engage in projects of cooperation and cultural exchanges as well as in the provision of financial, consulting and legal services. We have recently set up a representation office in Islamabad that will give us feet on the ground. As an organization we’re always open to new ideas in order to build a strong and long-lasting relationship between our two countries.
How, in your view, will such bilateral collaboration be beneficial to both countries and its people?
MM: It is definitely a great help, for our platform serves as an important resource base that provides requisite information to both interested parties in a timely and effective manner. There is serious development potential in Pakistan to which Greece can contribute greatly for mutual benefit. There are countless opportunities in sectors such as shipping, agriculture, solar technology and other renewable sources of energy and so on.
You have visited Pakistan multiple times – how different and how similar has the country been to your perceptions prior to your first visit?
MM: I see great similarities between our two countries. As you know Alexander the Great was in this area and Islamabad’s architect was a Greek. And just like in Pakistan, we in Greece hold strong family values in high regard. Both nations are open minded, hard-working and forward-thinking. I believe Pakistan and Greece have a natural connect, one that I hope in the future with GPCCI’s help, will develop into an even closer bilateral equation.
Key ports in both Pakistan and Greece (Gwadar and Piraeus) are managed by China – do you see China playing a role in the GPCCI, in the future?
MM: No doubt that China has, over the decades, been investing globally. However I see the relationship between Greece and Pakistan as one independent of any external influences. Our relationship is already one that is unique – one I hope to see strengthen further in the future based on a personal equation.
Like Greece, Pakistan has a noted potential for tourism. Being an hotelier once upon a time, do you see the two countries coming together in this sector? Will the GPCCI expand their ambit to tourism?
MM: Absolutely! Both Greece and Pakistan have great potential for tourism. We can curate bespoke tourist exchanges for delegations and travellers between our two countries. For example, I know my fellow Greeks would love to come for skiing and hiking in Pakistan and enjoy the famed mountainous beauty of the north, while our Pakistani friends would enjoy visiting Greece for the scuba-diving and snorkeling near and around the many islands of the Aegean, the Mediterranean Sea, and Ionian seas.
During the course of your travels, outside boardrooms and offices have you had the opportunity to enjoy Pakistan’s tourist sites? Do you have a list of tourist spots in Pakistan you’d like to visit?
MM: I can’t wait to visit the northern areas of Pakistan – to see firsthand, the glorious history of Kalashas in Chitral, Buddha’s legacy in the region. I would also love to explore the beaches and the coastline of the south. So many other places – my list is endless. Sadly on my last visit, I was too busy in boardrooms to make time to explore Pakistan, but on my next trip – hopefully!
We believe you spent this Eid-ul-Azha in Pakistan – how did you mark the festive season and what did you enjoy most?
MM: On the heels of a very successful visit to Karachi for the signing of GPCCI’s MOU with the International Chamber of Commerce Pakistan, I spent Eid-ul-Azha in Islamabad. Living at the home of very dear friends, I was in absolute awe of the strong faith that is the central axis of the holiday. In the spirt of the festive season, I did qurbani myself and distributed the meat to a few poor families. I am so happy to have had a chance to be a part of the celebrations – I will forever cherish the beautiful memories.
Plans for the future – what’s next from Maria-Rubina Markopoulou and GPCCI?
MM: Lots of interesting prospects in the pipeline! Three and a half years in, looking ahead, I am hoping to finalize representation offices across Pakistan. We already have plans for delegation visits, and as a platform GPCCI is welcoming all sections of business communities in both countries to explore opportunities in a bid to build good business ties and cultural relationship between Greece and Pakistan.
The possibilities are endless and we are only just getting started – onward and upward!
INTERVIEW: YUSRA ASKARI
PHOTOGRAPHS: JAFFER HASAN