Posts tagged ‘Karachi’
I have always been a Cathay Pacific fan – well maybe not always. There was a time when the Cathay stewardesses didn’t treat women business travellers with the same respect and decorum as they did the male traveller and that used to annoy the hell out of me. But either the number of women business travellers have increased over time thus forcing a change in the attitude of stewardesses or the CX training has focused on bringing about this positive change. Anyway, suffice it to say that I was until recently a very satisfied Cathay Pacific customer.
So what happened to change all that? Well, this time when I was traveling to San Francisco I decided to fly Cathay Pacific. Since I had some frequent flyer miles available I upgraded myself on the outgoing sector to business class. I enjoyed the comfort so much that on the return journey I went online to the Cathay Pacific site to upgrade the return journey although I had to pay a little for the upgrade. Sound simple? I thought so. Apparently it wasn’t.
The upgrade wasn’t reflected in my online booking so I asked my brother who lives in Hong Kong to talk to CX and find out why the change was not reflected. In response to this they checked and told him that it was done.
A happy ending you would think. No it wasn’t – it was the beginning of a nightmare. Apparently what CX had done was that instead of upgrading me on the sector they had issued a new business class ticket and charged me for it. How or why was this done, you might ask. Well, when I checked with CX on landing in Hong Kong, I was informed that I should never have used the online mechanism for the upgrade. Isn’t that what it is there for, I asked? I was told quite rudely that passengers were not expected to use the service – that it only resulted in messing up things. And because my brother had made the call as a follow up, they said the instructions had been duplicated resulting in two tickets (Economy & Business) being valid on the same day, on the same flight, same passenger name, same Passport number, same Marco Polo Club number instead of a simple upgrade from Economy to Business.
Whereas I can understand that mistakes happen, the rudeness and total inflexibility with which the Cathay Pacific team dealt with the problem at Chep Lap Kwok airport – the counter staff as well as the Supervisor – put me off traveling CX. I thought that the customer was always right. In this case the deaf ears of the airline staff proved that customer service is not of any importance to what used to be one of the best airlines in the world. It’s really sad. To win a customer takes a lot of effort but to lose them it takes but a moment of rudeness. Has Cathay Pacific forgotten that as a customer, I have a choice of many airlines and that my satisfaction or otherwise with their service can influence my decision and the decision of many people in my network?
Since they were aware that I could use only one ticket on that flight from SFO to Hong Kong to Karachi, wouldn’t it have been easier to accept the mistake of their online system & staff, and refund the economy portion? They would have lost nothing by doing that and would have in fact gained the gratitude and loyalty of an existing customer.
This happened to me last June and only now have I been able to write about it. That shows how upset I was and have been since then. I didn’t even want to think about it. CX turned what had been a wonderful business trip to San Francisco and personal stopover in Hong Kong into a frustrating and annoying experience. I didn’t expect this of you Cathay Pacific.
If you are planning to lease a car, you better make sure that you are able to make the payments on a regular basis to the bank because if you don’t, this could be your car!
I first saw this car in the basement of my office building months ago and I wondered why no-one cleaned it or took care of it. Then I saw the tyres had gone flat and the amount of dirt on it had increased.
One day I asked the chowkidaar whose car it was. It was then that he told me that this was a car that had been repossessed by the bank for non-payment and hence it just stood there until it met its fate – probably the bank would sell it and try and get part of its money back. One would think that if they want to sell it at a good price, the least they could do was to keep it in good shape. Ah well, who am I to make any suggestions? It’s just that it hurts me to see a car being treated thus.
On life’s journey very rarely do you meet people who not only make an impression on you but who also contribute to and influence your growth, your values and your development as a human being. Rita M. DeSouza was one such person. Learning of her death on May 25 at the age of 92 made me feel a sense of deep personal loss. She was a good soul who did so much for so many. I was sorry that since i was traveling I could not attend her funeral and pay my last respects. She had been a part of my life since High School as the Principal of St. Lawrence’s School in Karachi but our relationship did not stop there.
It has been a long time since I graduated from High School but throughout my college and university years and then as I entered professional life, Rita DeSouza was always there taking pride in whatever I achieved and guiding my development. She was the kind of educationalist who cared about her students, about the young people under her care, someone who followed their careers with a great deal of interest and took pleasure in their success and in their achievements.
A group of us who were in school together visited her regularly on her birthday, at Easter, at Christmas and New Year. She looked forward to our visits with great anticipation and often told her family and friends about this “special group of former students”. She never forgot to call us on special occasions like Eid to wish us Eid Mubarak. Whenever she saw anything about us in the newspapers or saw an interview on television, she would call and say how proud she was of what we had done and the way in which we had conducted ourselves. Her praise always meant so much because it was honest and sincere.
Rita DeSouza was a wonderful conversationalist. Each discourse with her taught you something new but she was also a great listener (a quality very few have). We talked to her about everything – our careers, our personal lives, our problems, our challenges, our successes, our failures. And the advice she gave very often helped us look at things from a different perspective and discover new solutions.
Rita DeSouza was an amazing human being. She was a great teacher, an efficient administrator, a role model for many, a humanist, a caring and loving person and a mentor and guide. She cared so much about this country and never really wanted to live anywhere else even though she was not short of options. Of late she had been very concerned about the political and societal changes taking place around us. She was also concerned about the quality of education and tried to do whatever she could to advise and work with various groups to improve the standards. She was a strong member of the community and an active participant. She was often seen visiting people who were old and sick or who needed attention.
I remember when I last visited her she was bedridden but still mentally alert. Her kidneys were giving up. The doctors had advised that she undergo dialysis but she had refused. She was adamant that she had lived a very full life and wanted to leave this world with dignity and grace and not tied to a machine. Those of us who knew her and loved her respected her decision.
Rita DeSouza had always been a fighter, a very strong human being. She had overcome a number of medical problems but had remained active and independent even after her husband Cyril’s demise. She wanted to die the way she had lived – with courage and grace. She didn’t want to linger and I am so glad she got her wish. We will of course miss her but the memories will sustain us and she will no doubt continue to live through the many young people whose lives she guided and whose values and ethics are strong because of her.
Farewell Mrs. DeSouza! You will always be remembered. You were a wonderful role model, a tremendous mentor and a great friend to all who knew you. You will continue to live in our memory and in our hearts. Rest in Peace. God has a special place in heaven for people like you.
Article in Tribune: http://tribune.com.pk/story/384730/transitions-adios-rita-de-souza-rest-in-peace/
Many of us have often had heated conversations about the difference between education and learning; about the dire need for making education a fun experience; about bringing learning to life instead of letting it lie between the pages of a book. With multimedia, interactive learning and initiatives like the Khan Academy, this is indeed beginning to happen in some small way – probably not fast enough or widely enough – but nonetheless it is happening and that’s wonderful to see.
Another area of concern for many of us has been the lack of an attempt on the part of government and educationalists to focus on creating a passion and interest for science and technology amongst the young in our country. This is of course not restricted to Pakistan. All over the world there is concern that not enough young people (especially young girls) are opting for the sciences.
It was therefore a pleasure to visit the Robotics Labs in Karachi and see the kind of things they are involved in. The Robotics Lab is a high tech initiative targeted
towards the young generation of Pakistan who want to develop a passion for Science. At the lab the kids have the opportunity and resources to learn cutting edge technologies in Robotics, Programming, iPad Game Development, 3D Scanning, 3D Modeling, 3D Printing and many more through interesting workshops held throughout the year. The children get to use the state-of-the-art equipment including laptops, robotics kits and high-end software. The modern, secure, air-conditioned facility offers an un-interrupted power supply and has high speed access to the Internet.
The vision of the Robotics Labs, according to co-founders Afaque Ahmed and Yasin Altaf, is to create a learning environment for children where they can come, learn and get exposure to “practical science”. With the world changing at a fast pace and technology taking over literally all aspects of our lives, it is imperative that our children are taught and given such hands-on opportunities from an early age. They are also able to determine which areas are of particular interest to them so that when they are choosing a discipline in high school or college level, they are aware of the opportunities in science and technology that are open to them.
In order to create awareness amongst students and parents in Karachi, the Robotics Lab has been hosting field trips for schools in which the students are given hands-on experience of Robotics. Besides this, most of the courses are also offered in after school workshops and in summer/winter camps. The Robotics field trips have been very popular amongst both children and their teachers.
Our objective is to create a ‘National Impact’ through Robotics education and equip the young generation with the multi-dimensional abilities required of them in the 21st century, say the founders of the lab. If you have a child or a neice or nephew or a younger brother or sister who is free this summer, it is worth looking at enrolling them into the summer camp. You will be surprised at how much they learn and how excited they get about the potential use of science and technology in the real world.
I saved a life today – and I am sure so did you! In fact each of us probably saves several lives every day! How, you might ask?
If you drive on the streets of Karachi, you will be no stranger to the fact that as you are driving quietly and sedately on an open road, a child (or an adult) suddenly jumps in front of your car without any warning. This happens to me several times a day as I drive through the city. My reflexes have to be excellent so that I don’t run over one of these daring (or should I say foolishly unaware and unconcerned) people. Should I, God Forbid, fail to slam my foot on the brake in the nick of time, I would surely be accused of being an elite car owner with little compassion for the poor citizen who walks the street. So every day I stay alert as I drive on the roads of the city fully aware that I might need to suddenly stop to “save the life” of someone who has decided to step in front of my car on the freeway or jumped out suddenly from within one of the bushes or trees on one of the major roads.
As if this responsibility were not enough to keep ones nerves on edge, there is yet another danger that lurks – and that, my friends, is our friendly neighbourhood motorcyclist or rickshaw driver. The motorcyclist whizzes in from the right or the left or from a narrow lane that is perpendicular to the main road you may be driving on and then continues to drive like a daredevil in front of buses, cars, trucks or containers seemingly daring one of them to knock him down. Sometimes, these bikes have 4 passengers in addition to the person who is the driver; many of them have not even bothered to don their helmets so saving their lives is your responsibility.
There are some daring individuals whose behaviour is even more extreme. These are chaps who decide to attempt driving their bikes lying down or standing on the seat or at time positioning the bike vertically pointing toward the sky. It is difficult to fathom why they do this. Perhaps the adrenaline rush gives them the high they are looking for. The question is it is worth risking your life and the lives of other over some silly stunt. I don’t think it is but then what do I know?
All i wanted to say way that I saved another life today. Did you?
- A new startup?
- Do you have a new product that you want to launch?
- Do you have an idea for a product or service that you want to pitch?
The vision behind P@SHA LaunchPad is simple – find the best technology ideas and start-ups and bring them in front of the Pakistan IT industry’s most experienced and influential professionals and entrepreneurs, get feedback and win a cash prize.
The purpose of P@SHA LaunchPad is to create a platform where young people with great ideas, and early-stage companies with innovative products, can have the opportunity to pitch their ideas in front of people who ask relevant questions, make suggestions to help develop the idea or product, assist with market identification, mentoring and possibly investment.
Experts will be brought in to mentor and judge startups on product development, business models, identifying markets, design, SEO/SEM and usability. Startups and Idea pitches will be put in the hot seat where some of the most successful entrepreneurs and business executives will grill them in front of the audience.
There is bound to be one idea and one product that stands out – these will be the P@SHA LaunchPad Stars and will be given a small cash award and highlighted on as many platforms as possible.
We plan to have a Demo Pit where young innovators can showcase their idea and talk to experts, potential investors and professionals in much more detail. The idea is to generate excitement and energy around ICT innovation and motivate more young people into starting their own companies and making them successful.
Last year the panel of experts brought a lot of value to the event and sparked lively discussion and debate. We are hoping that with each additional event, the group will energize further.
Dates to watch:
P@SHA LaunchPad: Sept 20, 2011 at 2.15 pm at ITCN Asia, Expor Center Karachi
Last date for Nominations: September 15, 2011
Nominate your startup, product or service idea at http://goo.gl/2dfmS NOW and win a cash prize of Rs. 100,000 and be attached to a mentor who will help you shell out your idea and guide you on how to take it forward.
Submissions will be assessed and shortlisted candidates will be asked to present to a panel of judges at the event on September 20. See you there!
When Afra Sajjad, who is Head of Education & Policy Development at ACCA, asked me if I would agree to be on a panel to discuss “Board Diversity: is gender the missing link?” I agreed immediately. It was an opportunity for me to voice my very strong views on the need for more women on company boards – capable, competent, experienced women.
And so it was that I ended up at the Avari Hotel on 24th May. There was a very distinguished panel comprising Arif Masud Mirza CEO of ACCA, Shafqat Sultan President of the First Women’s Bank, Asif Malik VP of HR of the Life Sciences Division of ICI Pakistan Ltd, and an even more distinguished group of people as part of the Roundtable comprising amongst others people like Zafar Khan, formerly of Engro and PTCL and Fuad Hashmi of the Pakistan Institute of Corporate Governance. The event was very ably choreographed and moderated by Afra Sajjad who is full of enthusiasm and energy.
Afra set the scene by sharing the results of a working paper on “Gender diversity on Boards in Pakistan” which was developed by ACCA in partnership with IFC and the Netherland Government.
She impressed upon participants that the world was facing three kind of crises – a financial crisis, a climate change crisis and an ecosystem/natural resources crisis. The business model of the past 150 years of take, make and waste where the focus is on maximising shareholder value, is being challenged by all these three crises. Wheat is needed, she said, is a business model that creates ethical sustainable economic, environmental and social value for shareholders but for stakeholders too –an inclusive business model geared towards ensuring sustainable business growth but also positively contributing towards a sustainable world.
It is the Board that will lead the business model transformation hence the composition of the Board is even more relevant today than it was in the past if we are to conquer these challenges.
When looking at world statistics, it was seen that Norway was leading the charge in terms of women on company Boards, followed by Sweden and Finland. The Norwegian Finance Minister actually pushed through legislation in 2006 that mandated all listed companies to have 40% women on Boards by 2008 or face shutdown. In 2011 even those who ardently opposed the legislation, agree that it was the best step that could have been taken for the long term sustainability of businesses. Finland and Sweden, however, had no such legislation. They were able to achieve high diversity because othe women who were already on Boards in those countries were influential and inspiring role models and helped develop organizational culture that was conducive to inducting more women. In the US the Securities & Exchange Commission followed a totally different path. Instead of legislation, they insist on full disclosure by companies on how nominations for directorships are made and if diversity is something that they follow during the nomination process.
It was interesting to note that Pakistan matched the Scandinavian countries in the percentage of women that they have as directors. Although a large percentage of these companies are family owned and the woman is on the Board because she is a relative of the business owner, there are a percentage of women who are there for other reasons – because they are competent and have proven their value to the company; because the company thinks that diversity is good for the company; because the women have impressive professional qualifications; because the companies want to follow best practices, etc etc.
The panel discussion that followed discussed the findings widely and shared their experiences. Although some people felt that there should be a quota for women on Boards, some of us felt that it was not the right way to go. Women don’t want to be given positions because they are women; they want those positions because they deserve them and are competent enough to make a difference. Meritocracy is all they ask for. The problem is that often women are not even considered when Board positions are available. That is something that needs to change.
I shared with participants that IT companies that had women on their Boards had found that their contribution in terms of decision-making, strategy and development of the company, was significant. Of course like other sectors, there just weren’t enough women who were being considered for director positions.
Some of the reasons that are being used for not even looking at women for these positions include:
- Work-Life Balance issues
- Lack of business acumen
- Aggressive & emotional nature of women
- Not enough experienced & qualified women available
Most participants agreed that the pool of qualified women needed to be increased and that companies needed to start recruiting women in all departments and grooming them for senior middle and senior positions. If women needed to take some time off mid-career, they should be encouraged to rejoin when they are able so that the knowledge and experience they had acquired was not wasted. Flexitime and remote work should be incorporated as much as possible so that job continuity is an option. One suggestion that was made was that positive affirmation should be considered i.e. companies should specifically inform recruitment agencies to include a percentage of women in the candidates that they shortlist for companies to look at. The women should be hired if they are qualified for the advertised positions.
Training for directors – both men and women – is something that is sorely needed, to ensure that they have all the current know-how and the capacity to strategize and drive company growth.
The overall discussion was both interesting and productive with challenges being pointed out but solutions being offered. It was certainly one of the better discourses that I have been a part of. Thank you Afra. Thank you ACCA.
We have so much to grumble about – and so often. But how many times do we talk about something nice that has happened to us, something that someone did to help us and renew our faith in the people who are part of our community and our world? This is the second time this month that I have had cause to be thankful and so I thought I would blog about this experience just as I did about my encounter with the honest taxi driver.
Yesterday as I was leaving the Avari Hotel in Karachi after a very interesting seminar on diversity, I was feeling happy because we had had a good debate and I had met some nice and interesting people, discussed some new ideas and had some coffee. The good mood turned to frustration very quickly as I drove onto Fatima Jinnah Road. My car just halted and wouldn’t start again. It was as if it’s heart had stopped beating. I tried to figure out what had happened as the honks of impatient drivers filled my ears. But no luck.
Just as I was considering calling someone for help, a young man knocked on my window, introduced himself as a mechanic and asked if he could help. I must admit to being nervous about opening the car door but I had little choice. So as he got off his motorbike and got into the car, I braved myself. Would he take out a knife or a gun and ask me for my wallet and phone? Such are the times we live in that even when someone is trying to help us, we view him with suspicion. Thank God none of my fears came to pass.
He put the car in neutral, got back on his motorbike and with his foot pushed my car to the side of the road so that he could have a look under the hood to find out what was wrong. He discovered there was a fuse and a couple of the cut-outs were burnt. Fortunately for me, Azhar (that was his name) worked for Toyota and had some extra cut-outs in his tool bag. Within 5 – 10 minutes he had fixed the problem and the car had come back to life.
I asked him what I owed him. He told me the price of the cut-outs and I gave him something extra for his time and his thoughtfulness. He replied that I was like one of his sisters and he had stopped because he could not bear the thought of seeing me stranded in the middle of the road. I felt like a damsel in distress who had been saved from an unpleasant fate. I drove off smiling and feeling blessed that there were still nice people in the world and I had just met one of them. Thank you Azhar. May God bless you.
WHAT IS THE ROLE?
Like any small group trying to achieve great things, there are no boundaries to the role you can play in creating momentum and a space for yourself within P@SHA. Our mission is to create excitement regarding technology, offer value-added support services to member companies, hold interesting events that empower companies and individuals, carry out basic research, provide networking platforms & encourage entrepreneurship so that the technology industry can continue to thrive. Anything you can do to add to the mix and make us more effective as an organization, will make you a valuable addition to the Secretariat based in Karachi.
We are in planning mode for 2011. Apply now to get in on the ground floor of the planning process. You need to be self-motivated, passionate and excited about technology and what it can do for Pakistan.
If you want to make a difference, if you are hardworking, organized and interested in creating networks, if you have good communication skills (both written and verbal), are good at project management and if you know how to effectively use social media, please send a cover letter telling us about yourself, how this role is absolutely perfect for you and why we should evaluate you as a candidate to email@example.com.
WHO ARE YOU AS A PROFESSIONAL?
- An undergraduate or graduate degree in business or computer science or communications
- Ability to communicate with clarity and to create relationships with individuals and organizations
- Assume nothing, question everything, hold your own and still get along with peers and clients.
- Experience of working with groups of people & teams
- Good at scheduling, organizing, budgeting, following up
WHO ARE YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL?
- Start up mindset. Hands on, can-do attitude.
- Sense of humor and the ability to handle and survive high pressure deadlines
- Capacity to think out of the box on a consistent basis – a ‘no excuses’ sort of individual
- Can work with a ‘crazy’ boss who can lose her temper but means well
Shahjahan Chaudhary, Sabeen Mahmud, Jawwad Ahmed Farid and I had been discussing initiating the “Startup Sunday” activity for several weeks but schedules and travel kept getting in the way. Finally, we decided enough was enough. It was important to fix a date and launch this event with whoever was available.
So the event was set for 5th December at T2F. It was a Sunday so we weren’t really sure how many people would turn up. The idea was a simple one. There was a need for tech startups and people with ideas for starting tech companies or creating tech solutions, to be able to meet on a regular basis, network, share ideas, successes and failures and learn from each other.
And so it was. The day dawned and at 4 pm people started to roll in. In all 40+ people showed up. Quite a substantial number! There was a bit of huddling and networking before proceedings began. Everyone introduced themselves, talked about what they were doing or wanted to do, why they were there.
There was a workshop type session whereby people were broken up into groups of 3, each group comprising of 3 individuals who hadn’t previously met. They were given some time to come up with an idea for a new startup and then each group presented their idea. Some interesting ideas came up – nothing earth-shattering of course given the short amount of time allocated. However, it got people thinking, sharing, getting to know each other, strategizing. Great activity. I am so sorry I wasn’t able to make it but I will certainly be there next time.
Startup Sunday will be held every month in Karachi. Have spoken to friends in Lahore and Islamabad to work with us on organizing a similar activity in those cities. Naturally the format will change each time and new things will be added to so that the meeting continues to provide value to participants. Join the Facebook page that has been set up for this activity.
I am not the finance type. Given a choice between marketing, selling, business development and finance, guess what my last choice would be?
Although I did take Advanced Maths in my Bachelors’ and loved it, Accounting is something else totally. It’s not that I have an ideological conflict with the subject, just that rather than spend a day with numbers, I would rather spend it with interesting people (if you follow this blog, you would notice, it is basically what I do all day). Which is why when my friend Jawwad first asked me to review his latest pet project – an e-education portal for teaching corporate finance, I immediately asked him if I had done something to offend him.
A quick look across the courses listed across his online inventory of financial courses showed that there was nothing that was of real interest for me. (Hey at-least I am honest). For once when I said it was all Greek to me, it really was filled with Greek symbols (see for yourself Derivative Pricing, Risk Management, Financial Engineering – Equation Reference
Despite my disinterest I was able to classify the offering in three categories.
Introductory and Intermediary Finance courses – For the lost and confused types
Corporate Finance: First Course
Master Class: Calculating Value at Risk
Master Class: Credit Analysis
Master Class: Credit Process
Master Class: Derivative products
Master Class: Ratio Analysis
Master Class: Risk for the Oil and Petrochemical Industry
According to Jawwad those of you looking for a light read to put you to sleep would possibly like the Petrochemical and Ratio Analysis piece. If you are not the finance type you should stay away from everything else (especially the Calculating Value at Risk note).
Touch them and die Finance courses – Advance courses for the more adventurous and totally insane financial geek types
Pricing Interest Rate Swaps – The valuation and MTM course
The Derivatives Crash Course for Dummies
Asset Liability Management – The ALM Crash course and survival guide
Derivative Pricing, Risk Management, Financial Engineering – Equation Reference
Interest Rate Options – Pricing Caps and Floors
You should only venture out here if you are looking for a truly traumatic experience; or punishment; or both. I accidently opened the Interest rate options piece and it was quite obvious to me why some of my banking friends have had such traumatic childhoods. Jawwad included.
Cases – For those who likes numbers with a story behind them
Master Case: AMD: Valuation and Projections: Case Guide
Master Case: Corporate Finance: LLC or C-Corp
Master Case: Credit Process: Baldwin Piano
Master Case: Electronic Arts: Corporate Finance
Master Case: Office Depot: Ratio Analysis
Master Case: Ratio Analysis: ODP and Staples
The less said about these the better. Numbers, numbers and even more numbers.
If despite my best efforts to dissuade you from the subject you still have any interest in Corporate Finance, click on the above links for free on the Corporate Finance E-education Portal. At your own risk and remember I didn’t put you upto it. It was free will.
(Sorry Jawwad, I am just the old school marketing and communication type. Now if you could only put together a marketing e-education portal or a social media one, I could put my heart into reviewing it J)
Total Disclosure: My father was a banker for 40 years, my younger brother was Chief Forex dealer for several banks and my youngest brother is a Chartered Accountant living and practicing in the UK.
Abshar Rashid, Bachelors of Computer Systems Engineering (2008) from NED University, has solved a problem posted on the InnoCentive website. His solution was accepted from hundreds of solutions submitted online from across the globe. He got a reward of US$5000, through a cheque received and paid in Pakistan.
The problem was to design a new trading model for software developed at large firms but abandoned for any reasons of cost cutting, bankruptcy, etc. A sponsor company posted the problem and allocated US$5000 as prize money. Innocentive keeps the identity of the sponsoring company anonymous.
His success should encourage other brilliant professionals and students in Pakistan to attempt to solve problems posted at Innocentive. Registration and solution submission at Innocentive is free and sponsor companies post problems from numerous industries to offset their R&D costs by engaging the world’s talent to solve their business problems for a fraction of the cost.
Abshar has around two years professional experience in Software and Web Development. He learnt his first programming language at the age of 9, when he developed a Quiz Application in GW-Basic.
Currently working on Data-Warehousing and Intelligent Applications for Financial Services and Business Process Management, Abshar works in the business intelligence and analytics space in Pakistan.
InnoCentive harnesses collective brainpower from around the world to solve problems that they think really matter.
If you love challenges and are good at finding solutions that will have a real impact on the world, join InnoCentive’s Global Solver Network. The InnoCentive website states:
Solvers are creative, thoughtful and highly educated individuals with varied backgrounds and work experience. Sound interesting? You get to choose when to work and what Challenges to work on. Successful Solvers win cash awards, recognition and the satisfaction of helping to make the world a better place.
The challenge disciplines include Business & Entrepreneurship, Chemistry, Computer/Information Technology, Engineering/Design. Food/Agriculture, Life Sciences, Math/Statistics and Physical Sciences. Go have a look. Who knows? You may solve the next problem that is posted on InnoCentive. Way to go Abshar! You have proven that there is indeed tremendous talent in this country. All we have to do is go look for it, nurture it and provide it with the right environment in which to flourish. Thank you Nauman Sheikh (of Credit Chex) for informing us of Abshar’s success.
After the successful launch of the Lahore event, we were a little more relaxed that the Karachi one which was scheduled for the next day, would go off without a hitch. However, force of habit meant that I was there several hours before I had to be – just to see that everything was going according to plan. I had also scheduled a meeting at 12 noon with someone who was visiting Karachi from Lahore even though it was a Sunday so I had to be there early.
Everything was under control. My team was already there and so were most of the volunteers. The backdrop was being put up and everything else was being done. Some minor changes needed to be made with the stage setting and the seating but things were under control otherwise.
So when Khurram arrived for our meeting, we went down to the Nadia Coffee shop at the Marriott to have our discussions over a cup of coffee. It was only when people started to arrive that I was summoned upstairs.
The judges in Karachi included:
Amin Hashwani, director of the Hashoo Group
Yusuf Jan, Founder of Mixit Inc & Chairman of P@SHA
Ashraf Kapadia, MD, Systems Ltd
Jawwad A. Farid, CEO, Alchemy Technologies
Nauman Sheikh, Director, Credit Chex
Rahim Lalani, Director, TRG Tech
The ideas presented in Karachi included:
ArziRehaish.pk, a web portal focusing on exclusively on bachelor accommodation. The theme of this portal was to facilitate bachelor community of Pakistan who travel from their home towns for educational and employment purposes.
People Capital, an online human resource management software as a service (SaaS) model, through which organizations (SMEs) would have their own online Human Resource Development, Management and Information system, orientation and knowledge resource without the need for setting it up, maintaining it and worrying about hosting it.
Kitabain.com is Usman and Jawwad’s latest initiative towards making books accessible to a wider audience in Pakistan. About a year ago they started out The Readers Club, Pakistan’s first online book rental service in Karachi (www.thereadersclub.com). Very often they get requests from members for the option to purchase books that they’d like to hold on to and also a way to give away books that might be lying around.
They have tried to put the two requests together along with other ideas to come up kitabain.com. They envision it as a platform to enable individual sellers or independent bookstores to instantly make their inventory available to a much wider audience than they can typically hope to with a geographically constrained brick and mortar establishment. For Buyers; Whether they are looking for the latest releases or something hard-to-find, the hope is that they can find it at drastically reduced prices on kitabain.com.
A simple idea that immediately resonated with the judges.
Foot Mouse: Basicly Ahsan had been thinking of some design Innovation in the Mouse for a long while and one day he thought why shouldn’tt we use this mouse with our feet. Naturally he google searched for existingproducts and found 2 major Foot operating Mice worth around 12000 to 30000 Pakistani rupees, none of them as simple as the one he had in mind. So he brainstormed with teachers, his brother and his friends and voila, the Foot Mouse.
Why a Foot Mouse? Well, Ahsan thinks it can be used by people with physical challenges, it can be used by gamers and by musicians. He gave a live demo of the product and judges actually examined it. Price is estimated at Rs. 700. One of the judges asked Ahsan what he would do if he got an order for 100,000 pieces tomorrow. How long would it take for him to deliver? Where would he get the money to buy materials, etc. Valid questions to get him thinking. Interestingly enough the judge also said that he was part of a large NGO initiative dealing with physically challenged individuals and he asked Ahsan to meet with him so that they could explore the idea of turning this into a commercial product and getting him his first big order. Yay!
Pak Polling – Ali Naqi says this is a better and more efficient way of National Elections Voting through an SMS based service and Finger Print Scanning alongwith Automated camera snapshot and Live camera monitoring of Voter on the day of Polling.
RenSoy is the “the search assistant you need”, says Adnan Muzaffar. The idea behind RenSoy is simple. We all use Google as a search engine. Why? Because we get relevant, reliable and accurate results quickly, with a simple GUI.
However, Google has advanced searching capabilities through different commands. But only the smartest people or the IT/Tech related people know how to use them effectively.
That’s where RenSoy comes into play. It offers web, image, blog, news and books search all in one place – and all of the searches are legally powered by Google. So quality is assured, its fast, ajaxified and has 30 different ways of searching and the GUI is sleek and simple.
Reflex 360 – A research house that would be a setup, foundation or a unit where IT personals, IT-base companies and educational institutes will come together under the umbrella of ‘research work’. This research work for example could be based on discovering new technologies ( write down your technical wordy stuff here). On financial front and to sustain it, Reflex 360 could sell out newly discovered ideas and prototypes to interested companies. It could even invoke foreign investment in aspect of off-shoring research material. It would help give a culture of ‘research’ a base in the country. People with vague ideas and concepts about ‘the next big thing’ could come together with people with IT- genius and research and develop it. The house would publish research papers, materials and develop piloting systems if the idea is worthy.
Wi-track – Taimoor Zubair says that this is a GSM/GPRS based tracking system which uses cellphones to track users. He says that it is a novel concept which provides an alternate to GPS based tracking and is much more flexible and cost-effective. The location of a user is determined by using nearby cellphone towers and applying the principle of triangulation. This location information can be sent in real-time to the server using GPRS or sms.
SEO tool – Sadia Abdullah said that their tool provides optimization services to increase web page ranking on search engines especially Google. It performs Keyword Analysis and will suggest appropriate keywords with respect to pages. It determines Site Popularity and analyzes HTML Code for better optimization
and generates reports. They are planning to offer SEO outsourcing services to customers domestically and internationally.
Dhaaba, says Ali Iqbal Khan, is the first implementation of a ‘data-aggregation’ idea of Enroi. Basically it will enable consumers to order food online or through SMS. Right now it is not possible to order food online, consumers need to remember the phone number and make a call. Few restaurants have their websites and they are seldom well-maintained. Dhaaba is envisioned to fill this gap.
-Portal with data aggregation from restaurants
-Consumer can view/search/compare dishes of various restaurants at one place
-Consumers make order through website or SMS
-Dhaaba will communicate order to particular restaurant and food will be delivered to consumer
-Consumers don’t need to enter address details etc. as Dhaaba will save them.
-Consumers can save their whole week’s lunch plan, Dhaaba will make order appropriately on each day.
-Consumers’ money and time will be saved for making an order.
Interactive Learning for the Muslim world – To provide an online platform for students all over the world, especially Pakistan, where they can learn and play at the same time. Apart from conventional classroom learning, children will now be able to enhance their creative and interpersonal skills on an online forum. It would play a role of discussion board for students, teachers and parents. Online lessons, exercises, modules, chapters and one to one sessions on all subjects will be provided 24/7. Because of this imitative, students will get out of the typical home tuition and academy system.
FYDest – The idea is to guide the people by telling them the shortest path to their destination. It is the same function provided by the GPS in cars. GPS can tell you to turn right or left to reach to your destination. Our idea is a little bit different. In addition to the service similar to GPS we want to provide additional information to the user. We inform the user that from all possible paths, which is the easiest, shortest and fastest. These goals can be achieved by giving the user the current situation of the path that he is going to take. Or at least inform the user the fastest path after analysis of all the possible ones.
Formal Shirts Online – Shahzeb Saeed brings together handpicked fabrics, light but durable, and meticulous tailoring in order to deliver the very best to you. The carefully proportioned collars, made of 18 individual pieces, are reinforced by removable collar bones to ensure durability and edge bones to maintain shape. Plackets help strengthen the cuffs and hide the wrists. The shoulder fit is perfect every single time, because of the use of a two piece split yoke at the back. The details matter here, and extra care is taken in the hand-stitching and finishing so that you never have to worry about your shirts, ever again. He is running this business online and has achieved some level of success already.
PakiPay – Ahsan Saleem sais that PakiPay is a small tool for bridging the Pakistan mobile world to the internet, by allowing users to share mobile balance to purchase small value items via the internet or phone. It currently works only in Pakistan. There was some discussion as to whether PakiPay would require a license from the State Bank of Pakistan as has been the experience of products like Amaana and Innovate.
Telecom Clicking GE – a web based application that binds the tools of Mapinfo into Google Earth, with facility to view 3D plots of sites. Mapinfo is the most widely used software in telecom. It plots the sites of the network in its window and has tools that display the frequencies assigned to the cells of site, and the adjacencies (neighbors for Handovers) created in the database. This allows the engineers to plan and audit the Radio Network of cellular systems. They also use Google Earth for updated geographical info. As Mapinfo tools for displaying frequency/adjacency are not portable in GE, the engineer constantly switches between Mapinfo & GE. Telecom Clicking GE integrates the benefits of desktop application Mapinfo into web application Google Earth, while resolving the problems in usage of Mapinfo. The product displays height of site, hence allowing faster & efficient plan and audit of Cellular Network.
Help Me – According to Farzal Dojki, H.ELP.ME is focused at providing technology support – pre launch but mostly post launch – for technology products, primarily, mobile applications. HELPME staff is trained by product owners, and then the consumer support interactions are migrated to be handled by HELP ME staff. The expected client base is supposed to be small product companies with < 20 people and needing between 0.5 to 5 people in support role – and hence the necessity to outsource instead of building in-house team and managing it. Farzal was looking for ideas on how to scale his business. The judges were impressed with the niche he had selected and saw impressive growth. They felt that he needed to tap into networks of individuals whom he had studied with, worked with in different industry segments and people he had had as mentors. Those would be the ideal channels in addition to the referrals from satisfied customers.
Kidsconvent.com – Kidsconvent.com is Pakistan’s first customizable online/offline animated syllabus with Urdu Script. It supports and wants to promote activity based learning methodology of education. According to Ahmad Raza, animation and graffiti can help a child to capture & understand concepts more quickly than a regular notebook. Their idea is not to make the book obsolete, but to use animated syllabus as a supporting tool.
Tagit – This service attempts to create an easy way to communicate with your consumer in three simple steps:
1. Brand/ Blog/Organization visits the Tagit website and registers itself and receives a unique ID similar to brand name or a simple widget to integrate into their website.
2. Brand/ Blog/Organization asks their consumers to SMS their uniqueID to the given mobile short code for example “SMS Microsoft to 3456″.
3. If the consumer texted Microsoft to 3456, Microsoft and the consumer are now connected, consumer can send any message to Microsoft by simply texting to 3456, and Microsoft can send notifications, updates to connected consumers.
Websites or blogs can integrate a simple widget on their homepage through which a reader can subscribe to their RSS feeds which he/ she will receive through SMS.
Internet users can interact with the brands through Tagit’s Brand Social Network by simply joining/ following the brand pages to get their latest updates. Possibilities are endless and the solution is simple.
The winning entries in Karachi included Kitabain.com for the product category whereas the winner for the idea category was a tie between Foot Mouse and Tagit. What was more satisfying was that in addition to the cheques, the winners had additional offers of assistance and collaboration. Khurram of Evolve offered to connect Usman Siddiqui of Kitabain with some of the main bookstore chains in Lahore and Tagit has signed a termsheet with a local technology company to work jointly on developing the product.
The participants were all pleased with the questions and feedback that they received from the judges but some people in the audience felt that the judges were very tough on the presenters. However, as one judge pointed out, “We wanted to be tough on them now because the opportunity cost of changing direction is low. We want to prevent them from the kind of heartache that we went through at a later stage on our entrepreneurial journey.” So there were questions like:
Have you had any user feedback vis-a-vis the utility of the product and the UI?
Okay so it is cool, but have you done some research on existing competitors and pricing?
How will you market the product or service? How will you grow the business?
How is this different from what already exists in the market? How is it innovative?
Some of the kids made the mistake of using a significant portion of their time “educating” the judges regarding the internet or technology in general or about education. This cut into their presentation time and they were unable to talk about the innovation, the impact and the business viability of the product or service. However, some of the presentations were very good and it was generally a good start to the kind of activity that is needed to generate more and more ideas, and increasingly the setting up of new and successful businesses in the IT space.
Trust Rabia Garib and CIO Pakistan to come up with a good promo for the P@SHA LaunchPad event.
Lots of entries received so far – many exciting ones. The shortlisting will be done as soon as the deadline for call for entries expires tomorrow. Nominees will then be advised so PLEASE don’t panic! All of you will hear from us whether your entry is shortlisted or not. Meantime you should register to attend the event anyway because we are restricting the number of attendees to 150.
Registration links are given below:
P@SHA LaunchPad, Lahore: Dome Room, Royal Palm, 2 p.m. – 6:00 pm, Saturday June 26, 2010 http://bit.ly/9KqXp4
P@SHA LaunchPad, Karachi: Ambassador 1 & 3, Karachi Marriott Hotel, 2 p.m. – 6:00 pm, Sunday June 27, 2010 http://bit.ly/bkeZJt