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Pakistan – A Startup

A Techie Among the non-ITs –COO Technopsis
February 14, 2018
Through The Lens of Democracy
February 13, 2018

2014 has been a tough year. On foreign lands, the Israelis fought the Palestinians, Russia and Ukraine faced skirmishes, the Ebola virus threatened African lives and the missing Malaysian Airline plane caused emotional turmoil.

At home, the twin blasts targeted our churches, military operation was launched to curb terrorism and the political landscape changed sharply. On 16th December, the nerve-wrecking and emotionally shattering incident of APS, Peshawar took place; 7 armed men brutally killed Pakistan’s children. They hit us where it hurt the most; being a father myself, I know there is nothing more painful than losing a child. But we are the world’s most resilient nation, we’ll fight back.

The year gave us history’s youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner– the 17 year old Malala Yousafzai resonates clarity, belief and passion. I listen to her Laureate speech to find hope and yes, courage too.

In my domain of entrepreneurship, we have created a mark on the global landscape with Markhor successfully completing a Kickstarter campaign, the first for Pakistan, and startups including Eyedeus Labs, xGear, Vivid and Pakwheels securing investments. This was previously the ‘impossible’. But we did it.

A new year should bring new perspectives and the vision to attain what seems an unachievable territory. If issues stand unresolved despite efforts, there got to be a problem. Your view is not wide enough. Let’s try to fix it this year.

To contemplate our national issues differently, let’s translate the situation in a language we are familiar with – of entrepreneurship. Consider Pakistan to be a startup that you’ve co-founded with friends from college. Now let’s just walkthrough to see how a problem, regardless of its gravity, is resolved in the best interest of the startup and its stakeholders.

The CEO takes responsibility

Every group requires a leader. In case of your startup, you have been selected as the CEO by your co-founders who pronounce to respect your decisions. Exactly like a country’s Prime Minister, you then are solely responsible for every act and policy, good or bad, and its effects.

You hired the team after careful selection, being sure of their respective skills, strengths and weaknesses. It is your duty to manage them in the most effective way; don’t carry extra baggage – if one doesn’t contribute enough, ask them to leave at the right moment before the cost borne gets high.

A visionary thinks long-term  

As the CEO, it is important that you think strategically for the long-term. Ask yourself questions such as ‘where do I see the startup in 5 years?’, ‘what do I want to achieve this year and how will it contribute to the longer goal?’, ‘what short-term milestones do I need to reach to that benchmark?’ and ‘do the resources I have enough to support me?’

If you don’t plan long-term, actions won’t be fruitful. They would be reactionary or defensive in nature and not contribute to something impactful.

Similarly, if you govern Pakistan without a long-term development plan for education, economy or health, you can continue to invest in infrastructure or play around with power tariffs but that won’t take you long.  Just like a freemium version may get you downloads but if the app does not solve a problem, you won’t get returning users. Therefore, once you have a ‘decent’ number of downloads, your app must offer that something ‘special’ to the users.

Do we have a back-up?

As techies, the word ‘back-up’ is a synonym for ‘life saved’! Similarly, in other aspects of life too, it is important to have a back-up plan in case the primary schedule backfires.

Imagine there is an approaching deadline; your team of developers is busy coding. Even though power outage is scheduled, what if there is a disruption? Would you wait for it to be resolved at the expense of missing the deadline? The other option is to timely arrange for an alternative.

In my earlier post The Negotiation Table, I have outlined how analyzing the second party’s ‘worthiness’ and preparing  ‘option cards’ accordingly help in drafting possible strategies to negotiate, finalize a back-up plan or reach a conclusion.

Terrorism is among Pakistan’s top issues. While developing an anti-terrorism strategy, it is important to take into consideration ALL possible reactionary actions or results. It is not essential that your plan results in the way you’d designed it to be – how will you tackle the deviations? A back-up plan is what you need!

Entrepreneurs find solutions  

The backend system of your software crashes. What will you do as the CEO? Will you just ask your developers to fix the issue and get the software go live again or would you try to figure out the bug that caused the crash?

An entrepreneur will apologize to its users for the inconvenience caused and promise to deliver better services. He would get his leads together to analyze the problem, get feedback, discuss all possible options and the implication of each and then decide on a strategy. Where his team of developers fixes the system, he along with his leads will see why exactly did the bug appear. They will make all attempts to ensure a similar situation doesn’t arise again.

In the case of Pakistan and its issue of terrorism, much more needs to be done to eliminate the problem permanently. All militant groups, irrespective of their religious-political affiliation, must be banned and taken action against immediately in case of violation. Common sense says such wings receive funding from ‘big boys’ – how else do they continue to ‘terrorize’ our people? Can’t we stop them? If we sincerely want that, we must look within and identify who the beneficiaries are. The foreign policy needs to be reconsidered to align with ‘friends’ rather than those who use us as a pawn in a game of chess.

It is easy to blame the madrassah system as a platform supporting ‘terrorist groups’. As the CEO, you are responsible for all that happens within the startup, remember? In precisely the same way, you are responsible for the operations and results of the madrassah system.

You have the power and the authority to set things straight; nominate the ‘right’ people, those whose credibility is unquestioned, from different walks including religion, academia and politics to critically study the madrassah system, the need for it existence, mission and curriculum, and suggest a reform policy accordingly. A standardized system needs to be put in place.

As the CEO who has chosen his team, you need to empower them and show enough respect by implementing their suggestions.          

If you suspect ‘other’ people are involved in mainstreaming this radical version of Islam, formulate a policy to weaken them – their followers, the vulnerable, must be separated. In case of Pakistan, the Afghan refugees who pose a threat to the sanctity of the international border, need to be removed from the land and federal governance must rein FATA; the state law and order must be implemented.    

An empathizing entrepreneur

As the CEO, you must empathize with those working with you and your customers. It will keep your team motivated as they see shared views and your customers will start trusting you and any action the startup takes.

Similarly, the political leadership of Pakistan needs to understand the problems faced by its people and show empathy, share their pain and find solutions to give them a better life.

Sharing posts on social media translating your ‘emotions’, ‘thoughts’ and ‘inherent leadership’ won’t let the startup survive; this country needs action. Pakistan needs long-term goals, practical and sincere implementation and unity.  If we unite, we shall prevail.

Here’s to a peaceful, united and stronger Pakistan – Happy New Year!