A name matters!

By Younas Chaudhary

If you ask me about unwise things I have done in life, there are so many. One that stands out is the name of my first business after arriving in Chanute, a rural town in Kansas, in the late 1970’s to scout for oil prospects. If you looked anywhere, all you could see was flat land with miles of pastures and the countryside.

Younas Chaudhary

After success in buying some oil leases on behalf of Canadian investors for oil and gas drilling, I decided to go on my own. With no clue about business or the local culture, I gave my first company an Arabic name “Al Fazal,” meaning grace or virtue. I forgot I was in rural America working with simple, straightforward farmers, who went to church on Sundays. They were friendly and relied on handshake deals. My idea backfired quickly and my farmer clients had a hard time pronouncing “Al Fazal.”  Is it “Fessel?” and what’s the “Al” in front mean? They asked.

The worst thing I did was giving an Arabic name to my oil company in the middle of the Iranian hostage crisis. Lean, lanky, young, and brown, I looked like every Iranian on the street shown on television in those days and this doubled my clients’ suspicion.

Luckily, I sensed my stupidity quickly and changed the name of my company to “Petro America.” I added Petroleum and America and the simple name, Petro America became my company. The farmers were happy. They could pronounce it, it had petroleum in it, and it was patriotic at a time when the spat with Iran was at its worst.

Names matter whether it is for your business or your children, especially when you are living in a new culture.

This reminds me of first living in Canada, when a close friend from India named his two children Micky and Robby. His logic was practical as his children’s names would be easy to say and write in their day-to-day life in future. My grandson was born recently and my son gave him a local name. I felt he did right by adopting to the child’s Western culture rather than giving him a hard-to-pronounce name from our culture.

Today, if a new immigrant were to ask me what I felt about naming a business, I would advise them to give it a Western name. I learned after the Al Fazal fiasco and every company thereafter I owned or started later was given a Western name like Pioneer, Atlas, Delta, Remora, or Republic…  Stay Blessed!


The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. Further, I make no warranty regarding the accuracy or effectiveness of my recommendations, and readers are advised to consult other advisors as well as their own judgments in making business decisions.

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