Salim Ghauri, Founder & CEO, NetSol Technologies is one of the best known figures from the Pakistani IT industry. He has been cited as the ‘Bill Gates of Pakistan’, a reference to his incredible achievements as an IT entrepreneur. Founded by him in 1996, NetSol Technologies developed rapidly to become the leading software company of Pakistan and is today, the only CMMI Level 5 organization in the country. It has been the country’s leading software exporter for many years and now caters to a truly impressive list of global blue chip customers, including some of the biggest names in the global IT industry.
|“It’s all about successful self-management. Never taking my business problems home is my secret of keeping a great work-life balance. One should leave the tensions of her/his professional life at work while going home in the evening. People keep on worrying about the end result of their efforts twenty-four hours a day. This way they make both their personal and professional lives a living hell. No doubt, there is nothing easy in life.”
SALIM GHAURI IS ONE OF THE COUNTRY’S LEADING IT ENTREPRENEURS AND THE HARBINGER OF DEVELOPMENT IN PAKISTAN’S IT INDUSTRY. UNDER HIS LEADERSHIP, NETSOL HAS GAINED WORLDWIDE RECOGNITION AND EXPONENTIAL GROWTH, TOPPING THE LIST OF IT COMPANIES IN PAKISTAN AND SERVING BLUE-CHIP CLIENTS ALL OVER THE WORLD.
Manager Today: What is NetSol Technologies Ltd’s business philosophy?
Salim Ghauri: To become the world’s leading lease and finance software-provider. We established a niche in the enterprise financial application area, and we like to be a leader in the world.
Would you like to share with us NetSol Technologies Ltd’s brief history? And how it all started?
NetSol was established as an information technology (IT) services company in 1996 in Lahore. In 1999, we became the first company with operation in Pakistan to trade on NASDAQ. Over the last 17 years the company has become a product company. We are now the leading lease and finance software-provider. Our customers are some of the best names in the world. NetSol is the only CMMI-Level company in Pakistan. I have been in the IT industry since 1979, when I got my first job with Citibank’s Computer Department.
Since then, I have designed and developed systems. Before founding NetSol, I was in Australia and worked there as an IT consultant in multiple companies.
With the country sliding back into a serious economic crisis with a high rate of unemployment, what would you suggest to fix the economy?
I don’t think that the country is sliding into a serious economic crisis. All steps taken by the present government are creating hardships for the people at the lowest level, but there are short-term measures which could revive economy better and stronger. I am a firm believer that we will see a turnaround by next year. New job opportunities will be created by new businesses.
We are not poor in resources but in governance. Do you believe good governance can help us deal with this dilemma? What is your take on good governance?
We have seen some very poor governance in the previous government. Fortunately, the present government has better governance record. We see results in terms of institutions performing better.
With the commercialisation of educational institutions, are you happy with the quality of business graduates? And what would you suggest to bridge the gap between industry and academia?
The public sector can never create enough schools to cater for the growing population. Globally speaking, commercial schools fill the gap. Pakistan is very lucky to have produced some very good schools. Some of the private schools are producing top class resources. I hope to see more investment coming into the education sector.
What are the challenges and business/investment opportunities in your industry/sector?
The IT industry is in the growth mode. All companies are in the hiring mode. New hiring has created a resource crunch in the market. It is good for employees but a challenge for companies. Industry is now matured and the success rate is better than other countries. We see a trend in new investment in Pakistan – a very good sign for Pakistan.
What are the three key challenges for CEOs/business leaders in Pakistan?
A CEO faces more than three challenges. First, the biggest challenge is to build a management structure which supports his vision. Secondly, the challenge is to pick up the best people for his management. Thirdly, it is to make sure that the management works as a team. Most companies suffer due to lack of trust among the senior management.
What are the four core competencies of CEOs that you want to see in our new CEOs?
The most important competency is to delegate. It is very difficult for a CEO to let go of his decision-making power and his junior takes some important decisions. A CEO needs to be a good leader where his staff follows his vision. It is important for a CEO to keep abreast of the changing business scenarios. Last but not the least, a CEO needs to have the ability to accept responsibility for failures.
How do you define corporate culture at NetSol Technologies Ltd? How do you make sure that people live, act and breathe your organization’s vision, mission and core values?
We believe that we are creating an institution and not a company. Institutions are built on strong corporate cultures. A company is well delegated to the lowest level. Decision-making is at all levels. A company’s vision is shared at all levels. Our core value is simple; every single person in the company is critical as regards the company’s success.
Do you have a winning team? How do you motivate your team? Assess their performance and make them accountable for results?
We have been on the growth path for the last five years. No success comes without a winning team. The present teams have been built over the last few years. Each member of the team has his or her KPIs and targets. The performance evaluation is done regularly and appreciation is done openly.
Are you happy with the performance appraisals and employee engagement programmes in your company?
I will never be happy, but I am satisfied with the progress we have made with performance appraisals. In our business, HR is the main area of the ongoing improvement. We have a lot more work to do before I become really happy.
Retention of key people is one of the biggest challenges? How do you develop and retain the top talent or the key people who keep the company running?
In the IT companies, HR is the main ingredient for production. The IT companies invest millions in training their resources. Investment is not only financial, but time invested in training is also costly. The loss of losing a resource is very high. We have made a mission to create an environment which is better than all other IT companies. Our HR Department has a challenge to keep assessing the satisfaction level of all our employees.
Is training, coaching and mentoring a high priority for you? How much time/budget do you devote to this? What is the RoI (Return on Investment) of training programmes?
We develop technology that actually does not matter as to how good a school is. Our resources do require specialized training. Our in-house training cost is high, but we are satisfied with the results we are getting.
What measures should be taken to empower women? Does NetSol Technologies Ltd have an anti-harassment policy?
Fortunately, in our industry, women are equal to men. We do create special environments for them to feel equal to men. Our policies are very clear so that women do not face harassment at all.
Do you have any plans of expansion? Where do you see NetSol Technologies Ltd five years down the road?
We have the opportunity to sell our product and services to customers around the world. So far we have captured only a small share of the market in only a few countries. We are looking forward to expanding to more countries in the next five years.
Does NetSol Technologies Ltd envision being global or Pakistani multinational?
We are a global Pakistani multinational company.
What are the top three benchmarks for high-performing CEOs who have created long-term value for their companies?
Build up a reliable and competent team, develop a strong process and enforce implementation, build customer-confidence by assuring quality.
Harvard Business Review’s research enlightens us that E.Q. rather I.Q is highly essential competency for business leaders? Why is Emotional Intelligence important for CEOs especially in tough times?
If a company only needs an intelligent CEO without emotions, then you better get a robot to run the company. Emotional Intelligence is the key to retaining and getting the best out of your team. People get along better with an emotional person than a robot manager.
Business speaks the language of digits. To what extent should a CEO be finance-savvy? What are the three most important numbers in a firm’s financial statements?
A CEO has to take care of numbers and keep the company financially viable. A CEO does not need to be a financial wizard.
Who is your living role-model and inspiration and why?
My father! He was the most positive person I have ever met. He built a business out of nothing. Never gave up in hard times. He taught us to be good with people working for you.
What is leadership to you? What’s your style of leadership? How do you want to improve as a leader?
A good leader leads from the front. He takes the responsibility of failures and credits success to his team. I engage people at all levels. I make myself accessible. I am always happy to listen to good advice. I always have smarter people than myself and avoid who always admire me.
What is your idea of happiness/excellence?
Getting a smiling good morning from the cleaner when I enter my office. You strive for excellence every day. You are never satisfied and constantly want to improve your environment.
Any message of hope to the young generation of CEOs, managers, entrepreneurs and business leaders?
Have a dream and then go after your dream with a robust passion. Never give up. While building and developing your company, be flexible to change.
How many employees are on your payroll?
Lahore has over 1200 employees and, globally, the NetSol employees are around 1400.
Please share with us your company’s last three years’ average revenue growth?
NetSol has been growing over 30 per cent during the last three years.
Any remarkable recognition or achievements so far made?
Over the last 17 years, NetSol has emerged as Pakistan’s distinguished IT industry. NetSol has captured 90 per cent of the Chinese multinational finance market, creating the best IT standards in Pakistan. NetSol has won the highest IT export awards by Taradata for seven years.