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NetSol International

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An interview with Salim Ghauri, CEO NetSol International

By Syed M. Aslam
May 08 - 21, 2000

NetSol International, the Pakistan originated information technology consultant and software developer, has aims to become the leading Internet Service Provider in Pakistan. NetSol is the only Pakistani, and the third IT company in the Indo-Pak sub-continent listed on the NASDAQ.

NetSol which has clinched worldclass orders from a number of blue-chip companies globally including Mercedes Benz, ICI UK, etc has announced plans to launch a wholly owned subsidiary NetSol eR Inc (eReady) to launch NetSolCONNECT, a nationwide ISP in Pakistan.

NetSol eR Inc. (eReady) will focus on the company's e-Business initiatives. It will comprise of three divisions — Internet connectivity (ISP), Internet technology (development tools and communications), and eBusiness communities. The three divisions will work towards developing on-line and broadband businesses, localised Internet communities, and portal and shopping services.

NetSol plans to launch NetSolCONNECT in June from the industrial and financial hub of the country, the port city of Karachi and to expand the ISP infrastructure to seven other cities later. The service will be marketed under the brand name iReady.

Talking to PAGE at his software house in Lahore, the chief executive officer of NetSol, Salim Ghauri, said the majority of over four dozen ISPs operating in Pakistan heavily rely on connectivity alone to generate revenue. In addition, he said, the quality of ISP service in the country on an average is inferior at the inconvenience of the Internet users due to a much slow speed of connectivity. Less than half a dozen ISPs in the country are able to invest a sizeable amount of money to better their service as the majority of the ISPs comprise small operators can not afford to induct the latest ISP technology which does not come cheap, he added.

Salim told PAGE that NetSol will invest $ 5 million in the first phase to launch iReady by June in Karachi and in Lahore and Islamabad by the third quarter this year. NetSol, unlike other operators in the country, fully realises that an ISP can not survive on connectivity alone. What gives NetSol an edge is the fact that it specialises in total IT solutions and consultancy to help develop e-mail and e-commerce, particularly the business-to-business services once we have finished establishing our ISP. The economics of ISP is not connectivity but value-added services such as the ones listed above which we will have an edge over our competitors in Pakistan. We aim to become the leading ISP of Pakistan by offering the fastest connectivity at the best prices, he added.

Salim said that NetSolCONNECT will offer latest technology and Internet services using an aggregate connection close to 6 megabytes and scaling to 48 megabytes. iReady's first phase will provide a network which will be twenty-times faster than the competition and the network is expected to provide the highest level of reliability and optimal traffic.

Launching an ISP service in a country which has 3.2 million telephone connections but only 130,000 Internet users Salim said that market research shows that the number of Internet users will increase by eleven-fold to 1.5 million in next four years. Currently there are over 2.5 million PCs in the country which though equipped with modems are not connected to the Internet. In addition, 25 per cent of those already connected have multiple connections to counter poor performance as well as slow connectivity, which has become a constant problem for the Internet users in Pakistan. Salim attributed the current internet connection options which do not provide nationwide access and the weak infrastructure due to use of an older technology by the ISPs only a handful of which are able to make big investments which an up-to-date network requires.

NetSol which has successfully acquired a number of IT companies overseas, including Abraxas in Australia, now NetSol Abraxas Australia, has recently signed an agreement to acquire SuperNet AG, a German ISP which provides high-quality, low-cost Internet access nationwide in Germany. It also creates and manages online communities, online-services and delivers value-added eBusiness solutions.

Since its launch in July 1999 SuperNet has amassed 25,000 online members in its various communities and SuperConnect, its ISP. The company provides complete business-to-business solutions including eBusiness strategy consulting, web design and marketing services.

Recently NetSol has signed three agreements with CFS Group, a leading software solution supplier to the asset based leasing and lending industry, of UK. NetSol will now be an exclusive outsource supplier and developer of CFS Group's software needs and CFS will be the sole distributor of NetSol's leasing and finance products worldwide. In addition, the two companies will form a joint venture to develop and market additional Web based business-to-business and e-commerce solutions for the global leasing and lending industry. What makes the agreement more interesting is that NetSol has clinched it from an Indian IT company. India's loss has been Pakistan's gain, Salim told PAGE with due pride.