The day started rather badly. As I arrived at Islamabad airport to catch my flight to Karachi to receive the Aman ki Asha IT delegation arriving from India, there was a flight delay of a couple of hours leaving me just enough time to get home, freshen up, change and head for the Karachi Marriott to take part in the welcome session before dinner. A drive that normally takes half an hour took two and a half hours instead. Bad things happen in threes they say - and this day was no different. Just as I was leaving, I received a call from the wife of my colleague (and P@SHA Chairman) Ashraf Kapadia to say that he had been taken to hospital due to a drug reaction and would not be joining us that evening.
The dark clouds completely vanished, however, the minute I joined the ice-breaking session in progress at the hotel. As the delegates from India and Pakistan introduced themselves and talked about their personal and business reasons for being there, an understanding began to develop that augured well for the discussions and interactions that lay ahead.
The business session the next day was intense, full of positive energy and productive. Ganesh Natarajan, an old friend who was heading the Indian IT delegation, and I provided a snapshot of each of our industries identifying what we saw as the possible areas of collaboration.
The scene was set and the CEOs and VPs from both sides took the ball and ran with it sharing ideas, making suggestions, pointing out challenges, providing possible workarounds and outlining initiatives. While some ideas were extremely ambitious and could possibly work only in the long term, delegates for the most part tried to keep their feet solidly on the ground even though on occasion their heads were in the clouds.
Several initiatives were finalised and champions assigned or volunteered to take them forward. They focus on business-to-business collaboration, connecting young people, starting joint projects centered around telemedicine, entrepreneurship and research, capacity building as well as using ICT to connect communities in both countries.
The massive Indian IT industry earns large amounts of export dollars. The Pakistan IT sector is small in comparison. However, we have our strengths and areas in which we have been extremely successful. As I connected CEOs of organisations to the visiting delegates, it was obvious that they were impressed, and perhaps surprised, with the kind of product innovation happening in this country. Young people creating niche award-winning products have helped develop a vitally dynamic and exciting industry that is going places. Companies in both countries can find unique ways of leveraging each other's strengths and explore areas that are mutually beneficial. It has to start with a few key successful initiatives that result in diversification, revenue generation and community based initiatives. Once this breakthrough takes place, everyone will want to jump on the bandwagon and be a part of the success. Some of the low hanging fruits can be tackled in a very short time-frame and that is what the the Aman ki Asha IT Committee intends to do.
Business done, it was time to party. Except for one, all the Indian delegates were in Pakistan for the first time. Some of them had been advised by family and friends not to venture into what is largely projected and perceived as "enemy territory". However, the apprehensions they harboured on landing in Pakistan vanished very quickly as they combined business with pleasure.
Shopping in Karachi, sightseeing in the beautiful and cultural city of Lahore and exploring the ruins of Moenjodaro, sampling the delicious cuisines that this country has to offer, singing Bollywood songs, and Mehdi Hasan and Farida Khanum classicals as well as some of the common favourites from The Carpenters, Simon and Garfunkel around a bonfire in Lahore and deep in the ruins of the ancient Indus Valley civilization, chatting with shopkeepers, drivers and tour guides as well as technologists, academics, government representatives, entrepreneurs and industrialists - all in a space of less than four days - changed perceptions and ignited the beginnings of warm and lasting friendships based on mutual respect, and shared values, history, language and culture.
The Aman ki Asha platform deserves our gratitude. When Amin Hashwani first approached me with the concept, I must admit I was a bit sceptical. I have been interacting with the Indian IT industry for about seven years and have many friends within the IT community there. We have exchanged delegations and have kept the doors open to possible collaboration. So how would this initiative be different is what I wanted to know? Amin was able to persuade us that it would indeed be very different because of the involvement of the Jang Group and the Times of India. And he was right.
Despite our many previous visits and our genuine and sincere intentions to work together, what we have never done before is actually sit down and explore the possibilities, identify areas that we could start with and have action items and timelines so that we would move forward. That is what made this experience different.
Ours is a small group that has made up its mind to start the process of bringing business people and youngsters in the IT sector together, to create viable connections and friendships that will change the status quo. If we do not embark on the road to peace now, we may forever lose the opportunity… and that would be unacceptable. If not now, then when? If not us, then who?
Jehan Ara is President, Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT & IT Enabled Services (P@SHA).
"There are clear benefits and opportunities in India and Pakistan IT sectors working together. This was the overall understanding that IT committee members from both countries walked away with. Besides immediate 'low hanging fruit' type opportunities, there are also mid- and long-term benefits in working together. We have identified these opportunities and committee members will now work as teams on brining these opportunities to fruition. It was heartening that our discussions were so positive, progressive, and action oriented. While Pakistan sees tremendous opportunities in partnering with the iconic Indian BPOs, there are clear opportunities for Indian IT firms to partner with Pakistan's product based IT companies that have achieved global recognition and market share in prized niche domains. However, when neighbours get together - it's never all business. There was a feeling of a family reunion. And we also ate, sang, partied, and laughed. And that is good."
-- Yusuf Jan, Founder, Mixit Technologies
"I would say the Pakistan ITES sector offers tremendous benefits and synergies for Indian companies as they aggressively look for building global delivery centers for their customers. There are significant hurdles in the way however from a legal and logistical standpoint. Aman Ki Asha is a good effort and though things won't change overnight, it should be encouraged and supported on both sides so we can move our region towards greater economic progress."
-- Nadeem Elahi, Country Manager, The Resource Group (TRG)
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Emotional family reunions, heartwarming interactions with ordinary people
- a Pakistani and his elderly mother on the journey of a lifetime
Part II .....more
Three young people...
"Three young people in Lahore try to escape the reality of their everyday lives. They succeed in ways they least expected"... So reads t .....more
Waiting for peace
"For peace between Pakistan and India it is important to understand that at the northwestern corner of the subcontinent, lie the disputed ar .....more
A recent journey to India gives a young Pakistani woman a lot to think about
By Tanzila Khan
My heart raced with excitement as our plane from Lahore landed .....more
A Lahori's take on Delhi
Pakistani journalist, development professional and blogger Raza Rumi's first book 'Delhi By Heart: Impressions of a Pakistani Travell .....more
Philanthropist and music promoter Jayesh Kotak wants the all-blind Indian orchestra Black to perform in Pakistan, where there is huge musical talent - and potential f .....more
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The News on Sunday Special Report: India Pakistan prisoners more editions
We probably didn't need to do this Special Report. Newspaper stories don't matter when it comes to Indians in Pakistani jails and vice versa. In fact, 'vice versa' sums it up. We do to them what they do to us.
Except when the two countries decide to begin talking, yet again! This time a little before the foreign secretary level talks, some Pakistani prisoners were released by India (and vice versa must have happened) and some more were release....read more
For the past 2 years the Jang Group and Geo have been working on a project of great national interest; one that we hope will help usher in an era of peace and prosperity in the country and indeed, in the region. And one that hopefully all Pakistanis can be proud of. more
The Jang Group has entered into an agreement with the Times of India Group, the largest media group of India, to campaign for peace betw