The reciprocal visit of a team of IT CEOs from Pakistan to India lived up to the promise generated by the earlier sojourn of the Indian delegation in Karachi and Lahore. After the first India kick-off in New Delhi in 2010, the IT Committee meeting venue this time was the western India city of Pune.
For five participants, it was a hatrick of meetings - Amin Hashwani of the Hashoo group, Humayun Bashir of IBM Pakistan and Jehan Ara President of the Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA), Prameela Kalive of Zensar and yours truly attended the meetings in Delhi, Karachi and now Pune. I speak for all of us when I say that every encounter has been more warm and productive than the previous ones.
The warmth of this visit could be evinced in the range and quality of events hosted for the delegates and their spouses in Mumbai and Pune. The first evening of the visit, March 21st, saw a musical treat hosted by KPMG at a suburban Mumbai club. One of the members Pradeep Udhas regaled the local and visiting IT CEOs with well chosen Hindi movie songs and some recitations of ghazals. Participation by Harsh Manglik, Chairman National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) and singing adventures of Humayun and Naeema Bashir, the evening was a great kick-off to this visit.
The next day saw a bumpy bus ride to Pune - all part of the India adventure - and a wonderful evening hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industry's Young Indians (YI) group where a panel discussed the opportunities for India-Pakistan partnerships and young Pune CEOs interacted with the whole delegation.
The next day saw the ladies off for a whole day of shopping, sightseeing and gourmet experiences in Pune while the IT Committee members (including some ladies who didn't get to go shopping) settled down to serious deliberations at the Zensar campus. This was followed by a discussion on IT Entrepreneurship organised by the Europe Asia Business School where professors from Cambridge University and thought leaders from the US participated with Indian IT leaders to discuss the scaling of small firms to major corporations. The presence of the CEOs of two Nasdaq listed product companies from Pakistan, Salim Ghauri and Nadeem Elahi, added a sense of balance to the proceedings.
The final event of the day was a colourful cultural evening at Zensar attended by the leading lights of Pune city. A delightful interlude that ended all too soon with the guests boarding a PIA flight to Karachi on the 24th afternoon!
So was it all fun and games or did some serious discussion take place? The deliberations on business opportunities were indeed intense and carried forward the wide ranging talks that had been held in Pakistan last November on a potential two to five billion dollar collaborative IT opportunity. At the recent meeting, we discussed further the possibility of some outstanding products developed on both sides being deployed in key markets abroad and in the medium term, Indian services companies embedding some products into the solutions offered to global customers. An identification of such opportunities was the first focus area identified.
The second was skills development in the area of product architecture and design. We agreed that honing the capabilities of aspiring young people on both sides of the border could result in the creation of a product eco-system that could finally challenge the best the Western world has to offer.
The most exciting development at the Pune meeting, a direct result of the evening spent with Young Indians, was the commitment of YI to encourage youth in India to reach out and interact with Pakistani youth. College students interacting through video conferencing and reciprocal visits to each other's countries would do much to dispel the climate of mutual suspicion that is a natural outcome of decades of animosity and no direct contact. YI proposes to take the lead on this. Amin Hashwani has committed to find a similar entity in Pakistan to develop a blueprint for interactions.
These three aims are actionable in the short term, the Aman ki Asha IT committee believes. It also reiterated its commitment to a larger vision - to create an oasis of collaboration in a border community where young people from both sides can mingle, learn together, work on joint projects and rub shoulders and hearts in the hope of creating an environment of lasting peace in the sub-continent.
All this and more can be achieved only with the active support of the two governments. Given how high the stakes are, a prolonged period of peace and improving relations is necessary for many of the initiatives to get off the ground. More interactions and the creation of a blueprint for collaboration could be the next tentative steps.
The spirit of Aman ki Asha burns bright and the participants look forward to sustaining the glow.
The writer is Vice Chairman and MD of Zensar Technologies Ltd and Chair of the National Committee on IT & ITES for the CII. He was the mission leader for the Aman ki Asha IT Committee for CII.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
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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.
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