Posts tagged ‘Pakistan IT Industry’

Winner validates funding decision

In April 2010, the Center for Advanced Research in Engineering (CARE) applied to the National ICT R&D Fund for a grant to research and develop an Arrhythmia and Sudden Death Syndrome Detection Hybrid Network Based Telemedicine System. The grant amount was Rs. 13.5 million.

So what was the problem that they were trying to solve? This is how they explain it.

Electrocardiography (ECG) is one of the tools of cardiac monitoring. The dilemma is that despite the installation of hundreds of ECG machines in hospitals and clinics throughout the country, patients with severe arrhythmic abnormalities are often misdiagnosed or mistreated usually in rural areas due to unavailability of expert cardiologists at the ECG monitoring station. Moreover, most ECG machines presently installed do not have capabilities like High Resolution signal acquisition, remote monitoring, real time data storage and patient database management.

The project proposed to develop a prototype system to demonstrate geographically distributed installation of network enabled ECG recording and analysis stations with normal and High Resolution digital ECG machines capable of self diagnosing a patient for different arrhythmic abnormalities as well as early detection of risks associated with fatal arrhythmias which can lead to sudden cardiac death by running state of the art signal processing algorithm. The system was to provide 24/7 ECG recording and analysis facility with universal connectivity through dialup, Ethernet, GPRS, Radio and Satellite for connection to the central server located in the Cardiac Control Center (CCC) of a Central Hospital. The system would also have the capability to provide expert opinion to patients with severe arrhythmic abnormalities by transmitting their physiological data to the cardiologists at a central hospital through a universal communication device already developed in CARE. Here the expert cardiologists would receive ECG data and profile of patients with severe arrhythmic abnormalities and suggest treatment in real time. The ECG record and the patient profile would be stored at the server and a database for patients and their cardiac history would be managed for future reference as well as for off-line analysis and data-mining.

This was the solution that Dr. Shoab Ahmed Khan and his team researched and developed at CARE. This was the solution that won the top prize in the e-Health category in the P@SHA ICT Awards 2011. In November Dr. Shoab, Dr. Zaheer and Dr. Mohsin then accompanied the rest of the innovators from Pakistan, as well as the mentors and judges, to APICTA in Thailand. Here they competed against 162 other products in different categories and in the e-Health category they won hands down and came back with the winners’ trophy.

Last week Dr. Shoab and I went to show the coveted trophy to Dr. Aun Abbas, the CEO of the National ICT R&D Fund. It is important for us to show organizations like the National ICT R&D Fund that their investment in applied research helps innovators in this country to develop technology products that are useful to the citizens of this country and to the world and are actually world class products that can compare with the best in the region.

November 25, 2011 at 11:19 am 3 comments

A tribute to Ahmed Allaudin

When Ashraf Kapadia phoned me in Lahore on Friday to tell me that our dear friend Ahmed Allaudin had passed away, I was in a state of shock. I was just not ready to accept it. I know death is inevitable but somehow whenever someone who is part of your life, leaves this world, it is a hard thing to come to terms with.

Ahmed was a stalwart of our industry. He graduated with a BE in Engineering from the University of Engineering and Technology in 1970 and got his MBA from the Institute of Business Administration Karachi. He started his career with United Bank Limited in 1973 and spent over 27 years working in IT in banking. He founded Millennium Software Private Limited in 1997 and had since been a part of the P@SHA community. Ahmed was a former President of the Computer Society of Pakistan and had been a Charter Member of the TiE Karachi Chapter since its inception, having been on the Governing Council at the time of his death. He was actively involved in the formulation of the first IT Policy in 2000.

Ahmed was always very much a gentleman – very soft spoken, gentle and kind, a friend and mentor to many. In meetings we have been a part of over the years, his quiet smile was a norm even when some of us totally lost it and argued passionately about something. It is not that he didn’t express his views but he always did it quietly and softly without getting overly excited about it. He was often the anchor during some of the more difficult decisions that we made.

I always called him Allaudin Sahab because I felt he was a formal person. It was only in 2004 when I led a delegation to the Nasscom Leadership Conference that I found out that Ahmed had another side to him. He could be naughty, jovial and full of fun – not quite the distant banker. In the coach that took the delegation around, he cracked jokes and pulled people’s leg and was very much a part of the group. That was when I started to call him Ahmed. In fact I told him during the trip that I had always been in awe of him. He smiled and I could tell that he was amused.

It is rare in this day and age to know someone who everyone likes and who no-one has anything bad to say about Ahmed Allaudin was such a person. I don’t think I have ever heard anyone say anything nasty about him. That was the quality of the man. He was always helpful, always supportive and a great team player.

Ahmed, this world has lost a good soul. May you Rest in Peace. We will all miss you. You have left behind a large number of friends and colleagues who greatly respected you. You will be remembered with great fondness.

June 27, 2011 at 12:26 am 12 comments

Simplicant reviewed on Mashable.com

It has been a year for recognition. Many software applications and services from Pakistan have been reviewed, recognized or awarded for their innovation and their unique approach to solving business problems.

Simplicant, whose tagline is ‘hiring made simple’, is a simple applicant tracking system for small and medium sized businesses. It is an application developed by Confiz Solutions that seems to have caught the imagination of customers internationally. Recently they were featured on Mashable.com. Here is what Mashable said in the review:

When you sign up for Simplicant, you’ll get a public job board URL to which you can direct applicants (there’s also a widget option) and an employer URL where you can access the submitted applications from a simple dashboard. As you manage applications, you can set up tasks for yourself, like “set up an interview with Joe Smith,” that are displayed in the dashboard. If you’re working with a hiring team, this feature can also be used to designate who will do which tasks.

Default tags for managing the hiring flow are typical (New, Screened, Interview, etc.), but they’re also customizable if you would like to tweak them to better describe your process. A five-star rating system helps sort new applicants.

One big plus that will prevent your inbox from overflowing is that you can correspond with applicants from within the application.

They key functionalities that Simplicant offers to a customer are:

Organize - Keep all resumes and application
data in one place

Collaborate – Use notes and tasks to collaborate with your team

Search – Search through applications and resumes in seconds

Communicate – Communicate with applicants through built-in e-mail

It is a simple app that makes the hiring process a lot easier especially for companies that don’t have a large Human Resource department to tackle the complicated job of going through hundreds of applications, sorting them out and arranging interviews.

January 3, 2011 at 7:31 am 2 comments

Startup Sunday launched!

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.

December 24, 2010 at 12:16 pm 4 comments

Kualitee makes it onto VentureBeat!

Jamil Goheer and Khurram Mir are two young men whose careers many of us have been following with great interest for several years. They are also part of an award-winning team that has concentrated on one area of expertise in software – Quality Assurance!

Recently we were thrilled when their product “Kualitee” was featured on VentureBeat. They announced that they were launching the world’s first iPhone-compatible quality-assurance testing platform. The Kualitee app, according to the company, is aimed at giving mobility to technicians and engineers who have to constantly monitor quality-assurance processes in factories. Usually, these engineers are tied to their desks because they have to use enterprise software that runs only on their corporate desktops. “It’s time to mobilize the quality-assurance industry,” said Khurram Mir, CMO & Co-Founder of Kualitatem, the company that launched this application

Kualitatem was founded by these two bright young graduate students who, at that time, were looking to create Pakistan’s first QA testing firm. It was formed as a university-incubator startup to develop innovative QA products and offer R&D-based, high-quality QA services to companies across the world.

What did they bring to the startup in terms of expertise, one might ask?  Jamil’s Bachelor and Master Degrees in Computer Science and his four years of IT auditing experience and Khurram’s MBA in Marketing, Bachelors in Computer Science, and with five years of QA experience, was a good beginning. And of course, the essential element – the will and passion to succeed despite all odds.

Kualitee is based on Web & iPhone based  interfaces. The web interface is made in flash and iPhone’s version is a native app. The product is a SaaS based Test Management System and hence they have developed a process which is compact yet comprehensive. “Our focus has been to ensure simplicity & ease of use of the product by all stakeholders of  the software development lifecycle,” said Khurram. “Unlike products which offer too many options and confuse clients, Kualitee offers a simple, efficient and easy-to-manage process. You can be at home or travelling the world with complete visibility into the test process
at all times. Other testing platforms in the market, aside from Kualitee, include Zephyr and QMetry (SaaS based).

Kualitatem is making the product available to local Pakistani companies at a special price. For more information please contact khurram@kualitatem.com

December 23, 2010 at 9:21 pm 1 comment

Mobile app developers win cash prizes at the Nokia Innovators challenge

When Rabia Azfar from Nokia called me and asked if I would be a Judge for Nokia’s “Calling All Innovators Pakistan 2010″ initiative, I simply could not refuse. In fact I was really excited at the possibility of seeing some of the entries that had been submitted.

I remember putting up a post some time ago asking developers and companies to participate. I also remember sending out folders with posters and information regarding this challenge. I had thought it was a great effort on the part of Nokia to encourage development on the Symbian platform, and I hoped that the many talented developers would take advantage of the opportunity. Many did.

Going through the applications one by one, my fellow judges (Zia Imran MD of PSEB, Muhammad Amir Malik who is the Director ICT at the PTA, Farhan Chawla a blogger who is a Nokia specialist,Teemu Kiijarvi, Developer Relations Manager Nokia Middle East and Africa) and I spent two days over teleconference and face-to-face meetings to review the applications. The decision was unanimous. We all agreed that of all the applications submitted, the best ones were:

Winner: Ten Pearls’ Utrack – a multi-platform mobile application which provides a novel way of managing daily tasks easily and effectively streamlining one’s life. This application allows user to visualize daily tasks and know his or her status at a glance. uTrack allows the user to track work tasks, school assignments, family obligations, etc. The concept is simple. The application features a virtual ‘wall’ where the user can put up sticky notes with their to-do’s. Once the user decides to start the task, they can simply drag the sticky note from the ‘To-Do’ column to ‘In Progress’, ‘Done’ or ‘Verify’.

N8, N97, 5230 and QT Simulator

First Runner-up: E-Ocean’s Gully Cricket

Pakistan’s First Gully (street) Cricket Mobile Game that offers nationwide competition and it also solves the copyright issues of application developers in the developing countries i.e. follow registration model for each application.

Second Runner-up: Edumid’s Fun SMS

FunSMS by Edumid Pakistan is a free SMS chat software that makes Text Messaging colourful, vibrant and media rich. It bridges the gap between internet and text messaging as users can send link of audio, videos and other web content using FunSMS and the content will be downloaded displayed and played on the recipient’s phone.

Supports: S40 and S60 devices.

The winner was awarded Rs. 1,000,000 by the PTA Chairman Dr. Muhammad Yaseen; the first runner up was awarded Rs. 500,000 and the second runner up received Rs. 300,000.

Unfortunately I was down with bacterial pharyngitis and could not attend the event. However, I am told by those who did that the morning session, which included a Developers workshop, proved to be very useful.

These kind of initiatives help to drive people to challenge themselves and I hope that Nokia, and others, will continue to invest in mobile applications development in this country.

However, one of the things that should perhaps be kept in mind next time round is that perhaps there should be a division of categories – professional companies that are a few years old, products that are in beta, products that have been in the market for a while, completely new products developed for the challenge, products developed by university students or freelancers. It was difficult for the judges to compare apples with oranges. However, since the parameters hadn’t been defined, awards were given on the basis the best app overall.

I was happy to be a part of this activity and P@SHA will continue to work with Nokia to raise the bar in terms of innovation in the mobile space.

November 24, 2010 at 1:23 am 3 comments

P@SHA LaunchPad: the Karachi event

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.
Features:
-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?

Who is the customer? What will he pay for the product? What problem does it solve?

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.

July 14, 2010 at 4:35 pm 11 comments

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