A conversation with Mr. Naveed Siraj on IT sector of Pakistan and role of INTEL in educating the people
Please tell us about your professional background?
I have an experience of 17 years in the IT industry. I started my career in 1993 with a local IT company which was a distribution house. Then in 2001, I joined Compaq which at that time was the world’s leading manufacturer of PCs. Later on, Compaq was acquired by Hewlett Packard (HP) and I stayed with HP for 9 years. I joined Intel Pakistan Corporation as the country manager in September 2010.
In your opinion, what is the present situation of this industry in Pakistan?
Pakistan’s market is constantly growing. The economy can get an additional boost if the IT industry expands as well. According to our indicators, growth in the IT industry contributes significantly in the growth of a country. This industry enables businesses to be competitive and if the businesses are competitive, the country becomes an attractive place for foreign investments. The figures of increasing number of computer consumption and additional services associated with this market clearly indicate that this field is growing and has a huge potential in Pakistan.
A study by World Bank states that for every 10% increase in broadband usage in a country, the GDP increases by 1.38%. This clearly shows the contribution which the IT industry makes in an economy. We can see that the internet usage in Pakistan is already increasing. Increased usage and faster adoption of technology explains that businesses in IT industry are also rising. Due to this trend, people start their own businesses as they can earn more compared to a job.
Please describe Intel operations in Pakistan?
In Pakistan, Intel was the first multinational company of IT which opened its official office in 1997. Immediately after the establishment of this office, we recruited a wide network of resellers so that each and every segment of the market becomes accessible.
Our presence in Pakistan is just to insure that we promote IT and are involved in creating awareness about Information Technology. The business part is actually conducted through our extensive network of distributors and resellers. Business transactions are being done between distributors on Intel in Pakistan and Intel global office of the Asia Pacific Region.
Currently, what are the major issues of IT industry in Pakistan?
As far as the infrastructure is concerned in the public and private sector, improvement is still needed. Recently, we have seen the public sector investing on the infrastructure facilities. We are optimistic that by improving the infrastructure, the result in the IT sector will be a mushroom growth.
Do you think that the private sector can also play a role in improving the infrastructure of the IT industry?
Yes, there are currently many projects undergoing based on a public-private partnership. Intel is working closely with public and private sector to insure that they continue to invest in IT. The greater proliferation of IT will insure that the country is competitive, people are skilled and businesses are productive.
There are a number of NGOs which are being introduced in Pakistan. Pakistan is a resilient nation which was evident only after 6 months of the 2005’s earth quake. The economy was on a boom. Similarly, we are hopeful that this recent challenge of security will also be short term.
What major products and services is INTEL offering in Pakistan?
Pakistan has always been an early adapter of new technology. We are offering everything here which is being offered in the international market.
As far as the revenue and profitability is concerned, Intel had 2010 as the “Best Year” in its history. Being a leader in innovation, there are some fantastic products being launched in 2011 which include desktop, processor technology, mobile, net books etc. Every Intel product is available in Pakistan. The number of computers used in Pakistan in comparison with the population is very low. If that increases, the market can grow at a tremendous pace.
How quickly do you think customers can adopt new technologies in Pakistan?
The main concern among Pakistani customers is the price constraint. First time customers normally have some limitations in terms of their buying power. Nevertheless, we should promote new technology for all segments of society. Intel is offering a range of PCs for first time customers which are affordable for almost everyone.
What would you like to say about the import of refurbished computers?
Pakistan imports a large quantity of refurbished technology which basically is scrap and is being imported intentionally. This act is also violating the United Nation’s convention which has a restriction on cross-border transfer of hazardous material. If you buy a used or refurbished PC, you will not get any value for money or maximum performance.
Computers comprising of new technology consume a limited amount of power whereas refurbished or old technology computers consume several times more electricity. In the long run they are actually costing the customers more.
The government is taking initiatives to stop the import of refurbished technology. As far as the enforcement is concerned, I think the government needs to do more at the ‘Customs’ level. Imports of refurbished computers have the following drawbacks:
- High cost of using PC’s
- Import of Hazardous material
- Casting a bad impression on foreign investors and making them reluctant to enter Pakistan.
The impression we need to give to a foreign investor is that we have an excellent base of skilled workforce which are proficient in new technologies and applications.
How do you see different regions of Pakistan with respect to the hardware market?
As far as the hardware market is concerned, we have covered the entire country. We have enterprise teams which are working with some of the major businesses in Pakistan. Our teams understand the business models of the local community and are able to suggest improvements required in the infrastructure. Every act of Intel is leading to retaining and maintaining competitiveness. Banking, education and the telecom sector are the major areas where Intel has a strong hold.
In the future, what business opportunities do you see in this industry?
Every segment of this industry has potential for major growth. A typical eco system of IT is based on hardware, operating environment, application development and content. In all of these mentioned areas, there are plenty of unexplored prospects. In every sector of the market, there are new areas being discovered for new businesses. For example, I was recently asked whether new applications which are being launched in Pakistan by Intel are available in local languages. I was stuck for a moment and then realized that this is a huge business opportunity for investors or anyone else who takes the initiative to make the content of the applications in local languages.
We already have E-banking in Pakistan. Similarly, there is an emerging business called E-Health. With E-health, people from rural areas can communicate with doctors and health care services in large cities by avoiding the travel cost. Doctors can deliver medical advice online. Content can also be made for farmers to get online advice for their seeds, weather conditions and cultivation techniques.
What is your advice to new entrepreneurs who are interested in entering the hardware market of Pakistan?
According to a research, new businesses always emerge during the phase of recession. Prospects are present in all segments of the IT industry. There are tremendous opportunities in providing hardware solutions. My advice to young people is to be a job creator rather than a job seeker.