GLOBAL IT BOOM OFFERS LIMITLESS OPPORTUNITIES

There is need to project and educate people in Pakistan to visualize the bright future and expected growth in coming years.

KHALID BUTT, Bureau Chief, Lahore
Dec 18 - 24, 2006

Pakistan is currently grappling with the issue of its dwindling exports owing to stiff competition from such unlikely competitors like Bangladesh and Cambodia, besides India and China in the overall picture. It has also gradually seen the bulk of its exports shifting from Karachi to emerging new hubs in Lahore and around in the region. The focus is now more towards Lahore, Sialkot, Kasur, Chunian, and various other export zones now mushrooming out in the region. But what is not being given the due and important attention is the emerging boom in the IT services market, which is growing at a staggering pace to offer limitless opportunities to the country.

A survey by PAGE looking at the colossal Global Information Technology services market found the current figure at $ 650 billion US dollars. It is however projected to grow to $ 1 trillion US dollars within next eight years. This phenomenal and unbelievable growth makes it as the most sought after field for a country like Pakistan to accord it the priority attention it deserves. With the US already unable to handle the huge growth on its own due to dwindling number of professionals being churned out locally some other countries have already swiftly moved in to reap the rich harvest of the available bounty thus being offered. India was one of the first countries to foresee the opportunity and its planners had the foresight to make the timely investments and moves in this direction. They were the first to grab the market through their astute planning. It is no wonder that even within US and some of top global multi-nationals Indians are already occupying key positions and are among the crucial decision makers.

With US unable to match the huge demand facing shortage of CS professionals produced locally started looking elsewhere. In this void came in not only Indians by hoards but also some East Europeans with their advanced IT standards and know-how. Then came an era of outsourcing of IT services to other countries due to growing needs and reasons of cost cutting. India again was the first option with its huge available base and high rate of producing IT graduates averaging 3000040000 annually, besides other attractions including low costs. Some points in Middle East and Gulf and East Europe followed and finally Pakistan too was in the queue. Slowly but surely Pakistan has finally come in to the reckoning and after Karachi the fast emerging hub of out-sourcing is in Lahore and the region around it.

The reasons are simple. Even Indians are failing to cope with the huge demand after inability of US to meet the requirements locally. Naveed Arshad, a University of Colorada educated professor of IT at LUMS talked to PAGE to spell out the reasons of this exceptional growth in Pakistan and resultant flow of huge foreign investment and interest in Pakistan. He ascribed the pioneering efforts of FAST and LUMS in Pakistan launched in early 90's, which have brought the rich dividends.

Lahore and other centers have now a number of high-class educational institutes charming out IT professionals to meet the rising demand. Pakistan, he feels must move in to grab this golden chance as US has already lost about 60 % share due to its dwindling capacity and cost constraints. India too is facing pressure and it is for countries like Pakistan to avail this opportunity to get an equitable share of the available boom. He said the role of LUMS has been exemplary although it was producing only 100 IT graduates annually so far but it set a trend and took the lead.

FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT (MONTH WISE) AUGUST 2006
(Million US $)

SR. #

ECONOMIC GROUP

2002-2003

2003-2004

2004-2005

2005-2006 (July-Aug)

 

Communications

243

221.9

517.6

88.2

a.

TeleCommunications

13.5

207.1

494.4

80.9

b.

InformationTechnology

99

13.7

22.2

6.9

 

i)    Software Development

45

6.2

8.8

0.9

 

ii)   HardwareDevelopment

12

1.3

3.8

0.4

 

iii)  IT Services

42

6.2

9.6

5.6

c.

Postal and CourierServices

0.9

1.1

1.0

0.4

Source : Pakistan Board of Investment

Others have been fast to follow to make this field a preferred option. But there is need to project and educate people in Pakistan to visualize its bright future and expected growth in coming years. There is a huge potential available, he said, some other countries like India, Bangladesh, Philippine and in East Europe were quick to see it before Pakistan.

A recent seminar held at LUMS on "The Global IT Services Market Highly Fragmented, Expended, Migrating off share" highlighted the issue in great depth. Some leading experts spoke on the vast opportunity available and the rising growth, as the process of outsourcing was now the current buzz word. The tentacles of some giant multi-nationals were spreading the world over and had already reached out some neighbouring countries, various destinations in Asia, Middle East and notably in Pakistan. It is thus a chance of lifetime for Pakistan to move in and be part of this available boom, according to analysts.