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ENCOURAGING LOCAL ASSEMBLY OF COMPUTERS
Excerpts from an exclusive interview with Ghias Khan, CEO, Inbox Technologies
By SHABBIR H. KAZMI
June 30 - July 06, 2003
Local assemblers of computers are facing tough competition from second-hand imported computers as well as multinational companies selling branded computers. I am, in no way, in favour of restricting import of these computers. However, my suggestion is that the GoP should allow import of branded computers in CKD form only. I also demand that the central bank should also instruct the financial institutions to undertake consumer financing of computers. It is surprising that hundreds of cars are financed by these institutions and as against this financing of computers is virtually at zero level.
I agree with the basic premise that Pakistanis must get an opportunity to buy computers at lowest possible price, even if these are second-hand computers, may be based on slightly obsolete technology. As the level of awareness goes up, the users automatically switchover to the latest model. That is the point where they need an option to buy a computer on easy instalments.
My only point of concern is that when corporates place orders of large quantities of computers with multinational companies, it only encourages import of completely built units (CBUs) and does not encourage local assembly of computers or help in technology transfer. To create a level playing field the GoP should allow import of computers in CKD form. This will also help in creating new job opportunities in the country.
I also subscribe to the idea that manufacturing of computers is not economically viable in Pakistan, simply because of extremely low demand in the country. Besides, creation of production facilities for mother boards and hard disks require very huge investment. Therefore, import of all the components of computers must continue at zero duty rates.
I strongly believe that deployment of IT is extremely critical for business entities operating in Pakistan. In my view each entity, be it large or small, catering to the domestic market or global customers must make the best use of available technology. The use of IT helps in developing database required for making informed decisions. It provides a platform for global marketing of goods and services. And above all helps in optimizing costs and reducing wastage to achieve greater competitiveness.
It is often asked, can one upgrade the computer infrastructure as the business grows? The 'building blocks' technology provides this opportunity, adding new capabilities as the business grows. It also often asked, how one should go ahead with computerization, if all the work is being done manually? The answer is simple, first apply the IT in areas that are critical for the organization and then gradually go for achieving paperless environment.
Working in paperless environment may not be a new experience. Some of us use ATMs and Internet-based banking and maintain account with Central Depository Company (CDC). The days of using telex and fax machines are also gone. Now people also pay their utility bills through ATMs. Call centres are also the fruits of deployment of IT. Businesses are able to serve their customers better and also reduce response time. Therefore, I may say that use of IT improves quality of life.
Selection of right type of hardware in critical for future expansion. The appropriate decision would be to go for the latest and state-of-the-art hardware. I strongly believe that often the cost of hardware is not very high provided the business entity does its homework properly. The customers often tell that some of the branded imported computers are of lower price as compare to the hardware being sold by the Inbox. My only suggestion is that buyer must compare an Apple with an Apple and should not be carried away simply be the brand names.
If Pakistani entrepreneurs really wish to deploy IT in their business entities, they must change their mind set. Ironically, in many local business entities IT is subservient to finance department. I suggest that head of IT department should not report to Finance Manager but to the CEO. The CEO, as decision-maker, needs certain information for prudent decision making and only the IT department can help in generating such reports.
To conclude, I would like to reiterate my point that the GoP must stop inflow of CBUs and ask the multinational companies to bring computers in CKD form and assemble them in Pakistan. It is the only way to create level playing field for the local assemblers of computers. I would also request the financial institutions to allocate larger sums for financing of computers. They are extending credit for the purchase of televisions, CD players, airconditioners, why not add computers to the list.