TechLahore

Musings on technology, startups and software

Pakistan needs to get its act together on Agri-tech

Wheat fields in Haripur Hazara. Pakistan can be an agricultural powerhouse with just a little strategic thinking on the part of its government. (Photo credit: Daniyal Gilani, Flickr)

Wheat fields in Haripur Hazara. Pakistan can be an agricultural powerhouse with just a little strategic thinking on the part of its government. (Photo credit: Daniyal Gilani, Flickr)

For 5,000 years, the economic well being of the people of what is now Pakistan has been secured through agriculture. Even as Pakistan has rapidly modernized over the last 6 decades since independence, a very large component of the economy is still agriculture based. And in these days of population pressure globally, shortfalls of cultivable land, food security issues and rising food prices, this can be a tremendous asset for the country. Our strength in agriculture and farming is borne out by the numbers. We are the world’s 4th largest producer of milk, we export more than $24B worth of textiles annually based on the strength of our cotton production, we have one of the largest populations of farm animals – over 50M – in the country, and our wheat production stands at number 6 in the world. There are many other areas where Pakistan has unassailable competitive advantages, for example, in the fact that the variety of citrus produced in Pakistan is far more diverse than in any other country of the world, or that the mangoes grown in Pakistan are – without doubt – the richest and best on the globe.

Yet, so much more can be done. I have always been of the strong belief that Pakistan actually has no economic problems beyond mismanagement and poor planning. There are no inherent, structural reasons why Pakistan cannot rapidly develop to the levels of a first-world economy, and take its population of 180M along with it. There are very simple and – in the grand scheme of things – tiny steps that we can take to completely alter our economic picture. Let’s take a part of our agricultural sector; wheat production, as an example. We produce 24M tonnes of wheat per year, which is quite a bit. Yet, our per acre yield, at between 23-25 Maunds per acre, is the lowest in the world amongst major agri economies. If we increased yield to Australian or European levels (as high as 70 Maunds per acre), we would have an excess of between 30-40M tonnes of exportable wheat per year, from the existing land under cultivation. This would mean a minimum of an extra $10B of exports annually, given current international wheat prices. The reality is that these prices have been increasing over the past few years and with the world population expected to hit close to 10B in 2050, they won’t be going in the other direction any time soon. [Read the rest of this entry...]

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India is losing its hold on ITeS Services, says Ramesh Bhandari, MD Pegasys

Mr. Bhandari says India's IT outsourcing future is not very bright

Mr. Bhandari says India's IT outsourcing future is not very bright

I’ve always wondered why India is having such trouble moving from IT enabled services into the product market. It has been obvious to every observer of the BPO ITeS market that wage based differentiation doesn’t amount to a long term, defensible competitive edge. There are two parallel threats – the first being the very high rates of inflation in developing countries such as India, which put strong upward pressure on local wages. And second, the emergence of other geographies that are willing to undercut traditional BPO/IT outsourcing destinations such as India.

Even though Indian IT companies have had more than two decades now to develop and mature, there isn’t really a single Indian product that one could name without delving deep and “discovering” it deliberately. The brand recognition and market presence simply doesn’t exist for Indian products thus far. Then there’s the perception of India being primarily a “body shop”. This may be an unfair description, but as with all brand development challenges, it needs to be addressed. Thus far, I don’t see it happening. Perhaps what is needed is for an Indian IT services giant to acquire a western software company with an already established product brand. Short of this, I don’t see how India stays competitive in the long term. [Read the rest of this entry...]

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Jawwad Farid’s courses offer much-needed financial educational online

Farid's LCF offers courses in a variety of different areas

Farid's LCF offers courses in a variety of different areas

We’ve often talked about the need for Pakistanis to understand personal finance and the realities of the complex financial dynamics in today’s world. Thus far, there hasn’t really been an effective way to impart this education to willing learners without having them enroll in a university. To make things simpler, Jawwad Farid, founder of Alchemy, has launched an online e-learning portal called LCF. Jawwad’s audience, however, is not just limited to those interested in Personal Finance, nor is it limited to Pakistan. His courses have been incredibly well received by a global audience. In Jawwad’s own words:

“We recently crossed the 100,000 visitors benchmark after crossing the 200,000 pageviews benchmark in August. Traffic is up at about 8,000 monthly visitors and over 17,500 pageviews. An average visitor spends upwards of 2 minutes with some users spending all of 40 minutes at the site validating its stickiness. All content is locally generated and our online video course library has doubled this quarter and we hope will double again before the end of the year. [Read the rest of this entry...]

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Hello South Africa!

Bustling cities like Cape Town, South Africa, hold a lot of promise for Pakistani IT companies

Bustling cities like Cape Town, South Africa, hold a lot of promise for Pakistani IT companies

Pakistan and South Africa have a connection dating back at least 150 years. During colonial times, a large number of people from the sub continent moved to South Africa to work and find business opportunity. Today, there is a significant presence of Muslim South Africans in the business community in that country and people of Sub-continental decent – including those from modern-day Pakistan – are doing very well socially and economically. Since the end of Apartheid, South Africa has entered the comity of nations and has been welcomed by all. In fact, their post-Apartheid reconciliation process and the peaceful manner in which internal conflict was ended is used as a modern-day example of good sense, peacemaking and humanitarianism.

Along with its newly restored international standing and reputation, South Africa has also emerged as a business destination. There has always been a very strong tradition of technological development in the country. During the period they were under sanctions, South Africans achieved numerous technical feats, including their own nuclear programme, the development of high performance aircraft such as the Cheetah, and the continued growth of impressive R&D firms such as Denel[Read the rest of this entry...]

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PASHA’s 2011 Software Industry Awards a Stellar Success

Karachi's beautiful Sheraton hotel was the venue for P@SHA's 2011 Information Technology Awards

Karachi's beautiful Sheraton hotel was the venue for P@SHA's 2011 Information Technology Awards

A big shout out to Jehanara, President of the Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA), and her management team for organizing a brilliant event last night at Karachi’s gorgeous Sheraton Hotel.

The 8th Annual P@SHA’s ICT (Information and Communication Technology) awards were wonderfully organized, fairly judged and brilliantly presented. The tremendous momentum and growth of Pakistan’s IT industry is plain for all to see and this Awards ceremony is a great showcase. Each year, the entries have been getting more and more sophisticated and wide ranging. A fair number of new companies have been recognized in the 2011 Awards which bodes well for the industry’s future.

[Read the rest of this entry...]

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In Vino Veritas

This is not a PG-13 post. If you are offended by bad language, please move on.

In Vino Veritas, as it is said in latin, in wine there is truth. And sometimes that truth can be ugly. So ugly, that it might be more comfortable to suppress it and continue on as if the ugliness never happened. The truth I wish to share with you is unfortunately of this ilk and I must confess that I fought my natural urge to smother it and bury it before anyone else could find out. It wasn’t easy.

[Read the rest of this entry...]

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White Rabbit going great guns, gains investors & looks for partnerships

Pakistani social gaming startup, White Rabbit, is about to launch Baby World - a social, virtual world experience.

Pakistani social gaming startup, White Rabbit, is about to launch Baby World - a social, virtual world experience.

Islamabad based social media gaming company, White Rabbit, has been covered here on TechLahore numerous times. We’ve even included guest posts from their Founder and CEO, Hassan Baig. Well, we wanted to revisit our past coverage and get you the latest that’s happening at White Rabbit. Hassan gave us a great update and caught us up with a lot of the exciting developments the company has seen in recent days.

First up, White Rabbit has secured investment from US-based investors to continue the development of its vividly imagined, top-tier social games. Hassan tells us that the company is continuing to look for additional investment from folks that can provide not just dumb money, but smart connections too. [Read the rest of this entry...]

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Microsoft launches brilliant ad-campaign to attack VMware

Microsoft launches a funny, aggressive campaign to attack VMware for its lack of public cloud infrastructure

Microsoft launches a funny, aggressive campaign to attack VMware for its lack of public cloud infrastructure

Virtualization is obviously a fact of life now. It occupies a central role in future IT architectures and is a cloud building block. We’ve covered virtualization and connection brokers in the past, and have even reviewed some desktop virtualization products. There is, in fact, some interesting virtualization work happening in Pakistan also. Some of the major players that are fighting the battle for virtualization supremacy include VMware - the entrenched gorilla, Microsoft - the giant that could, Citrix - the desktop company that came late to the party and is now paying, and Oracle - which both fears virtualization and is confused about how exactly to gain a substantial foothold with its Sun assets. And of course there are other players, like IBM for example, which has a great virtualization platform for its Power7 architecture. Niche, smaller companies that are providing virtualization management tools, connection brokering technology or a variety of other related remoting protocols and monitoring applications. Nonetheless, the most entertaining contest seems to be between Microsoft and VMware on a global level, and more specifically, between Citrix and VMware on the desktop virtualization/VDI front. [Read the rest of this entry...]

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Redefining Identity: A fascinating documentary about innovation and software entrepreneurship in Pakistan

Redefining Identity: A wonderful documentary about software and technology in Lahore, Pakistan

Redefining Identity: A wonderful documentary about software and technology in Lahore, Pakistan

I just received a message from the folks over at FiveRivers who have produced this wonderful documentary on innovation & entrepreneurship in Pakistan. It’s really worth watching, and I love the underlying message: the notion that we can redefine our perceived identity with our hard work and achievements. I can certainly sign up for that, and I’m sure so would you!

Here’s a bit more about the documentary:

“Redefining Identity takes a look at the amazing entrepreneurship and creativity that is being unleashed in Pakistan, where young technologists are coming together to lead a very real revolution that has powerful social, economic and technological implications. In doing so, these young Pakistanis are also transforming Pakistan’s perception in the minds of millions of people all around the world who use their products and appreciate their creativity. This 10 minute film is a rare glimpse into the reality of today’s Pakistan. Anyone with an interest in technology and startups in general, or Pakistan specifically, will find it a very worthwhile watch.” [Read the rest of this entry...]

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Brilliance Speaks: A rare talk by Seymour Cray

The iconic Cray 1 Supercomputer seen here in all its glory (Photo credit: photofunblog)

The iconic Cray 1 Supercomputer seen here in all its glory (Photo credit: photofunblog)

Seymour Cray’s name is legend. It adorns some of the fastest, most striking computers ever built. It is synonymous with supercomputing and evokes unparalleled architectural notions that are impossible to ignore for any student of high performance computing. He is perhaps the greatest computer architect ever, and while his area of focus was on the high end and unconcerned with popular computing, many of his innovations have allowed modern day computers to be what they are. Cray, in fact, beyond his statute as a legend is also an example that young engineers and computer scientists should aspire to emulate. He so routinely pushed the edge and expanded the realm of the possible, that he provides an undying illustration of the adage, “Nothing is impossible”.

Seymour Cray is important for another reason. He represents what made America great. He is the quintessential American engineer who came of age in the second world war and then powered America’s rise through the 50s and 60s to become the most powerful nation on earth. He embodies a mix of brilliance, practicality and a roll-up-your-sleeves-get-it-done attitude that is uniquely American. You can lean more about this great visionary and computer architect by reading about him on Wikipedia. But for now, let’s watch him deliver a talk that was thankfully recorded for posterity. Here he is, the man himself, Mr Seymour Cray: [Read the rest of this entry...]

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