ITLOW speaks with Farzana Sheikh about her Canadian experience

February 23, 2009 at 4:42 pm 3 comments


Farzana Sheikh is Director of MSCL and spent many years working in the local IT sector before moving to Canada 2 years ago to set up MSCL’s operations in Toronto. We took advantage of her visit to Karachi to speak to Farzana and find out from her what the challenges and opportunities are for companies and individuals who want to venture into the Canadian market.

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  • ITLOW speaks with Farzana Sheikh about her Canadian experience…

  • […] This cup of tea was served by: In the Line of Wire […]

  • 3. Anthony Mitchell  |  February 26, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Canadian opportunities have increased in the last year because their Looney has increased so dramatically over the U.S. dollar. Now it is more expensive to run a call center in a Canadian metro than in a rural area or second tier city in the U.S. Governments in Canada subsidize their call center industry, especially export-oriented operations.

    Canada has a smaller population than the Karachi metro area. With only a few major cities and large tracts of land in between, Canada can be described as a series of micro markets, each with their own character and focus. The scale of business (and business opportunities) in Canada is low, which is one reason they have always looked to sell into the U.S.

    Several years back I purchased two software companies in B.C. for a U.S. IT company that I co-founded. It was a shock to find that the Canadian work ethic is lax. Their tax rates are so high that if Canadians work harder, it may not show up in their paycheck, so they have a greater focus on the quality of life outside the workplace. They don’t work long hours and aren’t as driven to succeed—especially in the IT sector—as you would find in hot spots such as Silicon Valley, New York City, or Lahore.

    The mistake we made in our acquisitions is that we did not immediately come in and recapitalize the operations and launch serious marketing campaigns. So sales tapered off.

    We were in specialized markets, which is a good thing. Prospects for generalist IT companies are not good in the Canadian market, in part because that market is specialized according to the needs and interests of each of the large industry groups that dominate that country’s economy. So pick one or two areas to gain domain expertise in.

    I’m not sure that simply showing up and making presentations is going to help promote companies from Pakistan. Clients don’t respond to trade missions the way they did 10 years ago. The major benefit of trade missions is to learn, listen and then decide whether or how to invest in proper marketing efforts.

    It will take persistent efforts, backed by monthly follow-up phone calls and active market research to begin to place Pakistani companies on the approved bidders’ lists of Canadian clients. Indian IT companies have the scale and the resources for such persistence.

    The big new players in Western Canada are Chinese, spearheaded by highly educated immigrants who came over during and after the handover from Hong Kong. In future we could see more end-to-end solution providers (hardware, software, consulting, systems management and admin) coming out of the HK-Canada combination.

    Many non-Cantonese have also been extremely successful, as in the case of Kevin Ham (the ‘man who owns the Internet’), who has built a global advertising empire from Vancouver.

    The big advantage that Canada offers is simply the prospect of a work visa.


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