The Looming AI Storm: How Pakistan’s Business & Political|BABAS|Leadership Must Evolve to Survive

Pakistan stands at a critical juncture in its economic development. With one of the largest youth populations in the world, the country possesses a significant demographic advantage. However, entrenched in outdated business practices, Pakistan’s industry and business leadership has largely failed to innovate and adapt. As the world rapidly embraces Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), Pakistan’s reliance on inexpensive labor is under threat. This article delves into the urgency of modernizing Pakistan’s business landscape, to avert a looming economic disaster.

The Current Business Landscape in Pakistan

Youth Population

Pakistan’s youth population, accounting for 64% of its total population, is a double-edged sword. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reports that Pakistan has one of the youngest populations globally, with a median age of around 23 years. This youth bulge represents a massive potential workforce that, if harnessed correctly, could drive economic growth. However, without adequate job opportunities, this demographic dividend could become a demographic disaster. If you are young and reading this, heres some advice for you and some words of cation. TL;DR No One Is Coming to Save You.

Economic Crisis

Pakistan’s economy is grappling with multiple crises. The GDP growth rate has stagnated, hovering around 2.4% in 2022, down from 5.8% in 2018. The inflation rate surged to 27% in April 2023, exacerbating the cost of living crisis for millions of Pakistanis who continue to loose hope in the situation and worse yet in life at large. The fiscal deficit has ballooned, and public debt has reached unsustainable levels, making economic stability precarious. We are battling massive losses on state owned enterprises with only talk of privatization, every passing day causes tax payer losses and no positive momentum. If you want to understand the underlying breakdown of data of how the SOEs(State Owned Enterprises) continue to malfunction and those at the helm who have no idea about what to do, read the following thread.

IMF Loans and Debt

Pakistan’s reliance on external borrowing has placed it in a precarious position. The country’s external debt stood at approximately $131 billion as of 2023, with portions owed to the IMF. The IMF loans come with stringent conditions, often leading to austerity measures that can stifle economic growth and increase social unrest.

Unemployment and Job Market

The unemployment rate in Pakistan is a critical issue, particularly among the youth. According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the overall unemployment rate is 6.9%, with youth unemployment estimated to be significantly higher. This translates to millions of young people unable to find meaningful employment, leading to a potential rise in social instability. The highest overall unemployment rate (11.56pc) is prevalent among the age group of 20-24 years. (Data and Stats below)

Lack of Modernization and Corruption Across the board

Pakistan’s industrial and business sectors lag in modernization. The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2022 ranked Pakistan 110th out of 141 countries, highlighting severe deficiencies in innovation capability and technological readiness. Corruption exacerbates these issues, with Pakistan ranked 140th out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2023. Bureaucratic inefficiencies and political corruption hinder economic progress and deter foreign investment.

Social Justice and Education

Social justice remains an elusive goal in Pakistan. The literacy rate is around 59%, with significant disparities between urban and rural areas. The quality of education is inconsistent, often failing to equip students with the skills needed in the modern economy. The Human Development Index (HDI) places Pakistan at 154th out of 189 countries, reflecting the country’s struggles with providing adequate health, education, and living standards.

Elite Capture

Elite capture refers to the phenomenon where a small, wealthy elite controls a disproportionate share of economic resources and political power. In Pakistan, this manifests through the dominance of family-owned conglomerates that stifle competition and innovation. These elites often engage in rent-seeking behaviors, using their influence to secure favorable policies and contracts, further entrenching economic inequality. We have been hit in the face every day for the last 7 decades with this phenomenon. You must understand this before you try to solve for it.

Now lets Talk about AI and AGI + Where we are headed..

Artificial Intelligence (AI): AI refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think and learn like humans. These systems can perform tasks such as recognizing speech, making decisions, and translating languages, often with a level of efficiency and accuracy that surpasses human capabilities.

Artificial General Intelligence (AGI): AGI is a more advanced form of AI that possesses the ability to understand, learn, and apply knowledge across a wide range of tasks, mimicking human cognitive abilities. Unlike narrow AI, which is designed for specific tasks, AGI aims to perform any intellectual task that a human can, with the capacity for reasoning, problem-solving, and abstract thinking.

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit Singapore, and the experience was eye-opening. The progress I witnessed there starkly highlighted how far behind we are in comparison. Don’t get me wrong, I celebrate humanity’s advancements, but it painted a somber picture of our own future.

To provide some context, Google operates a global accelerator program, and I have been fortunate enough to serve as a mentor for several years. At its core, this program aims to support startups by providing access to Google’s cutting-edge technology without requiring equity. Startups are paired with top global talent in the form of mentors, helping them to innovate and grow.

During my visit, I was involved in Google’s AI:First Singapore Accelerator. This initiative, in partnership with the Singaporean government, was exclusively for Singapore-based companies. The level of support and resources available to these startups was impressive and highlighted the significant gap between Singapore’s proactive approach and our own.

Singapore’s government and business leadership have wholeheartedly embraced technology, driving a wave of innovation that positions them at the forefront of global progress. Their commitment to fostering a tech-savvy environment is evident in the robust support infrastructure for startups, the strategic partnerships with tech giants like Google, and the relentless pursuit of technological advancement.

In contrast, our own leadership and business sectors seem mired in outdated practices, resistant to change, and slow to adopt new technologies. This reluctance not only stifles innovation but also hinders our ability to compete on the global stage. Singapore’s forward-thinking approach serves as a stark reminder of the potential we are failing to unlock due to a lack of visionary leadership and a commitment to modernization.

The Reality of Pakistan’s Youth Population

Despite the government’s frequent proclamations about the benefits of having a young population, the harsh reality is that this youth is under-educated, under-skilled, and under-exposed. As AI continues to advance, these young minds are at risk of being dominated by intelligent systems that can perform their jobs more efficiently and at a lower cost.

Education and Skills Gap

The literacy rate in Pakistan is 59%, with substantial disparities between different regions and socioeconomic groups. Furthermore, the education system is not adequately preparing students for the demands of the modern workforce. According to the World Economic Forum, Pakistan ranks 125th out of 130 countries in the Global Human Capital Report, highlighting the severe skills gap.

Technological Advancements by OpenAI and Google

Recent advancements by companies like OpenAI and Google demonstrate the disruptive potential of AI. OpenAI’s latest autonomous agents are capable of performing complex tasks such as content creation, translation, and customer service. Google’s AI tools are transforming industries by providing advanced capabilities in data analysis, virtual assistance, and design.

These AI tools are set to clean the slate for low-cost destinations. For example, AI-driven virtual assistants can handle customer service interactions more efficiently than human workers. AI-powered design tools can create high-quality graphics and content without the need for a human designer. AI translators can provide instant, accurate translations across multiple languages. Call centers, traditionally a stronghold of low-cost labor, are increasingly being automated with AI systems that can handle inquiries and provide support around the clock. But first, to really understand what is going on, you must understand the Myth of the IT Sector that has been created by the powers be, for us to act on next steps and not build IT Towers and Buildings we must understand where the issues lie.

Some Sobering thoughts on whats to come..

AI systems excel in data processing and analysis. In industries like finance, healthcare, and logistics, AI can perform tasks such as data entry, pattern recognition, and predictive analysis more efficiently than human workers. A PwC report estimates that AI could contribute up to $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030, but only for countries that effectively integrate these technologies.

The Urgency & Will to Change & Knowing What to Change….

Investing in Education and Training

To harness the potential of our young population, Pakistan must invest in education and vocational training. Emphasizing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education is crucial to prepare the workforce for AI-driven industries. According to the World Bank, improving educational outcomes could boost Pakistan’s GDP by up to 30% over the long term. But we might already be too late, we need to start of by having less ministers and more doers. We cant fix a problem we don’t understand. Start with vocational training and re training of unemployed and underemployed youth in the field of AI enabled tools, services etc. The Irony being that the former Federal Minister of Technology who could likely not even use a computer is now the Federal Minister of Education. You can not change your outcomes with these Mickey mouse tactics. Our current minister of Technology has not really been in office long enough but early indicators clearly point in the direction that they are not much different from the previous one or the many former ones who have had no idea what they were doing(based on progress or the lack lack thereof). Working to either build PR, enjoy foreign trips, or do photo ops. Net net the outcomes and promises seldom fulfilled. From trainings to budgets being squandered across the decades we have had these ministries.

Encouraging Entrepreneurship

Creating an environment that supports startups and small businesses can drive innovation and economic diversification. Government policies should provide incentives for young entrepreneurs, fostering a culture of creativity and risk-taking. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) reports that countries with high levels of entrepreneurial activity tend to have more robust economic growth. For all my opposition on doing away with ministers and ministries, what we do need and continue to optimize is to promote SMEs, we have near retarded and regionally focused organizations who allegedly work for SMEs, all they do is show up to kitty parties paid for by Karandaaz and Bill & Melinda Gates and many others (not trying to single out these guys) in Islamabad, have some tier three food at Serena and do PR events and go home. Oh lets not forget, tag each other across social media and talk about their hard life. The real dis incentive this nonsense causes is stop those who are really working hard when they see baseline and crappy ideas getting support and funding but no outcomes. We have to try harder.

Modernizing Business Practices

Family-owned conglomerates must modernize their business practices. This includes investing in research and development, embracing digital transformation, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement. According to a Harvard Business Review study, companies that invest in digital transformation are 26% more profitable than their peers. Here is the kicker, when you got in reality and stasticaly speaking old men running the country, its businesses and enterprises, who insist on in person meetings and wasting your whole day about “things in their time” you know this is a one way ticket to no where, we have to bring change where change deserves a chance, a the very top. Folks who became rich by holding on to dad’s money, dad’s friends, concessions, contracts and subsidies, will not want to do any transformation, digital or moral. But we need to move in that direction for the growth and sustainability of our youth. This country can not afford to keep its youth at home and un employed with only TikTok as their best friend. The net effect of that is that the AI Algo on that social media will actually bring more dis content to the youth when they see the have and have nots across geographical divides, no level of social media monitoring and management will fix that discontent. You must realize that you cant compete with AI and Algos by filling forms and stopping accounts. You must know your adversary (*inquire within). The saiths must be mandated to attend some level of basic AI awareness bootcamp or chai, what ever gets them in the door to listen to the voice of reason.

Public-Private Partnerships

Collaboration between the government and private sector is essential to accelerate the adoption of AI technologies. Public-private partnerships can fund research, develop infrastructure, and create a supportive regulatory environment. Successful examples from other countries, like Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative, demonstrate the benefits of such collaborations.

What should the Government & Business be doing?

The rise of AI and AGI represents both a challenge and an opportunity for Pakistan. But if only managed in real time. The current business leadership must act decisively to modernize and embrace technological advancements. The political folks at the helm must do away with building IT Parks and inviting has beens to advise on building educational ecosystem and modern growth led industries. We have this backwards. We continue to invite people who have access to local political and business franchises vs bring the host of Pakistanis who live and work globally who are experts in the space. We do not need committees. We need to Kum the Teas if you get my drift and do more work. We need less announcements, more action. But at the very core we need working and reliable internet, or none of this talk of the youth, goes any where besides to shit. You can not have a thriving digital ecosystem offline. So who ever is responsible for advising the powers be, my 2 cents to you, is being pragmatic and defining the exam question you want to solve vs solving for your own success as advisors and torch bearers of equality. We can see past this, the youth understand this BS they have seen enough, help them help us all get out of our economic mess.

Failure to do so will not only erode the country’s competitive advantage but also leave a generation of young workers facing unemployment and economic uncertainty. By investing in education, fostering innovation, and modernizing business practices, Pakistan can navigate this technological revolution and emerge stronger and more resilient. But the expiry date on this is fast approaching. To understand why, you must understand the competition, does not eat, sleep, or take bio breaks. Don’t believe me, see below.

Digital Bank(s)/Bank(ing)/Fin-techs & The People Who Lead The Charge In 🇵🇰

As a consumer who is marred by sub-par digital banking services, let alone delightful experiences. I always wonder(ed) who are the anonymous faces that gather on our behalf and come up with experiences in the digital realm? Also why are most, if not all of these experiences so shitty? And why has not one single bank/fin tech etc really done any thing significant in the space. I have tried very hard to like the apps, services, user experiences, digital journeys, but they are generally illogical, badly thought out, detached from good user experience design and then some.

Look every one has a right to build their APPs/Online services the way they want to but given that these ones specifically impact the way individuals and arguably SMEs do business, they are helping no one. I would argue that the reason SMEs really don’t scale in this country is because of the horrendous lack of focus by the Incumbent banks and really consumer-intellect heavy products, that are neither intuitive nor shelf-stable.

Why did I add SMEs to the bucket, because that is the real value unlock of any of these players and their organizations understood stuff besides receiving trophies and accolades from circle jerk clubs of peers and attending paid conferences to evangelize the 1996 level websites & services they continue to crank out. No hard feelings, if any one took an objective look they would tend to agree.

Let’s start by identifying who the players are first. It took Some time, but it had to be done. *If you’d like an interactive copy of the file, subscribe to my newsletter or engage with the post here/retweet the original post

Incumbent CDOs/Leaders

So looking at the incumbent banks and their Digital Chiefs/Custodians, I decided to look at their digital footprint and their digital engagement.

The exam question being:

“Can some one who is not really digitally first/native, them selves, (based on cursory information online) lead/develop/build/guide/manage, the best digital experiences for their banks audiences?”

You can be the judge of the answer to that question & if you agree or disagree that their designed experiences come up to par with your basic expectations. Some of it has to do with the culture of the banks, some of it has to do with the background and experiences of the people leading the charge.

This data cant be used as statistically accurate; as its part, fact, part opinion part conjecture, part wishful thinking part frustration with the shoddy services as an end user that I have to endure daily.

In the spirit of generalizations, barring a few of these folks at incumbents, most have been moving around between banks locally, some, arguably have foreign experience, some in relevant fields, whilst others not. The issue is, when banks locally continue to hire people who have been learning only from “vendors” & their so called “conferences” in Dubai, the collective sum of the output is in front of us.

Please recognize that person with the latest IPhone or the tightest jeans or turtle neck , pinstripe blazers or socksless shoes is not the only or ideal CDO candidate. Nor the ones who talk the loudest or make the most noise are those who are the most ruthless politically at the bank(s) either. Its these traditions that have continued to F**k the consumers and continued to challenge the central bank who really wants to support digital first services and products, but they get disappointed by their babus of digital at commercial banks. Interestingly the regulator has more gravitas with digital vs the incumbents. So really need to highlight their efforts and digital stewardship. Good on you SBP…You know who you are.

Show me one key player in this list and show me some thing of value, significance, they built in this role or their former roles working domestically or abroad that can be attributed to being a local, regional or a global success in the digital space? Most if not all follow the same mentality, how many people report to me? How many days will I take to respond back to vendor/client emails? How busy am I pretending to be this week?

These digital leaders cant be faulted alone for the way things are, they are just victims of their own roles and self perceived success. Some humble pie would go a long way.

The issue is, what new “doodad, thingamajigy” is the flavor of the month that some one forwarded the CEO of the Bank.. The way that journey works is; the Banks CEO or Sponsors rely on some thing called the “down ward shit-sandwich” which is essentially to reign in the stooges, they find some thing from an other market, send a Whatsapp forward to the person in charge, and then ask “do we have this” (DWHT). This is how most strategies come about at Banks. Pleasing upwards..

Fu** the customer essentially, what the F**k does the customer know they want… Let’s build what the CEO or the Saith is asking for. So can you really fault the employees?

Job security, brown nosing, one-upmanship , big titles with no execution gravitas, zero technical and infrastructure understanding, is what brings us to this. This is not an attack on the employees of the incumbents, but more of an empathetic stance, “I understand your plight bro(s)” Also missing in no small part, is the fact that not one BANK in PK has a Female CDO or Tech Leader. Please do point me in their direction if I missed some one.

Looking further down stream on why some ones digital foot print beyond LinkedIn namely on Twitter/X is a good representation of their digital credentials, I couldn’t possibly point you to a scientific reason.

No less if you aren’t even some one whose end users/product participants cant even tag online, are you really proud of what you are building or leading? Or are you hiding from the work behind layers of obfuscated handles, company accounts, call centers etc. Basically if the buck doesn’t stop with you on digital journeys, where does it really stop? So you want the title, recognition, awards, salaries but not the responsibility? Again more a systemic issue than a role/person based one.

There are serious exceptions to the rule, none that I’ve seen at the incumbents but many at the upcoming fintechs/new banking product leaders etc. We will get into that list shortly.

So coming back to Twitter or even LinkedIn perhaps, the only thing most of these executives are experts in doing, from a community engagement perspective is taking stylized images of their business class flights, expensive wrist watches and the occasional “How do we fix IT exports” type debates. Clearly focusing on the wrong KPIs.

There is zero building in public, zero public apologies, zero feedback, just hyperbole and bullshit posts/copied from other places and most recently completely mindless ChatGPT output. Yes I’ve spent some time reading their posts last weekend. The most interesting ones are those where they write posts on GenZ and Millennial POVs, and you have 50-60yr old bankers & internal employees commenting on their posts, “great boss”. Talk about the Irony…

If you were a large share holder of these banks, a board member, a saith, a sponsor, or even the CEO, you should be asking: “How qualified are these people really to lead the single most important factor in your future growth as the challenger banks and fintechs come to town?”

You are about to be toast if either your banks goals aren’t aligned with your digital leaders skill set or you do not empower them, all the faults don’t lie with them, they are the output of a highly politically astute chess match that typically got them to where they are. But human instinct is survivalist at best and these guys have perfected it.

Digging further down, since we are being honest, some of these guys have re-branded their failed mis-adventures in to juicer titles/roles in their new companies and roles. My favorite example from some years ago is that every one in every bank who ever worked at EasyPaisa was “founder team member” of easy paisa or head of payments or “chief some thing”, I identified 7 of them at various banks using LinkedIn. Not my data or analysis just what their titles state. Gross inflation of designations leading to sub-par journeys for customers and no real traction in the digital realm. Forget financial inclusion, these folks cant even have a cohesive online conversation on the functions they are allegedly leading.

So far we have identified 5 Core issues

  1. Lack of Digital Channel Engagement on part of the CDOs/Leaders
  2. Title Inflation & Celebrating Fake Former Milestones
  3. Pleasing Upwards
  4. Being first for all the wrong reasons & products
  5. Limited Exposure (domestic market job cycling) or horizontal movement from the region

We move along to the challengers next and their CDOs/Leadership.

New-co Banks/Fintech Digital Leaders

There is some traction in this space(Thankfully). Whilst these were the only folks who showed up on minimalistic LinkedIn searches, before you come at me, that there are many more fintechs and many more new licensees. Trust me I am not getting paid to dig out the folks here but genuinely interested in comparisons. With Sadapay and Zindigi we have seen the leaders engage heavily with the community online tackling questions answers, complaints. both Omer + Noman take to public engagement and hence I am aware of their community first approaches because it’s online. With Hugo, Atyab is seen as trying to build in public so thats a +1 for some one entering the market and clearly a lost opportunity for incumbent digital leaders who have insane brand recognition and distribution. So Kudos to these folks for trying as new-cos and new brands. But time will determine how successful they end up being, from the looks of it, they are trying a different approach and being mindful of their audiences.

The Easy Fix:

  1. Bring in teams with digital transformation, expertise hire from adjacent industries
  2. Build real talent on your boards with folks who have multi vertical digital experiences
  3. Shed the sahabs/babus/relatives of the sponsors or their touts in positions that can change the fate of the banks Vis-Ă -Vis the real potential of real digital rails
  4. Stop hiring McKinsey
  5. CEO of banks need to really really really hire digital advisors or board members not just internal committee members. CEOs understanding of digital is really superficial barring 2-3 banks. Sorry guys, you may not agree but it’s the truth.
  6. CEOs of Banks Need to Focus on SME/SME solutions think growth $s
  7. Be very careful, that your brightest talent is going to be, and is already being hired by regional players. If you do not promote the right talent from within they will leave because they are sick and tired of working for your non-digital, digital leadership
  8. For the CEO/Boards/CDOs, please start using your own apps vs relying on your CDOs for feedback
  9. Take action vs making claims(CEO/Digital Leaders)
  10. KPIs are your friends, not fake awards

What is really missing?

I continue to feel that the intent to build truly digital solutions is missing. Apps, websites, hardware, etc do not replace intent. Since 2007, I believe, when branchless banking regime came about, has any one really put out a comprehensive digital banking product, experience? Bi-weekly the industry continues to do MOUs, drive FOMO at their leadership cadres and the most successful digital pundits continue to get outsized internal funding allocations. Till there is intent nothing will change. With this, I wish the new-comers to really make a difference and lead with intent & for the incumbents to try one last time.

Net, net stop talking about digital and start innovating and putting in the right talent, leadership and KPIs with a view that most of your future customers are going be in their 20s & 30s and they are brand agnostic, only service will determine the success across your digital platforms and dreams so lead with intent or these new audience will move along.

This is a consumer driven view, I feel every time I write an opinion piece some one comes out of the woodworks and threatens legal action. Consider this a free audit instead. Focus on using litigation dollars for bringing about change instead. Consider this a public service for our collective growth. No CDOS were harmed during field research.

The Ambition Tax: How Corporate Culture in Pakistan is Robbing Graduates of their Professional Growth

The country is facing a number of economic challenges, including high inflation, a large trade deficit, and a growing fiscal deficit. This has led to a challenging business environment, with high levels of uncertainty and volatility.

In such an environment, it is important for businesses to attract and retain talented employees, who can drive growth and innovation. However, the high levels of employer dissatisfaction among the potentially qualified, young professionals make this difficult. As employees are more likely to leave their jobs in search of more challenging and rewarding opportunities for slightly more money.

This creates a vicious cycle, where high levels of turnover reduce the productivity of businesses and limit their ability to drive economic growth. Also not serving the GDP in any significant way, as they are part of a rotational pool of marginally skilled and sub-optimal resources.

Valued only, between players of a closed economy. Meaning that most of their value is not globally competitive and typically doesn’t stem from innovation or growth related skills. It comes from”beating the system” longest.

At the crux of this issue lies the much larger issue of corporations based in Pakistan. Be it local or foreign. The DNA over time for both, is nearly indistinguishable from the perspective of the Ambition Tax placed on the young graduates who join them with hopes and dreams.

So what is this Ambition Tax?

In my mind, ambition tax refers to the idea that the corporate culture in Pakistan is stifling the professional growth of graduates by limiting opportunities for advancement and hindering their ability to fulfill their career aspirations because at their core; these corporations are thinly veiled monopolies or oligopolies protected by subsidies, generational wealth, influence, political leverage and national security related items. Essentially any where else in the world they would not be able to compete. Let alone get to the scale at which they operate in Pakistan.

This is due to a number of factors, including a lack of transparency, stagnant growth, and seemingly large corporatized businesses being run like family-owned businesses vs globally competitive ones. Or large foreign owned businesses run at the whim & fancy of their local leadership who typically are in entrenched roles for decades on average. They serve the $ earning potential of their principals/foreign masters, by dealing with the dirty work in Pakistan and only reporting back on the growth.

These parties are almost also over in the Telco space and some Foreign FMCGs where billions spent to build brands, built many millionaires, setting the wrong work culture and success benchmark of colluding with advertising agencies and television networks to harvest hordes of cash. (Every one f**ing knows this, they just don’t have the courage to call out the insane level of corruption and lack of morality at these organizations)

Under the don’t ask don’t tell principle, what happens at Large Telcos/FMCGs and others in PK is glossed over by printing and sticking FCPA (Foreign Corrupt Practices Act)Rules by American companies and Value statements by most others.

In a crazy development, the local corporate groups have stopped pretending; they now consider their growth ambition linked to breaking the law and consider the speed monies paid as a natural symbiotic relationship between what they do and what the government has to do.

Like kids watching their parents and learning their traits, young graduates watching their employers, their companies, their peers, their bosses all being involved in 5 activities at large

1)Look Away

2)Control the flow of info to retain your job

3)Please the bosses/society by resigning to your fate (much like this kid who who got mugged)

4)Play Politics

5)Do what you are told vs doing any thing extra

In a society that over indexes on “juggar” and under indexes on “ingenuity” and doesn’t know the difference, the only war we are at, is a war with our broken selves as one guy tries to pull the other down, in an attempt to take a piece of the available pie, vs growing the pie.

So whats going on? (At Large Companies)

One of the major reasons for the ambition tax in Pakistani corporations is the lack of transparency in the hiring and promotion processes. Often, positions are filled through nepotism or connections rather than merit and practice of not letting the old guard retire, look at the PSX 100.

You would be hard pressed to find directors in their 30s and 40s who are not family members of the listing sponsors, leading to a dearth of opportunities for young, talented professionals.

Major banks like HBL and others recently announcing they will retain their above 60 staff? The jokes write them selves, it’s a self rewarding club of boomers. They have to be retained because their counter parts operate in the government and its not worth the hassle to train a younger person on how to evade the system.

This creates a vicious cycle where the most competent and qualified individuals are overlooked, and the least capable are given positions of power, hindering the growth and progress of the company as a whole. The few who are capable and make it to some where, spend their time politicking vs focused on professional growth.

Cant blame them either, they went from, “I wish I had a job, to I have a great job, with most creature comforts, I better not f**k this up” when they hit this level, they are married to the roles job security, its monthly check, their nice offices a settled family life and a family co-dependent on their work outcomes.

In such a setting, the ambition is over, it is traded for longevity by subservience to those in charge. Large Pakistani corporations are where hope goes to die.

Banks how could I forget banks….oh Pakistani banks …

When I have taken it upon my self to put out the going ons at most if not all telcos and FMCG companies, Banks along with saiths, also deserve our attention. They are the epitome of ambition killers.

Let’s look at a young grad who gets into an operations role at 35k PKR. The Banks CEOs driver by then has a better total comp package including fuel, meals, and interest free loans. The driver is un skilled but the young grad is skilled. It would take 5 career jumps over 10 years to bring this person who enters the Bank at 35k to make a salary of 250k if they are lucky and suck up the right way and tolerate inhumane treatment from the public at large and their “seniors”.

By this time they are in their forties, have a family, and the charm to stick around, is the servitude the bank buys by offering a house loan. Lock stock and barrel, this 40 year old who looks like he’s 60, traded his caged existence for a loan because the state has no f**ing system to enable this. The banks, the saiths, the Sindh club biradri wins every single time. At the cost of the ambition the youth are trading for basic survivability and life events.

The CEOs wear tailored suits, typically enjoy a good bottle of single malt, I can name a dozen or more such gentlemen but thats not why we are here. Who by no professional conviction have gotten where they are.

They too are security men, who love their jobs and the security it provides to sit in well guarded homes, with their friends over single malt and build the courage to curse the politicians, their very own Sindh club peers, whom they lend to and wash away their sorrows into the night by complaining about the same. Do you not see the hypocrisy?

Most of these bankers/ceos/leaders, their numbers 2s and 3s are has beens, they wouldn’t be able to find globally competitive roles for the shit they deliver to the masses daily in PK. The only reason banks worked in PK is not because they are innovative, but because the government is stupid, and the awaam is land locked from access to debt and loans.

All these details not because Banks and Bankers have issues or me with them, it’s to paint the sorry picture of what is happening at the top and how worlds apart, the growth trajectory is for the young chap who joined the branch. To ever making it to the single malt club(if they so desired, not endorsing they should). They watch from a distance and their lips run dry in the delivery of the word “sir”.

Each Business unit head, each Management Team member runs a fiefdom in these corporations. Their fiefdoms are a microcosm of Pakistani society, where the most marginalized is the most subservient, but since he gets a pay check at the end of each month, he’s conditioned to make the most of the misery of being a personal slave to the business leaders. What do you think this daily torture does to ones ambition? It dies a slow but certain death.

Saiths, their children & the “principal, sponsor” drama….

Next we have the established saiths, their families, with alleged “professional” CEOs. Running large diversified but subsidized businesses because of concessions, cheap real estate, rebates, tax evasion or other such premium deals.

Saiths are winning because they have rigged the system, a system of corrupt politicians and bureaucrats. In a closed economy like Pakistan they win, they compound their wealth, they pretend to care for the people who work for them. They have learnt from their foreign counterparts very well, the only motive is profit at the cost of ambition.

Most of young graduates trade their ambition for job security and a fighting chance to get close to “management” some make it, most don’t and a vast majority die trying. The tiered system ensures, no one learns any thing new, companies don’t need innovation to win, they need legislation, lock-ins, essentially a machinery of inside men.

When you are not playing at the global scale, all you are doing is re aligning the chips to win locally. When you give up global competitiveness you only optimize for local pettiness, in doing so you ensure the learning outcomes of every one are stunted. When you don’t have to compete but rather co-opt your ambition also gives up.

Saiths and sponsors who build and list companies also manipulate their stocks. Every one knows it. We can also name the 4-5 brokers who do this, have been doing it for years, yet we don’t, my post is equally critical of all but the reason for writing is to make the youth aware of the principal/sponsor problem, for them to recognize they are being dealt a short hand. For them to have the fortitude to focus on their growth vs growing into roles that have no meaningful impact on their lives.

Another contributing factor is the stagnant growth of many local corporations. This lack of growth is due to a number of reasons, including poor management(as the saith aren’t some great operators, most are petty crooks in pretty suits), a lack of investment in innovation and research, and a lack of focus on expanding the business. When they make enough money their second generation comes in from Harvard and Yale with bright ideas, who are handed over to family advisors to be brainwashed in to “Abba jis” ways. Therein begins the second wave of more of the same. If kids don’t comply, Abba ji identifies some hired executive “munh bholay bataays” who are more than happy to carry out his wishes.

This can make it difficult for young professionals to find opportunities for advancement and can result in them feeling stuck in their careers, unable to grow and develop their skills when they look outside of Pakistan.

So what can be done?

In order to tackle the ambition tax and create a more inclusive and dynamic corporate culture, it is important to focus on implementing transparency in hiring and promotion processes, investing in growth and innovation, and encouraging the development of professional networks and mentorship programs.

By creating opportunities for young professionals to grow and develop their skills, we can help to create a more dynamic and competitive corporate culture in Pakistan, one that encourages ambition and hard work and not short-term-ism.

Additionally, it is important to support businesses that are run like real businesses, and to encourage a shift away from the traditional preference for family-owned businesses. This can be done by providing incentives for companies that invest in growth and development, and by highlighting the importance of professional management practices.

I have seriously high hopes with the newer generation to take a stand and do whats right, report your crooked bosses to your foreign owners, call a spade a spade, you owe it to your self and to Pakistan to not let this brazen miscarriage of negative outcomes shape your future. You owe none of these people any thing, you do not need to be subservient to any one.

This lack of initiative and innovation can be traced back to the fear of failure and the need to maintain job security in the face of economic uncertainty. This results in a culture where people play it safe and do not take risks, opting instead to be loyal to the owner even when it means making bad or wrong decisions. You owe it to your self to not do this any more.

How this re-wires the brains of the young grads and Why thats a bad thing…

From the perspective of young professionals who remain in safe roles for several years, the major disadvantage is that they miss out on opportunities to learn and grow, both professionally and personally. This can limit their career advancement and lead to a feeling of stagnation and frustration, as they are unable to fulfill their aspirations and reach their full potential.

Compared to their peers globally, young professionals who stay in safe roles for extended periods of time may miss out on opportunities to develop new skills, work on cutting-edge projects, and take on new challenges. This can make them less competitive in the global job market and hinder their ability to advance in their careers. Additionally, working in a stagnant environment with limited opportunities for growth can lead to boredom and disinterest, making it difficult for these individuals to remain engaged and motivated in their work and in their lives, leading to seriously un happy outcomes at home.

How does this Ambition tax destroy the country?

The high level of dissatisfaction among young professionals in Pakistan, where nearly half the population is under the age of 25, is a major concern for the country’s economic growth.

A lack of opportunities for professional development and growth, combined with the fear of failure and the need to maintain job security, can lead to a feeling of boredom and un fulfillment among young professionals. Leading to mass un productivity.

A non productive workforce that has nothing new to contribute, has significant economic consequences, as it increases the cost of hiring and training new employees, and reduces the productivity of businesses. Additionally, when talented young professionals leave the country in search of better opportunities, they take with them their skills, knowledge, and experience, reducing the pool of available talent and limiting the potential for economic growth.

The current economic situation in Pakistan further exacerbates these challenges. The country is facing a number of economic challenges, including high inflation, a large trade deficit, and a growing fiscal deficit. This has led to a challenging business environment, with high levels of uncertainty and volatility.

Unless we take ownership of our own issues and come up with a plan to tackle them. We will continue to shape our outcomes like our past, “stagnant with a high chance of extreme lows”

If you are young and motivated do your self a favor and read the thread below, today. Hard work alone is not going to change your outcomes. You knowing history will help. You deciding to change it, has the potential to change your outcomes.

Historical Context that I covered in my News letter

Made in Pakistan (Pre Nationalization Monopolies)

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (1928–1979) became President of Pakistan (1971–74) on 21 December 1971 after a disastrous end of 1971 war with India. The nationalization programme was implemented for the first time in the history of Pakistan and it was promulgated through three different stages.

I recently came across a fantastic publication. Private Industrial Investment in Pakistan: 1960-1970.

Cambridge Study Purchase Link

Why is this important? It sheds light in to how the economy was structured and who controlled the monopolies before Nationalization eroded economic capital of the country. It also shows some thing very critical, the growth rates of industry by sector.

Far more interesting is that I was able to see for the first time, the interplay between banks, their ownership, the insurance companies and the overall major monopoly families and their directorships across enterprises. It was an eye opener for me. So as you start to build your journey of better outcomes, be mindful of history, understand how made in Pakistan can be extremely successful and the pitfalls you must avoid.

Why share all this. It demonstrates that no-major hands have changed since the creation of the country, its tumultuous nationalization of industries and the present day. The outcomes have worsened for the youngest and brightest. If you still don’t believe that none of the firms, corporation and their sponsors are all in it to win it, at your expense, the chart below fascinated me when I saw it you should give it a read.

What is it?

The inter-connectivity between the groups visualized circa the 60s.

What now?

The first step is to identify there is a problem.

The second step is to figure out what areas are within your control.

The third is to invest your time an energy to not get into this rat race, but instead look for alternates or build alternates that allow you to excel.

Do not be mis-lead by the fake allure of these corporations because sooner rather than later, they will tax your ambition and you too will be a cog in their machinery. Invest in your self by not investing your time and effort to chase a dream that at best is locally competitive and at worse is globally irrelevant.

Power of the Executive Order, how the government killed entrepreneurship from NERO to NRO

NERO – Nationalization and Economic Reforms Order (1st Jan 1972)

On 1 January 1972, in a speech to the nation, Bhutto and the peoples party’s government promulgated the three-staged program, under “Nationalization and Economic Reforms Order (NERO)”, which nationalized all major metal industries, including iron and steel, heavy engineering, heavy electrical, petrochemicals, cement and public utilities except textiles industry and lands. The first stage of the nationalization program integrated approximately 31 major industrial mega corporations, industrial units and enterprises, under direct management control of the government under 10 different categories of basic industries. The program intended to assert public ownership over the industrial mega corporations.

NRO- National Reconciliation Order (5th Oct 2007)

It granted amnesty to politicians, political workers and bureaucrats who were accused of corruption, embezzlement, money laundering, murder, and terrorism between 1 January 1986, and 12 October 1999, the time between two states of martial law in Pakistan.

For a quick historical perspective the 22 Families who owned these businesses pre nationalization were essentially driven out of business, for the state to take over business. Irrespective of what one thinks of these families, their claims to fame or the equality of wealth, the external narrative at the time was as follows and sadly not much has changed.

Since we have no national database that I know of, to do an evaluation of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Pakistan from the time of independence to date, the recent de classification of the CIA documents has provided a nice treasure trove for history buffs. Albeit how much you read into these documents is a personal choice. About 13 million pages of declassified documents from the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have been released online Jan 18th 2017. The above snippets come from there.



Not much has changed, the government decided to take action then to repatriate alleged funds and savings over seas and to try a method of equalizing the playing field by curtailing influence of those in business and theoretically spawning economic growth.Sadly most of it didn’t happen that way. Further the Government of Bhutto collapsed and we were in a state of martial law, clearly not much innovation was happening then either.

But we fast forward to 2007 and essentially any one who was in a position to dominate, influence, execute, political or business control by either being in or by being in a position to manage positive outcomes for them selves and their clans got a clean chit and their cases were dropped by the NAB. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) presented a list of 248 politicians and bureaucrats to the government, whose cases were cleared by NAB due to NRO. That’s 248 folks who got the better end of the stick in a country of 200m+, essentially economically enslaved every one else.

That in any system is an unfair advantage to 0.000124% of the population. By way of wealth, access, influence, power, business and any other way you cut it. You and me and every one else has to reclaim what belongs to us. This sort of un fair advantage typically afforded by access to large, industrial, land, feudal complexes can only be overtaken by building scalable tech companies. The only way to ever be equals is not by how much land we can acquire or how much access to influence we can have, because they already run/own/operate the system and we have to get smart if we want to get our selves and our country out of the current state of disrepair  it is in.

For the rest of us the game from NERO to NRO will only end well if are able to build value by virtue of large scale disruptors. We have no other edge and no other resources besides the god given ability to level the playing field by applying our intelligence with a view to scale faster, more quickly than the generational reliance of these guys and turn the balance of power in our favor.

For every Unicorn you build, you impact the lives of thousands of people, that is the only way to take on the industrial/feudal/political complex and their un fair advantages garnered over the course of history. The only way to change history, is to make history by coming up with ideas and executing those that will disrupt the status quo, there is no other way any one can compete with the established brands, family franchises, politicians, bureaucrats and those in uniform because they gamed the system from inception. The only thing to do, is to the change the game in town and make it your own.