Fidahussain left school in Dar and started his working life in Kalemie in 1939, aged 17, helping his uncle Nazarali in the shop. A year later he went to Dar to help his older brother Mohamed in 'Mohamed Bros.'
In July 1942, Fidahussain married Gulbanoo, his first cousin, the daughter of Merali Rawji. (Fidahussain's mother Mongibai was the sister of Merali). Just after the marriage of Fidahussain and Gulbanoo, the two fathers who were partners, had a big fall-out. The Rawjis who had a 50% share in Ebrahim Haji Freres" wanted to terminate their partnership and separate.
Fidahussain now took a more active and aggressive role in the Haji businesses and showed his capabilities as a strong leader, following in the footsteps of his father. In 1947, his father passed away suddenly just before his dreamed of departure for the new country of Pakistan.
His two sons Fidahussain and Mohamed went instead and were the first of the Hajis to go to Pakistan in 1948. The Hajis already had business contacts in Pakistan with the Gokal and Habib families who encouraged them to make the move. The Hajis had been sending cotton to 'Habib & Sons' in India.
The Hajis went into partnership with The Habibs and together, in 1948, they set up a cotton-ginning factory in Dhoronaru called Hyderi Cotton which was managed by Fidahussain and Yusuf Habib.
Further Businesses Ventures in Sindh
In 1960 the Hajis partnered with the Habibs to put up a Vegetable Ghee Plant, Hyderi Vanaspati, in Hyderabad; the plant was managed by Sheni.
Four years later in 1964 the Hajis in 50% partnership with the Rawji-Alibhai Group put up The Al-Murtaza Textile Mills, also in Hyderabad. Habib, recently arrived from Dar with his family, lookedafterthesalesofthespunyarn. In 1966 the guar gum factory PGI (Pakistan Gum Industries) was put up in the Site Area in Karachi with Swiss collaboration. It is still a joint family business managed by Shokat Haji and his nephew Shams. The Al MurtazaSpinning Millswere sold in '74-'75.
The 5 Ebrahim Haji brothers also acquired a Tin Container Factory called 'Asiatic' which was managed by 2 sons of Fidahussain, Maqbool and Nazim. The family even now had joint businesses, but they had a good accounting system devised by Juma, based on the need of each family and those who required more funds were debited accordingly. The younger generations gradually started businesses of their own.
Nationalization in Tanzania, Nationalization in Pakistan
Tanzania got its independence in 1962. Nyerere, the new President/Prime Minister had socialist tendencies and the writing was on the wall.
In 1965-66 all the Haji properties in Dar-es-Salaam were nationalized; these included 10-12 buildings downtown with garages and warehouses, all rented out; and also the beautiful bungalow in the resort of Oyster Bay, in which no one ever lived, a few miles outside Dar town centre.
Fazal Haji had built a 3-storeyed building in Muisho Street in which Nazarali and Juma lived; and Shokat Haji lived in Haji Mansions opposite the Mehfil-e- Abbas.
One year later in 1967, 5000 acres of sisal plantations were nationalized. All the remaining Haji families moved to Karachi except Shokat and Pyarali, the son of Nazarali, who stayed behind in Africa for a few years to look after the family¬trading operations that still continued. In 2008 partial compensation was received.
In 1974, the Hajis suffered another blow. Hyderi Vanaspati, the ghee factory, was nationalized by Prime Minister Zulfiqarali Bhutto's regime.
Confidence in Pakistan was undermined and some of the younger families migrated to Canada taking advantage of the opportunity extended to migrants by the Canadian Government. Canada being a vast country with insufficient man-power and skilled workers welcomed these enterprising people to its shores.
Sheni and Farida Haji, Pyarali and Fatma Haji, and many others families from Karachi, East Africa and the Congo migrated to Canada at this time. Some of these families returned to their businesses in Karachi a few years later after obtaining Canadian citizenship. Among them were Habib and Sheni.
Life in Pakistan
Fidahussain was the first to bring his family to Karachi in 1948. His wife Banoobai was only 24 years old and already had 4 children, ranging in age from 6 months to 5 years!!
A year after her arrival in Karachi, Banoo was unknowingly pregnant with twins. Fidahussain was in Dhoronaru at the time, and so she went to the hospital accompanied by her aunt, Dhanji Ada's wife, in a horse driven carriage. The first child was still-born; the second was a surprise, and died 12 hours later.
Banoobai had been transplanted to a country where she knew nobody and did not even speak Urdu. Her husband was hardly by her side as he went frequently to Africa, playing a dynamic role in all his family's affairs.
But with pure grit, courage and charm this young wife and mother settled in and began to make friends with the wives of the Habib, Gokal and Dawood Nasser families with whom business connections were strong.
These families had also arrived recently in Karachi- --but coming from Bombay, they all knew each other; they came from wealthy and privileged families, had a certain level of formal schooling and shared a common culture and degree of sophistication that was quiet alien to Banoo.
Fidahussain continued to travel between Pakistan and Brussels to expand the businesses. In the late 60's he acquired a small office in Brussels and rented a small apartment where Banoobai came to live in theearly 70's. During his visits to Brussels, Fidahussain developed a relationship with Razia Rawji, the wife of Taki, who had also moved to Brussels with their five children.
Fidahussain and Razia got married in 1973—and a year later Fidahussain passed away in Brussels suffering from a tumour in the brain.