PSEB Fosters IT Growth in Pakistan
By Aleena Syed
The Western media paints a disturbing picture of Pakistan; one marked by political turmoil, societal unrest and the destruction of infrastructure. Yet, even amongst such seeming chaos, Pakistan is experiencing substantial growth and is expanding both economically and technologically. A “backward” Pakistan is becoming even more of an illusion and a progressive Pakistan is a reality of the 21st century. Pakistan’s future is a promising one with its IT sector boasting growth rates of fifty percent per annum. This thriving industry caters to domestic and international corporations alike.
Such monumental development has been aided by increasing governmental support and international cooperation. PSEB, the Pakistan Software Export Board, is a government agency mandated to promote Pakistan’s IT industry. This includes software, hardware, and IT enabled services such as call centers. Pakistan Link recently interviewed Yusuf Hussain, the Managing Director of PSEB who recently led a delegation of leading IT firms of Pakistan on a tour of US.
He revealed that PSEB has not only helped establish IT within Pakistan’s borders, but has also extended the sphere through outreach programs. PSEB hopes to spread the “success story” of Pakistan’s IT sector and urges expatriates and Pakistani citizens alike to invest. The beauty of PSEB is its quest to create a new image of Pakistan by “branding Pakistan as a modern business trendy country”. PSEB’s faith in Pakistan’s future encourages this new perception.
The financial opportunities expounded by PSEB are astounding for American customers looking to invest in Pakistani companies. Mr. Hussain states that foreign customers can own 100% equity in Pakistani firms and recoup full profit from these companies. Additionally, IT export is tax free until 2016. From PSEB’s work, the efforts of Pakistan government to improve growth are both evident and effective.
PSEB is a tireless organization; one that should be highlighted and brought to the forefront for its achievements and efforts. In the last year alone, PSEB has enabled Pakistan’s IT to grow at a rate of 61%, comparable to only 33% in India.
Mr. Hussain recognizes the importance of higher education in facilitating growth and cites the emergence of technical schools in India as a prime source of expansion. PSEB has taken initiatives to match this in Pakistan. Although education is in the hands of the education commission, PSEB has taken its own steps. Through internship and apprenticeship programs, PSEB hopes to bring higher education and IT together to foster growth and development. The figures for these programs are incredible. PSEB offers the most successful internship system in the nation with 3,000 interns from over 228 academic institutions working in over 250 different companies. These interns have an 80% rate of full employment. Furthermore, to ensure quality PSEB offers $250 monthly for up to a year so that IT companies can train new hires.
PSEB is promoting growth in the present and providing for expansion in the future. As Mr. Hussain put it, “the private sector is the engine of growth”. PSEB is there to support it. PSEB builds IT parks, promotes venture capital, and has greatly improved telecom bandwidth. IT and information security and protection go hand in hand. PSEB is pushing legislature in the form of a data protection act to safeguard medical and credit card data. Pakistan has faced only minor data theft cases in the past; all of which have been effectively prosecuted in court. With protection measures in the works, these cases will be minimized even further.
In order to further international interest in Pakistan, PSEB has launched conventions in the UK and Ireland and hosts customized pavilions. PSEB also travels to the US to introduce American investors to the opportunities Pakistan has to offer. In August 2007, PSEB held a CEO forum. Despite heavy rain, all speakers spoke and the reaction from American attendees was a positive one. Even more recently, PSEB visited Houston, Texas. The board was met with outstanding warmth and hospitality. The Secretary of State and state Congresspersons all met the PSEB at the Chamber of Commerce. The Houston Chronicle declared a “PSEB Day”. Over all such campaigns have been highly successful in achieving the PSEB’s goal; “to create a positive image and counter negative media”.
Naseeb Networks is just one of the many success stories of Pakistan’s IT industry. One of the world’s largest venture capitalists, DFJ, has invested in this company. Naseeb Networks is especially enticing to Pakistani expatriates who can work for the company in Lahore, Pakistan while earning equivalent American salaries.
To learn more about the technological revolution taking hold in Pakistan, PSEB invites savvy investors and IT entrepreneurs to visit www.pseb.org.uk. On the board’s website, programs, job opportunities, and contact information is available. Visit now; be a part of Pakistan’s growth and experience the nation’s potential.
Below is an excerpt from Pakistan Link’s interview with the PSEB:
Pakistan Link: Can you tell us about the successes and accomplishments of PSEB?
Yusuf Hussain: Over the last four years the IT industry has been growing at an average of 50 percent annually. So it really is the biggest success story in terms of growth. The IT industry has grown five-fold over the last four years and there is no other sector in Pakistan that generates such good news on a regular basis as IT.
Even though Pakistan has many strengths, whether in textiles or history or archaeology, IT generates news because products are developing, new clients are signed up; it is very good not only in terms of employment generation or foreign investment generation but also for branding Pakistan as a modern business trendy country. This is very important too. There are dozens of fortune five hundred companies, which work with Pakistani IT companies. We have over 1100 member companies. The biggest companies, General Electric, Coca Cola, McDonalds, Time Warner, you name it they are working in Pakistan. We also have about a dozen companies, IT companies, which are world leaders. For example, a company called Vision Net has 12 percent USA market in mortgage lend processing, the largest chunk of any company. A company called NetSol is the number one company in car leasing in the world. We grew at 61 percent while India grew at 33 percent. So if we sustain this growth rate we will cross India on a per capita basis in four years. And I can go on and on.
Pakistan Link: What does Pakistan’s IT offer investors?
Yusuf Hussain: From the perspective of American customers, Pakistan presents a very compelling value proposition. First of all, in terms of quality Pakistan is a world leader. We have over 130 ISO and NSI certified companies. India has 200 certified, so look at the ratio. The rate of retention of people is much higher in Pakistan. In India, attrition is higher. And cost is much more competitive in Pakistan compared to India, and certainly compared to Europe, and America. From the perspective of American customers they can own 100 percent equity in Pakistani companies.
They can repatriate 100 % of the profits and IT export is tax-free until 2016.
Pakistan Link: Security is essential in information technology. How does Pakistan’s security compare?
Yusuf Hussain: In Pakistan, there are substantially less cases of credit card theft. Over the last year only two or three minor cases. People have actually been prosecuted in court and put behind bars. The intellectual protection regime in Pakistan is, if you look at our electronic transaction ordinance, you will see the Data Protection Act we are about to bring, you will find that we are far more advanced than India.
Pakistan Link: You mentioned that education in India has facilitated the growth of the IT sector. How is the PSEB promoting education in Pakistan?
Yusuf Hussain: Higher education is really the mandate of the Education Commission. And in PSEB we try to do matchmaking between higher education and the IT industry through internships and apprenticeship programs. The higher education committee, which is led by a dynamic individual that we all know, is building nine new engineering universities with foreign faculty and foreign curriculum. They have sent 3000 people abroad for PhD’s, the majority in IT and many are coming back now. There are various other programs to improve Pakistani institutions such as research initiatives and so on. From what I can see they are doing an admirable job.
Pakistan Link: Pakistan Link is widely circulated and read in the United States. What would you like to say to Pakistani Americans about the PSEB?
Yusuf Hussain: First off, expatriates play a key role. We want expatriates to know the success story so that they can become ambassadors for Pakistan’s IT industry in North America because IT has application in all sectors. Everywhere, there is an IT demand. We would invite your readers to visit our website at www.PSEB.org.pk. You will find all this information there including programs. For example, we have a number of programs. We build IT parks; we already operate 11 buildings all over the country. We run the most successful internship program in the country with respect to full employment for interns, which is well above 80%. We have over 3,000 interns from over 228 academic institutions from all over into over 250 IT companies. We run an apprenticeship program where we give new hires of IT companies training grounds of $250 per month for up to a year so that companies can train and improve quality. We bring in legislation.
We are enacting a Data Protection Act so that medical data and credit card data which is sent to Pakistan so that processing is safe. We are promoting venture capital so that innovative companies are facilitated. We are also going to help companies go public. We helped telecom bandwidth increase in quality and decrease in cost by providing international resources. We have a strategy and research arm. We have a facilitation arm that helps in IT matters.
One of the biggest venture capitalists in the world, DFJ — Donald Fisher Jurvetson — has made an investment into a Pakistani company by the name of Naseeb Networks. Naseeb Networks wants to hire Internet architects, marketing and research people. They are looking for expatriates and they’ll pay them equivalent American salaries in Lahore, Pakistan. We would invite those interested to contact Naseeb Networks.