Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) organized a day long workshop with Science and Technology Policy Institute (STEPI), Korea and stakeholders from both public and private sectors of Pakistan’s IT industry to kick off the feasibility study for a new state-of-the-art IT park in Islamabad.
STEPI consortium from Korea consisted of five entities including Science and Technology Policy Institute (STEPI), Sangmyung University (SMU), Office of Civic Solutions (OCS), ANSE Technologies, and Baum Architects.
The consortium included experts in different areas including infrastructure design, IT park and urban design, IT park operations, IT park architecture, ICT security facilities, and economic and financial analysis. Hence, this is one of the largest group of foreign experts which has ever visited Pakistan for a feasibility study of an infrastructure project.
The workshop was attended by participants from both Korea and Pakistan. Local participation came from Ministry of IT, PSEB, Ministry of Planning, Ministry of Science & Technology, IT companies, and universities.
The workshop started with an opening address from MD PSEB, Mr. Asim Shahryar Husain, who welcomed all participants to the workshop and stated that IT parks can change the dynamics of the IT industry of Pakistan and can position Pakistan as a leading player in the global IT industry.
Dr. Hung Kook Park from Sangmyung University was the facilitator for the workshop. The workshop was broken up into five groups for brainstorming sessions. The workshop started with each group picking a topic and then selecting top problems related to that topic. This was followed by identifying causes for each problem and their solutions using a fishbone methodology.
Giving her congratulatory speech at the workshop, Minister of State for IT & Telecom, Ms. Anusha Rehman, said that it is her vision and passion to launch state-of-the-art IT parks in Pakistan to change the dynamics of the IT industry of Pakistan. Pakistan has a lot of IT talent and potential but that potential has not been utilized fully on a global scale because of lack of proper infrastructure for the IT industry at present.
She said that majority of IT companies are operating out of residences at present and there is a need for new high tech office space with backup power, bandwidth, business centers, training centers, incubation centers, and research centers. Hence, there is a huge requirement for state-of-the-art infrastructure in Pakistan from the IT industry so that companies can upscale their resources and capacity for mega-projects and Pakistan can achieve its real potential in the global IT industry.
The minister mentioned that government’s focus is to provide an enabling environment through infrastructure such as IT parks to IT entrepreneurs and IT companies so that they can grow and nurture their business and products to their true potential both locally and globally.
She said that her vision for IT parks is that they should be a complete ecosystem with office space, incubators, accommodation for foreign visitors, gymnasium, lakes, biking trails, and not just raw office space. An IT park should be a seat of learning and technology where there is exchange of knowledge and information between professionals and students. She said that she wants to do the ground breaking for a new IT park in Islamabad next year followed by IT parks in Karachi and Lahore.
MD PSEB mentioned that PSEB has land for IT parks in all three metros and has been waiting for this opportunity for the last many years. However, it is because of the minister’s vision and passion that the feasibility study has finally started.
MD PSEB mentioned that IT parks are like software factories where IT companies generate new exports for Pakistan by providing software and IT services to both foreign and local clients. PSEB had arranged meetings of Korean team this week with different stakeholders including IT companies, universities, CDA, Nespak, and Planning Commission followed by a day long strategy workshop with all of the stakeholders.
The minister thanked the Korean team for visiting Pakistan and emphasized that both ministry and PSEB will extend full support to the Korean team in their mission of building new IT parks in Pakistan. She hoped that the feasibility study would be completed in six months or less so that loan agreement can then be signed between Korea and Pakistan for design and construction of a new IT park by next year.
MD PSEB interview by Rabiya Sulaiman
Pakistan’s IT industry has a come a long way and is today the fastest growing export sector of Pakistan. From less than $20 million in annual exports back in 2000, the country’s annual IT exports have crossed the $2 billion mark now at an annual growth rate of 30 to 40%.
Moreover, this is that sector of the country’s economy, which is capable of providing a full spectrum of services, ranging from low-end BPO services to high-end enterprise grade IT solutions. This extremely vibrant part of Pakistan’s economy is made up of a significant number of large IT companies which hold local back offices or representative offices.
The quality of services offered by these local organizations has in turn ensured that some of the largest businesses in the world come to Pakistan looking for relevant services to meet all their IT needs. These include Halliburton®, BMW®, Toyota®, Daimler Chrysler®, AT&T®, NYSE®, British Petrolem®, Petronas®, Caltex®, Sears®, and many more.
It is also pertinent to note here that a large number of our local IT Professionals are working in North America, Europe and Middle East who get IT projects outsourced from their foreign clients to afore-mentioned back offices in Pakistan.
But no country in the world, no matter how great the services they, or rather the businesses operating within that country offer, could hope to get work unless they have some support from the government also. In this case, it is PSEB that comes to our rescue.
PSEB’s Role in Promoting the Local IT Industry
Talking to Asim Shahryar Husain, Managing Director Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB), IDG discussed its role in promoting the country’s IT export industry.
Asim Shahryar joined PSEB as its Managing Director in July 2014. A technocrat by profession, with over 21 years of professional experience in technology marketing and business planning, he has been CEO of COMSATS Internet Services where he successfully restructured the ISP from a loss making entity to a commercially viable operation.
He has also worked in both technical and marketing management positions at Viewlogic, Siemens, MarketFirst, IONA, LMKR, Transworld, and Wi-Tribe. Furthermore, he holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Systems Engineering from Stanford University, California and an MBA in Marketing from Duke University, North Carolina.
With such an impressive background, what are Asim Shahryar’s plans for PSEB to further their motto? “My mission at PSEB is to make the organization more responsive to the needs of the IT industry of Pakistan and to accelerate the growth of IT exports,” he says.
“To achieve these objectives, PSEB has set in motion several projects and programs that focus on improving the perception of Pakistan as an attractive destination for IT outsourcing.”
These programs include subsidized participation of IT companies in international exhibitions, establishment of new IT parks, low cost office space and bandwidth in IT parks, international certifications for IT companies such as CMMI and ISO, IT internships and trainings for IT graduates, and linkages with foreign investors and customers.
Asim continues by saying, “We believe in getting feedback from the IT Industry on a periodic basis to ensure that we invest in programs and events which are of interest to the industry. To achieve this end, we have held three seminars with CEOs of IT companies in Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad so far, and we conduct regular online surveys with our member companies also.”
Facing Up To Challenges
But success, as all of us are well aware, never comes very easy. So what challenges does PSEB, as well as their member organizations, face, both at the local and at the international level?
“When it comes to Pakistan, the biggest hindrance for any business is country’s image and perception because of security and ease-of-business issues. However, things have started improving since early 2015 and this is reflected through the interest that foreign investors from certain countries have shown in investing in different sectors of Pakistan including IT. This year, PSEB has been approached by investors from Saudi Arabia, Korea, Kuwait, etc. for investing in different IT initiatives. This is a good sign for the IT industry of Pakistan,” shares Asim.
He goes on to explain how nations such as Korea and China have developed so rapidly because they ‘routinely redefine the way things are done, constantly improving and refining the associated thinking, logic, and techniques.’ And for him, “this is what we need to do to embed the culture of embracing change in our public and private sector institutions for continuous improvement. Also, we should be focused on results of projects, not just execution. We need to focus on proper project management because planning is just one half of the work; the more important half is execution and completing projects on time.”
Considering that, one would wonder just how far we, as a nation hoping to export our IT and software services abroad, have managed to come. The task is certainly not an easy one when one considers that to become a knowledge-based economy requires good collaboration and coordination between different stakeholders including government, industry, academia, and the public.
Just as importantly, it also requires a better focus on education and training so that upcoming graduates are equipped with the right skill-sets when they come out of colleges and universities. In this scenario, “PSEB is forming a curriculum committee which will include CEOs of some IT companies as well as heads of IT of different universities to realign curriculum with the emerging needs of the global IT market,” shares the MD.
He continues to explain how Pakistan’s economy is primarily an agrarian one. However, there is no dearth of manpower and labor costs are very economical when compared with other developed and developing countries. Because of the rapid growth of the IT industry and universities, and availability of a large pool of English speaking IT professionals and graduates, Pakistan can easily transition to becoming a knowledge-based and services economy in a decade or so.
“Pakistan has a lot of IT talent and potential. However, it needs to be harnessed better starting with our own local industries. Instead of using foreign software, our industries should use local software on trial basis and if satisfied, they should switch to using local software. This will encourage our local IT companies and will help them grow both locally and internationally. After all, how can we expect foreign customers to use their software if our own industries are not using local software,” asserts the MD PSEB.
Current Progress: How is the Local ICT Industry Shaping Up?
PSEB is in the process of collecting IT curriculum for BS and MS programs of different universities which it will then share with the committee formed for the purpose, for feedback. Based on this, the organization will work to prepare a proposal on revisions to the IT curriculum for HEC. The goal is to have a minimum core curriculum in IT to ensure an IT graduate of any university has the right skill-sets to meet the work demands of both local and foreign companies in order to give them better, and more productive prospects in the future.
Furthermore, as Asim shared, a new Knowledge Park is being planned in Lahore which will be a whole ecosystem built around universities, companies, research labs, IT parks, incubators, etc. However, it will take a while of planning and construction. Similar knowledge parks in other provinces and cities are also needed to help the country transition from an agricultural to a knowledge-based economy.
Planning For the Future
Several long term projects have been launched or are in the pipeline for the benefit of the IT industry. These focus on infrastructure development, HR base development, company capability development through international certifications, fostering innovation/entrepreneurship, adoption of ICT in public sector as well as domestic demand generation for the ICT products/services.
Moreover, other countries are also encouraged to explore opportunities of investing in Pakistan’s which could include company acquisitions and mergers, collaborate to invest in Information Technology Parks, Software Development Centers, Software Testing Centers, Technology Incubators, IT Training Centers, IT Consulting Centers, Gaming and Animation studios, Call Centers, Billing Centers and Data Centers.
All in all, Asim Shahryar, MD PSEB seems determined and focused in his mission to turn Pakistan into a knowledge-based economy.
AutoSoft Successful Worldwide OEM partnership and SAP Partner Enablement on Mobile Platform 5.1.3
AutoSoft Dynamics (Pvt.) Limited is pleased to announce its signing up as SAP’s only strategic OEM partner for SAP Mobile Platform 5.1.3 in Pakistan. Through this OEM partnership, AutoSoft will deliver mobile banking and payment solutions including a complete branchless banking ecosystem built around its conventional and Islamic Banking platform to provide financial services to the unbanked community around the globe.
As part of its partner enablement process, AutoSoft’s team just completed a comprehensive knowledge sharing session on SAP’s latest mobile platform 5.1.3 in Dubai. The sessions were conducted by SAP’s consulting Services expert from Germany with the intent to enhance the expertise of AutoSoft team on latest SAP mobile platform.
SAP’s mobile payment and mobile banking services are accompanied by web and mobile user interfaces (Smartphone Mobilizer) to cover the full customer life cycle (customer on-boarding, customer self-care, customer care) and processing of financial transactions (person-2-person, merchant payments, airtime top-up, remittance etc.).
Through this platform AutoSoft will be able to provide mobile financial services through numerous channels that include consumer, administrative and agent portals, Mobile Applications (hybrid/native), USSD, SMS, POS and much more. The solution provides easy integration capabilities with different back office systems including Telco’s, remittance providers, credit card acquiring system and offers out of the box integration with AutoSoft’s Core Banking Application (CBA).
This partnership will enable AutoSoft to independently package the SAP mobility platform technology with its product worldwide that will allow AutoSoft’s customers to take advantage of the combined solutions more readily due to an aggregated pool of sales resources and support to address different technology requirements and business needs.
HR Problems at Mehran
Running a fairly large organization; 400 staff spread across at 28 different locations in Pakistan - required a fair amount of effort to manage their employees' and HR processes of attendance, Leave and Payroll management. The key issues were:
TimeTrax: on-Premise HCM Software
eAttendance: Attendance Management Solution
eLeave: Leave Management Workflow Software
ePayroll: Payroll Management Workflow Software
TimeTrax is the absolute, adaptable on-Premise and on-Cloud HRM/HCM Solution that enables organization to carry out all HR operations with ease. One of the bigger challenges Mehran were facing was of managing workforce attendance and subsequently the workforce movement-tracking.
At times the direct and indirect costs of absenteeism and tardiness are greater than the direct payment of wages, thus causing lost productivity and incomplete/delayed tasks. TimeTrax eAttendance (Attendance Management System) helped Mehran Enterprises achieve a smooth and efficient attendance process with traceability & had an extremely positive effect at all workplaces/locations since it is a pivotal tool not just for HR Managers but for the entire organization as well.
The eLeave module gives comprehensive management of all types of leave(s) which are defined as per Mehran Enterprises' leave policy/rules. By handling leave management automatically with eLeave, Mehran Enterprises can now manage the entire employees’ leave(s) application/approval process; recording leave entitlements and utilized leaves monitoring, etc. paperwork has been eliminated and direct communication between the staff and employer has improved.
TimeTrax ePayroll, a highly automated and specialized module of TimeTrax, ePayroll ensures that employees are always paid correctly and on time in just a couple of clicks. ePayroll with complete payroll management capabilities is reducing payroll administrative overhead and the risk of errors/miscalculations at Mehran Enterprises.
TimeTrax also comes packaged with an Employee Self-Service (ESS) feature that grants every employee of Mehran Enterprises a personal space from where their personal information as an Employee or Manager (through Manager Self Service (MSS)) is updated and kept current. This feature is accessible through a secure logon and helps employees and HR departments keep their records and documents updated. This wipes out the need for HR personnel to enter redundant/repeated info and cuts down the risk of causing human errors in data entry and retrieval.
TimeTrax, the All-in-One Human Capital Management Software for all workforce needs simplifies & automates HR processes including Attendance, Leave & Payroll at Mehran Enterprises by providing a unified intuitive interface which is reducing errors, eradicating all manual tasks & paper-pushing, therefore saving time & effort at all levels.
Mr. Khalid Zaki, Head of Accounts and Supply Chain Management testifies that:
“TimeTrax Human Capital Management (HCM) Software has truly helped us organize our HR administration. This is one integrated solution to manage all HR functions and we are managing Attendance, Leave and Payroll which really saves our time, efforts and cost. The software is really easy to use and full of HR functionalities. We have across Pakistan various locations. It’s great that the employees can get the HR information they need like Attendance, Leaves, PF, Gratuity, Loans status; Leave/Loan request etc.
Customer Support has also been superb from TimeTrax, although rarely needed. We recommend TimeTrax to all companies!”
ASP .Net Framework 3.5,
Crystal Reports & Microsoft SQL Server 2005