A peek at investable tomorrow's human-technology interface, today.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

ITCN Asia: The Catalyst of Pakistan BPO

Today is the eve of 7th ITCN Asia in Karachi. Looking back to ITCN Asia's birth, I wonder how many souls out there realised its importance and catalyst for Karachi's economy, especially at that time when the city badly needed the economic boost.

It was not too long ago at the 3rd quarter of Year 2000 when CommerceNet Singapore planned to organise a CommerceNet Asia meeting and conference in Karachi. Yes, Karachi - to be held in end March 2001. The general view then for CommerceNet was this: if India is doing so well in software export and BPO, there are no reason why Pakistan cannot replicate it. Many tech companies in Pakistan then was at its infancy. Then, there is also the question of Karachi vs Lahore. We settled for Karachi for its superior air connectivity, hotels and exposition halls.

Seeding an international conference then was not an easy task at all. Not in a country like Pakistan, especially in Year 2001. Hurdles and mindset had to be changed. Firstly the name itself: Information Technology, Commerce Network Asia, hence ITCN Asia was coined to reflect CommerceNet Asia meeting and conference to be held in Karachi Sheraton Hotel and Towers. Then there is also the need for an international exhibition. We managed to get PICO Art as the contractor with ECG of Singapore investing the princely sum required to start Pakistan operations. Allies need to be won, mindset needs to be changed, sceptic needs to be overcome, and red tapes needs to be cut. With the strength of volunteers students, civil servants, and dedicated workers, ITCN Asia 2001 was a reality.

It wasn't the event that matters, but the ability to serve as a rally call to move the entire IT sector forward. The dotcom bubble bust did not help the situation at all, but the spirit of ITCN Asia had magnified and somehow was successfully maintained for the 7th year in a row. That, in Pakistan is an achievement by itself! Things are getting better in Karachi by the day. Very soon ITCN Asia may just fade into just another trade show and just another conference. But it sure had earned the desired returns from the initial investment, at least a meaningful returns for the investing party.