Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What is the future of technology and IT business in Pakistan ?

Being in the IT business for more than a decade, I am often confonted with the question if the IT business is really worth it in Pakistan ?

I am running a small web development , designing and hosting business for about a decade now.
Looking back i think i have come a long way, but looking again makes me feel i have gone no where.

I have seen many IT business come and go. I have seen many portals and ISP who came , who saw, who conquered and then they disappeared.

I have seen big IT businesses coming in with a bang with much fan fare and disappearing with a blink of an eye.

I have seen many programmers and developers spending sleepless nights to complete their codings and projects, only to find it that the client did not like their concept or the product that they delivered.

I my self have spent long hour with the client to make sure that the design is as per his requirement and wishes. However, at many occassions client seemed unsatisfied with any thing i would deliver.

Web designing and hosting business is still seen by many as having no potential of income or growth. At times i have defied that , but as the time is progressing it makes me sink into the thought tht may be people are right and it has no potential ?

I have seen so many Pakistani isps failing.
There was a time in Pakistan that a new isp was emerging every new week, coming with lot of fan fare and techological gimmicks. And then again I have seen them fail and disappear, a few of them in such a manner that their internet users were left stranded and employees shocked.

Some of the isps i have seen failing or closed down are :

compunet
zoom net
hi net
breeze net
sat net

a few others who did not make it big, but failed big.

Then there was a time when people started having portals, offering online contents, information and even online shopping in Pakistan , at a time when being online was not an essential and people would turn to tv or other international websites for information rather than a local website.

I have seen portals who came with much promises but they then failed miserably.
The Pakistani online advertisement sector was very much in its infancy and untested. People would rather advertise on tv and print, but not on the internet. Those times have changed now and since 2008 we can see many pakistani companies advertising online on yahoo, msn and other website. Google adwords is the catalyst for change for many, as it has delivered the right content to the right user with a fraction of the cost. The adword sector may be covered later.

So there was a time when Pakistani portals failed miserably.

etaleem
sawmwonline
hi star / hi mall

and many such portals came into being but could not deliver , or may be they came earlier in the market, at a time when the market was raw.

I once went to give a job interview for a portal manager and I was asked a question if having portal in pakistan was really worth it ?
My instant answer was NO !

What followed next was a series of question, who would ask me all sorts of question regarding online trends of pakistani, pakistani online population / users, e-commerce spend of pakistan, web traffic of various website of pakistan like geo and jang, web traffice for various international websites.

All in all the prospective employer was impressing upon me that online web / portal business has potential and any new portal would be a hit.

I am still waiting to see that portal come online. May be it has, but i dont know about it.

Though I could not answer any of it, but still my real answer to a operating a portal in Pakistan was NO !
The reason for my answer being seeing so many pakistani isp's and portals failing over the period of time.

Over the period of time, I have seen some very small portal which have made big in Pakistan. These are developed and maintained by young studnets, who started it as a hobby and started making big money from it. They have not marketed their portal with much advertisement, all they have achieved is thru word of mouth.

So of the portals which are doing good are :

apniisp.com
funmaza.com
ejunoon.com

and many such small portals, which have taken a lot of resources and time of these developers.
They have contents ranging from dictionary, translation ,mp3 songs, sms, poetry and muslim names databases.

These sites are doing wonders to these young people, who are just fresh out of school and bagging handsome amounts thru advertisements.

Surely google adsense is the king when it comes to getting advertisements and these people do not have to go any where for advertisements. All they need to do is put a google adsense code, and advertisements start displaying on the website.

As per my information these people are making around US$ 200 / month from their portal.

Then there are some midsized portals, which have huge backings and can sustain, as they are being financed by their parent company.

A few of these are :
apnakarachi.com
hamariweb.com

These are sites which are backed by their principal parent company and have put a lot of effort to market their portal, backed by good contents.

And then there are news portals which are being owned and operated by newspapers and have been instrumental in providing up to the minute online news to the users.

dawn.com and jang.com.pk being the most frequented sites by online users wanting instant access to the news.

However, yet still web designers and developers do not seem to be getting the worth they should be, and web development still seems under prviliged job, where a lot of people ask questions like

Is it really good job ?
is it a good income ?
does it have a potential ?

For years i have been confronted with questions like these and have made me think and re-think.
Either i have been under performing or the general business trend has been.

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