GHAURI – THE BOOK
It is strange that the successful businessmen in Pakistan avoid sharing their success stories with the young generation. They do not take the burden of compiling their life struggle.
Keen Eye Sharp Mind Salim Ghauri
Salim Ghauri is the the CEO and Chairman of NetSol Technologies Ltd. Lahore, Pakistan. It is a wholly-owned subsidiary of NetSol Technologies, Inc. established in USA. He has been a software developer since the early 1980s, and between 1981 and 1995, he designed and developed financial applications for large size databases.
Before establishing Network Solutions, Mr. Ghauri was a successful IT consultant in Australia. His last assignment was with BHP Steel in Sydney. As a system integrator he was responsible for software and hardware solutions. His main achievement was the introduction of a PC-based network in BHP Steel. From 1988-89, Mr. Ghauri consulted with the State Rail Authority of NSW Australia for its MIS reporting.
Before moving to Australia, he was in Saudi Arabia, where he started his IT career at Citibank, Riyadh in 1979. After leaving Citibank, he started his first venture with the help of local funding. Mr. Ghauri is credited with setting up the first IT-based training institute and a software house in Damam, Saudi Arabia.
KalPoint.com: Please tell us briefly about yourself, your education and brought up?
Mr. Salim Ghauri: My name is Salim Ghauri. My basic education is in computing. I got my petroleum engineering in 1977. But I pursued computing because one of my subjects in petroleum engineering was FORTRAN language and I had developed flair of computing. My career started in 1979 with City Bank in Saudi Arabia in its IT department. From 1979 to 2004, I’ve been living my life in the kingdom of IT. I worked for City Bank for 5 years and in 1986 I moved to Australia as an IT consultant till 1995. After that I came to Pakistan to establish an IT consortium here. This was briefly about me.
KPDC: Put some light on the working domain of NetSol Technologies and what achievements are on your credit for NetSol?
M. S. G: We don’t call NetSol Technologies a software house but a software technology partner. Besides software development, which is the single area of our working, we are actually focusing on higher value service area of more consultancy side and more looking at the issues in business and trying to help them out. NetSol has been a very lucky company because it came in to being in right time. We started business in 1996, it was the time when IT was the most talked issue and we were able to get in to business quickly. But besides being lucky, our people worked really hard. Once we got the business from overseas we worked hard and delivered the quality product in time
As far as our achievements are concerned, we have developed a financial application that caters leasing businesses. Only a few companies in the world have developed such applications. At the moment our product is running in 9 countries like Australia, Japan, Thailand & Korea etc. These are not commercial countries for Pakistan. Most Pakistani companies work for USA and Europe but NetSol has focused on Asia Pacific Region. Our customers are in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Singapore etc. One of the best achievements of NetSol you can mention is, NetSol is focusing on different areas in the world apart from USA and Europe. We are also in North America. We have a company that is based in USA where we are training professionals.
We again were lucky when we did our IPO in 1999. Another aspect is of the quality we offer and we are dominating the market in Pakistan as far as quality is concerned. It is our belief that if you want to compete with the world (including India and China), we need to focus and have the edge if we want to get the business. NetSol has done that MashahAllah. We are looking forward to improve our quality to highest level and we are quite successful in that. Besides that we have developed a very structured approach to do business. We believe that Pakistan IT means lots of NetSol’s and KalSoft’s. At the moment we can’t tell to the world that we have IT industry in Pakistan. We need many more progressive and professional companies like KalSoft and NetSol in order to tell the world that an IT industry does exist in Pakistan.
KPDC: What is the perception regarding Pakistani IT & Software industry in Europe and USA?
M. S. G: Fortunately and unfortunately there’s no perception of Pakistani IT industry in Europe and USA. It’s good that not many people know about us so we can go and sell smoothly and create a new good perception. India has created the perception in international market; it has been there for the last 20 years now. Some people like them and some don’t. Pakistan is a different country, which is bitten by lots of tribulations because of Afghanistan, Iraq and other issues. Now it’s up to us to create that good perception. What we do today, will affect our next generation.
I believe next 5 years are critical for us because Pakistan IT area has reached now at a place from where it can take off. I am very optimistic about the future of IT in Pakistan. We will neither compete with India nor will become that big. We have our own identity and will create a whole new perception in the international Market InshahAllah.
KPDC: How do you see the future of E-Commerce in Pakistan since E-Commerce solutions are not being taken up, as it should be by the Pakistani Businessmen?
M. S. G: Let me tell you a story of two shoes salesmen, one from a US company and other from some UK company. They were going to a very poor African country. When they got to that poor country, they observed that no one wore shoes. The UK guy called at his office & reported that there was no market of shoes here and it was useless to sell shoes. On the other side the US guy called at his office and said, send me a container of shoes, I see a big market of shoes here. Moral of the story is that there are two different ways of observing things.
Kalia Group is amongst the pioneers of E-Commerce in Pakistan through www.MallPk.com and you have done the basic work. Certainly there is growth but slow so I don’t believe that people are not exploiting E-Commerce at all in Pakistan. The Internet awareness has grown up in the last 2 years. By looking at half a million visitors at your website and more than hundred thousands registered members of your services like matchpk.com, jobspk.com and others, one can guess the people in Pakistan are now ready to utilize the Internet positively. We have to give them the confidence and trust and how we give them, that’s the challenge. As you increase the confidence your customer base will grow. You in fact, are the pioneer in the right time at the right place. Its up to you how long it will survive. If you survive long enough, you will lead. If you don’t somebody else will do. Whenever I have to travel I buy tickets online and now e-ticketing has also been started here in Pakistan and I do exploit the facility. So the people are now gradually realizing the significance and the facilitation E-commerce offers and thus going towards it.
KPDC: What is your opinion about the current steps being taken by Pakistani Government for the endorsement of IT in the country?
Mr. S. G: No Government in the world has developed IT sector. It was all individual effort. If you look at the advent of computing it was all people’s initiatives and hard work that made this dream come true. I think the current Government’s step for the endorsement of IT in the country, are enough. If more they do, they will interfere in our business, which we don’t want. Govt. gave us tax waiver and reduction in bandwidth rate, which is still expensive, but reduction is enough as compared to previous rates.
Personally I would focus my energies to work on my wellness and let the Government of Pakistan do betterment for the country. If we depend upon Government we can never be a mature company. We have to be mature by ourselves in our process of quality initiatives & CMM level complaint process etc. It is excellent by the Government that they are paying the cost of our CMM initiatives. We should try to share our experiences looking at our businesses that how we can help each other to grow.
KPDC: What is the scope of Internet banking in a country like Pakistan where Internet is mainly used by the population for checking their emails and chatting only?
M. S. G: This is our culture that we are skeptical about new ideas in the beginning. Unfortunately we come forward late in the race of adopting new ideas by different countries. That’s the basic flaw in my view. I worked very hard when I just started. Nobody was ready to automate. If Pakistanis don’t change their ways now, they will be left far behind. And with the realization to that this is amazing that how public sector is moving aggressively to automate. I believe that from here onward you will see that there will be more pressure on us.
4 years ago we went to Japan with Dr. Atta Ur Rehman & top companies’ representative. Senior executives of Japanese companies and ministers were also present. They were asking questions. One of the questions they asked was how much of your revenue comes from Pakistani business and how much from international business? We said 0 or 2 %. We had no revenue in Pakistan at all. We were earning total revenue from outside Pakistan. This is now changing. 4 years on the track now we can see that our revenue of sum percent trade comes from within Pakistan. It’s again the change of total perception not just one area.
Internet Banking surely has good scope as I told that we are skeptical in adopting new things. So it will take some time.
KPDC: How do you see implementation of WTO in 2005 and its implications on IT Industry?
M. S. G: What you do, will definitely increase the awareness among the other industries to refine its processes and how to refine processes, they will have to opt for automatic tools. This is my personal opinion that WTO will help countries like Pakistan because the Pakistan is too far behind in industrial automation. We don’t manufacture anything practically. It is very difficult for Pakistan to put in billions of dollars for establishing physical industries and also in the presence of cheap industries in China and Taiwan, it is nearly impossible to carve a niche in the international market. But what we can do in Pakistan is, look at the high value products like technologies and services, which don’t take much as compare to establishing car manufacturing or heavy machines manufacturing industries. We have lot of talented professionals and we have edge that we can start now. In this scenario I believe IT industry will definitely be benefited after WTO in 2005 and I am looking forward to that.
KPDC: PSEB has recently taken steps to bring more software companies to limelight. What do you think how many companies possess that potential to come to the level of CMM level 3 and how long will CMM level 3 companies take to go to CMM level 5?
M. S. G: CMM is totally different term as compare to ISO certification. CMM stands for Capability Maturity Module. Unfortunately not many companies understand what maturity means. It is not done over night. It depends up on the resolve of the leaders of that company. If they are willing to accept challenges, then they can get it in a short time. It takes long and strong initiatives to reach at level 5. KalSoft is on its way to CMM level 5 and they have already done a lot but still it will take longer to acquire that landmark.
The question is about the bulk of other companies who are still trying to get the entry level of CMM. For level 2 they have to change their way and culture of business. Yesterday our own consultant was commenting that PSEB is on a fast track. They should take easy because it takes time. Maturity takes time to come. To get gray hair you have to wait long for that age.
I think PSEB has started a good job and I wish them good luck.
KPDC: Do you think anytime in the future a time will come when online shopping will completely replace physical buying?
Mr. S. G: Never. It’s my opinion and I could be wrong. I like to see and touch things before I buy. Internet will take over lives may be in 50 or 100 years. In future the physical things are also going to get changed and it will be difficult to go from A to Z. But in my lifestyle I would like to physically see and touch things before buying. As I said earlier that I do lot of my work through Internet, I like to send flowers & greeting cards through Internet and buy tickets online. In Pakistan online shopping is not going to replace physical buying wholly as people here want to go and spend time in shopping centers especially ladies.
There’s a difference between shopping and buying. You shop for pleasure but when you are in need you buy. The ratio of buying online will grow because you save lot of time and buy with the comfort of sitting at your bedroom but for shopping people will keep going to shopping malls.
KPDC: Do experienced people come up with better ideas or do fresh graduates with newer concepts and thoughts give more innovative ideas?
Mr. S. G: In 1984 when I was in Saudi Arabia in a small company. I was the in charge and was supposed to hire developers and train them. We had a small institute and a software house. I was sent to Pakistan & Philippine to hire people. At that time I was of the opinion that the young guys can bring new ideas and do better job. I wouldn’t even look at the CVs of above 30s. Today I think it was totally a wrong philosophy. Now I am interested to hire a fusion of both experienced and young breed. Young people are full of energy and come up with great ideas but these energy and ideas have to be controlled with maturity. So the company, who has a mixture of experienced and young people, will go a long way.
KPDC: What would you like to say about your visit to Kalia Group?
Mr. S. G: It was a great pleasure and a matter of wonderful experience to visit one of Pakistan’s supreme software houses KalSoft (Pvt) Ltd. I visited different sections of KalSoft and found all of them very futuristic and of international quality standards. Please keep up the good work. Pakistan needs many more software houses like KalSoft.
I witnessed a very impressive work of the portal KalPoint.com. This portal is as good as any portal in the world. This is just the beginning. In the next few years this can become a major venue of information & services to Pakistanis around the world. Well done.
KPDC: Any message for the youngsters?
Mr. S. G: Youngsters must change their attitude about life. Only thing that scared me sometimes is the attitude of youngsters these days. Wherever I went whether FAST, LUMS or any university I talk about attitude in my speeches. Youngsters are very rigid, they must learn to be more flexible in their lives so that they are acceptable to the world. Be nice to others and the rest will follow you. We are also very pessimistic about things so be optimistic and hope for the best. We are a lucky country in terms of resources and talented people; the only effort required is to give them right opportunities so that they can grow.
Questions by Netizens
Q1: With the rapid advancement in computer science and Information Technology how can one keep himself updated? What should he do to be up-to-date all the time? Please do reply me. I have done my BCS recently and am worried about the future. (Rustam – Lahore)
Mr. S. G: This is a very good question. BCS provides basis to one’s path towards computing field. We must look to the areas of interest we enjoy to enhance our skills on those. At the age of 40 I was going to do a course in Australia besides being on job. So one must keep learning by attending special courses of his/her interest at any age. The world is changing rapidly and one can’t remain isolated doing routine job. In our younger times there was no such competition but today with the advent of many career options the current generation has many challenges to deal with. You need to be multi-skilled. So keep learning inside the job or outside the job.
In computing it is not just development that is in demand, there are other areas too like quality assurance, quality engineering and even do*****entation. Most of the youngsters think that if they become developers they will have a safe career but the fact is there is more demand of the people who focus on quality assurance. Such people are paid more because they are very few. Besides development if they can have edge on one of the areas that play a pivotal role in development process, then they can create a distinction amongst others. This is what young people should look into in enhancing the areas apart from development then the chances of job clutching are more for them.
Q2: Please tell me about the future technologies which are about to come in the market and do you think that Microsoft will lose its monopoly in the future? (Samreen – Dubai, UAE)
Mr. S. G: Well, everybody will lose. Look at the history of the world you will find that big Empires have lost but Microsoft is here to stay at least in our generation. I think we should not worry about that. Microsoft will keep dominating the market for at least 10 to 20 years. That will definitely happen one day when someone else will dominate the market.
.Net is a very important technology. I see a strong challenge between Java and .Net Technology and we were very confused what to adopt. So we maintained both technologies in our company. Today’s generation should have the same opinion of balancing their technologies skill-set. As I said earlier one must has to be a multi-skilled professional.
Q3: How do you envisage the market of these emerging technologies like CRM, e-Commerce etc. in Asia especially in Pakistan? (Ali Akber – Karachi)
Mr. S. G: These are all concepts and every growing nation will look at these concepts and adopt them for their benefit. CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is already in use in different ways everywhere but we are totally unaware about it. If it has the future in USA why wouldn’t Pakistani companies adopt it in their tools to enhance their marketability? It certainly has the future. As far as E-Commerce is concerned not only in Pakistan but also everywhere in the world it has a future as I have already discussed a lot about E-Commerce in above lines.
KPDC: Thank you very much for sparing your time here and giving us this very informative and learning interview. C U On Net.
Mr. S. G: Thanks and C U On Net 2.
Interview Credits: education.kalpoint.com