Meet the Huddersfield property entrepreneur cut from textile cloth

Zeb Pervaiz started off in the family’s textiles business but is now involved in the Huddersfield property industry – but a return to textiles isn’t completely out of the question, writes Ismail Mulla.

Zeb Pervaiz, left, with his brother Sajad Pervaiz.

Zeb Pervaiz spends his time bringing ambitious building projects to life with his family-run business SKA Developments.Buildings that house Middle Eastern royalty studying in Huddersfield.

However, the entrepreneur’s family actually started off in the textiles industry and that’s where he really cut his teeth.

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His father, Khalid and late grandfather Mohammad Siddiq set up SKA Textiles in 1975 out of a little factory in Dewsbury. By the early 1980s it outgrew the base and moved to Huddersfield.

Zeb Pervaiz at a building site.

As young boys, both he and his brother Sajad Pervaiz would accompany their grandfather to work on weekends.

“We got to learn the business, we got to help out in the business,” Mr Pervaiz says. “The upside was we used to get a bit of pocket money as well.”

It wasn’t always a given that he’d join SKA Textiles though. Mr Pervaiz harboured ambitions of becoming a commercial pilot.

But those trips to the factory with his grandfather ultimately led to him pivoting towards textiles and he and his brother joined the business.

He said: “With all family businesses you strive to get to the next level. That’s what we did. We just got on with it from there.

“One thing led to another and before you know it the thing had turned into a massive business. It was doing a lot of engineering products, as well as dealing with all the high street chains.”

At its peak it was employing upwards of 300 people. Princess Anne even came for a factory tour to celebrate the Huddersfield-based firm’s 40th anniversary.

Then in 2017, Mr Pervaiz decided to put an end to the business. He broke SKA Textiles up and sold it off.

The reason? The family always had a foothold in property. They started off dabbling in it shortly after launching the textiles business.

“The money we were making out of textiles, we were always buying property with it,” Mr Pervaiz says.

It was seen as a sort of a safety net, a pension, should textiles go wrong.

While textiles didn’t go wrong for Mr Perviaz and his family, he began to realise that they were being spread thinly over two businesses.

His brother Sajad and their father had already made the switch to focusing on what would go on to become SKA Developments.

“My brother and my father had already made that decision and they were just waiting for me to see the light,” he says.

“We set SKA Developments up as a property business to do nothing but redevelopment of buildings. That’s what we have been doing solely since 2017.”

The business is focusing heavily on high-end luxury student accommodation. Its accommodation has been noticed across the Middle East.

Recently, Dundas Works, one of its developments in Huddersfield town centre, housed a Kuwaiti princess.

“When we did Dundas Works I got a special request from a member of the Kuwaiti royal family saying I want you to build me a room and I want it built with this, this and this in,” Mr Perviaz says.

Demand for high-end student accommodation has seen a shift over the past three years, says Mr Pervaiz. It’s no longer just international students that are demanding the best amenities.

He added: “Even the domestic students are now demanding high-end living where they only turn up with their books and that’s it.

“It has changed. More and more students are demanding more and more.”

In addition to student accommodation, SKA Developments is also delivering mixed-use schemes such as the £150m Greater Waterfront Quarter.

There’s a sense that Mr Pervaiz is not just on a business journey but a spiritual and philosophical one too.

He and his wife are involved with the Shazad Yaseen Foundation (SYF), which carries out humanitarian work across the globe.

Mr Pervaiz has helped raise over £250,000 for people living in poverty in Tanzania. It’s a country he recently got to visit himself.

“People have only got one set of clothes but their religion is so strong,” he says. “You go to their churches or their mosques and they have no roof on them but they’re still praying, they are still so happy.”

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Mr Pervaiz was also helping run a soup kitchen for homeless people in Wakefield, has helped distribute Christmas presents at children’s wards in hospitals and will also be distributing food packs.

Mr Pervaiz said: “I’m a Muslim. I believe in Islam. I believe there is a high power up there. You’ve got to do things to help other people. You’ll be rewarded for that. I’m a firm believer in that.

“This charity has helped me refocus on a lot of things. What I’ve learnt about Islam is that you don’t have to practice religion to the nth degree so long as you are fair with people.

“If you can help somebody, help them. You’ve got everything given to you, you have to help others.”

SKA Developments also recently turned over its buildings to the local NHS trust to help in the fight against coronavirus.

The decision was an easy one, says Mr Pervaiz, who had only just recently returned from his trip to Tanzania and had got to see the work of the health service first hand before his grandmother passed away on March 9.

It’s a philosophy that he hopes to pass onto his children, who themselves are slowly being drawn into the family business just as he was.

“Both my sons are into the business, they both want to have a go with it,” Mr Pervaiz says. “I hope they bring something different and energetic to it.”

It’s what he did when he formally joined SKA Textiles. Bringing more of a technical focus to the business led to the firm supplying the like of Ministry of Defence, McLaren and Boeing with performance fabrics.

Given he was the last hold out from the family to exit the family specialty, does he still miss the textiles industry?

“I miss textiles a hell of a lot,” Mr Pervaiz says.

In fact the coronavirus outbreak has led to him gradually being sucked back into textiles with old contacts coming to him for complex queries.

He added: “Up until about a month ago the answer was no. Now the answer is yes and I will be going back into textiles probably next year. Looking at setting up a very technical plant to do specialist products.”

It may even be that his children, who were disappointed at the initial sale of SKA Textiles, join him like he did his father and grandfather.

Curriculum vitae

Title: Managing director

Date of birth: 20/1/1977

Lives: Wakefield

Favourite holiday destination: Indonesia

Last book read: National Geographic Magazine

Favourite film: Dune (1984)

Favourite song: Everything I Do (Bryan Adams)

Most proud of: My children

Education: BEng Hons Textile Manufacture.