Interview with Dilawar Syed
President OPEN SV
Q. What are your impressions of the recent visit of the PSEB delegation to the US?
A. We believe it was the first successful dialogue between some emerging ventures and leaders in technology in the US , in particular, in Silicon Valley where OPEN hosted the PSEB delegation. Clearly, much will depend on how well we sustain this interaction. And, more importantly, how effective entrepreneurs are in working with the leaders they met, and developing relationships that can lead to tangible business results in the future. Personally, I’d like to see more niche than breadth in such visits in the future. For instance, mobile is a hot market in Pakistan and the region. Perhaps, we should focus on such areas.
Q. How would you rate Pakistan IT services industry and its prospects?
A. Broadly speaking, Pakistan has made strides in becoming an off-shoring destination. And there has been a consistent rise in the number of companies off-shoring development work in Pakistan, as well as, some business process outsourcing. This is still mostly a small- to mid-size enterprise phenomenon. In fact, many high-tech and services entrepreneurs amongst the OPEN community have set up operations in Pakistan.
We have yet to attract brand-name technology players to set up operations at a significant scale in Pakistan . I believe we can get there but that would require a significant improvement in the perceived business climate.
OPEN Silicon Valley is continuing to play its role in facilitating relationships between both the public and private sector, and the broader tech industry. We want to enable enough success stories that Silicon Valley starts to take notice. The Diaspora played a crucial role in the rise of India, China and other nations in the tech sector; given our community’s level of success and emerging influence here, I see no reason why we cannot replicate this with Pakistan . Clearly, this will require sustained efforts in the future on both sides.
- What are some of the challenges facing Pakistan IT services industry?
A. Pakistan needs to ensure greater supply of quality talent, especially, if we want to attract large companies. Most development efforts by Fortune 100 companies require thousands of developers to staff critical projects. I am not convinced we are there. There will need to be a concerted effort to invest in, as well as, ensure our curriculum meets the world standard. It is critical we focus in making our curriculum holistic. At the stage at which Pakistan is entering the global market, entry-level development work is becoming increasingly commoditized. If Pakistan wants to provide value-added services, it would need to train the talent in disciplines such as management, product development and marketing.
- Can you name specific areas in which collaborative links between PSEB and OPEN are in the offing?
A. Yusuf Hussain, MD PSEB, and I sat down and discussed in detail specific areas in which we can collaborate. We hope to roll out a formal mentorship program in summer this year, in which our senior business leaders will have a formal role in mentoring and advising emerging ventures in Pakistan. We have also discussed offering a joint OPEN SV-PSEB Job Board on our website. There is a battle for world-class talent and we want to expose the talent in Pakistan to top opportunities here. Similarly, our leaders who have set up operations in Pakistan can publicize the opportunities through this medium.
What is OPEN Silicon Valley ’s vision and plan in the New Year?
- OPEN SV has significantly stepped-up its mentorship and networking initiatives, besides some of the strategic efforts I shared with you earlier. Our vision is to transform OPEN SV into a world-class platform that drives success in entrepreneurship and business leadership not only amongst the Pakistani-American community in Silicon Valley, but also with Pakistani entrepreneurs around the world, including in Pakistan. Given the Valley’s leadership in business and in high-tech especially, we are ideally placed to play a broader role.
With respect our specific segments, we are focusing on early-stage entrepreneurs and corporate professionals who’re in the first 5-6 years into their career. We believe strongly that this is where mentorship and guidance is needed the most. To this end, we are offering more than twenty-five events this year: monthly workshops, panel series, networking mixers, etc. There is incredible energy and enthusiasm at OPEN SV, and we have seen an influx of new members over the past few months.
Our biggest event of the year, OPEN FORUM 2008, is planned for June. Pakistan Link readers will be amongst the first to know that our theme this year is “Leading through Change”. Clearly, there is change in the air on many fronts, and we have adopted the theme to facilitate a discussion on how, as a leader and entrepreneur, you manage during a time of change. This will be our 5th annual conference. And it comes in a year, when OPEN celebrates its 10th year. So, this promises to be a world-class event where hundreds of entrepreneurs, business leaders, policy-makers and professionals will converge. We will soon make the agenda available on our recently re-launched OPEN SV website: www.opensiliconvalley.com. I hope to personally welcome many of your readers to Palo Alto in June.