We had the opportunity to meet the very successful entrepreneur, Nadeem Zaman. Not only is he the founder of Azteca Beverages, makers of the organic Azteca Cactus Water. In addition, he has served as the President of Pakistan Society of North Texas, where he assiduously worked to bridge the gap between his community and the rest of the communities in North Texas.
How did you get involved in community work?
I came to Dallas as a student somewhere around 1990, and then I just settled here. I worked in the corporate sector for almost 20 years, but I always yearned to do something where I could unleash my own ideas. I had been working for a technology manufacturer, who specialized in designing and building application-specific software when I felt the need to move to something more fulfilling; nothing is more fulfilling than community work. Up until 2009, I was predominantly involved in mainstream community service. I was surrounded by the local people and the local culture, watching local shows and sports. With a German-American wife and parents-in-law, most of my time was spent volunteering for United Way and for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of North Texas. It wasn’t up until 2010 that I started volunteering for organizations that mattered most to me. I first got involved in Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital fundraisers, moving onto joining the Pakistan Society of North Texas on the invitation from then-president, Dr. Rabia Khan. Soon enough, I became the society’s General Secretary.
What were some of the challenges that you faced while serving Pakistan Society of North Texas?
Pakistan Society is a 30-year-old non-profit organization. We have always made a conscious effort to make the society more entrenched. The initial challenge was helping the diaspora in Texas to stay in touch with their roots. Unlike Chicago, New York, and New Jersey, the diaspora in Texas did not have their own newspapers, local TV stations, etc. This was because of our sparse population in this state. We initially made efforts to bring people together, organized family picnics, celebrated national holidays like 23rd March and 14th August. We tried to expose our children who were born and raised here, to the heritage and the culture of our motherland.
People refer to your time as president as the golden time of Pakistan Society. Share some of the achievements of PSNT during your tenure.
I have been the only president who was elected uncontested during the election era or Pakistan Society’s 30 years. Keeping that aside, during the last five to ten years, the number of Pakistani Americans has grown exponentially in this area. With a bigger community come bigger challenges. A larger number of people are now dealing with the local administrators; there are more people who need access to lawmakers, etc. In short, things have become more mainstream now. From our efforts to our events, everything has upgraded on a grand scale. We encourage our friends to run for local and state offices. Some of us have already started taking this initiative. But as a community, we made that conscious effort. We have now reached a point where the Pakistan side of the organization has become more relevant to the other community leaders. We started getting noticed and being recognized and that was the key. That was the difference maker. That is what I was able to achieve.
We wanted our American friends to know our culture as well. So we started inviting them to our events and made sure we had access to the administrators, local, statewide and national politicians. At my first event as a president, we had our congresswoman here, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, The Counsel General of Pakistan, a couple of mayors, about a dozen judges and other local officials.
How supportive was your late wife in all your endeavors?
Julia was a staple in my journey, a key to my success. Her unwavering support made sure I never lost sight of my vision. With her being an American, blending in amongst the society came naturally. She had visited Pakistan with me, all the way from rural to urban areas. We went to Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and she fell in love with every place she saw. And every place fell back in love with her.
Julia and I got married in 1994. We initially lived in North Dallas, until we moved to Frisco, Texas in 1997. Here we had our daughter Natasha, who is now 17 years old. Julia is the epitome of selfless dedication to family and to the surroundings. She always insisted on giving back. Even in the hardest of days, she would always find ways to help and give. This is how she lived, and this is how she passed away. A woman was hurt in a road accident and Julia got out of her car to help her. Just then, a completely out-of-control car hit Julia and killed her. Her funeral was one of the grandest funerals the locals had seen. She was extremely loved and all the people who admired her were present as to say goodbye to her.
You have launched the first organic cactus water. Tell us a little about Azteca.
My late wife, Julia and I moved towards a healthier and organic lifestyle. We were on the hunt for natural and organically made products to use on daily basis. Around the same time, I happened to meet a well-known dietitian, who specialized in making supplements from superfoods. He was busy working on a supplement for Type 2 Diabetes from Cactus. This led to the idea of making organic cactus water. It took some time to hit the shelves, I learned about different aspects of this process, but finally, it all worked out. Cactus water was one of its kind. No one else had thought of it and people were surprised to know that we had dived into the market no one knew existed.
We know that you are very popular with your community. Who would you like to thank for supporting you at Pakistan Society?
There were many amazing personalities that I came across in my journey. Mr. Hafeez Khan and Mr. Waqar Khan really supported me, especially in financial terms. The made sure that any money we needed for big events were covered. They really encouraged me and were always there to help me out when I had society activities coming up. I also want to mention the mentorship I had from Dr. Hassan Hashmi, and Mr. Aslam Khan. They really took me under their wings; they were like big brothers to me and always motivated me to keep going in the face of all challenges. Dr. Hashmi always had good things to say and that really pushed me forward. These were the key figures who propelled me forward in whatever endeavor I indulged in. Another name I want to mention here is my Vice President, Salman Tabani. He was always there to help in the time of need. He made work really easy. If it was not for him, I am sure I would have faced many more difficulties.
Many people in the community say that you should run for a Public Office. Where do you see yourself in the near future?
Most elders of the community tell me that I’m the person who propelled forward and pushed my community to become mainstream. They credit me of having enough impact that others take notice of Pakistani Americans. Pakistani Americans in North Texas are now recognized as a vibrant part of our population. I see myself continuing to serve my community, bringing Pakistani-American and local American communities together, while keeping our culture and heritage alive and distinct. I do not want to rule out the possibility of running for a public office in the future, but that is dependent on many factors. Still, however, I would like to believe that running for an office and running an office is in the cards for me in the times to come.