A panel discussion with industry leaders from the IT sector was held at the Suleman Dawood School of Business (SDSB) at LUMS on October 4, 2019. The session, organised as part of the Experiential Learning (EL) module for the MBA class of 2021, was based on an interactive format. It facilitated the exchange of information and ideas between budding entrepreneurs, executives, and seasoned veterans of the IT sector in Pakistan and abroad. The discussion revolved around information security, startup growth, cloud based software services, and striking a balance between marketing, general management, and technology.
The session was inaugurated by SDSB faculty, Dr. Syed Zahoor Hassan and Dr. Ussama Yaqub. The panelists discussed growth in the global technology marketplace and emphasised development of software as a service (SaaS) for shorter breakeven times and maintaining a steady stream of revenue. The speakers also touched on the increasing trend of outsourcing. According to some estimates, outsourced services are worth between $80 and $120 billion a year.
Shakil Rizvi, CEO, Abuzar Consultancy, emphasised the importance of having non-technical skillsets in order to build great IT teams. He attributed his consultancy’s success to having great people skills, an effective marketing strategy, and networking to build the right connections.
Tanzeel Ur Rehman, a LUMS alum and Chief Operating Officer, Virtual Force Inc., discussed the startup focused approach his venture was adopting through a year-long programme to navigate the 'Valley of Death'. Valley of Death for startups refers to the negative cash flow in early stages before a new product or service starts generating revenue from customers. Virtual Force’s programme includes developing the startup team, building upon the product, and support through the funding stage.
IT industry veteran and Lumen Soft CEO, Abdul Aziz, shared his personal experience in turning a local company into an international player. He discussed challenges in product development, promotion of cloud based services, and the shifting landscape of marketing from traditional to digital mediums. He insisted that go-to-market strategies needed to be balanced with feasibility: having a high value, low volume service could help achieve more than having a low value, high volume product.
Ahrar Naqvi, CEO, Ebryx cybersecurity, discussed the exponential growth potential in information security. Expanding on the wide range of internal and external security threats, Mr. Naqvi described the cybersecurity domain as a constantly evolving avenue for building upon technology and tackling new challenges. Shaheryar Rafi an MBA graduate from LUMS and Product Manager, Ebryx, shared the lack of local interest in information security. He further discussed limited research and development in cybersecurity, and a lack of understanding among corporate and public leaders about evolving security threats as factors that had prevented this sector from growing in Pakistan. Sociocultural factors influencing purchasing decisions and bigger priorities for the public sector were also highlighted.
The panel discussion was followed by a Question and Answer session, allowing MBA students to enhance their insights into the tech industry. In response to questions regarding workforce development for IT, the panelists unanimously stressed on the need to enhance technical skills among the local talent pool. They also stressed upon the need for universities to prioritise research and development in order to tap potential markets, such as information security, food tech, health tech, and more. Concerted long term policy measures, including developing managers for IT were also touched upon. The session ended with attendees networking over tea.