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Zia U. Khan



Feb 05 - 11, 2001

Zia U. Khan did his Masters in Economics from the Karachi University in 1987 and proceeded to the US in August the same year. In December '92, he completed triple Masters in business, engineering and accounting — MBA, MS Engineering and Master of Accountancy — from the Arizona State University at Tempe. During his studies he also acquired professional qualifications including Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Certified Management Accountant (CMA). He moved to California in January '93 and worked for about 4 months before establishing Xenosys Corporation California with the help of a group of Pakistani friends in the heart of the famed Silicon Valley, San Jose. Xenosys initially chose to restrict itself to computer hardware assembly but transformed itself into a reputable IT consultant two years later. Zia was the IT coordinator to Intel and Sony Corporation — the two top accounts of the company which forayed into development of e-commerce products in '99, the year Zia decided to return back to Pakistan. Since his return Zia was possessed with an idea to share his extensive IT experience, particularly that related with the designing and developing of latest e-commerce software. He launched 'Operation Badr' a few months ago which is primarily aimed at providing top-of-the-line e-commerce application development education at minimal fee to help develop a world class IT force on war-footing.

PAGE: You advocate a strong focus on the development of e-commerce applications. Why?

Zia: I believe that Internet phenomena and the potential of commerce it offers provide us with an unique opportunity. I see excelling in cutting edge technologies such as e-commerce can help us otherwise compete with the US and India which are far ahead of us in IT. The time has come for us to focus on e-commerce. Instead of turning out computer engineers or training people to create animations in Flash, we should concentrate on electronic-commerce web application development technologies. Moreover, the technologies we develop should confirm to global industry standards so as our future should not be dependent on the economic interest of any one company. Focusing on e-commerce can help us make up for the loss already suffered.

PAGE: What is 'Operation Badr?'

Zia: It is launched with an objective to provide top-of-the-line e-commerce development application education at an extremely low cost to the IT students and professionals. We as organizers have no financial interest in the programme. I personally don't charge anything to teach the students. I have neither an investment nor receive remuneration. The participating institutes, Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology (SSUET) and Asia Pacific Institute of Information Technology (APIIT), charge a extremely low fee to cover the cost of facility, utility and teachers. A similar programme will be launched next week at Dadabhoy Institute of Management Sciences.

PAGE: What was the initial response like?

Zia: It was overwhelming. Over 3,000 applications were received in the first launch at the SSUET of which 600 were selected through computer-based testing. The second launching at APIIT drew 2,000 applications of which three hundred were selected. A number of applicants at the SSUET have since passed the Java Certification examination of the US is of the same standard and level as that of the MIT. The good thing is that we were able to recruit some of those who passed the examination to teach at our programme. Today there are instructors which are paid Rs1,200 an hour plus 25 teaching assistants which get a salary of Rs 10,000 a month for four days a month.

PAGE: What are your future plans?

Zia: We are talking to IBA, NED, CBM Korangi, DGCom Institute of Management Sciences which have shown interest to let us use their premises to impart the top of the line e-commerce application development training. We are still facing acute shortage of quality teachers but are hopeful that it will come from among the students that we are teaching. Many other institutions across the country have expressed similar interest.

PAGE: What is your focus?

Zia: We are basically teaching technologies — Java, the language of internet programming; XML, the extensible mark-up language for data representation; VML, the unified modelling language for system designing. We are using all the technologies to train people in developing e-commerce applications. We must realise that e-commerce has an international exports market just like the software. We can use it for promoting such traditional exports as surgical instruments, sports goods and textiles through direct B-2-B and B-2-C selling. E-commerce offers an immense potential to increase our exports.

PAGE: What message would you like to give to our readers?

Zia: IT institutes and students should ensure that they are competitive in the international markets. We expect to train 100,000 people in next two years — an ambitious but achievable target. We intend to expand the programme to every and any institution which has a lab of minimum 100 PCs.