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Politics & Policy

IDEAS 2000—post exhibition strategy

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By Syed Iqbal Hashmi
Dec 04 - 10, 2000

Seminars, exhibitions, symposiums, workshops and trade shows are part and parcel of urban culture. International Defence Exhibition and Seminar 2000 (IDEAS 2000) based on the theme of 'arms for peace" was however an exceptional and memorable event in the history of Pakistan. IDEAS 2000 was launched from 14th to 17th November but was extended for one more day on public demand. Most of the visitors including Pakistani as well as foreigners were of the view that the Exhibition was first of its kind surpassing international standards by establishing a new standard of its own. Originally intended to be a Defence Exhibition turned into a business opportunity for local as well as foreign arms suppliers. This objective was not achieved incidentally but through strategic thinking and focused planning. Deliberate efforts were made to maintain business like environment throughout the exhibition and that is why general public was not invited to attend the exhibition.

The exhibition is now over with tons of praises and appreciations but the critical question at this moment of time is that whether this exhibition was an end or means to achieve an end? All efforts to make this exhibition a history will go futile if post exhibition activities are not matched with level of excellence achieved during exhibition. Business target through export of local arms was $500-$600 million dollar. Any student of sales & marketing knows this basic fact that follow-up visits are critical to close sales after product presentation. Thus post exhibition activities will play more pivotal role in converting this opportunity into inflow of foreign exchange.

Those who visited the exhibition were caught with pleasant surprise when they came to know the capacities and capabilities of local manufacturers. Pakistan has not only developed atom bombs and long range missiles but also has capabilities of assembling submarines, rebuilding aircraft and manufacturing planes, battle tanks and small arm weapons. A large lucrative market already exists for these products. Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Africa and developing countries combined are largest arm buyers and will be our target market.

It is worth mentioning that despite achieving capabilities, Pakistan has no intention to sell nuclear arms and long range missiles on principle grounds. In the exhibition I met Air Attache of a developed country who attended many exhibitions but confessed that IDEAS 2000 was 1st of its kind visited by him. His comments were further augmented by the fact that India, USA and many other developed countries have taken serious notice of this exhibition. That Air Attache came every day and took photographs of each and every stall.

Besides open-air display of military weapons, equipment from various companies and state enterprises were on display in three big and beautifully designed halls. Hall 1 and 3 were displaying equipment from all over the world, whereas Hall 2 was exclusively for indigenously developed Pakistani products. While walking through Pakistan Hall everybody was impressed watching capacities and capabilities of local manufacturers.

Heavy Rebuild Factory—Taxila is manufacturing armored fighter vehicles, armored personal carriers, tank guns and many components and critical spare parts besides pride of Pakistan main battle tank Al-Khalid. Equipped with automatic ammunition handling system with Night Vision capabilities Al-Khalid can operate from 5m underwater. It has ballistic computation time of less than a second with range, weight and speed respectively 2000 m, 46 tons and 70 Km/hr. It has 125mm (48 calibre) bore with auto frettaged and chrome plated gun which can fire APFSDS, HEAT-FS and HE-FS conventional ammunition & missiles. Buyers from different countries showed keen interest in this tank.

Pakistan Aeronautical Complex and Air Weapon Complex has developed four facilities including F-6 Rebuild Factory, Mirage Rebuild Factory (lst defence establishment to achieve ISO-9002 certification), Aircraft Manufacturing Factory and Avionics and Radar Factory. Besides manufacturing critical spare parts of Boeing & GE Engines, Pakistan is manufacturing Super Mushak (MF - 17) aircraft & K - 8 Jet trainer. Avionics & Radar factory is manufacturing Griffo M - 7 Radar, New Chaff and Flare Dispensers and Chinese designed radar warning receivers.

Pakistan Naval Dockyard (ISO - 9002 certified) has capability of manufacturing tugs, barges, floating docks, auxiliary crafts, midgets, petrol crafts, missile boats, MCMV (Marine Counter Measure Vessel) and above all AGOSTA 90 B Submarine construction with French collaboration.

It was obvious that Pakistan can earn substantial amount of foreign exchange through export of surplus arms and ammunition. This was however noted with concern that private sector in our country is far behind state owned enterprises in terms of level of excellence, capabilities, size, commitment and output. Govemment, of course is partially responsible for this gap as private capital flows only in the direction of attractive opportunities. It is basically Government of Pakistan who may initiate projects to bring private sector on-board. Without active participation of private sector targets of export of defence equipment can't be achieved.

Second area which need proper attention and focused direction is much neglected R&D. R&D in Pakistan has not produced any appreciable output, if it produced something at all. Instead of investing in non-strategy based R&D, efforts may be concentrated on Reverse Engineering and Transfer of Technology. This will help in acquiring desired level of technical expertise.

While watching defence equipment on display one serious question comes into mind that whatever is being promised through display do we have capability to deliver above that or at least on that level. Consistency of quality and sticking to delivery schedule are the areas where we lack most. Market of Defence equipment on the other hand is of very critical nature and can only be captured on permanent basis through commitment to quality, timely delivery, uninterrupted logistic support, history of serviceability of equipment over a longer period of time and above all price competitiveness. And also are we ready to continue supplies and fulfil our commitments for a longer period of time despite international pressures and embargoes?

It was basically embargoes and unfavourable terms and conditions that paved the way for self-reliance through indigenisation. A blessing in disguise helped us in enhancing our potential across-the-spectrum. Now instead of relying on fund flows from Int'l donor agencies on their terms and conditions an environment should be created to attract funds from private sector. This may be achieved through technical collaboration, joint venture, cooperative arrangements, franchising and licensing agreements with local companies, foreign governments and MNCs. This will not only help us in developing technical expertise and local talent but also give us an access to foreign market, which is presently out of our reach, mainly due to our country image abroad. This is an area where local private companies may work more comfortably and efficiently as compared to state owned companies.

This exhibition has also raised an important issue regarding performance of Export Promotion Bureau which has increased in size over the years, despite the fact that Pakistan's export performance has declined over the years in terms of constant $ value. Although IDEAS 2000 was a result of joint efforts of Pakistan Armed Forces and a private company viz. Pegasus Consultancy (Pvt.) Limited alongwith a series of supporting organizations from public and private sector. Outcome was basically result of teamwork and joint efforts. However, this was evident that difference was created mainly due to presence of Pegasus Consultancy. Those who have seen working of this company are of firm believe that they have given a new dimension to teamwork and leadership. From chairman to peon worked round the clock with many sleepless nights working on one point agenda to make the exhibition an exemplary success. Chairman & Managing Director of the company was involved into bottom line matters without doing any compromise on strategic direction. The way people were working in this company is a role model worth studying and this fact can easily be established that our bureaucrat can't work with that pace and passion. So this is high time that our Govemment should increase the role of private sector in boosting our exports. To finalize the deals discussed during the exhibition delegates comprising of 3 to 4 persons should be sent to all prospective buyers. Delegates should not be our bureaucrat but foreign and local qualified MBA's involved in active marketing in private sector. Further our commercial attaches are not producing any fruitful results owing to the fact that most of them are not qualified marketers. Excellent results may be achieved if qualified MBA's are inducted for these posts on lucrative terms. Many developed countries are appointing local people to take maximum advantage of available potential of foreign markets. Pakistan may also restructure commercial department in foreign embassies in these lines.

IDEAS 2000 provided the missing element to Pakistani products—the marketing element. If we continue with the spirit it has generated we may come into position to exceed our export targets. This may only be achieved through well targeted efforts and providing opportunities to private sector to work in hand with our foreign mission abroad.