By SYED M. ASLAM
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
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
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
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.