Zulfiqar Qazilbash, is the Vice President of Strategy and Commercial Operations at Transworld Associates. He brought with him international experience in the field of operations and strategy making. Working in Transworld, Zulfiqar Qazilbash has earned a stellar reputation for the company as the preferred global connectivity and internet backhaul provider in Pakistan. He has successfully harnessed team effort to produce exceptional value proposition and has developed a reputation for his innovations that led to increased market share.
Give some brief introduction of yourselves?
ZULFIQAR QAZILBASH: I am associated with the Transworld Associates in the capacity of Vice President Strategy and Commercial Operations since July 2008. Prior to joining Transworld I was in US working in IT and Telecom sector. I have worked as CEO of Fuel Motion Inc, a technology company based in USA. I was the founder p of iVivity, a multimillion dollar venture capital funded US corporation focused on the introduction of new technology for the 10GB telecom and storage markets. After a successful exit, I decided to come back to Pakistan.
Do you really think that there are a difference in tech companies of Pakistan and US?
I have found that there is not much difference at the higher management level decision making. They operate at the same level. Same is true of fresh graduates coming from top universities like IBA, LUMS, GIKI or NED. They are at par with the US graduates. But in Pakistan we have a problem at the middle management level as we dont focus enough on their development. In US companies spend a lot on training their middle management as actually they are the ones who are key in implementing whatever strategy is devised by the top layer.
What was the reason for Transworld?
In the early part of this decade, considering the dynamic growth in the IT and Telecom sector after deregulation, the Government encouraged foreign investment for setting up an alternate international carrier for the data and voice operators. Before Transworld, there was only one service provider – PTCL. The government decided wisely to have competition in the sector. Now the users have greater choice, they can opt for PTCL or TWA. When we launched services in 2006, our aim was to be the preferred global connectivity solutions provider to the large ISPs and voice operators of Pakistan. We have achieved his by focusing on network quality and customer satisfaction, in an environment that respects and empowers employees and rewards initiative, competence and integrity.
What are the achievements of Transworld?
Our biggest achievement and our competitive advantage is the quality of service we deliver to our customers. By now all major ISPs and all leading voice operators are our customers. And most importantly they are not only connected to us but also prefer to grow with us. We have been able to achieve this by focusing on the network and quality of operations for which we hired the best people. Then we created a culture of customer satisfaction in the entire organization from top to bottom. We believe in building lasting relationship with our customers by being responsive to their issues and understanding their needs. We believe that global connectivity is a vital part of the development strategy of any nation. It is the empowering tool which if used properly can shape the destiny of a nation. In the connected world of today, companies cannot survive in isolation and economic growth is not possible without strong collaboration and communication with the rest of the world. Our goal is to improve Pakistans communication backbone and bring it at par with international performance, reliability, availability, stability and scalability standards. To facilitate this ambition, we have spared no expense to build a state-of-the-art, privately owned and operated DWDM fiber optic submarine cable network. Our landing station is the biggest and most technically advanced in Pakistan, and is widely acknowledged as the best run operation in the country.
What kind of services do you provide?
As I have already told you, we are the internet and international connectivity carrier to Pakistans broadband service providers. For our IPT product, our global connectivity network stretches from the Atlantic coast in Europe to the Pacific coast in the far East. We peer internationally with the best in class Tier 1 operators. International capacity is brought into Pakistan through our privately operated cable system which connects to all major transcontinental consortium owned submarine cables at our two landing sites in the middle-east. This allows us total network control. We utilize route diversity and have developed our international network over multiple cables systems which allows us to offer the best SLA based on international best practices to our customers in Pakistan. Our network offers unsurpassed protection against DDOS attacks. In a recent customer satisfaction survey, our customers rated our IPT service with the best latency and peering characteristics and identified our award winning and proactive 24/7 customer service, as a welcome change and significantly superior to our competition.
Do you have a data centre?
Yes indeed. Data centre is an integral part of the service but is unsurpassed in its value proposition. Unlike other datacenters, the Transworld Data Centre (TDC) is located inside our landing station, which is a purpose built telco grade building outside the law and order issues of the Karachi metro area. The data centre is built on Tier III architecture and we let companies purchase rack space and physically house equipment. There is no last mile issue since essentially you are located in the internet exchange of Pakistan. This makes this the best location for cloud services, disaster recovery, virtual PoPs, and web hosting. We have made a huge investment in this state-of-the-art data centre to provide an enabling environment from which our clients can seamlessly deliver services to their operations and the internet community in Pakistan.
Can you stop grey telephony?
The grey telephony issue comes under the purview of PTA. When an ISP seeks bandwidth from us we do our due diligence and provide the required information to the regulator. Whether he then uses it for right purposes or wrong purposes, we have no way of knowing and it is not our concern. PTA has a vigilance department which tracks and controls these activities.
What prospects do you foresee for 3G?
Introduction of 3G no doubt will increase the data usage in Pakistan particularly in the case of cellular operators. There are a few problems also which will impede growth. For example, the majority of our population understands only Urdu but there is very little content available in that language on the net. Because of this and low affordability capacity of the majority of the cellular population, there may not be as much of a rush on most of the globally hosted popular 3G applications other than free video. In order for 3G to catch on a big scale, we need more Urdu content and free or extremely cheap applications relevant to our population.
Should Pakistan aggressively filter internet traffic?
Some countries like Iran, North Korea and Myanmar have adopted this approach. But I feel that we are part of the global village and we can drive benefits only if we remain attached with them. Surviving in isolation is very tough. A closed society gets behind. We should be committed to the global community, interact with them as equals and play accordingly to the international rules.
Is it difficult to operate in Pakistan?
Yes, at times it is. But let me also assure you that it is not a big problem. Such kind of problems do exist even in the developed world. If you work with the government it is usually problematic and time consuming. It is true even in the US. In our case we have not faced too many hurdles as the government wanted to bring competition in the sector. Corruption has not emerged as a hurdle for us may be due to our multinational ownership but again I feel that corruption is not limited to Pakistan alone it is everywhere. You can never totally eliminate it – Strong regulation and good governance is about keeping it in control via checks and balances.
How much bandwidth do you have?
Enough so that we can easily manage bandwidth requirements for next 20 years. The telecom industry has done wonders in Pakistan during the last decade. The number of mobile phone subscribers has jumped from less than 300,000 in 2001-2002 to over 110 million in 2011-12. There are more than two million broadband subscribers and five million smart phone users. These are very good numbers and broadband is making rapid progress in the country. But there are also some worrying signs for the operators as depreciation in Pak Rupee is accelerating against the US Dollar. It has increased 33 per cent during the last four years as one dollar which was worth Rs 60 in 2008 has gone up to Rs 93 in 2012. This is a big problem as the local operators buy their bandwidth in dollars but have to sell it in rupee. The government should be mindful of the issue. The power and fuel crisis is another headache for the corporate sector, as their performance gets affected due to frequent power break downs. There also needs to be a joint effort between the government and industry for investing in the development of the content in Urdu and for promoting e and m-government and commerce. During the last decade the IT infrastructure has been deployed all over the country and now a government push is need to turn it into an economic engine of growth. Investors should look at the various opportunities. The capital expenditure may look high initially but the numbers speak for themselves – once their business picks up there will be no looking back. There is still no facebook like product in urdu. The next crop of Pakistani billionaires can be produced right here.