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KARACHI: The country’s Information Technology sector eyes $2 billion mark for export of its products and services this fiscal year 2021-22. Talking to Business Recorder recently, Veqar Ul Islam, member of Prime Minister Sub-committee on IT and Chief Executive of Jaffer Business Systems (JBS) said, “During the current financial year export of IT and IT services could easily breach $2 billion.”

Pakistan has the potential to augment further its export of IT services and products, for instance, big data, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, storage, data center, virtualization, security, cloud computing, personal finance, e-commerce, gamification and even in traditional areas, he indicated.

The rationalization of rupee value to its original level, he said, is one of the major contributors to Pakistan Information Technology (IT) products and services becoming competitive globally.

“With rupee devaluation, IT experts and organizations working in Pakistan can pitch their services and products at very competitive prices as compared to other countries,” he added.

The country’s IT and IT-enabled service exports increased to $635 million during the first quarter of the current fiscal year, posting a growth of 42 percent on an annual basis, according to Pakistan’s Commerce Ministry.

Pakistan emerged the second largest market of IT freelancers during the fiscal year 2019-20, the government’s data shows.

The country’s freelancers fetched $150 million from the international market that scaled up to $336 million during fiscal year 2020-21. The figures depict the earnings from the IT freelancing services became twofold just in a year.

“Despite other factors such as the availability of right products and services, rupee devaluation plays a major role in shifting IT freelance business toward Pakistan, and Pakistan can easily cross $2 billion by bolstering our IT exports, If that happens, it will be roughly seven percent of our total exports,” Veqar Ul Islam said.

He hoped that Pakistan’s IT export can constitute between 20 percent and 25 percent of the country’s total exports within next few years.

“The key is for decision makers to think of IT and IT enabled services as a key engine for boosting growth and also creating high skilled employment,” he said.

In a bid to help improve IT export of Pakistan, Veqar Ul Islam said, “We should focus on products and services which can fulfil the needs of the future. Pakistan, looking to the EU or USA market also looks into the Middle East and Africa for its IT exports.”

Many Middle Eastern countries, he said, particularly the Gulf region, have turned themselves into a hub of information technology trying to reduce their dependence on the fuel oil sector through diversifying their economies.

“Some estimates suggest the total spending on communication services in the Information Technology sector in the Middle East and North Africa will cross $120 billion in 2022,” he pointed out.

Spending on devices, he said, such as personal computers, tablets, mobile phones, printers, and other hardware apparatuses in the region is expected to reach $28.13 billion in the coming years.

According to Statistics, a US-based market and consumer data provider, the total spending in the IT sector of the Middle East and North Africa will soon reach around $177.94 billion.

“Pakistan can offer services and products such as big data, network security, virtualization, Personal Finance Platforms, Machine Learning and AI in the Middle East because these are all future relevant technologies and products where skillset is not in abundance all over the world,” Veqar ul Islam added.

Talking about his firm and experience of the Middle East market, the JBS chief said his company’s foray into the Middle East will also help the country increase its overall export revenue.

“Technology is changing very fast and in JBS we designed a strategic framework with a focus on the future,” he said that “our strategy framework pillars are ‘scale’, ‘excellence’, and ‘innovation’. In the IT sector if you fail to anticipate what will be relevant in the future you will be out of business.”

The JBS has a stated objective to acquire 10 startups by 2030, he said that the idea and structure of investing in the newly established businesses is to contribute to building an ecosystem of an innovation economy with new entrepreneurs becoming part of the financial system.

“Our model makes startups integrate with overall business in a manner that customers confidence in their sustenance and resilience goes up manifold, enabling the start up to focus on business and achieve the business plan,” Veqar Ul Islam said.

As of now, the JBS has acquired two specialized startups namely Bluetech, which is a Big Data Company, and ENA a Power Solutions Company – and “we are extremely pleased with the progress both have made since becoming part of JBS,” he said.

Actually the JBS believes that the Blutech is a north star of Pakistan startup ecosystem, which only serves the local market but also offers services to seven countries. “Their growth in last few years is outstanding and will continue the trajectory in years to come,” he said.

Over the past four years, the JBS has achieved a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 21 percent. “If you are talking about our revenue, for now it is 90 percent local and 10 percent international,” he pointed out. He said that the JBS and its companies help enhance footprint internationally, aiming at marking 70 percent local and 30 percent global revenue growth in the next 3 to 4 years.

Veqar Ul Islam has served the world-renowned multinationals in Pakistan and the region for over 27 years. He is now part of Jaffer Group as Director and is heading Jaffer Business Systems. In addition, he also serves as the President and Director of Touchpoint (Pvt) Ltd, President TiE Karachi, Member Board of Open and Member Board of IT Minds.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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