Asim Haque, Vice President – Country Leader Sales, InfoTech, trails the early days of InfoTech when it came into existence, to the present day. A mark of pride particularly is the list of achievements InfoTech has managed to secure within one-and-a-half decades. Picking up on what is often underestimated in the early years of career-building, Asim Haque shares with Technology Times his advice on what the budding entrepreneurs of today should keep in mind to be able to survive, and to progress
Would you like to share with us your professional background and current assignments?
I initially started as a developer at a local software development house, so the background has been technical. I worked initially in Pakistan, then later on in the Middle East and Asia Pacific, as the lead for Sales Management, Sales Operations, IT Strategy/IT Management, and Project Management. It is this key skill that has served me quite well within the capacity I hold at InfoTech. I currently look after the management of overall sales for the organizations business within Pakistan. The portfolio of products includes all InfoTechs partners, namely IBM, ORACLE, MICROSOFT, and turnkey solutions particularly of security/networking products such as CISCO amongst others.
Would you brief us about operations of InfoTech in Pakistan?
InfoTech came into existence when its founder and CEO, Naseer Akhtar, decided to focus on Systems Integration business in 1995. The Company has recently completed Phase-I of the deployment of “Biometric Identification Electronic System” with the Sindh IT Department. A mark of honour for the company is the fact that InfoTech is competing with various technology implementation partners, both national and international. The Company has also won a coveted prize in the Financial Services Category at the APICTA Awards 2011, for its product, “Capizar” Suite of Applications. This is a complete end-to-end business solution for all capital markets of developing countries.
Do you foresee IT progressing in Pakistan?
IT is subject to follow a growth path influenced by the overall political state of affairs in the country. An unstable government does impact foreign investments. And that is where we suffer. Tackling one such challenge effectively by utilizing it as an opportunity, InfoTech pioneered the business of system integration in Pakistan. Today it stands as a market leader in several domains such as Business and Information Consulting, and has created a fairly strong, positive reputation as a Systems Integrator.
Why do you think majority of local companies are still hesitant to automate?
That is largely because companies from local industry firefight whenever there is an IT mishap. Instead, these should rather work on defining a crisp and clear technology roadmap for their organizations. They have to define their goals as to where they want to be, 3, 5, 10 years from now, based on their core business and competencies. If they lack a skill set, they should have a comprehensive plan to train and educate their employees and resources. In this context, InfoTech is the only IT Company that has chosen to partner with Oracle Training Center to grow the number of technology experts in the country.
Which sector do you think is in dire need of automation?
I wouldnt be able to respond to this with just one vertical. Although there are many companies who have deployed good solutions, there is by far, a majority of organizations who need to elevate themselves to the standards. The public sector should opt for technology implementations as vehemently as possible, to enable services which could help the citizens.
Any vertical InfoTech is eyeing in particular?
We work with every sector, but historically our association has been predominant in the FSI, TELCO and the public sectors. Automation of business processes in the public sector is very promising. Fortunately, we have a recent reference with the Sindh IT Department with others soon to follow. Generally, automation projects executed at the state-level should give way to impressive references, which can be quoted in the international market. InfoTech intends to stay committed as it considers it as an opportunity area for this decade.
What are the hurdles you face doing business in the local market?
Given an excellent human resource, identifying a competitive edge isnt that difficult if the focus is sustained, and the state acts as a true enabler of opportunities.
How does Pakistan fair with clients from overseas to InfoTechs portfolio?
In my opinion, there is hardly any competition in the local market at present for system integrators.
Hence, the sellers are not under pressure to develop a competitive advantage. With our local skilled resources, Pakistan can compete at a global level very easily, with the Industry and the govt. acting as enablers.
How would you place yourself next to your competitors in the industry?
Personally, I actually value competition. We are constantly striving to enhance our product portfolio, and better our services. InfoTech is expanding swiftly on the international front as well. We handle our International Operations from Singapore which has given us the necessary leverage in dealing with the international clients. The concept behind this global expansion is to earn our due share of the global market.
Do you think our industry is under-skilled?
Not really. How efficiently is the human resource base put to use, obviously differs from one company to ¬her. From a holistic perspective, the field of IT is quite opportunistic to pursue as compared to others as efficiency remains the focus. That in itself is a huge incentive for young IT graduates from our country particularly those inclined towards entrepreneurship. When it comes to retaining quality resource, InfoTech has been quite blessed as it is one of the few SI companies people prefer to work with.
How actively involved is the regulatory wing in bringing about the necessary growth to the IT Industry of Pakistan?
The regulatory sector has worked diligently in the last few years, and needs an ovation for supporting the IT industry as much as it has to date. P@SHAs ICT Awards, held every year in celebration of seasoned IT businesses and the newcomers, are quite an assistance to projecting the desired image of Pakistans IT industry to the international media. In addition to this, PSEB has also been instrumental in taking Pakistans IT industry to forums abroad.
As IT is one of the largest contributors to FDI and FPI to the country via exports, which areas do you think we should grow our competencies in?
There are various areas that need to be looked at very seriously in the next few years. For example, the cloud is becoming ever popular, not just as a buzz word, but in reality to a certain extent. Organizations are slowly recognizing and realizing that if IT is not their core business, then they should leave it to the professionals. Why should they build and maintain datacenters, procure expensive hardware, and keep a huge team of IT resources, when there is someone to either do it for them, or that solution is already available running somewhere.