ANSIF ASHRAF The Herald Man
Cochin Herald|January - February 2021
A visionary beyond compare, one of the pioneers to take the plunge into eCommerce in India, a ‘mediapreneur’ with the eyes on the horizon, a magnanimous philanthropist and a noted orator, Cochin Herald Editor-in-Chief Ansif Ashraf, who met an untimely end on January 27, was a man for all seasons. Read about the fascinating and inspiring journey of this extraordinary man who showed how dreams can be translated into reality
Renjith Leen

As they say, many have sight, but only a few are blessed with vision. And fewer are the ones who really combine vision with venture and climb the stairs instead of merely staring at the steps, as eminent Czech statesman Vaclav Havel once put it. One such rare gem of purest ray serene was Ansif Ashraf, the Editor-in-Chief and helmsman of Cochin Herald; the owner of London-based news portal and magazine British Herald and Asian Herald, the soon-to-be-launched UAE-based online news platform. He made waves in the media industry and the entrepreneurial world armed with grit, foresight and oodles of self-confidence. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that chronicles can be written about this astute visionary’s jaw-dropping entrepreneurial journey starting from Kochi and spanning Britain, China and the UAE. He achieved so much in so little time and was eyeing more brands around the world to bring to the Herald stable when fate with her abhorred shears cut short his life on January 27, 2021. He was only 37. Cochin Herald takes readers through the fascinating saga of its guiding star.

A foretaste of the media industry

Born in Thane, Maharashtra, on November 15, 1983, to Dr Sheikh Mohammed Ashraf and Naseem Ashraf, Ansif had a good multi-lingual and multi-cultural exposure which stood him in good stead later on in life. It also helped him develop a broad outlook and see the world sans blinkers, something essential for an entrepreneur and media honcho. His first tryst with the media industry happened in his hometown in the early 90s. After relocating to Kochi, his father was instrumental in establishing Cochin Herald, a Sunday newspaper in Malayalam on November 1, 1992. He watched with awe and curiosity how Dr Mohammed deftly balanced the roles of managing director and editor-in-chief. The newspaper was the voice of the voiceless of the port city and carried articles aimed at the development of Kochi. Unfortunately, he had to step down following certain issues with the management a few years later. This painful episode remained etched in the mind of Ansif who vowed to be at the helm of Cochin Herald one day.

Making of an entrepreneur

Right from childhood, Ansif was determination personified and he admired his father a lot. It was Dr Mohammed who instilled in his eldest son the lofty principles and ideals that one needs to treasure while embarking on a career. After completing his studies from The Cochin College, a stone’s throw from his residence in Koovappadam, Ansif knew that a 9 am-to-5 pm-job was not his cup of tea. At that time, the dot com revolution was slowly gaining momentum in India and the young man was enticed by it. He had the vision to foresee information technology ruling the world and decided to take the plunge.

He started his career as a graphic designer, working from his residence at the dawn of the new millennium. He lost no time in starting a photography and designing studio in 2001. Ansif’s avid interest in technology and the internet unveiled the mine of opportunities in eCommerce, which was in its infancy in the country.

Rendezvous with Alibaba.com

During his days as a photographer, a friend told Ansif that photo printers and cartridges were cheaper in China. The tech-savvy novice entrepreneur lost no time in doing an online search only to stumble upon Chinese eCommerce firm Alibaba.com. He struck while the iron was hot by deciding to harness the opportunities provided by this site to begin an e-venture despite stiff opposition from his family as they did not want him to enter business. With the humble capital of Rs 2 lakh, his entire savings from his days as a shutterbug, Ansif began his entrepreneurial pursuits by importing photo printers from China. It was in 2006 that he started Paradise Group in Kochi trading in rubber and carbon black. In the bat of an eyelid, it grew phenomenally so much that he soon had offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai in China, Taipei in Taiwan and Samanabad in Pakistan. Two years down the line, he set up AGI Holdings to sell Centrifuge Separators. Later, it went on to become the sole distributor of Zhejiang Qingji Ind Co Ltd, China, in selling their separators in Sri Lanka, India, Vietnam and Malaysia. AGI was also able to deliver the technology required for manufacturing EMR fabric that helps deactivate bombs which are mobile triggered.

His outstanding success in e-Commerce was well noticed and he was one of the pioneers who popularised it in the country as a viable business option. It was an act of destiny that the very same online platform which catapulted him into the business world decided to honour him as a champion of eCommerce. In 2008, Alibaba chose Ansif as one of the world’s Top Ten e-Business Champions of the Year and felicitated him at the Small and Medium Enterprise Summit of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Hanghzhou, the global headquarters of the world’s largest businessto-business enterprise. And that was just the beginning.

A dream comes true

Ever since his father had to relinquish responsibilities in Cochin Herald in 1995, Ansif was determined to come to the helm of the publication one day. His dream came true in 2011 after earning a coveted position in the entrepreneurial world. After much effort, he was able to win control of the titles of Cochin Herald. What the father lost was regained by the son.

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