Pak­istan: A global turn­around story?

Pakistan Observer - - OPINION - Ghaz­an­far A Gare­wal Email: gre­wal724@gmail.com

T’S an old cho­rus: Pak­istan is pass ing through a crit­i­cal phase of its

Pak­istan is stuck in old grooves; Pak­istani so­ci­ety is back­ward and lag­ging be­hind the international com­mu­nity. Ap­par­ently, it seems true but an in-depth anal­y­sis of changes in Pak­istani so­ci­ety paints the pic­ture other­wise. Change is the only con­stant force in uni­verse and it does hap­pen to af­fect peo­ple of Pak­istan that is, of­ten, pic­tured bleak. Will Pak­istan ever be­come a global turn­around story?

Well, we have a com­pelling story of Brazil’s de­vel­op­ment. Brazil, to­day, is one of the top outscor­ing off­shore des­ti­na­tion for IT sec­tors but a cou­ple of years back no­body even knew whether Brazil­ian IT mar­ket ex­isted. Be­fore 2004, not Brazil but other less de­vel­oped coun­tries like Costa Rica, Ukraine and Viet­nam were fre­quently men­tioned as the emerg­ing IT outscor­ing des­ti­na­tion. Brazil, not even in in­dus­try re­search and an­a­lyst re­ports, was hardly ever iden­ti­fied as an up­com­ing IT des­ti­na­tion. Why Brazil was ignored? Brazil had a clear im­age prob­lem. To change the nar­ra­tive, Brazil­ian govern­ment along with its ex­ports pro­mo­tion agency, Apex Brazil, launched a na­tion brand­ing cam­paign, Brazil IT.

In tan­dem with Apex Brazil, the Brazil­ian govern­ment fo­cused to pro­mote IT ser­vices and prod­ucts as bet­ter suited part­ners for the Amer­i­can IT com­pa­nies seek­ing dif­fer­en­ti­ated ser­vices at their doorsteps. They fo­cused on Gart­ner Group, key opinion maker in­sti­tu­tion in the USA. APEX also de­cided to work with sev­eral Brazil­ian com­pa­nies work­ing in the USA to de­velop a na­tional plan. It also worked with sev­eral Brazil IT clus­ters, do­mes­tic and abroad, along with Brazil In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre, a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion, that pro­motes Brazil ex­ports to US opinion mak­ers and con­sumers. They launched Brazil IT cam­paign on tra­di­tional print me­dia, so­cial web­site, in­ter­net - BrazilIT.com and trade show com­pe­ti­tions. Is there any sim­i­lar­ity be­tween Pak­istan and Brazil? Many, ac­tu­ally. Like Brazil, Pak­istan’ IT sec­tor is not rec­og­nized well in the world and its share in global IT sec­tor is only $2.8 bil­lion. But Pak­istani’s free­lance IT pro­gram­mers and app de­vel­op­ers have be­come one of the most hired per­sons by Amer­i­can, Bri­tish and Aus­tralian IT com­pa­nies. Th­ese free­lancers were hired through free­lance hir­ing sites where th­ese com­pa­nies bid to hire for small app projects and soft­ware. This on­line hir­ing net­work worked be­cause tra­di­tional con­cerns about Pak se­cu­rity, other­wise could have blocked this op­por­tu­nity, didn’t ap­ply. Pak IT mar­ket has been ranked third for sup­ply­ing free­lance pro­gram­mers.

On Up­work, free­lance hir­ing site, it has been ranked among the top-ten earn­ing coun­tries along­side Ukraine, In­dia and Canada. Pak­istan has a great po­ten­tial in its IT in­dus­try: 1500 reg­is­tered IT com­pa­nies and 10,000 IT grad­u­ates en­ter Pak­istani IT mar­ket ev­ery year. Th­ese tal­ented grad­u­ates and com­pet­i­tive com­pa­nies have ex­hib­ited their skills in IT fairs, ex­pos, sum­mits, IT as­so­ci­a­tions and soft power houses at na­tional level. Some of them par­tic­i­pated in th­ese events at international level and got ap­pre­ci­ated world­wide. Should Pak­istan launch a na­tion brand­ing cam­paign like Brazil? Pak­istan has al­ready launched a na­tion brand­ing cam­paign. For the first time, govern­ment of Pak­istan ini­ti­ated a soft power cam­paign by lead­ing from front in­stead of ask­ing the For­eign Of­fice to im­prove the im­age of Pak­istan.

In Au­gust 2015, Plan­ning and De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Ah­san Iqbal launched a Na­tion Brand­ing cam­paign, Pas­sion­ate Pak­istan. He said, “the time has come to work to­ward build­ing the na­tional im­age of Pak­istan and ini­ti­at­ing a brand for coun­try.” This ini­tia­tive re­veals that the govern­ment has re­al­ized the im­por­tance of na­tion brand­ing which is one of the newly emerg­ing strat­egy of gain­ing and sus­tain­ing soft power.

Pak­istan govern­ment should work in tan­dem with ex­port pro­mot­ing agen­cies to con­vert th­ese in­di­vid­ual ser­vices and prod­ucts into a co­or­di­nated com­pet­i­tive mar­ket net­work. If this cam­paign is launched earnestly, it will cer­tainly help im­prove the im­age of Pak­istan. — The writer teaches at Na­tional Univer­sity of Mod­ern Lan­guages, Islamabad.

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