The Pakistan IT industry celebrates innovation

November 4, 2008 at 1:32 am 7 comments

The days and weeks leading up to the P@SHA ICT Awards 2008 event were full of frenzied activity – lots of planning, stress, fears that things would go wrong or that we might not live up to everyone’s expectations.

It is always a great responsibility to ensure that the P@SHA flagship event goes off smoothly. People look forward to it. It is the one opportunity that we have each year to formally recognize the innovation that exists in our industry, to get together with colleagues, customers and peers whom we may not have met for some time, to celebrate the growth that has taken place and re-iterate in our minds the things that we still need to do if we are to stay on track.

The hours before the event were nerve-wrecking and I thought there was no way we would be ready to welcome people at 8. But all that is forgotten now (or at least I am still trying hard not to remember what it was like) 🙂 We were ready in time! And it was good to see that some people actually started to arrive at 8. They networked, met with old colleagues and friends. There was a sense of comraderie in the air. It was the kind of atmosphere that one just cannot create – it either happens or doesn’t. Luckily for us it did. 🙂

We had expected a good turnout but certainly not as many as showed up – there were 380 people at the event in total. These included people from the IT and ITES sector in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. It included a significant number of bankers, representatives of some of the telcos and Heads of Computer Science from some of the local universities. We had also asked them to bring a half dozen students each with them. Then there was the media of course, some government officials and we shouldn’t forget the Ambassadors from the Mohammad Ali Jinnah University, CBM and Szabist who were absolutely the bees knees. We couldn’t have done it without them.

The evening began with a recitation from the Holy Quran by Salahuddin Ahmed of BearingPoint after which I thanked all the people who had helped to make the evening possible (I am sure I forgot to acknowledge some of them for which I hope I will be forgiven – maybe I can buy them lunch and thank them personally). Food always seems to work – reminds me of Hong Kong where everything centered around food.

There were a lot of people to thank:

Rodney Rahman, MD of BearingPoint, who so readily agreed to take on the Platinum Sponsorship for the event. BearingPoint was also the lead sponsor of the P@SHA Career Expos that we held in the 3 major cities earlier this year. Thanks Rodney.

Furqan Qureshi, GM Strategy & Corporate Business of Wateen Telecom, who, when invited, actually wanted to know why we hadn’t asked them to sponsor the event. Within minutes he and Athar Jamal, GM Marketing had come back to me with a commitment for the Gold Sponsorship. And when I suggested to Furqan that we wanted to organize live blogging from the event, he arranged for a 2 mb wimax connection which Fariha Akhtar (our main live blogger of the evening) tells me worked beautifully. Thanks Furqan – you may have ditched the IT sector and joined Telecom but with the convergence that’s taking place, I guess there is no way you are going to disconnect yourself from our sector.

The National ICT R&D Fund must be congratulated too for taking on the Silver Sponsorship. Recognizing innovation and encouraging it is part of their mandate. Dr. Qasim was there personally to tell the audience about the Fund and its successes and to network with the many IT practitioners in the audience. Thank you Dr. Qasim.

Thanks to Samina Rizwan Oracle took on the Dinner Sponsorship and pulled in Dell (who sponsored a P@SHA event for the first time – the first of many we hope). The food was yummy (it had to be since Sadia and I had selected the menu). Dell also had a lucky draw and gave away an LCD which was won by a young man from Ensign Communique.

BearingPoint gave the winner of the Student Tertiary Project,  Zubair Shafiz of FAST-NUCES Islamabad, a Dell laptop in addition to the Award that he received for his iNIDS project. Way to go BearingPoint!

Kalsoft and PSEB were the Bronze sponsors of the event. The CIO team were there to provide media support. Of course what they didn’t know was that they were in for a surprise. You should have seen the looks on their faces when I announced that the Award for Best in Media Support was being given to Rabia Garib and Salaina Haroon, the team behind CIO Pakistan, Net Xpress and Bits and Bytes. These young ladies have supported and showcased the Pakistan IT and ITES industry for years and it was about time someone recognized their contribution. 🙂

Ali Raza Shaikh and Ammar Yasir were responsible for the Awards logo, the Awards website and the t-shirt design and Sulaiman Farooqui of Centritech offered to have his call center agents handle all the RSVPs. Aamar Matin of Cisco Systems, Saba Kamal of IBM, Jawwad Farid of Alchemy Technologies and Imran Zia of Vahzay put in a lot of time to patiently judge all the entries and provide a fair assessment, so naturally they were thanked too.

With the thank you’s behind us, it was time for the Chairman of P@SHA Imran Zia to give the State of the Industry report (reminded me of the State of the Union Address that the President of the US gives every now and then). Imran did a wonderful job of providing a realistic, practical and positive image of the industry, where it stood and where it was headed.

This was followed by a speech from Dr. Qasim Sheikh who talked about the objectives of the fund and how to access it.

With the speeches over, I sprung a surprise on my predecessor Ashraf Kapadia by inviting him onto the stage. Other than getting back at him, the reason for this was that last year the Awards event had not been held although the winners had been taken to Singapore for APICTA. This was therefore a great opportunity to present them with their Awards.

That done, it was finally time to end the suffering and begin announcing the names of the 2008 Award winners – with a drum roll of course 😉

The winner of the Communications Award was Jaadu VNC, the application developed by Jahanzeb Sherwani (a PhD student at Carnegie Melon) which is selling on the Apple iPhone App Store for US$25. Jahanzeb’s mother Gaiti Ara, who is also the CEO of Jugaari Pvt Limited, accepted the Award on behalf of the company. The Merit in this category went to FoneiTall developed by Five Rivers Technologies.

The Converged Media Solutions application developed by PixSense won the Digital Media & Entertainment Award. This is an application that has found a market amongst telcos in Pakistan and internationally. Telenor, Vodaphone, China, Korea and Philippine mobile are amongst its prime customers.

Since Adnan Agboatwalla is traveling as usual (in Paris these days) Sajjad Ropanis accepted the Award on behalf of the PixSense team. The Merit was picked up by Post Amazers for their product Commander Safeguard which they developed for P&G.

In the E-Community & E-Inclusion category, the Citizen Journalism website SeenReport won the top Award with Chopaal taking the Merit. No-one was surprised that both of these products came out of incubation from LUMS with the mentor being Dr. Umar Saif. Kraysis, a startup that focuses on QA, is yet another LUMS incubated company that now has a 25-30 stong team. Jamil Goher, Khurram Javed Mir were there with another member of their core team to accept the Award.

TPS Pakistan picked up the Best in Financial Applications Award for IRIS whereas Abdul Rahman from Plexus bagged the Merit for their Investment Management Solution.

The e-Health Category was the most contested and the judges had a tough time picking a winner. Eventually they decided to award two merits in this category. The winner was CureMD for its EMR application. The merits were picked up by Adamsoft for DocComply and by Marriala Consultants for its e-Clinic application.

UltraLearn, an mash-up application developed by Softech Worldwide using various cutting edge technologies including Microsoft’s Silverlight, won the Best in E-Learning Applications Award.

The Research & Development Category is one that we have had difficulty attracting nominations for in previous years but this year there were a number of good projects that were nominated.

The winner was Palmchip’s GeoTel Application that could prove very useful for telecom operators. It is being funded by the National ICT R&D Fund.

Jahanzeb Sherwani’s HealthLine Application which he is working with NGO Helping Hands on, was the Runner up in this category.

Lumensoft Lahore won the E-Logistics Award for its Candela Retail Management application.

There were some Service Awards this year. The Best in Brand Development Award was a no-brainer. Kalsoft Pvt Ltd’s newly revamped logo, its website and the creativity of its advertising in the Pakistan market as well as the Middle Eastern market, made it the natural winner of this category.

The winner of the Best in Call Center/BPO companies award was won by Ovex Technologies. The CEO Faisal Khan was there to accept the Award on behalf of his team. There was an Award for the Best in Innovative Work Environment. This was won by Nuvica – a young startup in Karachi. Nuvica is a company which has no member older than 25 years old. The entire team blog and, in addition to the work they do as part of the Nuvica team, they are encouraged to have their own individual projects. So while CEO Ali Raza Shaikh runs DevNext sessions at Universities, Ammar Yasir has set up and Fariha Akhtar runs Fariha decided to blog the event live from the Marriott on the 31st of October while Awab Alvi a.k.a Teeth Maestro twittered the proceedings and Shrajeel and Adil Saleem used their mobiles to post the proceedings on SeenReport.

The Corporate Social Responsibility Award was given to Syed Azhar A. Rizvi for the Telemedicine efforts he made during to 2005 Earthquake, for his contribution in setting up the DAISY initiative in Pakistan, for his efforts in speading IT in Education to the rural and less developed areas of Pakistan and for bring Pediatric Heart Surgery to Pakistan.

While all this was going on, Rabia Garib had set up Meet the Winners corner where winners, sponsors, visitors and judges were interviewed throughout the evening. CIO Pakistan had also set up a WebStudio where they intereviewed participants and uploaded photos, sound bytes and video clips onto their websites thanks to the WiMax facility provided by Wateen.

All in all it was a wonderful evening. No-one wanted to leave. I sat and chatted with the last few participants until around 1.30 am. Thanks to everyone for helping to make it an event to remember.

This post wouldn’t be complete without a photo of the young people who helped to make everything work like clockwork that evening. Most of them have become regular volunteers for most P@SHA activities that are held in Karachi. Our sincerest thanks go out to them for cheerfully carrying out their work despite the extreme pressure. This photo was take after most people had left toward the wee hours so if we look washed out, there is a good reason. 🙂


Disclaimer: The photos have been strewn around and do not necessarily link with the text.

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