Interview with Azhar Khan – Chairman ZharBiz International, Inc.
We can put up 10 waste-to-energy plants in Karachi alone
Azhar Khan is the Chairman of ZharBiz International, Inc. based in Philippines and has over 25 years of international business experience managing and owning various companies worldwide. Previously he was the chairman of Applabs Digital Studios, Inc. in Philippines, President of Pacific Industries, Inc., International Trading Company.
He has advised Presidents of many companies in oil and gas, mining, computers, hazardous and toxic waste. Currently he is also Chairman of Guilly’s Night Club in Philippines. Mr. Khan is originally from Azad Kashmir, Pakistan and has lived in over 20 countries. He has a bachelor’s degree in Hotel and Business Administration from Metropolitan State College in Denver, Colorado, USA.
Following are the edited excerpts of a virtual conversation BR Research had with Mr. Khan about ZharBiz International and its interest in Pakistan:
BR Research: Tell us about ZharBiz International and the sectors you operate in.
Azhar Khan: ZharBiz International is a holding company involved in a variety of sectors such as education, environment, waste to energy, drones, and many public sector projects. For all the sectors we have partnered with world class players. We have a presence in many countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, South Africa, and Zambia.
Our highlight is the “Education” sector where we are in partnership with a company called Claned from Finland. Finland is number one in the world in education advancement. Claned is present in about 40 countries in Europe. We have set up ZharBiz Claned for the South East Asian market in addition to South Africa and Southern Africa.
Another area we work in is the environment. One of the biggest challenges the world faces today including Pakistan is the garbage problem. What we offer is to set up a waste to energy plant where we take that waste from the landfills and eliminate it through gasification technology and create electricity out of it. Currently, we are working on two waste-to-energy plants in Philippines, and one in South Africa.
Traffic is another major problem in many major cities around the world. So ZharBiz International is moving into modern day transportation. We are bringing the most advanced technology in the world to Philippines - drones that can fly passengers. The initial drone can take two passengers and is controlled by a command and control centre. For Philippines, we are the exclusive distributors for EHang, which is the world’s first company to develop and receive the necessary licenses to operate passenger drones. In future, we might also go into manufacturing locally, which we can discuss with the government of Philippines.
BRR: Can you elaborate what are you doing in the education sector?
AK: We have programs starting from kindergarten to grade 12, colleges, universities, corporations, and government agencies. Currently we are involved in finalizing national education projects for the Department of Education in Philippines. The current system being used by the colleges and universities mostly around the world is called Learning Management System (LMS), which is developed by the software engineers rather than the education scientists. Whereas the system used at Claned called the Adaptive Learning System was made by the education scientists from Finland in conjunction with technology and the research departments of top universities in 2013. ZharBiz International Inc. provides a cloud-based Adaptive Learning Platform (ALP) that engages students and provides insights to improve learning outcomes by combining Artificial Intelligence (AI) and real-time predictive analytics.
So how is adaptive learning different from traditional learning? The adaptive learning environment helps teacher to teach better. Adaptive technology saves teachers from having to find the content, tasking them only with having to determine how well the content, AI finds and fits in with their teaching goals. By automating the alignment of content to topics/objectives and discovering the right material at the right time for a specific learner, adaptive learning technology allows experts to better devote their time to choosing the best learning experiences for their students. Instructors can then focus on how to deliver personalized learning experiences tailored to ensure success of each student. Since everything is digitized, the teachers get automated reports on the progress of their students. We can also help Pakistan’s education system on a national level, as well as individual colleges and universities.
BRR: So, in what ways would adaptive learning benefit Pakistan?
AK: The problem that we have with the existing system in Pakistan is that the progress of a student is measured only by the final exam performance. Whereas, ZharBiz International’s Adaptive Learning Platform registers students when they log in; how much time they actually spend; how often they open the book; and where they have difficulties. It is an interactive platform that engages students. So, it’s more than just the conversion of books into digital formats currently happening in Pakistan.
We feel that we can help Pakistan. Even if it is a specific university or college; we can provide a tailor-made proposal, transfer their contents, and study materials onto the platform within days and provide necessary teachers’ training. There is a dearth of quality teachers in Pakistan, and with adaptive learning, universities and colleges can hire a fresh graduate who could be trained to teach with our learning system.
And with this platform, parents can reduce the expense of sending their children abroad as they will be getting the same quality of education in Pakistan. We are also looking to open an online university in collaboration with top UK and South African universities where the content will be available on ZharBiz International’s Adaptive Learning Platform, which would make it easier for students to be able to get highest quality education whether from their home or in collaboration with our training centres.
BRR: You talked about the garbage issue in Pakistan. How can ZharBiz help address this?
AK: Karachi produces around 16,000 metric tons of waste every day. The landfills are already full and creating diseases, while the trash is being dumped in the sea. Compared to the government spending millions of dollars, setting up waste-to-energy plants are profitable and feasible ventures to a key problem that the city faces.
We could put up at least 10 waste-to-energy plants in Karachi alone. A 1,500 metric ton waste-to-energy plant is big and would require a capital investment of over $100 million, which we could organize as the proponent along with our technology partners from Finland. ZharBiz executives have setup 15 waste-to-energy plants across the world including Malaysia, Finland, Vietnam, Ireland etc. So, the team has full expertise including understanding the political engineering and the politics that you have in Pakistan, because it is similar to the way governments work in Philippines, South Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia.
I would also like to add that our drone technology that we are bringing in for the passengers can help in various sectors in Pakistan from drone taxis to the government use to reforming agricultural sector to hospital use.
BRR: You see that opportunity in Pakistan. Have you approached the authorities or any universities in Pakistan? Do you plan on coming to Pakistan anytime with any proposal?
AK: We have not approached any colleges or universities yet. But we would like this opportunity to identify any educational institution looking to upgrade their system. We are planning on coming to Pakistan around September 21, 2020 with our waste-to-energy team where we can discuss the environment and the education sectors. We hope to speak to some government officials and the private sector on education and environment. On education, we can essentially get started immediately if we get the right opportunity and response. We have plans to open a school based on Finland education system, which will have the most important subjects that are necessary for today’s times. We believe it is the right time when the parents as well as the education system is moving towards online classes during the ongoing pandemic. However, a really digitized education system is not just having classes on Zoom or Google Meet; it is a controlled learning system that we can bring and may be combine with an educational TV channel as we have heard that Pakistan would like to issue licenses for them.
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