Wireless Carrier – Spammer or Innovator ? Leading from the front.

Oh Telenor I have now relied on you for 5 years why must you ruin my experience by literally spamming me daily? On an ill fated day, 27th Aug, I decided to trade in my 3g sim for a 4g sim and some how Telenor decided it had a right to offer me 100mb daily with a youtube link and then tell me my free quota had expired.

For all the things Telenor has gotten right this is making me rethink my decision.

This is brutal. 5:42 AM Spam. I dont know what tech is messed up but seemingly every time I go in and out of a 4G zone I have to deal with a text message. What is a consumer to do? What the hell is wrong with these companies? Nahin daikhney mujhay apni man passand videos on youtube. Not sitting idle all day to go view on your que especially not at 5am.  Cant fathom what is wrong with these guys. But always ready to market random acts of kindness when they cant even get basic service right.  Even without underwater trouble they seem to be smoking some really good stuff.

This only added insult to injury as over the summer(June 19th) I wanted to get voice mail, a very basic service else where in the civilized world, one which I had used off an on in the past but I called the call center and after a 15 minute activation ordeal I was told we no longer offer this service. But I am not sure, your account rep will call you. He called and asked me to share what measures id taken up to that point. So I responded via text msg as below:

On que, 30 mins later I get a call “Boss, kaisay hain aap, yaar I was told apko voice mail chaye hay” I humored the gentleman as he had taken the liberty of calling back and seemingly wanted to help.

He said he will “inquire” and let me know. True to his word, he calls back and says “Boss, we discontinued the service, magar aap kareen gay kia voice mail ka?”

Fantastic customer support no less:) The guy went from being my account rep to being the average Pakistani phuppo. Why must I defend my desire to use a service.  More so https://www.telenor.com.pk/help-support/faq/voice-mail is still out there albeit void of any info. I am struggling to understand why the disconnect across channels. Perhaps I expect too much. Or perhaps these guys have gotten fat and lazy. Or they are too busy focusing on other initiatives as opposed to basic customer satisfaction.

It didn’t end there, I also realized on a recent visit to a franchise in my desire to get an other number for an IOT device, that once I ran my bio metric, I could not access any other feature/update/sim replacement prior to 8 hours because the Nadra verification had a time lock. So I am standing there dumbstruck being told I need to come back. It was a rare treat for me to be there in the first place the thought of dragging my self back still doesn’t appeal to me.

I am struggling with the back end systems lack of design and untested use case of authenticate once and keeping the session live while the customer is on premise and ensure all their transactions are complete before the authentication key is let go. Who in their right mind would come back in 8 Hours and continue to keep on doing so if you happen to be one of the lucky ones with multiple sims/numbers.

I wonder where the technical innovation is?  why is customer service so difficult? why are the systems untested? I guess like every one else Telenor is caught up in the startup frenzy.  They got lucky with easy paisa and it truly revolutionized an industry. Credit where its due.

The next guy with greater marketing muscle to come in, can and will disrupt even that space. It seems most companies here are one trick ponies, just because they did some thing right once, they have a right to consistently delivery crappy services for life.  With Google payments(supposedly launching) in India this week. It takes one market force of change to destroy the status quo. Cant wait for a real payments company to come out of the domestic talent or to show up with VC money to put all of the telcos in place.

The larger challenge is why every one puts up with shoddy service and how the CEOs of these companies parade their CSR and Best Employer regimens to un suspecting Facebook users. These guys should be made to use their own service with out preferential treatment and go stand in line at a service center to understand the plight of the consumers that fuel their growth.

If these copycat CEOs must borrow a page from a play book, I encourage them to go read this and try to emulate 5% of  what this guy is doing:

http://read.bi/2x32kfT

 

 

 

 

Pakistani banks have nothing to fear when it comes to Fintech!

You read that right, but what you missed was that they are barely mobile and or digital to really fear the paradigm shift that is essentially Fintech.  Fintech wont take down Pakistani banks, they will try to totally blame that(in time), but what will take these banks down are the 50-60 Yr old CEOs lack of understanding around what digital is or means and the industry hero worship around “aray falanay sahab to baray puranay IT kay admi hain” 🙂 .

Exactly my point, you cant teach a “Purana admi” new tricks.

This lack of understanding also extends to the board members of these banks too. You ask why? because these guy do not use their own services digitally(ever), they are not the net new consumer so they can never understand why it sucks so bad. They call their admin, who calls the bank manager…you get the picture.

The first step to solving any major problem is the recognition that a problem exists. In the case of these mis guided banks and many other tech centric businesses in Pakistan is that they compete with each other and do not get out of their own comfort zone. Or they buy technology from global vendors without knowing what it is, because every one of their peers are doing the same.

When you compete with at the bottom rung of the ladder in terms of innovation and technical innovation all you end up with is a site/app/system whose success is measured by how many times your CEO sees the AD on TV about his/her product. Mis guided benchmarks about mis guided items demonstrated by more misguided people.

The best story I ever heard as to why the chief digital officer of a bank refused to buy online ads was as follows. He told me, that they wanted to go and acquire female customers between the age of 25-45 and ran an online adwords and fb campaign across the networks in Pakistan. Their CEO called and said you have spent 50k USD on this, I have browsed every major site in the country all week yet to see a single ad online but I see ads for “unani nuskhas” all over the internet, any site that I go to. The irony of targeted marketing was lost on the CEO. Where in both Google and FB delivered on those campaigns the CEO didn’t understand why he didn’t see the AD because he always saw it when he spent 50k USD on TV. Has any one ever measured how many millions of customers have banks signed up after every major TVC?

I will stay away from acceptable service levels of the technical initiatives of the banks but what I will talk about is the thinking behind digital and what is an acceptable baseline  by way of mobile banking in the year 2017. I will further not go down the security exposures rabbit hole,  because that doesn’t warrant a public disclosure of the weakness of the systems in place (of which there are a few dozen examples if not more). We will focus on the basic nuts and bolts of their front end customer sites/ digital customer engagement and the evolution of mobile banking or the lack their off.

I am selecting these banks in no particular order. Lets start with the mind set of digital and servicing banking customers in the age of technology.

Let me demonstrate how UBL is handling customer engagement on the Google Play Store.

 

This has to be a world first, an Eid Mubarak message within play store comments responses. Before the trolls start about oh we should be proud of Eid and whats wrong with wishing people on Eid, absolutely nothing. This just demonstrates the mindset of the person replying to these messages and the mind set of the folks who run or comprise  the digital function at UBL. Perhaps its not their fault either as the strategy arms of these banks are forcing down digital as a department vs trying to instill digital across the enterprise as an activity of transformation.  The image that comes to my mind is that of a an uber sweet 50+ uncle at UBL who has been assigned the task of responding to these messages after 30 years at the bank(BCCI Era) and with a view to give him his final pre retirement role. You dont believe me? See the an other example below.

A lovely message before Sehri. I mean talk about keeping it professional. What I am trying to get at is the fact that before Fintech destroys traditional banking in Pakistan, the traditional banking IT/Digital/Strategy guys would have already helped the cause fueled by their respective CEOs desire to “be digital” without knowing what the hell it means.

In the year 2017, the least I’d like to see is a functional mobile site. Lets see Bank Al Falah’s latest and great foray into this space. First of all half the text on the site is not legible due to bad font selection and sizing. Secondly the site barely cuts as a responsive site. Let us not even get started on thematic and lay out mistakes and the color red.

 

Trust me there is no way you can read the font the arrows are pointing towards. In this day and age of responsive, this design in it self is circa 1998 at best. Who makes sites like these? let alone banking site, where consumer education is key and information clarity is the difference between engagement only and engagement + conversion. This truly sucks.

One could over look a few UI/UX items but this site is riddled with them. No call to action any where, when a consumer comes to the site they come online to BANK or to Interact with the services. The drones who are building these sites are using them as a corporate/marketing site. There in is the issue, these rock stars of digital have not figured out the difference between a corp site and a consumer site.

I think a basic pre-requisite should be spell check.

But I digress. See this:)

In the year 2017 it should be a crime to have an info scroll menu being cut off (see the arrows).The slider box contents have to slide right to be displayed on mobile. I rest my case, if you cant pass on your information on a mobile platform let alone in a single interaction, why are you even in business? Is no one asking what the cost of rolling out these sites + the cost of the digital departments is, in relation to the online conversion and reduction to 1st level call center support. They should be directly proportional, first call resolution services should see a decline of 20% if an online site is capable of doing that for consumers.

But the best is yet to come.

The award for sloppiness, and lack of imagination goes to this main page, which has not one 1 menu, but see the arrows, 2 menus. Had the bank like a billion new exciting digital features that they wanted people to discover I’d get excited about this cardinal design sign. But it even the content is the same/similar in both menus.

Head of digital much? This is a question for basic common sense.

This stuff didn’t happen over night, nor can it be fixed over night. Banks give rise to  the most un imaginative breed in this country. To look at mobile evolution, you have to look at web evolution. I couldn’t resist going back to way back machine and look at HBL. I will let you decide, how far they have come in their evolutionary journey.

 

From 2008-2013 literally nothing changed online for HBL.

Lets look at 2017

Not much has changed either visually or operationally, same center image construct, with a menu on the right/in this case its kept with technical advancements:), same/similar top menu. So since 2013 what is the innovation that happened here? How can the largest bank in Pakistan innovate if the custodians of digital cant even get the basics right.

They arent doing any better on the Mobile banking side either.

As a consumer, when I come online to the Banks site the first thing I should be able to do is login to my account. Every single one of these so called digitally innovative or leading edge banks have failed at the first call to action(Login). I wonder how their CEOs judge the KPIs of their digital folks. How can you in this day an age build a banking website that doesn’t have a logon item front and center.

Interestingly as I browsed through various banking sites in my effort to find one decent example, I wasnt let down. Perhaps there are many others, but in terms of size scale and resources Summit bank actually had a call to action/LOGIN and an URDU button visible on mobile + their UAN and email address.

Alfalah and HBL both had it post one click meaning within an other menu. Summit also had the 2 menu problem(see next to the Urdu icon) but luckily one menu is just a CSS mistake and doesn’t do much on responsive:) But clearly there is no QA any where.

Coming back to UBL. They seem confused, their site opens up with a site selector on mobile to select region. It clearly doesn’t look responsive, it looks like a mobile ready site no less:) from 2001.

It should pick up your ip and take you to where you need to go, that stuff is free to implement and reduces one click.

When you do get to your so called mobile site, the following disappointment awaits you.

I mean look at the dead space. This has to be criminal in this day and age to have a mobile site that looks/works like this.

This stuff is followed up by the following stunts and I quote from the Banks own PR. http://bit.ly/2y0YIKt

KARACHI, PAKISTAN – 21 August 2017: IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that United Bank Limited (UBL) has selected IBM to support its digital transformation journey by establishing a Digital Design Lab, the first of its kind in Pakistan, to weave a seamless digital banking experience into customers’ daily lives. The lab will provide an environment for UBL’s interdisciplinary teams as well as its network of start-ups, fintechs, ecosystem partners, and academia to develop personalized and engaging digital customer experiences.

I dont know who should be more ashamed, the Banks CEO, IBM(for being an opportunist) or the banks Head of Digital, if they have one. For a bank that cant make decent responsive website the above sounds like hot air at the least and misguided adventure at best.

I hope the bank sees the irony in the disconnect. IBM Pakistan must be lauded for their foresight to make some money off folks who are clueless about what the digital journey means. This market and these banks are ripe for the taking.

In the same spirit. Lets talk about speed and some basic form of technical serviceability bench marks. In the mobile space to leapfrog from mobile to fintech to consumer fintech the one thing every one must get right to get the unbanked on to your platforms and services is speed and delivery of your technical site(payload)/service in the least amount of data streams as the consumer is conscious of their data spend. Lets look at how most of the banks in the country perform on the speed to performance co efficient. In no particular order.

 

 

Lets not go too far to compare. The first bank that came to my mind in India ICIC bank. I ran the same test on.

 

It has a 30 + point lead as compared to our banks on average. Its a mind set thing, you don’t have to be 100 on the scale to be great. You just have to work towards improving. What I have seen so far is a lot of mis guided non sense labelled as digital strategy.

I dont claim to know every thing, heck the intent of this blog post is from the point of a consumer who wishes to use mobile banking, I am happy to sit down with any one who has the wherewithal to recognize that a problem exists and then work on trying to find a solution so that this eco system of Fintech’s can actually benefit from the banking players(due to regulatory hurdles), who at this stage first need to get their own house in order to even remotely be competitive as banks let alone against Fintech companies.

Its a matter of time only, as the regulations ease out, the Fintech’s wont need the banks, the banks will be a dying breed looking to partner with Fintech’s to stay alive. Right now the banks have an unfair advantage viz a vi regulation, it is their hour to exploit it to their benefit. Sooner rather than later all this Digital strategy stuff will go down the drain and shareholders of these banks will be left without knowing what hit them.

If you are the head of digital at a bank, hopefully the CEO of your bank doesn’t read blogs and you can dismiss this as what ever you want to dismiss it as, if you are the CEO of any of the banks I mentioned, you need to sit down with your chieftains and figure this basic stuff out, before you are mis led in to believing numbers and indexes and kpi’s that were invented to make these digital types look good, you have a real issue on your hands. If you dont innovate fast enough its over.

 

 

 

Hello Developers….Are you building for the Onavo mindset?

So I was wondering how Facebook identifies upcoming companies, startups , products and competition. How did FB decide to acquire Whatsapp? How does it see traction? What tell tale signs is it mining for? Beyond trends there has to be hard data and user attribution that is allowing it to completely destroy the competition or rather either acquire or copy them.

The secret weapon is Onavo. They came to FB via a 2013 Acquisition.

Onavo was founded in 2010 by Guy Rosen and Roi Tiger; it raised $13 million from Sequoia Capital and others. It provides mobile data usage analytics and helps companies see how their usage stacks up against other companies.

So the stated acquisition goal was to help bolster its internet.org initiative as the underlying sorcery Onavo was doing at the time was measuring and controlling data usage etc. Simplistically speaking, plus it gave FB its first office in the Holy Land, not that they couldn’t go to and build an office in Tel Aviv.

But the added value of the data apps that they built, was what was under its belly, the analytics biz, which gives app makers the ability to gauge how their apps fare on the open market, as well as giving more insight into how people actually use the apps after they’ve downloaded them.

Imagine, Facebook can use that download and user activity data to spot trends in apps that are up and coming, potentially spotting at a very early stage the types of apps that are gaining traction with the public and what the end intent of that app or service or network is.

FB is doing a great job at it, they are approaching potential threats faster, doing more acquisitions faster and also they are not shy any more of copying features once they identify them.

From a Corp Biz Dev standpoint that’s the nirvana of information dis partiy. Facebook’s corporate development team can then check out these companies and enter partnership deals early on in the game — or perhaps just outright buy and hold them .

So my fellow developers from Pakistan, what you need to be working on is stuff that scales and build traction, FB is apparently watching. So instead of focusing our time on Meme Forwarding, we need to figure out how we commercialize a 56m+ internet audience + active daily users to satiate FBs interest. Remember it doesn’t have to make money yet, it only has to have an audience and active user base at scale. They could care less if it makes money. So stop. Pause , calibrate and think. Perhaps you have an idea that by design you can make-work.

Today when I look at Onavos, new and improved app and check out their privacy policy, I can be certain that they are enjoying the oodles of data we are all providing them.

We do not share or sell your personally identifying information to third parties except if we have received your consent or given you notice, or in limited circumstances described in this Policy. For example, we may share personally identifying information with third parties and “Affiliates” (businesses that are or become legally part of the same group of companies that Onavo is part of, including but not limited to Facebook, Inc.) to operate, maintain and enhance the Services, or for other purposes as described below. 

Pretty freaky stuff if you are paranoid about privacy. But if you use FB today you already gave up most of those rights.

Some argue the market size is not large enough and FB really isn’t interested in Pakistan. On the contrary, FB at the moment has product teams working on analyzing the data and insights its getting from FB users from Pakistan as is evident from country specific items showing up within FB. Small subtle hints like Urdu text appearing in shared FB links, the FB OG tags them selves have new undertones supporting some product localization efforts.

Rest assured they are trying to figure out all kinds of sharing habits, they have enough meta data. I wouldn’t be surprised if they become the largest (original) news/information/content source in Pakistan in months and years to come given they have exacting level details on every target demographic and their sharing and consumption habits. Keep this in perspective, every time a marketer sets up a FB campaign for a client, FB has access to that data, they can almost in real time track the full lifecycle of that activity. Similarly the single biggest nugget of information FB has is access to political sentiment data. We will leave it at that, but the Trump campaign apparently relied on FB to Swing voter sentiment. So just saying, imagine the real power FB has with this data at play.

FB like Google has no office in PK perhaps they don’t need to. Their recent VP level engagement with the government shows that they are intrigued enough to come out to protect their interests. They just don’t know with the political climate at play, what side to join. Like Google they can get most of their stuff done remotely. Or hire third party contractors to provide local context to data without actually telling the poor data analysts what the end outcome of this data collection will yield. If they were smart(which they clearly are) they would be pairing psychometric and demographic info an adding a contextual layer to it to basically understand both market trends and growth opportunities. Given at their scale the total market growth opportunity for them in Pakistan is probably worth investigating but not action up on yet.

If they were to launch their marketplace feature in Pakistan, they would wipe clean every single Craigslist variant in the market, Kaymu etc folding in to their parent are fairly good examples of times to come. It would also completely clean house on the private seller groups on FB as there would be a natural tendency for people to move to the market place model, as you add secure payment on top of it, it would essentially clean up the mid market e-commerce folks also. Don’t know what FBs grand plans are in that space but clearly a lot of hustle is happening. Facebook is getting stingy about Pakistan based content producers accounts to be verified also, in its mind as the smaller guys who own large market views will become a big challenge if they are verified. Hence there is no clear policy on verification and based on market sentiment, private small publisher who have 10-20M Page views are constantly being denied the proverbial gold standard, albeit the blue verified status.

I am sure from mom and pop sellers to folks selling scorpions on FB are clearly trends worth exploring. The moral of the story is, there are many ways to stand out especially if you have a product, service or content play that can attract X-Million active users in Pakistan. The larger the scale and larger the active user demographic, with a compelling idea or product, you will be noticed by FB. Make sure you have a Delaware corporation that your are tied to, else the legal formalities of either investing in you or acquiring you will be a larger pipe dream than actually building a product that gets acquired. Lots of good things are happening in this space, keep your eyes out, build products that scale fast build market traction and will remain locally relevant. FB will come calling.

Digital Displacement Camp | PROGRAM OVERVIEW

Experience the highs and lows of a startup and entrepreneurship in |1| Day.

 

Who is this #BC (Boot-Camp) for?

  • An entrepreneur or any serious entrepreneur.  What you should be thinking before you think about coming. I have an early-stage startup or aspire to start one. I want to get on a path to a paying customer and want to understand the mind set to build, grow and scale.
  • A corporate entrepreneur- (Intrapreneur ). I work at a growth-stage startup or established enterprise. I want to help my company innovate. At the Boot Camp I will learn new tools and will learn from ideas and innovation around me to take new learning’s and a new mindset back to my company. Hopefully they will change or I will do some thing with my time that brings change and focus on launching some thing my self.
  • A team or group of folks. You want to work with us to develop a rigorous business plan, pressure-test your processes and become a better team but don’t know where to get started? Then you must come.
  • Any one who feels he/she is underwhelmed by life and wants to do some thing about it,  a retired professional or  a wealthy individual or a retired wealthy individual , who doesn’t know what to do, but has the inkling to do some thing, also has some ideas perhaps some reserve funds, or a fantastic product that they’d like to commercialize or get involved in a cause that helps others around them by either their time, experience or money, you are welcome to register.

Here’s how you can still register

https://goo.gl/RG7n7k

 

Challenge Yourself

Entry to spend a fully day at DDC is highly selective because time is precious; we only want to bring those who have committed to building their own Displacement Capital TM. Many will apply. Only a few will make it through to the initial bootcamp. Its all about mind set, if you didn’t bother to fill out the form beyond a few lines, you need to do better next time.

 

Window into You

Learn more about your own strengths and weaknesses. Working with “randomly selected” teammates who are the same but completely different, not only helps you become a better listener but also more open-minded and trying to learn to de construct problems and get a window into seeing your self from a distance and interpret the best and worst of your self for better future outcomes.

 

Key Challenge + S

At the end of the day, attendees will identify a key challenge to solve, present their solution and receive specific, and actionable feedback not a pat on the back, in fact the idea is to make you recognize failure and success so you can either re calibrate and move on or scale and grow.

 

What can I possibly Learn in a Day? (at least one thing more than you knew coming in)

– Team Dynamics & Conflict Resolution
– How to think about innovation , Identification of problems & Ideation
– Establishing Product Market Fit
– Scaling for Exponential Growth and thinking BIG

 

What are the Stretch Goals of the session?

– Learn to solve challenges in a disciplined & systematic way.
– Experience the challenges of 2-3 years of startup life in 1 day
– Develop a can do attitude and take things head on
– Believe in your self and your idea(s)

When is this happening?

SAT 19th of August

Where is this Happening?

Karachi, confirmed participants will be given location details 6 days in advance.

How long does this last?

It runs from 9am to 6pm. Its free to attend , Lunch will be served.

Who will run the session(s)?

The primary session/day long activity will be run by Faizan Siddiqi (www.linkedin.com/in/faizansiddiqi ) http://blog.chinookstrategy.com

There will be guest appearances through the day for 30 mins each, which we will confirm to the participants once we make final selections given the sheer volume of interest we want to make sure we invite meaningful speakers to maximize the utility of every ones time. Keep an eye out for this space, I will be sharing speaker updates here.

 

Happy Learning.

 

No way Out! Zero Sum Game.

Dynastic politics is killing us, it is killing our youth it is killing every thing in its path. The only way out is to stop caring and stop following them and stop voting for them and best of all stop watching and discussing them. Period.

We have 2 varieties in the last 5 years or so, the twitter media cell type and the non national language speaking, reading off a Roman Urdu tele-prompter type. Worse than the a** that says skoority(security). These 2 types are the self professed leaders of our past present and future. Even in death they are f***i*ng zinda. Wonder why the religious zealots haven’t come out in droves giving fatwas on the “still alive” statuses of the various cult groups.

After the Panama drama nothing has happened really, besides the fact that some other scandals to either divert attention or to keep busy, its becoming a national occupation to tie up peoples mind in meaningless banter and to reduce the national IQ far below pre partition. As Ive stated in the past, As a country, three businesses have survived the test of time in Pakistan. Politics, Military and Religion (PMR).

Where as, in the grand scheme of things we should worry about running the country. We literally have nothing to show for the last 70, we are here in spite of these moronic so called leaders, not because of them. If it was up to them we’d be bankrupt, just like they are; morally and ethically bankrupt the country would be too, so we must do some thing worth while to make the next 70 count.

I have come to the conclusion that we are too lazy for revolutions because it means getting out of our comfort zone and hoping some one else comes and does it for us. The the three pillars of PMR (Politics, Military and Religion) have basically been self balancing as they out maneuver each other for their own survival thus as a consequence the country has remained, because they need the country for their cause, but their cause is not the country.

Todays post is about the genuine problems the government and so called other powers be must look to solve or for you to read and understand that irrespective your

Irrespective of your Political alignment , you are being f**d and have been consistently f**d because no government ever or any political party has done any thing to focus on the country. The country is like a private stage where warring political factions sling mud on each other and the numb “riaya” chants them on whilst the (MR) plays referee because we let them. Just like I give startups ideas and suggestions on what problems to solve or build startups around, I am compelled to direct the attention of the idiots in power to solve the following and their followers to understand the gravity of cluster f**k we are all in.

Items that are beyond race, religion or creed that need immediate attention are:

  1. Clean Drinking water
  2. Counter measures to DAMs being built by India
  3. Internal food security before allowing the Big C(hina) or others Farm Access
  4. Power independence and short fall mediation (read non Qatri LNG)
  5. Disease Management (beyond fake plastic health cards)
  6. Industrial Pollution and Long term health damage due to an inefficient EPA (beyond handing out masks to traffic wardens)
  7. Implementation of CNIC based TAX reforms across the board(unlike selective score settling)
  8. Tax on Agriculture (so that the rich from behind bullshit stops)
  9. Figuring out foreign policy by having a foreign minister who knows some thing about foreign affairs besides having lived in a foreign country and worked at a bank till the 90s, I digress we also had a PM who was a banker, seemingly cut fantastic deals for him self in the process/*Allegedly before his PR teams start taking shots at the blog.
  10. Having some one who knows some thing about technology and has built some thing of value besides their reputation using local media to be in charge of our technology policy and be a steering force for the youth as opposed to being a mythical character yearning for the love of the PMR crew. (read selfies with politicians and of prayers and brandishing guns to show relevance to all three)
  11. Access to open market to compete against the industrial complex owned by various Pillars of PMR.

This list can have dozens of additions but a baseline is to get these 11 addressed or start a meaningful discussion.

The question to ask is that are we collectively stupid? We all know that the XYZ Minister ka bhanja whose car you like, neither paid the duty on it nor has he earned an honest days wages to understand the value of buying the car from his personal equity let alone the fact that he lives rent free.

Whilst his “rich from behind ass” rents their land to the most marginalized in society to farm a piece of land yet pay no taxes on the accrued income built on the sweat, blood and tears of the most poor. Yet we continue to hero worship and idolize these bozos. It also applies to the uncle-business man down the street whose middle name is under invoicing but he is at the forefront of the construction of the muhallay ki masjid, whilst his sons Facebook wall reads like a hustler memoir.

This must stop and the youth must stop idolizing these guys, we need better role models, not necessarily rich but who have a sound ethical grounding and are not morally bankrupted. We need to call out this bullshit where we see it. Starting from the morons who beat the lines in a Bank queue to pay bills to the guy who cuts line at airport check in because he has some uniformed dude with him. Raise your voice, no one else will, try it, its not civil dis-obedience its your right. Exercise it ask questions. Don’t become the moral police though and dont have visions of grandeur.

This culture of entitlement, waasta, juggar, hawala has to stop. Some one must step up to call it out. It must be you. We must encourage our kids to admire their teachers, their mentors and offer to be role models in every thing we do as parents, colleagues, friends, neighbors and family. As opposed to opulence, wealth, television fame etc being their role models. Till we fix that, this will remain a zero sum game for all times to come.

Sadly the generation before us was too afraid to engage with these type and because nothing was said, nothing was done(because of their own sharafat), they remained silent so first these morally bankrupted moved in to our  Cities, then Muhallas and utilimately in to our lives. This culture of badmashi and speeding cars with guards brandishing guns must stop. Cant the oh so honorable establishment not take action on limiting access to guns and display of such. They do a good job of making rules for various clubs they run, like you cant wear slippers and shorts in the clubs. Clearly this stuff is more dangerous right in the neighborhoods and streets our children call home. The likelihood of getting assaulted or harmed by nicker wearing middle aged man with slippers is far less than a thug with assault rifles carried by guards high on shit.

We must also select product to market fit in government and all other elements of the state, starting from hiring people who know what they are doing and clean up the messy system we have, because its broken from top down and bottom up.

We must also rely on market forces to allow companies to compete and grow. A cursory look from a Senate hearing in July 2016 where in newspapers of the country reported that every major commercial space had some form of the welfare trust participation in it. Take a look for your self, how will the youth of this country compete against such an  industrial complex be gainfully employed in with out an “M-background” of sorts.

So from Horse breeding, to seeds, to aircraft services, to oil, gas , power, fertilizer, cereal, food, housing schemes, leasing , insurance, education, medical , foreign direct investment outside of Pakistan  the list goes on. Can you imagine the US Marines retired or other wise or the Canadians for that matter running a horse breeding business and making breakfast cereal, so instead of Kellogs wed have Marine Cereal ? Yet we grew up eating

How did all this happen? Did we get inspired by General Mills.

The popular joke from the 60s goes that when  when Golda Meir  met with President Nixon, he told her that he would trade any three American generals for General Moshe Dayan. “Okay,” she said, “I’ll take General Motors, General Electric, and General Dynamics.

Such was the lust for the American Generals of Industry. Other versions of the story claim that he said he would trade 4  Generals and she asked for “General Mills, General Dynamics, General Motors & General Electric”. What ever the case may be it makes for an interesting story.

Was there no one else available to launch commercial businesses? Thats what I some times wonder. Clearly they are being run well at least as they are profitable and typically in a monopolistic position and making acquisitions. But I rest my case. The issue always has been that a chosen few are in control of the destiny of a lot of others , but you have the opportunity to change that. By working your way via innovation and disruption in tech. Not the political disruption, the time for that is over. But since you were wondering, here’s a LIST of all those businesses.

 So nothing is perfect, far from it, we have every conceivable business advantage going to the political types who by force or by bending the rule of law evade taxes and get undue benefits and continue to exploit information disparity in their favor; where in Gwadar will XYZ be built, then proceeding to buy land around it or getting their cement brand being sanctioned for a government project , the ways and methods are many, so how can any one else get a chance in this crony system? Its tough, but we must think it has to start somewhere, by calling out shit when we see it. For example why the f**k dont I have an oil exploration concession or and LNG Pump or Pump(s) or what about a Sugar Mill?

I am not old enough to know the historical context in person but I do have the right to find out why some thing the way it is. As do you. Without accepting the status quo.

Albeit in 1953 this was all the start of a welfare corporation to support those who had served. Zero contest on that point we must take care of our own especially who those who serve and protect. Always and forever till life eternal but no one has the right to tell me what to believe and what questions to ask or not ask.

How did a welfare trust in 1953 result in 50 commercial enterprises. Most of it by an obscure yet very powerful act namely the THE CHARITABLE ENDOWMENTS ACT, 1890.

Yup you read that right 1890. Not 1980. I mean we have to modernize and move on.

Even if that was the case then, why now  can  they not be run by a public private partnership where operationally they must be expanded like a reverse nationalization project but this time for the welfare of the masses?

If this industrial complex produces a couple of billion $s then imagine if we took our brightest, infused it into it, we would build national companies that would create un surpassed employment and innovation at scale and not be monopolistic in nature but pure enterprises benefiting all and sundry.

Now that is a proposition that would truly make us a welfare state when we have enough cash in the coffers via such private enterprise funding the rest of us. The welfare of the state before any one else, so we must work on some thing that course corrects our current state for the next 70 years. Just a thought, if welfare is the premise then all citizens are created equal.

If that is a past item in history then why must I not, the average citizen of Pakistan have the first right to apply for the right to be the CEO or Board Member of these firms ? Does welfare mean patronage on both ends of spectrum? Land allocations in service and other subsidies, and corporate jobs post retirement?

Were these companies created to provide post retirement value addition services in a country where there are youth who are un employed by the hundreds of thousands. Agreed the state must provide for post retirement benefits of service men. But through commercial enterprise. A great example is to setup a pension fund perhaps one comparable to Veterans Pension or  OTTP or OMERS

88m$ of OUR  national forex sent to Morocco to start a plant? Could those funds be used on education or health care in my own country? If welfare is the crux of the system, what about welfare for all of us , domestically?

But its all out there in the public domain, I’m neither referring to some thing new or asking a new questions the thing is, our collective memory is so short, we don’t remember any thing and we get back to our national past time of watching political stupidity on television and never come to core issues long enough to ask or inquire and or to get answers.

This stuff is available in print and online and these organizations are the fiber of our national economic activity(which by the way on its own is good for the economy at large, creating jobs and supporting trade) Just that public debate beyond text messages should be undertaken on every thing in the land that affects every one in the land.

The list of questions goes on and the answers not as much, because no one really gives a damn to ask we are so tied up with our collective misery to give a rats a**. Further any items on this have their own repercussion’s because god forbid any critique or asking questions is the equivalent of loss of valor and patriotism. All that too is in the minds of the people and the stories being sown via text books from an era gone by, in 10 years with information parity and some form of education displacement I am hopeful we will focus on building unicorns as opposed to believing in them:)

But for now for us to succeed in business at home in our families and in life at large we must call out the bullshit being served to us, we are neither indebted to any one or enslaved to one political mind set or an other, I owe nothing to any one, it is as much my country as any one else’s and I hope yours too, thus I urge you to take a stand, it has to start some where. Stand does not mean a grand stand. It means to focus your energy on productive items.

Let it start by asking the right questions and by giving up hero worship and by un-following every one on FB/Twitter/Instrgram you follow because of wealth(mostly ill gotten) because its great to see their vacation pictures or their “friends” etc. That shit is short lived, fake and at best marred with inter family and inter communal jealousies and hatred to last a life time. Its not the stuff of legends lets focus away from it. There is better stuff to be done with our time.

Time to f**ing move on and do some worth while as opposed to wait for some one to hand you an opportunity or by trying to hang around these losers in hope of getting dealt some favor or some contract or some access or some material information that will let you make a buck. Scr**w all of that, in technology you have the single largest equalizer, put your mind to good use, do some thing worth while, I guarantee all these guys will line up around the block to hang out with you. So don’t get impressed easily, write off  these *nouveau riche  as the barometer of success and take a stand for your rights starting from today, mostly by asking questions and focusing your energy on building some thing at scale. There is a way out, you must want it badly enough! Also its not an iqama in Dubai or Saudia. Onwards and forwards to building Unicorns.

 

“Wherever they may have come from, and wherever they may have gone, unicorns live inside the true believer’s heart. Which means as long as we can dream, there will be unicorns.”

Bruce Coville

Bring your ‘A’ game Pakistan

The Valley is always a unique experience. But this time around it is proving to be a fairly eye opening one. There is more capital than opportunities, for VCs to put money in. LATAM to Central Europe to China to India, to South East Asia there is a VC gold rush. No one wants to miss out and be fired in the process.

The level of fake BS is also on the up and up. Every VC I’ve met so far is focused on AI, ML in emerging markets. A vast majority of these guys are lip servicing because one or more of their peers are operating in this new space.

Frankly it sucks to see this over abundance of capital in these markets whilst there is little to none in ours. Interestingly enough the reason for this capital or the ecosystem is due to the fact that the startups of yesteryears are now the VCs. Thus solidifying the belief that we need to promote startups as best as we can to grow and scale. Plus these countries are well represented in the valley and one common thread amongst the markets where these startups come from, Google pretty much has a presence every where locally i.e an office.

Pakistan not as much. There is representation, there is interest, but some how the needle is stuck as us being a sales destination or net consumer of Google tech /service as opposed to a net producer destination. Google isn’t to blame for any of this, if any thing they are the net positive contributor to Pakistan even getting a seat at the table. Not because we don’t have interesting companies but because there is a lot to be desired with the optics. Every one I’ve met this week, was surprised that I hail from Pakistan, that there are tech startups in Pakistan, that my last Company IPOd at LSE , that we have built technology featured across Google I/O and that there is a Google supported incubator in Karachi. So far so good. The thing missing is a large scale disruptive story out of Pakistan and I do not mean political, I mean a startup story of success.

The thing is, after multiple mentorship sessions and interacting with diverse startups from across the world, the one theme that is clear, startups every where want one thing , “they want to change the game” and it starts and ends with the team at play. Ideas come and go, the people who can execute them are the real game changes, so we need to promote the right teams and enable people to think big.

An other notable thing here is camaraderie, there are clusters of close relationships, people help each other and we must borrow a page from that manual. The other not so surprising thing is the age of the founders and companies. Compared to both our ecosystem and the typical businesses heroes we celebrate in Pakistan, we need a wholesale change. Tech, really is the only thing that can create Displacement Capital and empower gains larger than the cost of input. Till we start displacing old money and old capital by creating new money and new capital at scale we are doomed. We need to think big and dream big.

(To get started with this exercise I will run “DCC- Displacement Capital Camp” in Karachi in August and get the ball rolling on this).

Our startups are no less smart and no less driven, but we need to think about solving global problems as a starting point. I met some one on the sidelines who told me they wanted to build a 5b$ company. Call it crazy talk but he got my attention, you cant build billion dollar companies if you are looking to raise 50k$. The scale has to change. The thinking has to change. Most of all the mentors and role models need to change. The ecosystem needs to get more examples of actual doers rather than self promoters, don’t get me wrong plenty of those around in the valley too. No shortage any where in the world of those types.

The thing is, resources are scarce competition is tough, for our startups to scale and grow we need to bring our ‘A’ game to the table else we will be irrelevant in the business of Unicorns.

Why you should care about Allen and Company & not Raiwind and Company

You can and will be forgiven if you didnt know any thing about Allen and Company before today. But only this once. It tells me a few things about you, the amount of online hours you are spending need a new cause, as what ever you are doing online is clearly not half as bad-ass as you think it is.

Every summer, the the tech, media, and business titans assimilate in the resort town of Sun Valley, Idaho. You ask why, they are there for investment bank Allen & Co.’s week-long conference which has been an annual ritual for 30+ years. It took them 30 years to be an overnight success no less.

This year too,  brought some of the wealthiest and most powerful people from around the world to Sun Valley once again.    Deals forged at the event in the past have included Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos’ purchase of The Washington Post, and Time Warner’s ill-fated merger with AOL.

To give you an idea, the billionaires summer camp attendees’ parking lot is Friedman Memorial Airport, which was packed to capacity with 100s of Millions of dollars’ worth of jets as of midday Wednesday as the event was kicking off .

With around 85 jets, many of them Gulf Stream G650 and Bombardier Global Express models boasting wingspans of almost 100 feet and prices of $45 million to $65 million each, the airport is a private gateway to Sun Valley for most attendees, whose nondescript aircraft typically carry no logos and are often fractionally owned. Did I say this was an invitation only event?

This time around the two that stood out were  Nike and Sprint , their jets’ flashy graphics featured company logos and left no doubt as to who was in attendance. I guess if you have your own Jet you can be forgiven for this type of opulence.

The gathering is put on by the investment bank and is closed to press. It attracts an impressive array of moguls. Warren Buffett, CBS CEO Leslie Moonves, Snap Chairman Michael Lynton, Viacom Vice Chairman Shari Redstone, and Discovery CEO David Zaslav are among the names who have flocked to the resort and in the coming weeks many many more names will surface.

The gathering  included panel discussions on the state of the economy, the political divide in America, the drug epidemic, and scientific breakthroughs. Bill Gates spoke on  philanthropy.

Other speakers include Nike co-founder Phil Knight, Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and General Lori Robinson, who oversees North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command. (So yes it is a big deal) Past gatherings have included talks from the likes of Argentinian President Mauricio Macri, Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.
While in a parallel universe the entire machinery on our side of the planet is either trying to prove or disprove who is innocent or not. Where is our Allen and Co? We have industries and industrialists that pre date Allen and Cos 1922 foundations but thats exactly the problem.  The industries and industrialists  lack smart capital and an even worse we have a lack of companies, tech or otherwise who have either the scale or the gravitas of what is required to be globally competitive. We have some great companies, but we must not fool our selves of their paltry success against the S&P 500.
To give you perspective, here is the list of the companies with the highest Revenue Per Employee of 2016. Yes this is the revenue one employee contributes in that firm (hypothetically total revenue divided by employees). Some of our largest companies do not have total revenue equal to RPE of these firms let alone tech companies.

The table above shows the top 50 companies by Revenue Per Employee in 2016 in S&P 500.

 

This is why the Allen and Company Billionaire camp is note worthy, a host of these companies were represented there. We need our own camps, we need to start some where, it most certainly cant be f***  Raiwind. We have to get past our national obsession with “small people”, be it politicians or the forces or media personalities, we have to create our own billionaires club and not one which is created on the back of *allegedly looting innocent citizens.(* matter being           sub judice) . To create such a club we first need to dream and have ambition, that too kosher ambition , the halal variety that is not an outcome of robbing some one.

Also we have to park our national obsession of saving money vs generating money, these people did no become billionaires by saving X% of their income, they did amazing things that lead to amazing companies that led to amazing fortunes, you can not save a  7 or 8 or 9 figure net worth.  The best return on your time if you invest it in making money instead of saving money.

I see startups, people, businesses,  moms and dads, spending 30-40  hours per week doing simple household tasks, looking for deals, driving all over town and working their asses off to save  Rs 15000. Before you write me off as heartless, lets look at the flip side of the coin, If they would spend that same time and ingenuity working to generate money, they could easily lock down a potential promotion at work, if self employed add money to the bank by growing revenue using the same ingenuity and time, as I said before we need to be hustlers. All of us. Thats whats missing from our DNA, we have enough “juggar” hustle, but its real economic mind set hustle that we need.

That’s the real difference between a scarcity mindset and abundance mindset. All our lives every thing has been so scarce in our life that we have become hoarders, we hoard water, power, fuel, food and every thing in between albeit due to the likes of Raiwind and Co types, leashing economic hell for decades,  we have to totally and completely stop working so hard to hold on to a tiny slice of pie. We need to start  working on making the god damn slice bigger.  But we cant be blamed entirely as we have been conditioned this way.

The number of technology companies in the Fortune 500 has steadily increased since 1955, and this sector saw the second highest revenue growth during this period.It is also no surprise where companies are from. Take a look.

The  table above shows the growth rates of the 47 companies in this sector.

 

We need our California, we had it once in Karachi, but its been pillaged and run dry. We need a place that fosters growth, the arts, music, literature, tech and a general sense of freedom and an open and tolerant mind set in what we do and how we do it. We need to move away from minding others peoples business to using our minds to grow our own business.

We need to move away from thinking when the power going to be cut off to worrying about if our AWS account will be cut off . Its a paradigm shift that wont come, irrespective of how much electricity Raiwind and Co generate. We still have a Minister who thought Calibri like Black Berry was was a phone and not a font on national television and still kept on arguing to make his point. He is presently Minister for Law, Parliamentary Affairs and Public Prosecution.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words so for a change Ill share some for you to make up your own mind as to why the Allen and Co camp matters and why we need our own rival.

Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of Fox News, and Lachlan Murdoch(son), co-chairman of 21st Century Fox
The Wizard of Omaha Mr Warren Buffet
Apple Ceo Tim Cook and Sr. VP of internet software and services Eddie Cue
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos
Mark Pincus CEO of Zynga
GoPro CEO Nick Woodman
SNAP Chairman Michael Lynton
CEO Ycombinator Sam Altman
Twitter COO Anthony Noto
Former Ebay CEO John Donahoe
GM IBM Watson David Kenny
CEO Discovery Communications David Zaslav
CEO GM Marry Barra
Stewart Butterfield CEO Slack
Kleiner Perkins Partner-Bing Gordon
Ceo RRE Ventures Jim Robinson
Mr Facebook
Ceo of Warner Bros Kevin Tsujihara
CEO of NextDoor Nirav Tolia and Wife Megha
Jerry Yang of Yahoo Fame

Want to know what was happening in Pakistan around the the same time whilst Allen and Co sessions were kicking off. Raiwind sessions were kicking off. Ill leave it at that and one picture to sum it up.

Raiwind and Company

Interestingly enough with all that was happening in the White House these two still made it and were taking calls from the sidelines.

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner on the sidelines of the Billionaires Camp

 

This is how they make sure that the show must go on. Not like our Raiwind and Co who are  obsessed with their own Incestual shit to give a damn about the rest of us. So its time we step up to the plate. No one will come and give us our Allen and Co it must rise from within. In the process clean the ( tax evading, bank loan defaulting, ECL listed, under invoicing, duty avoiding, politically motivated, morally bankrupt) filth that occupies the seat at the table in the corridors of business today and hand the reigns to those who will treat Pakistan and her subjects in a better state than they got them.

 

 

 

The End of Apps : OK Google, Alexa.. From AMP to PWA to AI

 

Play First, watch for about a minute then read on.

In 2016 Vani Kola, MD, Kalaari Capital asked Rajan Anandan, MD, Google SE and India, at the Kstart Digital Marketing Summit to share his thoughts. In retrospect when I watch this(he did know some thing) clearly the rest of us are only finding out.

If you watch the video, he categorically said if you are building apps you are toast. He wasn’t wrong really, he was actually so very right. So if you are a young scrappy developer in Pakistan and you are building Apps, for the most part, just don’t do it. You need to up skill your self and get on the new-age band wagon.

Google and FB are obsessed about bringing every one online because when you the user come online you will spend time in front of their ads and hence GF (Google and FB or your Digital Girl Friend) will make money on advertising eye balls. Like the proverbial girl friend, GF are also only happy when money is spent on them, albeit their platforms or when they make money, the online equivalent of investing in any relationship.

So why re invent the wheel? Cash in on that obsession. That obsession can only be fueled by fast access to data, super clean interfaces, offline content access(PWA) and converting the slow web(to AMP- Accelerated Mobile Pages, Or Instant Articles based) items.

So ask your self, why aren’t you already on this bandwagon, why aren’t you picking up this skill and adding it to your repertoire? I can think of a couple of reasons; if you develop for the domestic market, Your average client is an idiot, your boss is probably an even bigger idiot, if you work for an FMCG your boss or marketing leader is obsessing about Likes and shares(tragic) if you work for a development shop then you are probably building for the ecosystem around you, neither is benefitting your cause. If you work for an e-commerce player, you are still trying to figure out what it is that your employer actually does and how broken your systems really are. You need to step back and re evaluate where you are as a developer.

But your primary resource is knowledge and information both accessible online and free, you need to see past the so called nonsensical thought leaders domestically and try to grasp what’s happening and how up-skilling your self will increase your marketability and keep you relevant. They only care about doing Banking Summits, Ecommerce Summits, Mobile Payment Summits , Advertising Summits and give awards to each other. When I see what the average person/organization is working on, I feel the IQ in the room dropping collectively by a 100. We need to be innovating, the first pre requisite for that is to be on the stack, technologies and methods that are making waves across the world. Not what we learnt in programming class or what our egg head “team lead” says or does. Nine times out of ten I can bet, they are just happy in the fact they know more then their boss who is probably in their 60s and they are happy to be the “technical” guy at work that their boss leans to for support. In that sort of eco system you will always remain mediocre. So step away.

The world doesn’t end with AMP, it’s a starting point, get all the worlds information to load faster, So that’s happening weather you like it or not/same with instant articles(albeit inside of FB), Next come PWA(progressive web aps, the antithesis of real aps, it’s the evolution of the web, a website that works like an app, wow, what a cool concept. The thing is, you are already late to the party if you have not starting working on this for your client facing work. So you have super fast pages ala google cdn, you click you come to a PWA site that’s light weight, works in offline mode and doesn’t need you to get a 25mb app to do the same thing. Wow?

Whats the use case, in our part of the world(which is the fastest growing part of the digital world at the moment) the average user has a $32.26 USD smart phone, with limited capabilities, they delete apps daily to make room for others, but as data prices fall they can add to home screen a PWA and viola, no need to install un install, for content based apps which is the bulk of use in our region. Just like an app needs internet connectivity so does a PWA, what the PWA does is, it uses less data to actually cache every thing. So the user experience is fast, it off loads the processing online with keeping space free for camera and other user needs.

So the use case is brilliant. Further as most of the lower spec phones do not have a licensed play store, this is the fastest way to deliver your content. Also fear the wrath of Google when and if they brick the phones or dis-able app installs on unlicensed android devices. Will PWAs be your savior?

So you are still un sure, then see the second part of the clip from above, just watch for 10 seconds or so.

Moral of the story, stop building for the NOW, start building for the future and the future is closer than you think. The thing is, for all its advances in AMP and PWA the next level of growth or client engagement will be voice driven and AI based, OK Google to Alexa to Siri perhaps. But there are still ways to go before native support for URDU arrives, Google is hard at work(or maybe not), perhaps not really realizing how big the offset will be the minute the focus is on Urdu. But till we can communicate with AI in Urdu, AI wont be able to communicate back. Localization and discovery are 2 aspects every one must start working on today.

A third of the local mobile smart phone users, only play games and don’t consume text content, they do consume video, but cant search, so they rely on links forwarded to them, they operate the device on visual cues because they can neither read nor write. But they click links sent to them. Now imagine if they can originate the links if they had access to a discovery service?

So imagine the power of combining visual cues + discovery platform + AI. Or even starting point, Visual Cues + Discovery Platform + Fast Loading + No App install. The possibilities are endless. You have to start building for the future, the future is showing us that video will be all the rage. So you must get every thing in order, to manage that reality and to capitalize on it. It also shows the convenience will be all the rage. It shows us that we will offset our tasks, needs, action items to a voice in the cloud. Are you building for that challenge? or you still stuck in appeasing your boss, your client, your company and yourself. You need to be working on Google Actions and Alexa Skills and what ever else shows up in this space relevant to the ecosystem. The time is now. Stop wasting your time, re calibrate and do your self a favor.

Pro tip: If you are a young freelancer and work on android or ios, your work is typically a commodity at 25-30$/h if you are half decent, the average free lancer specializing in AMP/PWA/Google Actions/Alexa Skills is over 50$/h. The choice is yours.

Does your startup have a plan to indulge Google, FB, Uber, AliBaba and the likes – at scale?

There is no simple plan or check list, if I had one, I’d be using it my self. Clearly one doesn’t exist, in its entirety, yet . If you read either or both of my last posts you know that these guys generally don’t need to be on the ground to launch a viable product or service.

But to make money consistently and at scale where it matters, sooner rather than later they will need to be on the ground. That or they  will need access to some one who is. Park the advertising side for a moment, there is more to all these corps besides ads/ad content either as spenders or consumers or both.

If you have any thing going for you or your company at the moment, I hope it’s large scale of localized data or the aspiration to get copious amounts of data based on the products and services you are building or deploying; be it in any industry or vertical so long as the only way to obtain is to be on the ground and that some one had to be locally collecting or building that data. It could be

1) Points of interest data (mosques, cinemas, schools , salons, grocers, butchers, tuition centers, thanas)
2) Housing Data (address data)
3) Shortest urban routes data
4) Time of day temperature data
5) Contextual data about road accidents
6) Delivery data on urban food deliveries
7) Consumer data on a multitude of CPI basket goods
8) CPG-FMCG Spend data
9) Product distribution data
10) Map or GIS data
11) Localized data on  atms, hours of service of shops, contact info (at scale)
12) Reviews data(product & services both)
13) Shopping comparison data (Physical and Virtual Goods and services)
14) Service Industry data
15) Power outage data
16) Voice overlay data
17) ID Card verification data(probably a government domain)
18) Financial services data
19) Goods and Services data
20) Human interaction data

This is not a comprehensive list but a starting point, the race to the top is about data, the race to the bottom is about still building apps. App strategies are good if they get you to the end goal of data. But if you are still building an app in 2017 to book movie tickets or to get discount coupons, just do your self a favor and don’t do it. You need to be working on Machine learning, AI, Health Care some thing meaningful at this stage. Lets pause this thought till we deal with the next one.

In short, a few groundbreaking changes will happen whilst these companies are still not here or fully committed to being on the ground. All of a sudden the balance of power will change in the mobile hardware space when the Chinese variant phones in Pakistan who are not Google/Android compliant in terms of not having the play store installed (as a benchmark). When, not if Google decides to force (it’s a growing trend in China, soon to come every where else) these companies to complying seemingly over night it could brick all those devices running side loaded play store or Google Play Services or stop select apps from working. Whilst it could be a potential dooms day scenario for the mobile guys operating locally it allows others, if played out, smartly; to get a huge competitive edge. It could give rise to an alternate android play store market “made for Pakistan” provided the phones not bricked entirely.

This doesn’t just apply to Mobile phones, it applies to all the so called smart Tvs and after market car head units and TV boxes or even IoT devices and gadgets running android. Not that any one expects Google to be in the enforcement business over night, its not good for business but this whole device strategy/licensing will either hurt you as startup if you rely on cheap unlicensed hardware or make you super competitive if you have a play for when there are millions of bricked devices in the country or partially working devices that you can build services for or using.

So now look at what it does to the ecosystem. Think about the mobile carriers and their data plans and voice minutes if supposedly millions of devices get bricked or aps rendered useless or un-installable. What about all the after market Chinese Navigation systems and other head units used all over. What if your smart TVs are no longer smart? Or for that matter phone or any other device running android. Time to pause, re think and calibrate. Perhaps if the devices aren’t bricked then a manufacturer specific store? Some thing to think about, all it does is isolate us in the grand scheme of things and limit the ecosystem.

Now we revisit our friends fondly viewed as the opposite of the Do No Evil guys of MTV, our friends in Menlo Park aka, Facebook. Its very difficult to judge Facebook but at the same time its very easy to judge what they are up to.

You take 2 leading carriers, you bundle free data(Zero Rated + free basics) , you give free WhatsApp + FB + you potentially have access to location data via your app, you have all the phone numbers and voila you have a living breathing data set. Here are some of the things that could be interesting when you have that information.

You come home, FB most likely knows, home, work , other places of interest, based on app location settings or phone GPS or carrier data. How and why is this scary from a privacy stand point? Google also supposedly has this info, not really. What they don’t have is your contact book/relationships ala WhatsApp and further segmentation data based on groups its Members their FB profiles and their demographic data etc. Even though for the record FB says it doesn’t do any of this stuff.

So if 5 friends go to lunch, all have WhatsApp, all have FB, all are at the same location at the same time. FB has that point of interest, info on those 5 people. FB now also knows the demographic info on the people, it also knows hypothetically all the others that frequent that restaurant. It also knows times of day pictures are uploaded. If you are a cheapskate and using the restaurant WiFi, it also knows start and end time of your session to let them estimate how much time you and others spent data that you consumed, activities that you did, status updates or pictures or both, did you tag people? it is building up FBs reference library on you and your ecosystem of relationships. You just handed over your personal data, by just hanging out with friends and now every one in your circle of relevance is exposed to this potential data harvest.

It can build dense relationship and thus decision trees (for later marketing/re marketing to you) of people place, interactions, usage, connections and pretty much every thing else you can choose to mathematically co relate. (Hypothetically speaking). Speaking of co relation take a look at this and be inspired to do some thing interesting with it

What its missing is an equally deeper level of localized data. Not to encourage some one from building a data layer that helps FB or any one else violate privacy, but if there was a Shopify style local plugin of all restaurant menus, and online orders and payment info, that added to the stream of FB info would drive a large scale suggestions business model for FB then perhaps ordering, delivering, via partners of course, or resell that info.

With payments being launched inside of WhatsApp in India already, what if FB/WhatsApp already knew, or was location aware and offered you deals and discounts and in-platform shopping? There go all the coupon, discounting folks, along with bank cards and their offers.

It already knows who your friends are, who you spend time with where you eat together, so with 10 phones present in a room with WhatsApp or FB on them , how difficult is it for FB to figure out; frequency of connections and time spent + activities and locations where people meet and were together. Plus the gold standard of every interaction, “repeat behavior”. If any one can mine that, they are sitting on gold.

Imagine the privacy implications of snooping or knowing where you were, who you were with and how frequently and at what intervals ☺

You have 2 choices as developers & as companies, get in the data game, every ones looking for locally relevant data, if you can find, organize, structure and setup data, these companies will come and buy you or you data or license it, it’s a cheaper option for them. Again not saying you should help build anti privacy companies, but you get the idea of the possibilities data has in both realms. You have the tool and the means to deploy them. You have a loaded gun so to say, know how to nurture it, till the day you need to use it. Unlike what I saw this morning on my drive to work.

Loaded Gun In Pocket

Imagine the impact of in(platform) FB-WhatsApp payments and shopping, if you could or you already have the biggest mobile financial wallet, wouldn’t it be easier to just piggy back off you. If Google’s Lense project is any indication of what is to come in AI, soon I wouldn’t need to know the name of any thing I wanted info on or shop. But what about local items, their local availability? I couldn’t just point towards a Peshawri Chappal or a Qorma plate and expect Google to spit out relevant info.

It will spit out some info, but you need to be in the business of making that info relevant so when they come and open the flood gates in our market for shopping, retail, e commerce, it is your data that powers their stack. If not you have wasted your biggest competitive advantage, i.e being local yet doing nothing with it.

Uber is here, arguably Ali Baba and all are coming too, but where is the urban addressing data and orders delivered data for Uber eats to launch for instance. Are you working on it?

Not like the Uber launch has been any thing but a series of mis-steps from the launch press conference to how they are setup in this country, but their loss is your gain.

Ali Baba is supposedly in state level negotiations, instead of waiting and hoping Ali Express products come to you cheaply flip the coin and see what information resources they will need when they come to play here, look at and investigate what their history has been.

If you paid attention to Jack Mas Davos interview, he said that the Ali pay financial services card or a persons credit standing on Ali Baba is sort of a secondary financial services system in the absence of a credit score, and in rural and urban settings where families don’t know each other they use the score to determine suitability for marriage based on credit worthiness and character. Can you think of sub applications of data in this context? What that means is, if Ali Baba wanted they could launch the largest digital marriage service or credit check service. If they wanted that is. They already have the data.

I started with a list because I want you to go and reflect on what you could be doing vs what you are doing and what the big boys are doing. Now think of Google Assistant and Google Home, Also think of FB & Chat Bots and Augmented Reality and think of what you could be doing in the realm of AI, NLO, Communication and Data to help make profound difference in the cities, communities and areas you live in – at a national and regional level and ultimately globally.

That should be your starting point. Look around you, see what the global guys are doing, if they aren’t doing any thing, then again, you are the product because you haven’t figured it out yet. A lot of wholesale changes are going to come to the ecosystem. Be ready, be agile and make some money at it. But first please be self aware, no one is going to buy an other me2 product or service, very unlikely, unless it has a treasure trove of data.

If only Google and Facebook knew! Trust me they know already.. The question is, do you know what they know?

For the past 5 years that I have now been back in Pakistan the hottest topic of discussion amongst techies has been the arrival of Google and Facebook in Pakistan on the ground with in country presence. Besides techies every bureaucrat angling for relevance claims they are talking to the likes of Google, FB and recently PayPal and Ali Baba.

A lot has been said, discussed, hypnotized and speculated. Let me bust some myths offer some common sense pointers around what is likely to happen and why these guys aren’t here yet. Further why it may be fairly plausible for them to be on the ground soon, but later than we hoped.

First things first, they fully know and understand what the size of the opportunity in Pakistan is. Both companies are vying for new customers/audiences/new spend. They have sort of bottomed out in the West, the now famous “Next Billion” initiative at Google “ and FB trying to put Internet in the realm of affordability for the 4.3Bn people who are not online yet are not doing it for the social good of humanity but for creating a new customer base/audience that consume what they produce.

Based on the fact that the population of the earth is currently about 7.2 billion. There are about 2.9 billion people on the Internet, give or take a hundred million. That leaves roughly 4.3 billion people who are offline and need to be put online.

Hence the relative importance of Pakistan in that context cannot be ignored. Half the population of 200M folks around 25-32 years in age, mobile phones gaining momentum as is connectivity. So it is not in Google or FBs interest to watch from the sidelines. To the trained eye, they are not at the sidelines. Any thing but.

They are both pushing the envelope, they aren’t here but they are here. Here’s a hypothesis of the Advertising Market ad-dollars being exported out of Pakistan by companies buying Google and FB ads alone. I have no way of knowing this besides trying to connect some dots and asking some probing questions and doing some time honored financial filings research by associated companies and 10k filings in the US.

Here goes:

The total Advertising Market stood at $650 Million [1] in Pakistan(Again other peoples estimates/industry reports in Pakistan). That’s basically every thing rolled up.

Google Sales Last Year Attributed $45M to sales from Pakistan* based on research and inference of data available from various filings and domestic industry trends and sizing studies.

Google is 45% of Ad spend in Pakistan and FB 45%, again based on share of voice and advertising agency research.

FB would then also safely be at $45M give or take.

That Means the remaining 10% is  All others, local + bing + yahoo + linkedin etc.

Are you ready for the real number?? So the AD SPEND is already roughly at 100M$ so all other past estimates are skewed. This may be too, but its fairly close to what the data can support today. This also means the industry’s total pie has increased and there is more to come. All the old school ways of figuring out total spend is done to keep the Tax man happy so not every thing is reported by our local agencies and ad-czars.

So all the self professed pundits of industry(age 60+  with digital ambitions) and their sizing metrics are completely off, and Google and FB are laughing all the way to the bank.

So lets evaluate whats going on, 100m$ are roughly being lost in FX transactions, with no tax being paid by FB and Google as they are not locally incorporated.(This is the government’s beef with the situation or what is being considered a loss), watch out its a matter of time the Central Bank regulating  this space soon.(But must look at the other side of the coin also)

This is how the ad-spend process works:

An average consumer with a credit card who wants to do FB marketing does it, spends 10$ or 1000$ online, using their or a friends card. They get their online campaign, FB gets their money, the Bank runs the transaction and then by magic(or rather established) settlement norms the intermediary bank settles the charges in FX.

Like vapor the FX is gone. There is no tax regime in any of this.

Same thing for Google, they have less retail customers but still do, no less if you look at the model an agency sells a client on a Google campaign, the agency in turn uses a domestic or international credit card. If the order size is larger they are on net 30 day billings in which case they proceed to wire the Money out to Google in Ireland which is the central billing.

Again. FX gone. (Not really though as it is resulting in spawning economic activity, which is what should matter to any one with half a brain)

But that is a very simplistic way to look at it. Lets look at the net effect of this, like any advertising this is arguably adding to ‘market making’ activities. Ads result in conversion of prospects to clients, who in turn spend money, which in turn drives the eco system, which in turn results in Jobs, access to information or even international clients that could result in FX coming back in(Its safe to assume that for each 45m$ outbound share, there is a 100m$+ inbound share). So from my perspective Google is likely a net FX contributor(if you look at other markets where data is more transparent and who are of a similar demographic) when you account for all the small /mid sized/large publishers and game developers and every one else in the eco system who receives money from google monthly against content or games etc. Further, the missing piece are all the Google Services that free lancers use to build products, which they then advertise, either on FB/Google/Elance/the rest, and get paid $$ for services, time, products. All that FX arguably comes back in some form or an other.

The real issue is our inability to take the conversation to Google and FB and make it economically competitive for them to enter Pakistan along with managing their plight for legal protection and liability risk.(Operational, legal and personal for staff and others based here along with intellectual property protection)

So do you really think Google or FB care that their 45M$ in earnings were taxed? They could care less. 9M$ is a rounding error for a single P&L for either of them on a given day. Then what gives?

There is an evil beast at both of these companies called “Policy” the people arent, but the role or department some times is cited even internally as such. I have met some wonderful people, they are merely doing their job.

Lets look at this in retrospect. Remember the little saga with YouTube in Pakistan. A Ban. Now imagine Google having an office in Pakistan, Imagine any thing negative happening, then imagine a mob showing up at the Google office for mob justice. See the lock down on FB posts and govt demanding FB to block folks, yea, imagine them having an office and some staffer being picked up by FIA for not blocking an account… Now do you see why they aren’t here yet. This is the stuff that causes international incidents.

All of a sudden it makes sense, why the policy group at Google or FB is unwilling to put their employees in harms way. They need legal and personal protection before they come here. They may take a risk or two here and there, but there has to be firm commitments to make the operating environment similar to India to say the least, where Google has a huge operations(Roughly 5k direct/indirect employees) base and FB is not far behind.

Not only that, look at the pay scales reflected below

Google India

FB India

So there are many facets to FB and Google, one arm is responsible for Sales and there are many others who are doing R&D, Product Development, Investments, M&A and other activities. We just don’t want a sales office, we want the real deal, the real deal will only come when there is some one in government who is  “Sane and Materially smart” who can represent the voice of the tech community and can arguably understand what needs to be done by way of incentives and legal protection to invite all these giants to come prosper in our part of the world. Not some minister who uses Gmail or has an FB account and thinks they are “with the program” because of this. We need a national level decision on this, not a provincial one. This is for the greater good of the country.

Not like Google and FB cant see their own data, they are both openly reporting that search results/ organic growth coming out of Pakistan is off the charts. So their engineering teams and others are constantly innovating to engage the audiences from far away. No one in Mountain View or Menlo Park can really understand the on ground sentiment irrespective of how many “show and tell visits” they undertake and Photo Ops( they do with government types angling for relevance, see my earlier comment on that breed,) from their Singapore or MENA offices. Interestingly enough Pakistan has less in common with the South Asian Countries and the MENA teams and their staffers from an ethnic background and a market making stand point than the guys in MTV or MP , because in the US you may find expats who actually went from a deep rooted Pakistani base and understand some of the dynamics if not all.

Our export variety ex-pats who went recently from PK to MENA or SG are typically not at a career trajectory to impact decisions at a global level within these firms from a Policy stand point. Don’t get me wrong, they are the ones because of whom we are still relevant. So a personal note of thanks to all of them.

Just that I like to call a spade a spade and put the issues out there so if some one actually makes an effort to read this they can understand what the hell is going on.FB and Google have been hiring sales, marketing and BD staffers from PK (3-7 yrs experience range) its great for us, our guys are getting exposure, but its not great for the country, because we are not placing senior talent at the companies that understand the economic value of making the case for Pakistan. From a career standpoint it opens a door for more Pakistanis to get in to these awesome firms, no doubt. But its not helping our cause.  At a deeper level it will take these guys an other 10 years to impact changes we need today)

I know of one maybe two Pakistani origin VPs at Google and Maybe an other at FB . I know 2 dozen Indian origin at both places. So the issue is not India vs Pakistan, its visibility and momentum. We have neither going for us.

Imagine a CPEC level effort was put in place by the Government to put out credible folks, who understand Tech, M&A and the legal side of the house to court Google and FB, now that would be a “real damn tabdeeli.”

Giving f***ing press statements and putting up pictures on FB accounts with captions like “successful meeting with FB” “Great talks with Google” “Pay pal coming soon” etc is all immaterial and only fuels false hope and inspires our already mis-guided youth to believe crap and to hero worship those, who are doing this for their 5 minutes of fame till they are in government and want to stay relevant at all the Diplomatic and International kitty parties.

Some other insights for all of those who think that by not being here Google and FB are missing out. Lets look at some product innovations from both of them that did not require them to be here, but had they been, the localization quantum would have been crazy.

  • Google Maps has traffic data. So guess what, every one of your android carrying members of the Google regime are voluntarily providing Google location data, by calculating tower location and average speed they turned on live traffic without needing any damn permit or permission. For all the Pakistani map companies that think they will use laws and regulation to keep Google out, best of luck. You should rather be working on localization items so that just like in India Google turns around and buys you out for some thing of value that you produce.

 

  • If you are a Telenor or Zong customer using FB, see the little sign that comes up that says, you are using FB for free. There is no such thing as a free lunch, FB is running attribution studies on you, your profile, age mix, social disposition, economic demography, because they are mapping your connection data to your profile data, they are segmenting the market and will use this info to better target ads. If some thing is free, you should quickly understand that you are the product 🙂 They have more points of info on you and your habits than your spouse.

These are some very basic examples that I didn’t have look far and wide for. If this is the level of access they have without being here we must understand the flip side of this equation. They do not need our permission to operate here, but It would be good to work with them so as to  benefit from their products, services, economic propensity to spend/invest and grow markets.

Its not like only we are at some sort of fault on the other end of the equation these companies know they can push the envelope till some thing breaks, they will then come to drawing board. They know that in economies like ours every thing is for sale, including government, legislators, policy makers for as inexpensively as a photo opp or an internship for the relatives of the “well placed”. We know from the confessions of an Economic hit man, how this new world order operates.

No less it is in our best interest to open the market the economy and let some one else in besides the boogie men of CPEC.

So when you put up the power plants and generate excess electricity you will still have one of the highest un-employment rates in the world for youth. Also instead of turning the whole nation on to an army of  Free-lancers(which does have its merits when there is an over supply of talent not when there is scarce talent or mediocre talent) it would be better to grow the organized sector where by these guys are given opportunities at careers and exposure to new and ground breaking technology. That will only happen if we invite the right kind of international firms and global firms to come invest with us jointly, for their gain and ours.

How many PHd free lancers do we know that innovated on their own, it does benefit to be part of an ecosystem. Sadly the lack of payments coming in from free lancing and the plight of these free lancers dealing with the banks is still not resolved. They are exploited and their monies held on to so the banks can make an extra buck of the interest earnings. But the frenzy continues.

Some one who has no real world training, schooling or is self taught, 9 times out of ten will not be able to compete any thing globally competitive even in the free lancing space. Not every one is born gifted to make or launch free lancing million dollar fortunes. We are at best creating an army of mediocre people who could have done better but we let them down.

I share this to demonstrate how badly our priorities are screwed. Its election year(soon), I bet if for nothing else just to be electable it may be a good strategy for some of these politicians to go out and bring one of these foreign firms home with all the modalities thought out, no short term MOU bullshit. I can assure you the youth will look up on that favorably. Even though, arguably it still is late.

[1] This data is hotly contested because the reporting agencies like Gallup and Nielsen apply various discounts on the actual rate cards, in this case the Gallup study for the year 2014 has a 65% discount applied. http://gallup.com.pk/bb_old_site/AdSpend/2014/MediaAdSpend_14.pdf

As a basis for research and discovery when these and other studies are analyzed they list digital to be 1-2% of total Spend. The overall media space is seeing increase in spend year or year as an aggregate and digital is only Growing.

Other research available online, quoting data points of size and percentage of spend circa 2013 etc also available at

http://www.cpdi-pakistan.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Broadcast-Media-in-Pakistan-Hostage-to-Media-Economy.pdf

Updated Nov 30th 2017 with additional background info.