The fear mongers are out. The verdicts are in. In 100 days supposedly every thing was to be fixed and the generational crap shoot we have been down should have been reversed. A round of slow clapping and applause to the educated class who continue down this path of not accepting that, this shit storm has been in the making for decades and that if they are the beneficiary from past governments and contracts and “concessions” they have to for once, for the love of country and not greenbacks get off this bullet train to disaster. Clearly self interest reigns high. I meet the so-called investor types, industrial money and old money. The only thing common across most of those, is ill-gotten money. I will loose some so called friends and associates over the post, but I am happy to loose friends and gain a flourishing country, by calling out the BS.
No doubt there is economic decline, but it didn’t start and finish in the last 100 days, the current government is fairly silly in even having such a yard stick and talking when they should be working and nation building as opposed to optics building. With the sad state of FX reserves, free lancers and the tech folks who can actually contribute to fixing this national crisis are looking to bail, so it would seem. Given all that’s going on and with payment aggregators being unable to send money across to PK this situation is only going to get murkier. Unless the Banks and the regulator steps in. This is a crisis of confidence. We need to get some seriously competent and confident people guiding the government and not the generational multi-party idiots we have always had.
Let me illustrate why such is the case. We supposedly have an IT Minister and now also an IT/Tech Task Force of turning around the state of affairs of the industry. Couple of things to point out, this body whilst it has some very competent people also has others who may be competent in other facets of life but clearly a “wasta” inclusion is so evident in this group. We have a Retired(R) Naval individual perhaps I missed the memo on the Navy doing some block buster Tech Innovation and National Defense Sales and Commercializing stuff for export. To the best of my knowledge Arms Sales are in the Range of 300m$ a year. The free lancers in Pakistan are doing about 1bn$ or more in work, net-aggregate. So who should be advising whom here? We continue to include irrelevant people in these real time conversations, who have no role to play.
Then we have a representative from the Pakistan Engineering Council. Allegedly they represent the graduate engineers from across the country. All I will say about them is a reference to the Image below making the rounds from their 2018 elections.
We also have some has-been box pushers and CD/Software sellers who have never done a days worth of honest entrepreneurship and or value creation domestically. If you worked for a fortune 500 Company per se in Pakistan, whilst you made out well for your self, the only thing you have done or are good at is working for your sponsors to take their product(Namely Software or Hardware), sell it domestically and export the resulting revenue back to them. Meaning your net contribution in life has been at the expense of the Nation and a net FX loss. So why the state or these committees continue to idolize these folks is beyond my imagination.
This is not a laundry list of knocking down people and or individuals, it is a walk down memory lane of how we continue to F*k up things whose intent is generally good. As a side bar the Task force has not yet met up since the mid November announcement and formation. Some of the government efforts are mis guided on this front they continue to deploy good people in bad positions.
In short, get some folks who know what they are talking about who have done demonstrable things in the space and can make impact at scale. If you wanted to make a real task force you would invite real change makers who understand technology, scale commercialization, payments and growth. Id like to find out the median age of the Task force, you do not have a single millennial in the task force. If digital is your way out of this mess, than at-least get some digital natives to be a part of the narrative. Some of these folks struggle to use a smart phone. We are trusting them to drive the national narrative on technology.
We should be done with the Sahabs and the Bureaucrats and the Academics. We have held on to that formula for the last 50+ years, that shit has not worked. There are very many respectable people in these groups and committees but that doesn’t mean they will have any impact. Starting with the overqualified minister in charge this ship needs a new steward.
So what is the way out? Clearly I do not have an answer, but if any of these government types and task forcers had their eye on the ball they would be using the public money already (wasted/applied/used (depending on where you stand on this narrative) on all these nation wide incubators to stop doing these dumb hack-a-thons and force-creating startups that wont amount to much. Some will but they would have done so any way, most wont. We aren’t in SiliconValley we cant continue to fund these Starbucks conversation at the cost of the tax payer at these various Incubators. As a tax payer I have a serious issue with these locations not being optimally used, optimally staffed and optimally run. If nothing else turn them in to co-working spaces, people need space to work, stop hosting events to fill your social calendar again at the cost of the tax payer. What is one good commercial product to come out of any of these state funded incubators? Whats the benchmark of their success? Who is the net beneficiary in these setups? Do the people who are tasked with running these have any credible experience or success to be imparting advice and mentorship?
Sadly, mentorship is the most over used and least understood concept at these incubators any one who can speak fairly fluently or by virtue of their connections or recognition by virtue of their employer and job, literally show up and start imparting advice, which has no basis in reality and is of very little to help these incubatees. But no one seems to call this out. Perhaps a topic for a different day. The one good thing is nationally ready infrastructure to be repurposed for the good of the people.
So public money has already been spent how do we reclaim what we have spent and done? How do we move in to cash-in on the next wave of tech. How do we think past BPO and force creating me2 startups or incubating them. Because we continue to emulate what we see vs innovate at scale.
Some time back I wrote about the Onavo Mindset, luckily we have an other chance. Seemingly a wave is coming, not too many people are ready for it, but its a wave that likely on-boards the Next Billion Users. Luckily you can build for them and cash-in and cash-out in a big way.
Right about now, you are going, Wtf? We all know about Android, and whats the point of preaching about building android apps, actually the world is slowly moving in a different direction. Its the voice driven revolution fueled by feature rich phones that work and feel like smart phones. Its a revolution fueled by your imagination and building services for the first time internet and “device” users. So what is it?
Its KaiOs, if this is the first time you are hearing about it, trust me it wont be the last time. In India the revolution has already started, powered by voice and free data. We aren’t too far away, realistically what you build for Kai, powers any one and any where and you can continue to make money independent of your location. Don’t hold your breath on our committees and our regulators and our leaders and our ministers. Go build, be ready for the revolution. There is a reason Google invested 22m$ in KaiOs. Go to your incubator, knock on their door, they used public money, most are smart enough to recognize they have an abundance of space, politely ask them to use this space for working on your next KaiOs idea. Or any other idea. The time literally is now, you do not want to get into this space once its too late. Googles working on localization across India, meaning local language support. If we were to venture a guess, Urdu is likely not too far away. Try to understand the space, most particularly voice. On its own and tied to KaiOs that will be the future that drives the next generation of growth and services.
Looking at the data we are doing well in the gig-economy space. A 2018 study by the Oxford Internet Institute re-affirms the fact that we are on to some thing good here.
We need to capitalize on this trend, we need to put our minds and our resources to good use. We need to learn from the success and mission driven narratives of people like Yasser Bashir who have built worth while national narratives around putting good tech to good use by being great corporate employers and investors in growing the ecosystem by virtue of things like PyCon . I can cite many many examples at the risk of people saying I’m biased. Full disclosure I only know of Yasser’s work and do not know him beyond interacting at industry events. But I do not need to know him to know his work, thats what I am getting at. Its a mindset thing. Thats what we need to focus on.
A lot of good things are happening in and around us, we need to get past the petty and focus on the real stuff. We need to work on giving ideas and opportunities to those who can translate them in to growth and FX, we need to highlight and make inclusive committees and offer their memberships to people who can do good at scale. Not because of party or personal affiliation as is evident presently.
There is a reason old money hasn’t scaled in to tech because they worked in the “rent seeking” economy and model, they have no desire to create wealth across the nation, so why do we continue to include them in our national narrative around tech? The most tech, their kids(second third generations) know are iphones and ipads. Not like, they don’t have the money or the access to replicate global success in Pakistan, they are just not comfortable in allowing the creation of wealth that transcends their own families.
My question to all those who aspire to change their own fortunes and the fortunes of their teams, colleagues, their country. Why must you spend all your collective energy in complaining why not take charge and try to do some thing different. Aisa Kai ko nahin Kartay?