Although C Square wasn’t exactly a pioneer to the business in Pakistan, it has definitely striven well to benchmark the discipline of IT Consultancy in Pakistan. In an interview with IBEX Magazine, Ahsan Mashkoor, Co-Founder, C Square Consulting, discusses how C Square Consulting is consciously making an effort towards it.
Please give a brief about your professional background?
Good morning. Yes, we shall start from that. In a manner, I consider myself quiet fortunate to have begun my career as a Marketing Manager at a Multinational FSI in London. It provided me a better chance to understand the challenges that business face today, at the very beginning of my career. Moreover, it also provided an opportunity to work and interact with global conglomerates. I have always been interested in Sales and Marketing. After I came to Pakistan, I joined NCR Corporation and then moved on to Genesys Telecommunications as a Regional Manager. My role there was to facilitate Business Development in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Before co-founding C Square, I was fortunate to have worked within both industries, FSI and Telecom. With C Square, the triangle is complete with IT Consultancy as the third pillar.
Please tell us about your company?
I, with my partner, had founded C Square in 2009, with a mission to deliver the best IT Consulting Services for Communication Solutions and Data Security. Today, it is a leading name in IT Consultancy for providing quality services to its customers across the globe. In short, we are an IT Consultancy firm that strives to bring innovation in the field of information technology.
The company was started at a time of recession. What are the challenges you have faced so far in getting business with the industry, and in retaining the client?
At the start of the recession typically we see a common cry all around, I would say negativity in the environment. However we took recession as a very positive scenario, we turned it into our strength and decided to project our services in the international market which was highly cost conscious at the time. Initially we started of with a fairly small team who was skilled and had the domain knowledge to execute such projects, we simply joined hands with the larger Systems Integrators in the Middle East and Africa who were in need for cost effective services. As time passed we moved on to increase our strength of quality resources and continued to exert our efforts in the international and local market. By the grace of God we now have a dedicated support team that looks after the international and local clients, that ensures in providing top quality service within outstanding turnaround times. At the end of the day it is the team that allows us as business to retain our clients and to ensure their satisfaction.
Once we had penetrated into the international market, we then concentrated on the local Pakistani market which by far has a lot of potential. However the challenges in the local market are significant as well, as I would point out that the corrupt practices in our country are a great hindrance in doing business. However as an organization we believe in complete transparency and we follow ethical practices. And today, we stand as an example that nothing is impossible if pursued diligently.
What’s the present situation of IT business in Pakistan?
Pakistani IT industry has flourished in the last decade, with organizations wanting to improve the way they do business. If you compare certain Middle Eastern countries where we have worked as an organization, we feel that Pakistan is fairly ahead with respect to the IT infrastructure in place. Although we need to keep in mind that still there is immense room for growth in the local industry as technologies evolve and improve over years.
What are the main reasons that companies don’t implement latest technologies?
Human beings resist change, it is not very easy for an individual to change the way he/she works. Not many individuals think about the betterment of the organization they work for, they just resist as they would have to change the way they perform work. At times better technologies create accountability and automation; both are something that human beings try to run away from. Secondly just as consumers don’t buy latest technology due to price sensitivity; businesses also don’t indulge into the latest technology right away. More profitable or larger institutions may be the first ones to adapt new technology. Last but a very essential reason why businesses don’t implement in the latest technology is because they feel that the expertise to deliver such a solution may not exist at that moment and time.
Which sectors are in need to implement new technologies?
The most neglected industries with respect to adaptation of technology are health and education. Internationally there has been much advancement in these particular sectors but locally
It is education and health sectors that are the most neglected ones in the local industry.
What would you like to recommend to the government sector with regards to their usage of software technology?
I believe it should be the other way round; Government institutions should set examples for private institutions by not only implementing the latest technology but also to provide cutting edge customer service. It is unfortunate that in Pakistan most Government institutions are at a stand still, they definitely procure the best in breed technology but the real question is will they use it to the organizations benefits. Just procuring best technology is not the solution; you require the right resources to use it.
What are the major issues faced in dealing with local your clients? (Is there any lack of knowledge in your clients?)
The case for C Square is quiet different from others in the industry. Here, our main priority has always been to better cater to our customers’ needs. For this purpose, we work on understanding the business requirement and then come up with recommended solutions to better fulfill them. In this way, there is a minimum chance of confronting with a problem. Moreover, we also keep up a follow up with our customers for post implementation issues. Therefore, until now we have managed to maintain a healthy portfolio of satisfied customers.
As far as customers’ lack of knowledge is concerned, we make sure that they are well informed of their business requirement and choose respective solution that can better fulfill it, rather than pursuing any less competent solution.
How do you compare the local market with other countries in which you are operating?
The politico-economic situation in our country is a great barrier to the development of the local market. In addition to this, the lack of infrastructure and resources are also hindering the IT-led transformation in the local market. But the good news is, the industry has greatly expanded in past few years and the potential of the emerging talent is immense. Compared to Middle East market, the opportunities are greater in the local market. If provided with the right direction, the local industry can excel much faster than other markets in different countries.
Is Pakistan lacking in skilled resource?
I think the problem here is not with the lack of skills but with the lack of support. Despite the fact that there are thousands of students graduating every other years in IT related field, the local market is facing a dearth of competent skilled force. This is because the fresh graduates are not provided with the right direction and support that can make them useful resources. Otherwise, in terms of capability, the local talent can outperform many others in international market.
Who are your main competitors in the local market and how do you compare yourself with them?
As far as local industry is concerned, there are quiet a few players in this line of business and they don’t have a global reach like ours. So we are the leading global solutions providers in the local industry and provide the high quality services at par with international standards.
How do you see the regulators of Pakistan? What improvements are required?
There have been few encouraging steps in this regard. First of all, The Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) was set up a few years ago for encouraging the growth of the software exports in the country while software development has also now been giving official status as an industry.
On the other hand, the Action Learning Centers of Excellence still work very much in theory than in real practice. We can say the regulation case has improved over time but it is still too little and more can be done in this regard.
Why one should select your company and give you business? What is you edge?
Well, firstly, our entire business model is quiet different in that, we work with the customers rather than, for the customers. In this way, we keep assessing them from pre-implementation to post implementation issues which is hardly done by any other in the industry. Moreover, we provide the most cost effective and standardized global solutions that can help the local industry to bring their business as par excellence with international market.
Do you think that there is potential to invest in this field in near future?
Absolutely. There is immense potential for this business in future, considering the rapid innovations in information technology. As the global market is shifting towards more and more technological solutions for their businesses, the demand will surely increase in the local industry.
What would you like to advice new entrepreneurs entering into this field?
I would like to suggest that Pakistan has great potential to become one of the leading IT industries of the world. Although the resources and conditions are hindering the business process in this regard, but things have greatly improved over time. And if more emerging entrepreneurs step in to drive the industry ahead, then surely it will progress at highly accelerated rate. In short, the opportunities do exist but they needed to be explored.