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    Pakistan fast becoming the next "Hot" place for call centers

    Pakistan will become major IT power in next 3 to 5yrs.
    http://www.nni-news.com/thu/main/main-08.htm

    Pakistan fast becoming the next "Hot" place for call centers

    ISLAMABAD, July 04 (NNI): Two leading American IT companies Dell Computers and American Telephone and Telegraph are setting up 2000 and 1000 seat capacity call centres respectively in the country.

    "Pakistan, due to its large English speaking population and low labour cost in the region has become the next hot place for corporate giants for outsourcing their call centre operations", the official source revealed to NNI.

    Dell computers have already held interviews for hiring staff for their call centre that is likely to start operations by August this year. While the other American firm in collaboration with a local firm will also start operations with next few weeks.

    Pakistan is fast emerging on the global IT outsourcing market due to its vast English proficient population, where English as a second language is taught from class I in all schools. Pakistan has one tenth of the English proficient population outside the native English speaking world of North America, U.K and Australia.

    According to sources, Align Technology, a California, United States based company is already outsourcing call center operations and graphic design work to a back office in Lahore. There are 500 computer-graphics designers and 150 call-centre operators managing U.S wide orders at the centre.

    Queries come both from customers, who call a toll-free number in the U.S and dental-care providers. The latter prescribe the treatment and provide dental imprints, which are rendered into 3-D computer images and used by the graphic designers in Lahore to generate digital models for each individual aligner set.

    Along with the Pakistan government, Align co-founder Zia Chishti is hoping to make this a new growth model in his native country, building novel economic ties with the U.S and finally putting Pakistan on the map of the globalizing service economy.

    Pakistan has long languished on the periphery of this trend, which has provided jobs in far-flung countries like the Philippines and India. The latter exported $8 billion in remote-sourced software alone in 2000. In comparison, Pakistan's annual information-technology exports presently amount to no more than $100 million. But Align's early success has been a touchstone for hopes that Pakistan may be able to get a bigger piece of the pie.

    New recruits watch popular television program Friends during their training as customer-service representatives at the company's call centre in the city. Many may have already watched U.S. culture on local TV and satellite channels, but they still have questions. "A couple of them ask, 'Is Hollywood like the real America?'," laughs the company's call centre manager, John Armbruster, recalling the first group of recruits who went through the program in 2000.

    It is apparently close enough for California-based Align, which is pioneering IT enabled remote-services sourcing in Pakistan. Friends is now a regular feature of culture-training at Align's customer-service centre that handles calls about its product Invisalign, which are plastic aligners, an innovative update on braces for teeth that are nearly invisible.

    Over the past decade and a half, falling international-telecommunications costs and low overseas wages have persuaded a growing number of Western companies such as construction firm Bechtel, British Airways and financial-services company GE Capital to source customer-interaction services to remote offices across the globe.

    In some developing countries, this has become an increasingly salient and profitable face of globalization. The U.S. consulting firm McKinsey and Company predicts that the world market for remote services will grow to $142 billion by 2008, a 15-fold increase within 10 years.

    This has turned Chishti into something of a local golden boy. The company he co-founded in 1997 as a student at Stanford Business School has sparked a bit of a revolution in the U.S orthodontics industry with its Invisalign braces. As the name suggests, its chief selling point is that the braces in question are clear, saving its wearers the stigma inflicted by traditional metal contraptions. Having pulled off an initial public offering in 2001, Align has since steadily ramped up its sales and manufacturing operations, opening sales offices in Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Australia. In 2001, revenues grew nearly six-fold, reaching $46 million.

    Underpinning this performance is a globalized business model. For cost considerations, Align's braces are manufactured in Mexico through a patented stereolithography process. Remote-sourcing the company's other activities also saved on staff costs and Chishti settled on his native country as the venue of choice. With a population of 140 million, the labour pool is considerable, and the basic skills are there, believes Align. Indeed, most of its Lahore staff have master's degrees and speak fluent English, an official language of Pakistan.

    But as Align and others have learned, fluency in the global business language, English, is not enough. "We also have to teach them to understand American idioms and accents," says Mohammed Khaishgi, chief of Align's customer-relationship management.

    "It's difficult, for instance, for a Pakistani to understand what someone from the Deep South says, particularly if they are speaking quickly. It takes some getting used to." Which is where Friends comes in handy. "We realized we had to train our staff somehow and having them watch U.S. sitcoms was an easy way of familiarizing them with American culture," explains Khaishgi.

    This kind of training is becoming a must for the remote industry, argues McKinsey. In a study for the National Association of Software and Service Companies in India, McKinsey analysts stress the importance of overseas workers learning to comprehend foreign diction and culturally specific forms of speech, such as forms of address in Eastern countries and polite language in the West.

    Align has a lot of catching up to do, acknowledges Armbruster. Other countries are definitely further ahead on the curve, he says: "In India they have boards with weather charts from different U.S. cities, and sports scores. I have two trips to India scheduled this year to do benchmarking." But insofar as it has set an example for other businesses, Align has been widely feted as heralding a new generation of entrepreneurship in Pakistan.

    These are people who have broken new ground in regard to key issues, acquiring bandwidth, training people and acquiring the right technology. Align has established a paradigm, providing elements which others can emulate, says Salman Ansari, adviser to the Minister for Science and Technology.

    Align claims that so far it has had no problems attracting trained staff, but by the country faces a looming shortage of trained labour. It currently has estimated 8,000-9,000 trained IT professionals and until recently, no more than 800 were entering the labour market every year. " Numbers don't mean anything if you don't have quality people. The main challenge is quantity and quality of human resources. Especially quality," says Minister of Science and Technology, Professor Atta-ur-Rehman.

    Another challenge is the national telecommunications infrastructure. As of 1999, for instance, there were only 2.22 telephone lines per 100 people. The country is working its way through a comprehensive telecom deregulation program that has already produced results. The price of bandwidth has dropped and more than 570 Pakistani cities, towns and villages have been connected to the Internet, up from a mere 20 two years before. In addition, within the past 18 months the number of cities connected by fibre-optic cable has jumped from 53 to 200.

    Building this business, though, hasn't been all smooth sailing. In the wake of September 11, Align's venture acquired unexpected geopolitical significance. The company suffered a backlash among both stockholders and clients, spurred by political uncertainties about the impact of the war in Afghanistan and riled U.S. sensitivities. "There was a lot of dumping of our stock. A couple of guys either e-mailed or called in, saying, 'We don't feel comfortable doing business with someone who is a Muslim' says Zia Chistie."

    While investors returned as time passed, the looming possibility of war with neighbouring nuclear-capable India leaves some watchers still worried. To guard against contingencies, the company has since also opened a back-up call-centre facility in the Gulf emirate of Sharjah, and another in Costa Rica.

    Still, Ansari, the adviser, claims he is currently in talks with U.S. and Canadian companies interested in setting up new call centres in Pakistan. He admits that call centres are on the lower value-added rungs of the IT-enabled service economy, but emphasizes that they are just the beginning.

    "We recognize fully well that initially Pakistan will be perceived as a sweatshop, but this has a way of ballooning out." Indeed, before the crisis with India broke, MOST were predicting $400 million in overseas investment in IT in 2002, overtaking textiles as Pakistan's largest investment sector.

    Align is certainly looking to the future with cautious optimism. While the Pakistan India stand off leaves many other observers worried, the company hopes it has struck on a model that will both allow Pakistanis to share the rewards of the global economy and have U.S investors smiling all the way to the bank.
    All people are equal, but some are more equal than others. We call these "corporations."

    #2
    www.feer.com/articles/200...innov.html

    Lahore Calls For Business

    Forget political tensions: A California company is outsourcing call-centre operations and graphic-design work to a back office in Pakistan


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    By Peter Lagerquist/LAHORE

    Issue cover-dated June 20, 2002


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    WHILE PAKISTAN is front-page news around the globe as the potential Armageddon, business goes on in Lahore. And sometimes it's a bit of a laugh.

    Take the new recruits who watch the United States television programme Friends during their training session as customer-service representatives at Align Technology's remote-call centre in Lahore. Many may have already watched U.S. culture on local TV and satellite channels, but they still have questions. "A couple of them asked: 'Is Hollywood like the real America?'," laughs the company's call-centre manager, John Armbruster, recalling the first group of recruits who went through the programme in 2000.

    It is apparently close enough for California-based Align, which is pioneering Information Technology-enabled remote-services sourcing in Pakistan. Friends is now a regular feature of culture-training at Align's customer-service centre that handles calls about its product Invisalign, which are plastic aligners--or an innovative update on braces for teeth--that are nearly invisible.

    There are 500 computer-graphics designers and 150 call-centre operators managing U.S.-wide orders at the centre. Queries come both from customers, who call a toll-free number in the U.S., and dental-care providers. The latter prescribe the treatment and provide dental imprints, which are rendered into 3-D computer images and used by the graphic designers in Lahore to generate digital models for each individual aligner set.

    Along with the Pakistan government, Align co-founder Zia Chishti is hoping to make this a new growth model in his native country, building novel economic ties with the U.S., and finally putting Pakistan on the map of the globalizing service economy. Over the past decade and a half, falling international-telecommunications costs and low overseas wages have persuaded a growing number of Western companies such as construction firm Bechtel, British Airways and financial-services company GE Capital to source customer-interaction services to remote offices across the globe. In some developing countries, this has become an increasingly salient and profitable face of globalization. The U.S. consulting firm McKinsey & Company predicts that the world market for remote services will grow to $142 billion by 2008, a 15-fold increase within 10 years.

    Pakistan has long languished on the periphery of this trend, which has provided jobs in far-flung countries ranging from the Philippines to Jamaica to India. The latter exported $8 billion in remote-sourced software alone in 2000. In comparison, Pakistan's annual information-technology exports presently amount to no more than $100 million. But Align's early success has been a touchstone for hopes that Pakistan may be able to get a bigger piece of the pie.

    This has turned Chishti into something of a local golden boy. The company he co-founded in 1997 as a student at Stanford Business School has sparked a bit of a revolution in the U.S. orthodontics industry with its Invisalign braces. As the name suggests, its chief selling point is that the braces in question are clear, saving its wearers the stigma inflicted by traditional metal contraptions.

    Having pulled off an initial public offering in 2001, Align has since steadily ramped up its sales and manufacturing operations, opening sales offices in Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Australia. In 2001, revenues grew nearly six-fold, reaching $46 million.

    Underpinning this performance is a globalized business model. For cost considerations, Align's braces are manufactured in Mexico through a patented stereolithography process. Remote-sourcing the company's other activities also saved on staff costs, and Chishti settled on his native country as the venue of choice. With a population of 140 million, the labour pool is considerable, and the basic skills are there, believes Align. Indeed, most of its Lahore staff have master's degrees and speak fluent English, an official language of Pakistan.

    But as Align and others have learned, fluency in the global business language, English, is not enough. "We also have to teach them to understand American idioms and accents," says Mohammed Khaishgi, chief of Align's customer-relationship management. "It's difficult, for instance, for a Pakistani to understand what someone from the Deep South says, particularly if they are speaking quickly. It takes some getting used to."

    Which is where Friends comes in handy. "We realized we had to train our staff somehow and having them watch U.S. sitcoms was an easy way of familiarizing them with American culture," explains Khaishgi.

    This kind of training is becoming a must for the remote industry, argues McKinsey. In a study for the National Association of Software and Service Companies in India, McKinsey analysts stress the importance of overseas workers learning to comprehend foreign diction and culturally specific forms of speech, such as forms of address in Eastern countries and polite language in the West.

    Align has a lot of catching up to do, acknowledges Armbruster. Other countries are definitely further ahead on the curve, he says: "In India they have boards with weather charts from different U.S. cities, and sports scores . . . I have two trips to India scheduled this year to do benchmarking." But insofar as it has set an example for other businesses, Align has been widely feted as heralding a new generation of entrepreneurship in Pakistan. "These are people who have broken new ground in regard to key issues: acquiring bandwidth, training people and acquiring the right technology. It [Align] has established a paradigm, providing elements which others can emulate," says Salman Ansari, chief adviser to Pakistan's science and technology minister.

    Align claims that so far it has had no problems attracting trained staff, but by the government's own admission, the country faces a looming shortage of trained labour. It currently has only an estimated 8,000-9,000 trained IT professionals, and until recently, no more than an additional 800 were entering the labour market every year. "The main challenge is quantity and quality of human resources. Especially quality," says Minister of Science and Technology Atta-ur-Rehman. "Numbers don't mean anything if you don't have quality people."

    Another challenge is the national telecommunications infrastructure. As of 1999, for instance, there were only 2.22 telephone lines per 100 people. The country is working its way through a comprehensive telecoms-deregulation programme, which has already produced results, says Ansari. The price of bandwidth has dropped and he claims that more than 570 Pakistani cities, towns and villages have been connected to the Internet, up from a mere 20 two years before. In addition, within the past 18 months the number of cities connected by fibre-optic cable has jumped from 53 to 200.

    Building this business, though, hasn't been all smooth sailing. In the wake of September 11, Align's venture acquired unexpected geopolitical significance. The company suffered a backlash among both stockholders and clients, spurred by political uncertainties about the impact of the war in Afghanistan and riled U.S. sensitivities. "There was a lot of dumping of our stock," says Chishti. "A couple of guys either e-mailed or called in, saying, 'We don't feel comfortable doing business with someone who is a Muslim'."

    While investors returned as time passed, the looming possibility of war with neighbouring nuclear-capable India leaves some watchers still worried. To guard against contingencies, the company has since also opened a back-up call-centre facility in the Gulf emirate of Sharjah, and another in Costa Rica.

    Still, Ansari, the science and technology minister's adviser, claims he is currently in talks with U.S. and Canadian companies interested in setting up new call centres in Pakistan. He is the first to admit that call centres are on the lower value-added rungs of the IT-enabled service economy, but emphasizes that they are just the beginning: "We recognize fully well that initially Pakistan will be perceived as a sweatshop, but this has a way of ballooning out." Indeed, before the crisis with India broke, his ministry was predicting $400 million in overseas investment in IT in 2002, overtaking textiles as Pakistan's largest investment sector.

    Align is certainly looking to the future with cautious optimism. While the politics of the Subcontinent leaves many other observers worried, the company hopes it has struck on a model that will both allow Pakistanis to share the rewards of the global economy and have U.S. investors smiling all the way to the bank. Now, if only everyone in the Subcontinent could be Friends.

    Comment


      #3
      What does this thread have to do with India http://www3.pak.org/gupshup/smilies/confused.gif Please open another thread in appropriate forum.

      [This message has been edited by outlaw (edited July 05, 2002).]

      Comment


        #4
        Check Economic performance in Pak's thread.

        I've already included this news http://www3.pak.org/gupshup/smilies/smile.gif

        Comment


          #5
          "We recognize fully well that initially Pakistan will be perceived as a sweatshop, but this has a way of ballooning out." Indeed, before the crisis with India broke, MOST were predicting $400 million in overseas investment in IT in 2002, overtaking textiles as Pakistan's largest investment sector.


          This is news to me... I really had no idea Pakistan was doing this good in IT.

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by Abdali:
            Durango,
            Chinas IT exports were already $43B in 2001 its forex recently touched off 0.25 trillion dollars. Exports including HK are $400B... India has loooooooooong way to go to compete with China India is better off competing with Pak. http://www3.pak.org/gupshup/smilies/smile.gif
            http://www3.pak.org/gupshup/smilies/ok.gif http://www3.pak.org/gupshup/smilies/ok.gif http://www3.pak.org/gupshup/smilies/ok.gif

            Comment


              #7
              AlignTech is not going very good these days. The company lost over $18 million in the first quarter of this year. They laid of quite a few ppl like both Lahore and Karachi, including one of my friends.

              Anyway, call centers are a great way for Pakistan to get lots of FOREx, and I hope others follow suit after Dell and AT&T.

              ------------------
              You can only paint with the colors you're given...
              ...so get what you like and like what you have.

              Comment


                #8
                no wonder musharuff say we talk to anyone anywhere anytime.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by rvikz:
                  no wonder musharuff say we talk to anyone anywhere anytime.
                  What does Musharraf's comments has to do with I.T performance in Pak?

                  http://www3.pak.org/gupshup/smilies/confused.gif

                  http://www3.pak.org/gupshup/smilies/hula.gifTAKE YOUR BEST SHOT AT MEhttp://www3.pak.org/gupshup/smilies/hula.gif

                  Comment


                    #10
                    http://www.sulekha.com/redirectnh.asp?cid=217879


                    The vanishing software houses


                    By Aamir Shafaat Khan

                    It is amazing that out of the total 664 registered software houses (SWHs), only 323 are operating, and 221 have either closed down or have become non-functional, while 86 of these houses are not even traceable -- perhaps on account of incorrect addresses or they may have been shifted to some other locations. Another 34 of these have switched to some other enterprising businesses.

                    The census, recently conducted by the Federal Bureau of Statistics (FBS) on "software industry and its related services in Pakistan" reveals that the 278 SWHs serving countrywide, have engaged about 8,527 persons with the male/female ratio of 9:1. Around 94 per cent of the total employed are on full-time basis and the remaining six per cent work part-time. The Programmers being 2,438 are the highest of the figures, with some 13 per cent serving as the executives and the project managers. This sector can proudly boost for hiring 85 PhDs, 44 Phils, 30 per cent Master degree holders, and 42 per cent graduates. About 76 per cent of the total persons occupied in software industry belong to the Information Technology (IT), and the remaining 24 per cent are the non-IT staff working in administrative, financial and other related fields.

                    The FBS, however, did face some difficulties in conducting the census as out of the operational 323 software houses, merely 278 responded to enquiries, whereas 45 absolutely refused to share their data, with some 202 SWHs responding to all queries and the remaining 76 evaded vital information like employment cost and earning from their businesses. Around 245 of these are local houses, and the rest 33 are subsidiaries, with almost 50 per cent or 16 located in Islamabad and 30 per cent in Lahore, while the remaining in Karachi. The number of SWHs operating in only Pakistan are 212, and 66 are said to be maintaining their branches overseas, also.

                    The number of registered houses with one or more organization is 250, and the 28 are not registered with any organization and almost half of these unregistered SWHs are situated in Lahore. Approximately 125 of these have multiple registration. The highest number are registered with the Pakistan Software Export Board (214), followed by 66 with the Pakistan Software Houses Association (PASHA), and 39 with others. Until 1995, there were only 54 SWHs, while 72 new ones were established in 2000.

                    The census further goes to unfold that there are about 9,585 personal computers (PCs) available with 278 SWHs, on an average 34 PCs in one house. There are 742 PC-servers averaging about three PC-servers per SWH. It is worth mentioning that Islamabad-based SWHs have highest users of the PCs (2,967 averaging approximately 53 PCs per SWH).

                    Among the 278 SWHs, about 238 have dial-up facilities, with 39 catering integrated services digital network, 33 digital cross-connection, nine radio modem and six retaining very small aperture terminal facilities. About 159 of these facilities are involved in the IT consultancy, 74 imparting IT training, 48 furnishing transcription services and 36 engaged in hardware, software, networking and vendor business.

                    In response to the query of "field of expertise" - about 58 per cent of the SWHs have indicated of none in any field, 23 per cent have expertise in Oracle financial, 17 per cent in Web Sphere and about nine per cent in Oracle manufacturing. Only 17 have achieved the ISO-9000 IT Standard and 250 SWHs could not achieve any IT standard.

                    The average monthly employment cost reported by the 247 SWHs is Rs113 million - the annual employment cost of the reported SWHs is Rs1,357 million or $23 million. Only 115 houses have declared their software export earnings, whereas 87 have informed of doing no software export. The reported earnings through software export were $22.114 million in 2000-2001, while the rest 76 SWHs refused to answer to this question.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      When I first read the topic of this thread , I thought it was :

                      "Pakistan fast becoming the next "Hot" place for call girls" http://www3.pak.org/gupshup/smilies/biggrin.gif

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by Hizbul:
                        When I first read the topic of this thread , I thought it was :

                        "Pakistan fast becoming the next "Hot" place for call girls" http://www3.pak.org/gupshup/smilies/biggrin.gif

                        There is help available. Please, avail it.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Prostitution is banned in Pakistan. Officially there are no prostitutes in Pakistani. Even if you find few which I doubt, they are not Pakistanis but Bangladeshis brought in Pakistan. This is the reason there is no AIDS in Pakistan as compared to India.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by durango:
                            This is the reason there is no AIDS in Pakistan as compared to India.
                            No AIDS in Pakiland. Where do you get your information from , Mr. Durango.
                            For a starter course visit : http://www.dawn.com/2001/09/29/nat29.htm

                            Also remember India's population is 9 times Pakistan's.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              staffing call centers is indeed a labor intensive business it's not exactly I.T. It does involve some technology like anyone business. Anyway, forex is forex.

                              I find it hard to believe that India made $8B in call center outsourcing business. Mind you, it is capable but I just didn't think it could have grown that big in a trend within 3 years. If you mean full I.T export revenues, sure.

                              As to someone's comment about sweatshops. My advise to the Pakistan business people is, don't let that kind of false elitism stop you. I recall in mid eighties when the Indian software exports really began, the business was mostly 'body shopping'. It took till early 90's to mature into real technology development and exports.

                              Comment

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