The list of the boards that he has sat on and even presided is long (about 26 on the last count!). He is the founder member, board member and even Vice Chairman of six educational boards, including the Gayatri Vidya Parishad, Srinivasa Vidyapeth and the Omkar & Lions School for the Deaf – but has completed only his basic schooling (he did get admission in the prestigious King’s College in London). He is the trustee, treasurer, member and founding member of esteemed medical institutions like the KGH Dev. Soc., Lions Cancer Treatment & Research centre, Mohsin Eye Bank – and yet; he is no doctor nor has had any medical training ever. Sans a qualified degree in Law, he sat on the Dist. Legal Services Authority, Govt of AP in till 2003. His knee surgeries and back injuries prevent him now from taking long walks, yet he heads a ‘Footpath Club’ of morning walkers (‘Mr. Kasim walks from the car to the footpath’, comments his friends). This gentleman is known for his secular stance, competence and aptitude; the very traits that got him invited into so many organisations and requests to sit or even chair the board meetings. Religious and philanthropic, he helped create many charities and was instrumental in setting up a fine-looking mosque near the zoo in Vizag. The gentleman in question is none other than Eminent Vizagite Kasim S Mehdi, the charismatic businessman who has been a key contributor to shaping this ‘city of destiny’, Vizag.
Originally from Nagpur, Kasim Mehdi’s father and elder brother first visited the city while touring Southern India in search of city to set up their business. After visiting cities like Bangalore, Madras and Raipore, they settled on Vizagapatnam as their future home; way back in about 1935 (re-emphasising the fact that Vizag is truly a city of destiny!). Only 10 back then, young Kasim grew with the city to become a name not only associated with commerce, but also with many philanthropic, pioneering and socially relevant organisations.
The family shifted into a house not far from the then Waltair Station and opened a ‘general store’, Mohsin Brothers, which stocked everything – right from groceries to clothes to household-related hardware to stationery. Over time, as the city spread and most of Vizag’s then elite shifted to Waltair uplands and away from the port area, their one-stop-for-all store experienced dwindling sales. Not to deterred, the family diversified into hardware and industrial goods, gradually re-establishing themselves. The shift in trade was rationalised by the coming up of major clients like Hindustan shipyard, Caltex, Visakhapatnam Port Trust, Vizag Steel Plant. By 1965 Mohsin Brothers was a fully industrial and hardware product shop. The firm, a multi-brand industrial shop is still in the same building, now run by his three sons.
The business was a family concern, to the extent that though he completed his intermediate and secured admission to the King’s College, England, Kasim, at the behest of his father and elder brother stayed back to join the family business. Mehdi progressively built up the business, setting standards for quality, service and customer satisfaction. The crowning moment was when Mohsin Brothers became one among the few to be awarded the ISO 9001- 2000 in `industrial equipment’ trading in AP.
But more than his business acumen, the man is known for his contributions to society. He used every office that he was associated with to better the society. Spurred by the efforts of a few doctors in the city to set up an eye-bank, he contributed his mite and a substantial amount through the VEBART trust (created by his sons). Thanks to their pioneering efforts, the today boasts of an eye-bank, the Mohsin Eye Bank. As an active member of the Lions Club, worked extensively to set up the Lions Cancer Hospital; (thanks to his efforts, they even got Sunil Dutt to visit the place and honoured the actor by naming the Radiation hall after Nargis). Health care apart, education and sports too have benefitted from his benevolence. He was instrumental in setting up the Urdu Department in Andhra University and Omkar School. Saluting his laudable work, the city has bestowed upon him honours like the Vijayshree Award and the Best Citizen Award. The Vedic Seva Trust in Visakhapatnam felicitated him for his `outstanding record of public service and secular views’.
Today, with three sons and their families, a successful business and busy lifestyle full of his social, religious, service activities, he is eternally thankful to God. His only message to Vizagites reflects his own ideology admirably; ‘I only request the people of Vizag to be more friendly, be more courteous, be more polite and help the people who are in need. And if you can’t help them, don’t harm them, don’t destroy them. We need people to help one another. Help does not need to be only financially, you can help them otherwise also – you can help them psychologically, physically and in so many other ways.’