PAKISTAN SOFTWARE EXPORT POTENTIAL
software company wanted to hire programmers from Pakistan
Mr. Abdul Quayyum Khan
CEO getpakistan.com Inc.
Jul 10 - 16, 2000
These days software export is the talk of business circles. Every
business house is exploring the possibility of starting a software house. Government is
announcing incentives, banks are initiating venture capital companies, institutes are
holding seminars, and youngsters are enrolling for software courses. It seems that
suddenly Pakistan will becomes a leading source of offshore software development. But is
it the reality? Are we really moving forward to become a competitive source in the IT
industry. All this activity will definitely produce some results but it will not make
Pakistan a destination of choice ???. Let us analyze the situation.
Economic & Political Stability:
Since its inception, Pakistan has never attained a stable political
environment for a sustainable period. This changing leadership resulted in volatile
economic policies adversely effecting business. We saw this scenario again when General
Mussharraf took control. If this government is able to institute a framework that would
ensure continuity in policy, it will be a milestone in itself. Like any business software
industry is also not immune to changing policies. Putting in place a broad and well
thought off IT policy will go a longway in establishing Pakistan on the road to Software
export growth. Dr. Atta-ur-Rehman is known for his result orientation. His presence is
already felt and the results have started coming.
Pakistan is getting a lot of negative media from international press,
which is way out of proportion from the actual situation. Pakistan is perceived as an
underdeveloped, poverty-stricken country with disrupted production and low education
level. The government does not have enough budgets to embark on a media campaign. It is
more a job of public relations than advertisement. Personally I believe our ambassadors
can play an important role in building the country's image by working closely with the
media. Government should appoint ambassadors with extensive public relations experience.
Retired professionals from advertising, news and television with international business
experience can prove to be a good resource to achieve this objective. Recently I was
invited to an IT seminar where ambassador of Pakistan was a keynote speaker. Most of the
attendees were scientists and engineers who had no interest in regional or domestic
politics. It was a good forum for the ambassador to highlight the government strategy for
the IT sector. Although the ambassador spoke well but she spent all her time speaking
about politics and the foreign policy.
India and China have used the network of expatriates to gain access to
business. As quoted by Wall Street Journal there are 974 software companies headed by
Indians in US Sillicon Valley. Most of these companies assign their development work to
subsidiary backhome. The other side of the coin is, a person will not risk his career to
assign work to a low quality vendor. We need networking forums where Pakistani IT
exporters can be introduced to expatriate Pakistanis working for leading IT companies like
ORACLE, IBM, Microsoft etc. Through these forums knowledge can be shared about the
qualification and execution requirements for vendors. Although there are some
organizations like Dareecha and APSENA who are trying to fill this void but they need
funding and support from both government and private sector companies.
We had an edge in agriculture and lost it. We produce 11% of world
cotton but our share in value added products is less than 0.1%. Why? Because we do not
have an infrastructure to finance entrepreneurs who have experience in the relevant
industry. Our financial institutes provide funding to politically connected people who
have short term focus and have no industry experience. A cotton grower is not necessarily
qualified to initiate value added textile exports. These funds are misappropriated and
invested in outdated equipment and machinery. Factories do not allocate sufficient funds
for modernization and value addition. The same fate will bestow IT industry if people with
idea and motivation are not funded. Someone running a textile mill and a deep pocket does
not necessarily qualify to start a software export business.
UPGRADE THE CURRICULUM
I recently met CEO of a Chicago based software company who wanted to
hire programmers from Pakistan. It took them six months to hire 16 people with the right
set of skills. There are thousand of technical institutes charging thousands from innocent
people to train them in low level skills, which has no real utility. Government should
provide subsidies to multinational corporations to start training centers. Oracle,
Microsoft and other leading IT companies would be eager to train their future manpower.
Universities should form alliances with international universities for syllabus
preparation and instructor exchange.