Salim Ghauri – CEO and Chairman NetSol Technologies Ltd.
Focal Point recently had the pleasure of talking to Mr. Salim Ghauri who is the founder of NetSol Technologies (previously Network Solutions) and the visionary force behind the company. He is now the CEO and Chairman of NetSol Technologies Ltd. (the Company’s center of technological excellence located in Pakistan listed on the Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE: NTWK)) and also oversees the company’s business in the Asia Pacific Region.
NetSol Technologies is a leading international provider of automated and IT enabled solutions catering to businesses across various verticals of the globe. Since its inception in 1995, NetSol has regimented itself being committed to deliver the best software solutions. NetSol has ever since used highly experienced resources in analysis, development, quality assurance, and implementation to provide a wide range of high-quality consulting services and cost-effective development of customized application software.
NetSol is the first ever listing on NASDAQ by a company with operations in Pakistan, with the development facility in Lahore, and corporate office in USA. Netsol is an IT consultancy and software developer specializing in lease and finance industry whose customer profile includes an impressive list of world renowned blue-chip companies.
Apart from being a successful businessman in a technical field, he is also a person who truly cares for Pakistan and puts much of his effort into giving back to the country. He is truly an inspirational speaker whose passion was revealed when we spoke to him about Focal Point’s vision of progress in Pakistan. Progress is made by visionaries so we spoke to him about how to overcome our problems and head towards prosperity.
Given the state of country both politically and economically, how would you respond to people who say the Information Computer Technology (ICT) is not a priority?
We have to bring value into anything we produce. Unfortunately, we have not had people with vision for the future which has led to where we are today. I strongly feel that we should have switched from being a manufacturing state toward the service industry – especially in the nineties.
So the first thing we must to do now is acknowledge that we are not going to be a manufacturing-based economy and then move towards the service industry. Unlike manufacturing, service based enterprises are easier to set up. They also don’t cost as much.
Just look at our textile industry today. It is heartbreaking to see so many factories closed down because of electricity and other issues. I have so much pity when I see thousands of laborers and workers crying because they don’t have work anymore to feed themselves. Have we faced the same electrical shortage? Yes. But we have had no loss to our productivity because of this issue. In one area, we have over 200 computers running that they themselves are not consuming so much electricity.
Even with light outage, it is cost effective to keep the computers running on other devices because their return will be more as compared to a manufacturing unit.
Let me give you the example of Australia. In 1988, Australia decided that it cannot compete with other countries in their manufacturing. They moved with that vision to shift their economic system to focus on education, technology, and services. That has made such a big much difference for them. Had they not, do you think they could compete with China? Just take the example of NetSol.
The thing is, one of the unfortunate aspects of our society is that we are constantly complaining about what is not right. You can call the richest person in town, or you call the most successful person in Lahore, and they will tell you what is not right. You must ask them: What is right? What works?
One of the goals of Focal Point magazine is to highlight positives in the country. Anytime we discuss problems, we are trying to find practical solutions. From your experience, what does work?
Let me focus on where my strengths are. We agreed that service industry is way for future and that’s my view and I have my reasons to believe that. First of all, it’s about grooming people, educating them, training them, building their skill set, and then you push them into field; it could either be medical, civil, schooling services, or whatever. Let us now focus on IT as a service. Let me tell you about Netsol. Total investment at the time of inception of Netsol was only $50,000. This organization for past 7 years has been the highest IT export. This company is setup in 8 different countries, more than 40,000 customers globally, have captured 90% of the China’s market.
What other company is there that sells software to China on such a large scale? The Chinese are surprised to hear that they are using Pakistani software. I am exporting to China when all are mostly importing. Now, which industry is there that can generate this much revenue? Of course it is the services industry.
Our revenue generation per staff member is much higher than of those mobile operator employees. Our per-head revenue has been much greater. IT industry in the next 5 years will be highly visible in the economy. Over 1000 IT companies are working with over 100,000 employees, generating over a billion dollars in IT export today. However, the State Bank claims that IT export is only 200 million – and they identify this number due to a reason they provide a number that is tabulated on the bases of export.
In the next 5 years, this number will change dynamically, the IT industry will be contributing very much to the economy. We are in business and we have to deal with all the people, though it be companies or government. If I’m invited to speak, to advise, to discuss, to share my opinion, that’s my role as a business to present my vision.
I have lunch with agencies such as with the high commission and they ask for our view on political, social matters and I always to respond with positive.
It has been noticed recently that students feel disappointed and have been getting a feeling that IT jobs are becoming redundant and it is only a matter of data entry. What advice would you give them?
You should look at my resume. When I started, I started at the lowest job in any computer departments. I used to study late nights and work proactively on my own development by learning more and more. Data entry is giving you an entry into the industry. Take that job. Start your career and then grow. If you are not hungry then you will not go around looking for food. But, if you are hungry you will be out hunting and I was hungry.
All the knowledge that I have is acquired, I didn’t go to university for engineering degree. I am a self made engineer, I had hunger for computers. I have notified HR that it does not matter what institute the candidate has attended. There are young developers who may not have even attended school but they are hard working and their work is exceptional, and they are welcome here.
I was in China once with a client of a bank. Over dinner, he mentioned while software delivery, “I have a strange feeling working with you”. Now, strange is negative in my dictionary so I asked him to elaborate. He said, “I’m amazed at how your staff performs. Your young staff comes in the morning and stays late and so committed to their work that they would waive off their off hours, lose sleep, but finish their work to deliver the software in time.”
I don’t understand why they say that Pakistanis don’t work. Come to my Lahore office and observe our young generation working. NetSol is not made by big shots but its young kids. It doesn’t matter what their education background is, or whether they are from top university or colleges. We bring in young talent even from the smallest towns to work. These kids is what makes us a success. You have got to give them the confidence, you give them leadership, you give them love and trust them, and don’t care if they fail. Failure shouldn’t stop you.
There was this student from Peshawar University few years ago, one day he asked: “What is the secret to success?” I said failures. I have failed so many times, but I learned to not only accept my failure but to move on. I’ve failed very often, but I smiled and accepted it and did not blame the world for it. Learn from this and improve. Be honest. It may take long – success takes time and success is not a milestone but a stepping stone for the next.