TRG is a global provider of customized outsourcing solutions and proprietary technology to Fortune 500 and FTSE 100 companies. Their domain expertise and breadth of services encompasses Contact Center, Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), Software Technology and Managed IT Services. TRG operates on a global scale with sales offices and operating centers across the world.
Please tell us about your educational and professional background.
I have completed my MBA in General Management from Harvard University in 1999. Before going to Harvard, I worked for 7 years in Pakistan in a textile firm named ‘Tanveer Textiles’, which is owned and run by my family.
TRG is an international BPO firm and I am one of the co-founders of the company. We started the business 8 years ago in Washington DC. At that time, we hired 8 people from different backgrounds and the idea was to build a company with a strong presence in Pakistan. It was our opinion that the Pakistani market has a huge potential for technology services.
What are the major issues/challenges faced by TRG in providing its services to local as well as international clients?
We face major challenges in the local market and I do not think that the business sector is satisfied with these circumstances. We are still lagging behind in the education level as compared to India and Philippines. However, fortunately, we are now improving our performance in this sector on a daily basis.
Our core advantage lies in the very fact that we have cheaper labor available for technical and call center jobs, as compared to India and Philippines, the two major competitors in this industry. Unfortunately, we face critical challenges due to the political situation in our country. It does not only affect our business but also the people and the markets in general. It has an even deeper impact on our foreign clients, such as those in Europe, America, and Middle East. They refrain from doing business with us due to the poor law and order situation in our country.
Despite such challenges, TRG has continued to grow and expand over the years. In 2006, we had 500 people working for us and today, we have 1500 employees. Even in these circumstances, we managed to achieve a 300% growth rate over the past 5 years.
Do you work with local or international clients? Can you name some of your clients here in Pakistan?
We do business with both local and international clients. For instance, we provide call center services, software technology services and other support services to many telecom companies around the world. We also work with banks in both private and public sectors.
We provide call center services to Telenor, Barclays, JS Bank, etc. We have also implemented the Pakistan remittance initiatives for SBP. We have introduced new call center facilities which can be utilized from any part of the world. This initiative was taken a year ago. Remittances are continuously growing and the idea was to eliminate the difficulties which people used to face when sending money, especially in the interior regions.
In your view, what steps should the government take to boost the IT (Information Technology) industry in Pakistan?
It is sad to see the lack of focus on the IT Industry in Pakistan. What surprises me is that the current regime took no responsibility to appoint a minister for IT. The responsibility was initially under the Prime Minister and then it was handed over to Mr. Najibullah, who was followed by Latif Khosa, and then it came back to the Prime Minister again. My point is that the performance of the IT industry will improve if someone from the industry is hired as the IT minister. It is high time that we realize the potential of this industry and build upon the opportunities it presents. For instance, we can address the problem of unemployment since the call center and technology sector provides job opportunities to fresh graduates.
Moreover, I strongly belief that the IT infrastructure in Pakistan is not as bad as it is generally perceived. As compared to India, we are still behind since they have an industry which is worth US$ 50 billion. On the contrary, Pakistan’s total IT Exports Services are worth US$ 2 to 2.5 billion. There is no comparison but our industry has been surviving for several years in spite of the turmoil that it has gone through. All that we need is some focus from the government’s part. This way, we will be able to utilize our strengths which lie in our cheap and talented labor pool.
How do you describe the level of competition in Pakistan? Could you name some of your competitors?
Unfortunately, or rather fortunately for us, we have no competitors. There are companies in Pakistan doing similar work but none operates at a scale which we do. Located in Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad, we have around 1500 people working for us. With this large scale, I think our largest competitor is probably half our size. There is no other company like us. They do not have more than 500-600 employees, which makes us almost 2.5 times their size. However, we might expect some competition in the future as they plan to build their businesses and expand.
What facilities does TRG provide to its employees?
The IT industry is a very interesting industry. It gives you employment right after school without any experience. We give our own training to our employees. Since there is no formal experience required to work at the call center, we implement very extensive training programs. The duration varies depending on the nature of the job, usually ranging from 4 weeks to 8 weeks. During the training programs, we teach basic skills such as customer service and computer skills, while inculcating the product knowledge required for excellent service delivery to the customers. We also offer basic training programs on subjects like Management, English language etc.
Our training curriculum is global and it brings together our company’s experience and strength. The same concept of training is practiced by our offices in America and Europe. Initially, we used experienced trainers from abroad who came to Pakistan to train our employees. However, this is not possible any more due to the poor law and order situation in our country.
Speaking of the working environment at TRG, we provide a very friendly and comfortable workspace to our employees. Fifteen hundred employees is not a small figure – almost 30% of our workforce comprises of females who work in both night and day shifts. People hold a general view that call center jobs are not suitable for females. This is primarily due to the fact that most of the work involves night shifts. We have a shift system at TRG to address this issue. Females who prefer not to work in night shift can work during the day time.
Since we are a big company, we have all sorts of programs. We have banks, telecom companies, etc. which have many growth opportunities within. If you are working with TRG for a telecom company, you may be switched to work for banks and later on you can be promoted for domestic and international client services. This way the salary almost doubles. Furthermore, owing to the communication and professional skills which develop during an employee’s work experience at the call center can enable them to join the sales team of any customer service organization. Working at TRG does open many doors for you.
Would you like to comment on the energy crisis in Pakistan?// What is your opinion about the energy crisis in Pakistan?
There is no doubt that we are undergoing energy crisis at present. I think that the root of the problem lays in the fact that power producers are not getting the finances they require to operate at full capacity. Right now, we have a capacity of 4000 – 5000 MW but we are producing a low capacity that has led to chronic fuel shortages. In addition, there is ample electricity theft involved in the distribution of power that further exacerbates the situation. We have been relying on thermal power entirely and it is time we resort to alternative sources of energy to resolve the crisis. The government should take steps to control the circular debt but unfortunately, there is not much effort put in by our government so far. We need to address this chronic issue to avoid the worst circumstances that this industry can face, as it happened with the textile industry which shifted to Bangladesh.
What are your key criteria for appointing employees?
The criterion varies from business to business. For working in the call center, a basic graduate degree is sufficient, in addition to good communication skills. For a software engineer, the requirement changes to very smart and intellectual individuals who have graduated or post-graduated from reputable institutions. Our requirements depend on the nature of the job.
Being a huge company, do you resist working with small firms?
Well, for very small companies, TRG may not be a viable business to work with, but we do work with some small companies as well. TRG’s core business is to outsource services. Therefore, if a small firm wants to establish a customer service center, it will have to incur costs and invest in software. By outsourcing, such huge investments in capital can be avoided. Small businesses would want to come to us and pay a monthly fee per person which is a more feasible and a cheap alternative. At the end of the day, it is a win-win proposition.
Is there any message that you would like to give to our readers?
My message is specifically directed towards the youth. I would say not to lose hope as there is still hope. Our country has ample potential. All that we need to do is to address some issues and it is the new generation which needs to come forward and take charge.
I enjoy coming across the challenges which we face in a country like Pakistan where the IT industry is still immature. I believe Pakistan is a country where I can make a stronger impact than by living and working in a developed country like America or Canada. Through my education, training, and experience, I can bring a shift here which I cannot bring in the US where there are many individuals like me to offer their services.