Microsoft opens its doors to Pakistan

Microsoft investment commitment means incredible opportunities especially for Pakistan

By Diana J. Choyce
Sep 20 - 27, 1999

Microsoft, in a meeting with Premier Nawaz Sharif, announced in January of this year the introduction of a "major information technology development initiative" into Pakistan. "Pakistan is a market with huge technology potential, and Microsoft is ready to help in realizing that potential by investing in, and working with, government, businesses and computer users," said Bahram Mohazzebi, general manager of Microsoft GEM (Gulf and Eastern Mediterranean). Since January, Microsoft has implemented many of these initiatives and is planning many more throughout the rest of 1999 and beyond. It’s a huge undertaking, but from the world’s leading software company it can definitely become a reality and have an incredible impact on the future of Pakistan's entry into the age of information technology.

Beginning 1 September, and continuing for three months, they are giving a 25% discount on multiple licensing of their software. Another offering is a new Student Licensing Scheme. Under this scheme, Microsoft Office 2000 and Microsoft Development Tools will be available to students at a price of Rs. 4,900 compared to the retail list pricing of almost Rs. 20,000. These moves are designed to lower costs of their software for students and educators, unify their prices, and to bring legal and supported software to Pakistan and other developing countries.

At the end of November, expect to see Micorsoft’s Open Door Road Show to roll into the Marriott Hotels in Karachi and Islamabad. Interested parties may register by fax at 92 21 4533369. Or visit the Microsoft web site at for more information. The Road Show is intended to focus on today’s IT issues, demonstrate current technologies and take a look at the future software and hardware offerings. Microsoft and its partners Dell, 3Com and Infocus, hope to attract IT Professionals, Developers, and Small Business Owners from all over Pakistan. 3Com will be focusing on how to deploy network and Internet solutions on their hardware platforms. Dell will be showing enterprise solutions to demonstrate their capability in supporting Microsoft technology. And Microsoft will be showing off the widely anticipated Windows 2000.

Investment in Pakistan

This past summer they contributed nearly $26,000.00US to help train over 100 teachers and government officials involved in IT, and to strengthen Pakistan's IT base. Microsoft seems to feel the potential for operations in the IT field could yield almost $100 Million US dollars. They have agreed to invest $150 Million to train 200 computer engineers, and are planning to set up training institutes in Punjab. As for resellers, Microsoft has approved 3 companies to offer its Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) products. This will insure their wish for legal and supported software in Pakistan.

The biggest reason for their late entrance into the Pakistani markets, seems to be the lack of anti-piracy laws. Microsoft estimates that it is losing $50 million to $100 million annually due to piracy. Illegal software will also considerably devaluate any investments by international IT companies. And locally, software dealers just cannot compete with the multitude of pirated software in circulation. Another initiative, is the opening of an anti-piracy office in Pakistan to work with the government. "We will be working ever more actively with government officials, aiming to share with them a view of the economical advantages that can be achieved by addressing the illegal software problem. It is our hope and desire to help them in evaluating the benefits of copyright protection legislation, and to show them how other markets in this region have moved to establish strong and dynamic information technology capabilities," commented Mohazzebi. "As we progress towards the global information economy, these moves will play a vital role in maintaining and building upon the hard work and competitive spirit of Pakistani entrepreneurs, and make a real contribution to the national economy." Microsoft established a similar effort in Dubai last year, and did indeed stem the flow of illegal software, save profits, and promote more investments.

Technology education

Despite the many challenges Pakistan faces, a move into the new information age could mean a considerable leap into competing with the global economy. And the potential for a leap in Pakistan's education and economy, could provide a very fruitful and hopeful future. In the January meeting about Microsoft's long term commitment intentions, Mohazzebi stated, "A commitment to work with the government to reduce piracy, to bring technology education to schools and the workplace, and a commitment to drive the growth of an advanced technology industry and market in Pakistan." So what is Microsoft expecting for all this newfound generosity? Though their intentions may be good, profits may be their likely incentive. Given its present legal troubles in the US, and the tarnish that's been building upon its name, new profit markets are an obvious necessity. And what better harvest could they find than in developing countries? However it’s meant, Microsoft's investment commitments will mean incredible opportunities, and the means for powerful growth in these countries, and especially for Pakistan.