Pakistan treads towards IT revolution


KARACHI:

Information technology has assumed a central enabling role in the emerging dynamics of a knowledge society and economy, becoming a key lever of economic development.

Like several nations in the region, Pakistan is currently seeing a digital revolution, which is carving a differentiated position as a preferred source for software development, BPO and freelancing.

Pakistan, which has about 60% of its 220 million population in the 15-29 age group, represents an enormous human and knowledge capital. Currently, the country has more than 2,000 IT companies and call centers and the number is growing every year.

Pakistan has more than 300,000 English speaking IT professionals with expertise in current and emerging IT products and technologies, and 13 Software Technology Parks, while more than 20,000 IT graduates and engineers are being produced every year along with a rising start-up culture.

Pakistan is ranked the fourth fastest growing freelance market with 47% growth in freelance earnings, apart from 70% surge in its IT exports over the past three years.

The country’s digital growth is going through a rapid evolution. IT/ IT-enabled services sector is one of the fastest growing in the country, contributing around 1% of GDP, which amounts to $3.5 billion.

IT exports have surged up to $2,616 billion (July 2021 to June 2022) with a growth rate of 24.1%, in comparison to $2,108 billion during fiscal year 2020-21, reported the Ministry of IT and Telecom.

Pakistan’s IT exports have increased by 26% during the first eight months of the current fiscal year, compared to the same period of last year. They have doubled over the last four years, with experts seeing a further 100% growth in the next two to four years, reaching $7 billion.

Pakistan’s software exports are currently worth $700 million, according to the State Bank of Pakistan. However, the country’s freelancers add another $1.2 billion to exports, an amount not recorded by the central bank as they are not registered.

In accordance with the Pakistan Vision 2025 and Digital Policy 2018, the ICT industry size is targeted to reach $20 billion by 2025.

Most importantly, the country’s otherwise deteriorated security situation has seen a drastic improvement in recent years.

A number of successful startups like Careem, Daraz, Zameen.com, Rozee.pk, etc are bringing an additional investment to Pakistan. Traditional investors from other Pakistani sectors like textile and fertilizers are also taking special interest in the startup ecosystem.

In the traditional IT outsourcing, other South Asian nations are becoming increasingly expensive and finding it hard to compete in the technology areas like artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, cyber security, automation, etc.

According to a report of San Francisco-based organization Deel, the salaries of Pakistani freelancers are among the world’s fastest growing. Pakistanis ranked third with 27% hike in salaries after Mexico (57%) and Canada (38%).

A survey conducted by Payoneer in 2019 showed that Pakistani women freelancers were earning $22 an hour, 10% more than the $20 an hour by men. Pakistani male freelancers’ earnings are at par with the global average.

The multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project has also added to the rapid growth of Pakistan’s technology ecosystem.

Pak-China Science, Technology, Commerce and Logistic Park will be established at an estimated cost of $1.5 billion over an area of ​​500 hectares in Islamabad. Islamabad will provide land to China’s Xinjiang Production and Construction Corp, while Beijing will bear the investment cost for 10 years.

Science and Technology Parks are an outcome of collaboration between the community, academics, government and businesses. Technology (IT) parks have become a primary source of innovation induction in areas which range from small sectors to large economies.

Given the growth in economic activity fueled by the expansion in business dynamics, both innovation and technology have come up as the new frontiers for competition.

Technological advancements can be matched by the world but one thing which can serve as a competitive advantage among other and Pakistani professionals is the empathetic customer dealing.

We need to focus on developing segment-oriented value propositions, taking the best-in-class offers of all businesses and bringing them to customers worldwide in a consistent way.

While focusing on digital transformation, we need a role model to demonstrate “customer first”, that surprises and delights customers by anticipating their need and goes the extra mile to build deep relationships with the customers, develop opportunities for growth and mobilise infrastructure to deliver a great customer experience.

Companies should consider measuring their performance in terms of assessing their customer experiences not just through the revenue they earn. This is a neglected area as most of the companies and service providers focus on winning new business and foregoing the need for maintaining good and loyal relationships with the customers.

They often forget that studies show that 85% of the business comes from the already acquired customers and their retention solely depends on the quality of services and the satisfaction they feel while working with your companies.

Training and quality certificates with regular accountability and continuous improvement projects are inevitable to create an environment where the global buyers know that if they are hiring a professional from Pakistan even as a freelancer, they will be getting the best business experience.

Continuous improvement delivers positive customer experience, improving quality and increasing efficiency, sustainability and mindset. It also allows better return on investment.

Capacity building is the need of the hour to implement all this and achieve more companies need to work on improving the communication skills and also make people learn how to deliver an outstanding experience to their customers.

To support this ambition, companies and freelancers must consider this is the key to better knowing the expectations of their customers, in order to delight them.

Without customer service, retaining customers and success would be impossible. In fact, the flywheel would probably stop spinning altogether.

With excellent customer service, you’ll attract new customers, prevent customer churn, and build your brand reputation and image. Plus, the data continues to support the fact that great customer service is an expectation, not a “nice-to-have.”

The writer is a Turkish digital expert

Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th2022.

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