The Origin of what is now known as the Habib Group of companies can be traced to Habib Esmail, and his association with the firm of Khoja Mithabani Nathoo, a leading metals dealer established in Bombay in 1841. Habib joined the firm at the age of 13 for a monthly salary of Rs. 5. Through his hard work and determination he became partner at the age of 18 and also became the president of the Copper and Brass Merchants Association.
Habib sent his representative to Europe in 1912 and followed that up by establishing branch offices in Genoa and Vienna. Simultaneously, he began business relationship with Japan and China importing hosiery, yarn, glassware and cutlery and exporting cotton.
He started the firm "Habib & Sons" in 1921 and changed the family name to "Habib". His four sons namely Ahmed Habib, Dawood Habib, Mohammed Ali Habib and Ghulam Ali Habib joined the business. The firm expanded rapidly - banking remaining a core business.
This in turn led to the formation in 1941 of Habib Bank Ltd. Bombay, as a public limited company. The bank was to become the flagship of the family’s industrial and commercial ventures. Prior to the creation of Pakistan the bank moved its head office to Karachi and played a vital role in providing the basic banking and financial needs of this new country.
A network of branches and training centers were established in former East and West Pakistan.
When all banks in Pakistan were nationalized in 1974, Habib Bank was one of the largest commercial banks in South Asia with 875 branches in Pakistan and 44 branches overseas, including 20 in the United Kingdom.