Ameena Saiyid joined OUP in 1979 in Lahore, working in sales and editorial, with responsibility for the Punjab and NWFP, and later moved to Karachi. She left OUP in 1986 to set up her own publishing house, Saiyid Books, which grew into a successful business. In 1988, she was invited by OUP to rejoin as head of OUP Pakistan, and thereby become the first woman to head a multinational company in Pakistan. In 2005, Ameena became the first woman in Pakistan to be awarded the Order of the British Empire. The OBE was awarded in recognition of her services to women’s rights, education, democracy, intellectual property rights and Anglo-Pakistan relations. In April 2010, she became the first woman elected to be president of the 150-year-old Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI). On 15 February 2013 Ameena was awarded French knighthood (Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres) “for her contribution to Arts and Literature.”
Taking over as head of OUP Pakistan in 1988, Ameena rapidly built OUP Pakistan’s publishing programme to the extent that they started publishing a book a week, instead of a book a year in earlier days. She recruited and.trained editors, designers and illustrators, sales and marketing staff, and expanded OUP operations from Karachi and Lahore to the rest of the country, opening offices in Islamabad, Peshawar, Multan and Faisalabad. She established a network of nine bookshops in Pakistan, and organized the first nationwide book fair held simultaneously in twenty towns and cities in Pakistan. Today there is no school in the private sector in Pakistan which is not using an Oxford book. Ameena grew the Urdu publishing programme exponentially. In 1997, OUP Pakistan published 37 books in the Jubilee Series to celebrate 50 years of Pakistan’s independence.
Cramped by the small size of a residential house in Karachi from which OUP Pakistan was operating, Ameena bought a two-acre plot in the Korangi Industrial Area and built an office of 40,000 sq ft and a warehouse of 20,000 sq ft. She equipped the new office with the SAP
business system and put in place global best practices to enable OUP Pakistan to operate at a high level of efficiency. The new office building is a celebration of Pakistani art, crafts and culture in which the works of Pakistani artists and craftsmen are proudly showcased.
Ameena’s aims are to publish and sell as many books as possible, to develop a large number of bilingual dictionaries in Pakistan’s national and regional languages, to set the standards for school textbooks and children’s books, to employ the best possible people, to manage the business in an ethical manner, to be a good employer, to continue publishing textbooks for schools, colleges, and universities, to contribute to the academic community, to promote readership, and to project a positive and soft image of Pakistan and Pakistani authors.
In pursuit of these aims, from January 21-25 2009 Ameena attended events in every time slot on all five days of the Jaipur Literature Festival. By the last day of the Festival she approached the head of British Council India, to seek sponsorship and supportive partnership for a similar “Karachi Literature Festival.” The British Council’s response was immediately positive, asking her to submit a written proposal. She also spoke with some of the organizers of the JLF, such as Teamwork headed by Sanjoy Roy, and others. Shortly thereafter (February 8, 2009) her report on the Jaipur Literature Festival was published in Dawn (see 5-page pdf attached to this webpage), and she submitted a written proposal for the Karachi Literature Festival to the British Council. A few months later Asif Aslam also joined her. In February 2010, the first Karachi Literature Festival was launched, organized by the British Council Pakistan, and Oxford University Press Pakistan, and founded by Ameena Saiyid and Asif Aslam Farrukhi. Inspired by the Karachi Literature Festival, the Children’s Literature Festival was launched in 2011, co-founded and co-directed by Baela Raza Jamil and Ameena Saiyid.