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Fighting Image Problem: An IT Industry Rises in Pakistan

May 17, 2005. Tech News World

By Athar Osama




When it comes to Pakistan, the "image" belies the reality and seeing is believing. From the shadows of a misplaced image has thus emerged an innovative strategy that seems to do the trick for Pakistan's IT entrepreneurs. This might just be the right kind of "break" the country's software industry needs from its rather lackluster past. Pakistan is fast becoming a happening place for IT.
Nadeem Malik, the CTO of Pakistan's oldest software company narrates an interesting story about his company, Systems Pvt. Ltd--a software development and system integration company formed in 1976. The tale has it that Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's current President and CEO, was once visiting Lahore, Pakistan in late 1970s to attend a wedding of one of his room-mates, a Pakistani fellow, at Stanford University. The gentleman happened to know Nadeem and his associates who had just opened shop in Lahore by the name of Systems Ltd and asked Ballmer to visit them while he was in Lahore. Ballmer--who, along with Bill Gates, had just opened a small software company in the United States--visited Systems' offices in the Chambers of Commerce building in Lahore and was pleasantly surprised. He also suggested some possibilities of "doing something together".
Microsoft Corporation was, back then, a promising yet small venture hoping to make it big someday, and Ballmer, in all fairness, probably thought that they could use the help of these cool guys in Lahore to get there. " Of course, we thought otherwise", reflects Malik, "we were Pakistan's first and largest software company at that time. We thought it a little strange to partner with a small relatively unknown entity (back then) called Microsoft. It turned out to be the single largest mistake that we ever made in our entire careers". Not that one can fault Nadeem or Systems Ltd. for not foreseeing Microsoft's enviable rise as a software behemoth and hence foresee the value of the partnership at that time, the anecdote illustrates the fact that Pakistan's IT entrepreneurs were way ahead of those from other countries in thinking about the opportunity in IT and setting up companies to capitalize on it as back as in 1976 but also that they missed the boat on a number of occasions very early on in the process.


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