THE SILVER LINING!
Pakistan faces an uphill task of stabilizing its domestic and international business practices
By MOHAMMAD MURAD
May 19 - 25, 2003
When the going gets tough, well! it gets tougher and tougher...At first it was 9/11 then the Afghan war, the Indian threats and now the Iraq crises all have made a significant impact on Pakistan's business and economy. What can one write in such turbulent times... You cannot keep marketing in isolation, and erect dreams and fantasies when your surroundings pose an alarming threat to your businesses existence. Marketing has direct interaction with people and people are affected by these adverse environmental changes. Both domestic and international marketing and business practices have been affected by such events, happening in and around Pakistan. Manpower going to the West are facing a biased approach from their prospective employers mainly in the US where businesses have made a lot many layoffs on the basis of religion alone, the fragile economic situation in the US have affected plans of outsourcers sending business from the US to Pakistan. Foreign currency accounts and transfers to Pakistan are subjected to scrutiny. Under such circumstances it is apt to say that Pakistan's loss is India's gain. More investment has poured into India especially after 9/11 when India has provided to be a stable and politically favorable investment opportunity for investors and outsourcers. In the wake of yet another catastrophe for the Muslim world Pakistan faces an uphill task of stabilizing its domestic and international business practices.
STICK TO YOUR GUNS
Even in these difficult times businesses should bank on their core strengths. Diversification is highly desirable but discontinuing altogether what one does best is not advisable. You do what you do best otherwise you don't do it! You can always expand and diversify into other areas of lucrative interest and opportunity. Diversification does not mean entering into an alienated realm. What it implies is, that when things are not going on a normal course and when abnormalities shape the things to come, only mavericks succeed.
We can look for product extensions, newer segments and niches through product variance, new market explorations or both. Vertical brand extensions coupled with geographic expansion based on a set plan is the key to forming a productive place for our offerings. Every situation can be molded to ones interest and advantage and this is no exception. Whether you are an IT firm or a consumer goods exporter you can take advantage of the prevailing situation. How? read on....
OUR SILVER LINING
Yes there can be a silver lining amongst ominous clouds of war and yes some good can actually result from such a devastating brutal war. The prevailing and developing domestic and international consensus is putting up a clear picture for Muslims all over the world. They have to unite and form a strongly unified block of their own and the good thing is, that Muslims throughout the world are increasingly becoming aware of this dire need.
If the Arab leaders and our government does not take a step forward in this direction then our businessmen and skilled professionals should take the initiative and consider this as a last opportunity for a unified economic and political block for Muslim community. What the Iraq war has done for the whole of Muslim community is, what we could never have done for ourselves in a million years. As a marketer this is something very interesting to analyze and take optimal advantage by responding actively. The Middle East is still a lucrative market. A market previously inclined towards the U.S, India and the UK. Although we may still experience some inclination towards India but a lot more trust and confidence would now be put over fellow Muslims. Fostering an environment of brotherhood and Muslim unity is the key and this is the right time to move in this direction by initiating such unifying concept promoting projects.
Since the morale and spirit of brotherhood and unity amongst Muslim businessmen, general public and the government is high, it is bound to trigger a positive support for our government and businessmen if we act quickly. It does not matter what business you are in, you may be a rice exporter or a software developer you have bright future ahead of you if you play your cards right.
Remember 'Unity and Brotherhood should be the central ideas enshrining all business efforts directed in the Middle East. They recognize the need and it is high time that we do it too and do something about it. This is my silver lining and can be yours if you act skillfully. Lets look at a few sectors and their present and future plans.
Tourism & tourists:
This poor sector is hit the hardest. The downfall of our Tourism Industry started immediately after 9/11 and is continuing with the Middle East crises still lingering on. Big names like Sitara Travels and Waljis have carried out major surgeries within their organizations and a lot many layoffs have resulted. In such times it is all the more important that these sectors stop relying on western tourists. I know such clients were the best since they paid handsomely in US Dollars, which locals will definitely not pay but still local tourism can provide for the operational and administrative costs of our Tour Operators. When you have your operational costs taken care of you can think of tapping and creating custom packages and environments for tourists who still wish to come to Pakistan in large numbers.
These new set of visitors may have very different needs as compared to the majority of Mountain lovers and trekkers that we used to get. Pick your targets, study their habits and pass-times and once you know their pscychology you can give them what they want. Now that Arabs face victimization in the west and the US after 9/11 they are most likely to change their vacation spots in the future and if we can give them what they want they would definitely come to Pakistan. Learn what they like! For instance they may like luxurious resorts along beaches, hunting, horse racing, springs etc. Our government too needs to add to the basic infrastructure for their diversified targets. Previously they only required working roads and bridges for their large visitors for the Northern Areas but now they should also look for other visitors and provide them with the facilities they require.
Apart from the Arab Tourists Chinese, Japanese and European are all open choices and can be worked upon to revive an ailing sector of our fragile economy.
OILING THE IT SECTOR:
It is sad to see the IT bubble bursting at a stage when Pakistan was gearing up for a competitive run. This is mainly attributable to the recession prevailing in the US economy and the rest is done away with by some stark retaliatory acts conducted by the US Agencies and companies who discontinued major ongoing and prospective projects being outsourced through IT firms located in Muslim countries. To further aggravate the situation our IT professionals are still being churned out continuously and there are no jobs to offer. The result is that these Masters and Bachelors of Computer Sciences are accepting wages as low as Rs.3000 in the hope that the company they are working for might gain a few projects in future and they would get a raise and if both scenarios fail to happen then they are still getting vital experience, better than the jobless. This isn't good enough especially for those with a passion to excel...
The Middle East promises huge opportunities for Pakistani's especially after the US-led war in Iraq. IT companies and individuals should take advantage of this situation. There are projects waiting to be identified by you. Yes! You will have to identify the areas and solutions and the basics of collaboration. Unity and Brotherhood is what Holy Quran has preached and this is what these changing times have been preaching.
Apart from the Middle East, European countries are still lucrative markets. Australia is another developing prospect while the UK economy is still hungry for IT projects. Outsourced projects form the lifeblood of IT Companies in Pakistan. It's a pity that we don't use the systems in Pakistan, which we make for others. It may take a complete generation shift to get that going but still IT companies should not loose hope even if there aren't big projects sprouting in Pakistan. Nonetheless, there are prospects all around you. The time is right, go ahead and make your move!
There are plenty of silver linings out there. If the US has made life difficult then the Middle East can open the previously closed doors. In one of my previous articles, I have mentioned that Marketing is all about relationships and I will say it again; build, manage and sustain relationships for unified collaboration all across the globe. Our businessmen can make the difference when it comes to localizing the global Muslim community. Positioning and Brand Identity thus makes all the difference and that is what Muslims all around the globe are focusing on.
Although this has nothing to do with the topic on hand but before ending I would like to share a little something with you. Be very, very careful when choosing Cricketers to model in your commercials. In World Cup 2003, Major brands in Pakistan and India have taken the brunt of fan backfire. Coke whom we all used to think of being the unlucky one for not getting these classy cricketers proved to be lucky to have escaped such an aversion. Poor Pepsi had to take the heat. It was good to see such responsive Marketing playing its part in Pakistan.
Even in times of sheer desperation one may find a host of silver linings waiting to spread light. We just need to follow them. What I am urging you to do here is exactly what our Holy Quran has asked us to do and that is, to unite on the basis of Muslim brotherhood. Unfortunately, we haven't listened to our own source of wisdom (Our Quran) its high time that we do!!!