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Pakistani-American Entrepreneurs Meet at OPEN Forum 2012

Hundreds of Pakistani-American entrepreneurs met on Saturday, June 2, 2012 at Silicon Valley's Computer History Museum for this year's annual conference called OPEN Forum held each summer. It's organized by the Organization of Pakistani-American Entrepreneurs (OPEN) in Silicon Valley.  The conference had a large number of sponsors, including dozens of
Silicon Valley companies founded or managed by Pakistani-Americans.

Successful social entrepreneur Salman Khan of Khan Academy was the keynote speaker. There were also a number of parallel tracks on various topics of interest to the community. Panelists included venture capitalists, business executives, entrepreneurs, engineers, lawyers, scientists, editors and reporters.

I am sharing with my readers some of the highlights of the key sessions that I personally found interesting.



Photo by Ali Hasan Cemendtaur
INVESTMENT CLIMATE IN PAKISTAN – DO THE RETURNS OFFSET THE PERCEIVED RISKS?

 It was moderated by Stephen West, Deputy Bureau Chief & Editor Bloomberg News, and included Sarfaraz Ahmed Rehman, CEO The Dawood Foundation, Junaid Qureshi, CEO, SSJD Group, Javed Hamid, Sr. MD, International Executive Service Corps, Former World Bank, Founder, LUMs and Naveed Sherwani, President & CEO at Open-Silicon as panelists.

Sarfaraz Ahmed Rehman represented Dawood Group includes Pakistani conglomerate Engro with multiple businesses ranging from consumer products to fertilizer and energy. Rehman talked about annual growth of as much as 45% per year in some of the product categories in Dawood's consumer product sales and profits. He said other consumer giants like Unilever Pakistan, Colgate-Palmolive and Nestle Pakistan are experiencing similar rapid growth as well. All of these companies are investing heavily to expand their FMCG offerings in Pakistan.

Naveed Sherwani of Silicon Valley based OpenSilicon talked about his reasons for setting up his company's chip design centers in Lahore and Islamabad by hiring 67 Pakistani design engineers. Sherwani said OpenSilicon considered adding staff at their existing design center in Bangalore, India and also considered Shanghai, China for expansion before choosing Pakistan. The key reasons include availability of top talent, lower turn-over and lower costs in Lahore and Islamabad. Comparing turn-over, he said it's about 15% in Pakistan versus 30% in India. Answering a question on power outages and security concerns, he said both are manageable. Stand-by generators alleviate the problems caused by load shedding. And, being a frequent visitor to Pakistan, he feels quite safe there.

GAME CHANGERS TELL ALL: “WORK? PLAY? THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT"

 The panel was moderated by Umair Khan, CEO, SecretBuilders; Chairman, Folio3; Venture Partner, Entrepreneurs’ Fund and included
Joe Robinson: Product Lead, Square, Charles Huang: CEO Blue Goji; co-founder Red Octane (Guitar Hero), Zia Yusuf: CEO Streetline; former EVP SAP, Robert Martyn: Studio GM, Zynga; Executive Producer of SIMS, SimCity at EA, Omar Siddiqui: CEO Kiwi; former VP Playdom (Disney) as panelists.

The mobile apps market has exploded from almost zero to nearly $3 billion within just a few years as smartphones and tablets have become ubiquitous. Panelists represented a range of apps from gaming and social media to an application that allows people to find a parking spot while enabling the cities to raise their parking revenues.

The key question was how can developers effectively market their apps in such a crowded space. Zia quipped "Get Ashton Kutcher", referring to the use of celebrities to get attention. Another panelist suggested turning to new niches such as fitness and cycling to get a slice of the action by offering a piece of specialized hardware along with the application. One suggestion was to sell a hard-shell case for the mobile device and offer free download of a useful application for cyclists.



 
SALMAN KHAN'S KEYNOTE: 

 Defying tradition, Salman Khan chose an interview style format with Bay Area Journalist Thuy Vu who introduced Khan and played a CBS 60 Minutes segment on Khan Academy.

Thuy began by asking Khan if he was still recording his videos in his closet, and Khan said "No, I have come out of closet". Then he proceeded to offer to pay "market rate" for larger office; studio space in Palo Alto for Khan Academy.

In answer to a question about being "teacher to the world" in Bill Gates' words, Khan said he is aware that English language limits his ability to justify that title. He is working on broadening access to his tutorials in many parts of the world through translations in multiple languages ranging from Mongolian to Urdu. He showed a video clip of such translations.

Khan said the ubiquity and price declines of connected tablets make them ideal devices for watching and learning  from his videos. With twenty students sharing a $100 tablet, the cost is only $5 per student, he said. In developing nations where electricity and Intranet infrastructure is not available everywhere, he supports the use of Internet cafes or off-line learning through kiosks supporting DVDs. He is prepared to license his video contents at no-cost for non-profit organizations seeking to educate the poor and the disadvantaged.

SUMMARY:

The conference was put together well by OPEN President Moazzam Chaudhry and his team. It provided a great opportunity for Pakistani-Americans to meet each other and learn about start-up opportunities and current entrepreneurial endeavors of the community members in Silicon Valley and Pakistan. I believe the conference clearly succeeded in its immediate objective of
bringing aspiring entrepreneurs of Pakistani origin together with many
investors and mentors in Silicon Valley, informing the audience and
stimulating discussion of new ideas and opportunities, and educating the
speakers and the attendees. But its real impact won't be apparent until
there is a significant critical mass with many more successful
Pakistani entrepreneurs inspired by what they saw and heard at OPEN
Forum 2012.

Acknowledgement: Asghar Aboobaker and Ali Hasan Cemendtaur contributed to this report. Photo taken by Ali Hasan Cemendtaur.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

FMCG Profits in Pakistan

Pakistani-American Entrepreneurs Catch the Wave

Khan Academy Draws Pakistani Visitors

Minorities are Majority in Silicon Valley

Pakistani-American's Game-Changing Vision

US Firms Adding Jobs Overseas 

Pakistan's Demographic Dividend

Pakistanis Study Abroad

Pakistan's Youth Bulge

Pakistani Diaspora World's 7th Largest

Pakistani-American NFL Team Owner

Pakistani-American Entrepreneurs Catch the Wave

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Views: 106

Tags: 2012, Forum, OPEN, Silicon, Valley

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 10, 2012 at 9:48pm

Here's an ET story about Pak tech companies with Si Valley connections:

With about 50 people assembled in one room to discuss seven start-up ideas, the general mood was ecstatic at The Second Floor (T2F), a project of PeaceNiche and a community space for open dialogue.

Budding entrepreneurs, technology geeks, fresh business graduates and app developers were there to participate in the first Entrepreneurs Roundtable Pakistan (ERT PK), an informal meeting of entrepreneurs to get instant feedback on their ideas from each other.

“It’s not about pitching your ideas as a salesman. The objective is to share these ideas with other entrepreneurs and get their feedback,” said Shirley Lin, who helped popularise the concept of informal meetings of entrepreneurs to share start-up ideas in cafes of Silicon Valley, while addressing the audience from California via Skype.

1 Doc Way

Danish Munir began his presentation by asking the audience if any of them found the procedure of getting a doctor’s appointment easy. Predictably, no one from the audience replied in the affirmative. Munir said his business aimed to help patients pay online visits to their doctors at their own convenience without worrying about the commute or time off work.

He said his website was generating revenues in the US, mainly because 60% of doctor-patient meetings in the country were conversational. “After the patient-doctor meeting on Skype, the doctor’s secretary calls the pharmacy and the patient can later collect the medicine,” Munir said.

Although the business model works differently in different countries, the website does not require patients to pay any additional charges.

Munir worked at Microsoft in Seattle, Washington, until eight months ago. He said he quit his “mundane job with a great package” for the love of entrepreneurship.

I’m confused

How many times have you been at a loss when deciding where to eat out when you have a certain amount of money to spare? “It’s either money or the location of the restaurant. Random searches on Google or even Karachi Snob don’t produce desired results most of the time,” said Zafar Syed, who is developing an advanced search engine by the name of “I’m confused.”

Syed said it would initially be focused on food and fashion outlets, adding the search engine would produce results according to prices one could afford to pay and look for such businesses within a defined area.

Pakistan’s Silicon Valley?

“People often say Lahore is to Pakistan what Bangalore is to India when it comes to the IT industry. But I think Karachi is swiftly catching up with Lahore. Both are neck and neck in terms of entrepreneurial activities,” said AR Rafiq, a California-based technologist, who organised the ERT PK along with the Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA), while talking to The Express Tribune.

“There’re a lot of tech companies in America that have offices here, including Folio3, Whizz Systems, PalmChip, NexLogic and Inspurate,” he said, adding that Karachi’s IT professionals should now move away from the “outsourcing model” to the “equal partnership model” to reap the benefits of a truly globalised IT industry.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/325306/budding-entrepreneurs-gather-to-...

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 15, 2012 at 8:50am

Here's an ET story on Google chairman Mike Schmitt's visit to Pakistan:

Schmidt said that the demographic composition of the Pakistani population was a great national asset and the Pakistani youth was talented and eager enough to get acquainted with information technology, often on their own.

He assured the Prime Minister that his company was willing to help Pakistan to spread information technology throughout the country. He said that improved connectivity facilitated the youth in getting themselves gainfully engaged, which in turn was critical to combat extremist tendencies in society.

Partnering with Google

The Prime Minister said that he recently announced a Venture Capital Fund of US $10 million and would like Google Inc. to also contribute to it besides its Social Innovation Fund.

“I have, recently, directed the establishment of Universal Service Centers at Union Council level across Pakistan. The aim of these centers is to provide Government to Citizen and Government to Business services acting as an IT hub in rural areas. I would also like your support to make these centers successful,” the Prime Minister added.

Schmidt said that it was also important to formulate an economic development strategy.

Google has faced action from Pakistan, including threats of being blocked if it failed to cooperate in restricting access to objectionable content available on Google and its various services including video sharing social network YouTube, which was blocked in 2010. Pakistan has also sought cooperation from Google to clamp down on accounts operated for and by terrorists.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/394128/gilani-seeks-googles-help-in-tra...

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 19, 2012 at 6:05pm

Here are excerpts of an AP report on surging Asian immigration in US:

For the first time, the influx of Asians moving to the U.S. has surpassed that of Hispanics, reflecting a slowdown in illegal immigration while American employers increase their demand for high-skilled workers.

An expansive study by the Pew Research Center details what it describes as "the rise of Asian-Americans," a highly diverse and fast-growing group making up roughly 5 percent of the U.S. population. Mostly foreign-born and naturalized citizens, their numbers have been boosted by increases in visas granted to specialized workers and to wealthy investors as the U.S. economy becomes driven less by manufacturing and more by technology.

"Too often the policy debates on immigration fixate on just one part — illegal immigration," said Karthick Ramakrishnan, a political science professor at the University of California-Riverside and a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. "U.S. immigration is more diverse and broader than that, with policy that needs to focus also on high-skilled workers."

"With net migration from Mexico now at zero, the role of Asian-Americans has become more important," he said.

About 430,000 Asians, or 36 percent of all new immigrants, arrived in the U.S. in 2010, according to the latest census data. That's compared to about 370,000, or 31 percent, who were Hispanic.

The Pew analysis, released Tuesday, said the tipping point for Asian immigrants likely occurred during 2009 as illegal immigrants crossing the border from Mexico sharply declined due to increased immigration enforcement and a dwindling supply of low-wage work in the weak U.S. economy. Many Mexicans already in the U.S. have also been heading back to their country, putting recent net migration at a standstill.

As recently as 2007, about 390,000 of new immigrants to the U.S. were Asian, compared to 540,000 who were Hispanic.

The shift to increased Asian immigration, particularly of people from India, China and South Korea, coincides with changes in U.S. immigration policy dating to the 1990s that began to favor wealthy and educated workers. The policy, still in place but subject to caps that have created waiting lists, fast tracks visas for foreigners willing to invest at least half a million dollars in U.S. businesses or for workers in high-tech and other specialized fields who have at least a bachelor's degree.

International students studying at U.S. colleges and universities also are now most likely to come from Asian countries, roughly 6 in 10, and some of them are able to live and work in the U.S. after graduation. Asian students, both foreign born and U.S. born, earned 45 percent of all engineering Ph.D.s in 2010, as well as 38 percent of doctorates in math and computer sciences and 33 percent of doctorates in the physical sciences.

Several bills pending in Congress that are backed by U.S. businesses seek to address some of the visa backlogs, through measures such as eliminating per-country limits on employment-based visas or encouraging investment in the sluggish U.S. real estate market. They have stalled amid broader public debate over immigration reform that has focused largely on lower-skilled, undocumented workers.

In recent years, more than 60 percent of Asian immigrants ages 25 to 64 have graduated from college, double the share for new arrivals from other continents.

As a whole, the share of higher-skilled immigrants in the U.S. holding at least a bachelor's degree now outpaces those lacking a high-school diploma, 30 percent to 28 percent.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gvrz95hHkumwJFCd0...

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 18, 2012 at 10:49pm

Here's a Bloomberg story on rapidly rising sales at Engro Foods:

Engro Foods Ltd. (EFOODS), Pakistan’s biggest maker of packaged milk, may record an 80 percent increase in net income this year as demand for dairy products rises, the chief executive officer said.

Profit may cross 1.6 billion rupees ($17 million) in the year ending Dec. 31 compared with 891 million rupees a year earlier, Muhammad Afnan Ahsan said in telephone interview from Karachi yesterday. Net income rose to 531.8 million rupees in the three months ended June 30, from 99.2 million rupees a year ago, the Karachi-based company said in a filing to the stock exchange yesterday.

Engro Foods, which has a 45 percent share of the milk market and a quarter of the ice cream trade, may introduce as many as 13 new products and lines, Muhammad Aliuddin Ansari Chief Executive Officer of Engro Corp., the parent company, said in an interview this month. The food business may become the largest segment by profit and sales and will be the dominant area in the next five years, he said.

Engro Foods, which has climbed threefold this year, compared with a 20 percent gain in the benchmark KSE100 index, increased as much as 1 percent to 67.83 rupees at 9:33 a.m. local time

http://mobile.bloomberg.com/news/2012-07-18/pakistan-s-engro-foods-...

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 17, 2012 at 11:21am

Here's BR report on Engro Foods:

Engro with its rich history of over four decades of developing the agricultural sector of Pakistan used dairy as a stepping stone to enter the foods business in 2005 to give further impetus to its already diversified business portfolio including fertilisers, petrochemicals, energy, trading and chemicals storage and handling.

In a span of just seven years, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 65 percent and a planned infrastructure investment in 2012 to the tune of eight billion rupees, Engro Foods has become the country's fastest growing local company catering to a wide demographic consumer base from high income groups to the more economically conscious segment of the market both in Pakistan and abroad.

Serving over five million consumers nation-wide every day, Engro Foods had revenues of about Rs 19.76 billion during 1H-2012 with profitability registering an increase of over 450 percent to close at Rs 1.02 billion. Since its inception Engro Foods has invested heavily in dairy development initiatives, cold chain infrastructure, enhancing capabilities of dairy farmers across Pakistan through innovative breakthroughs that have redefined the milk collection standards and benchmarks in the dairy industry. Employing over 12,000 individuals both directly and indirectly, Engro Foods' continues to touch and improve life for over 160,000 dairy farmers through improved payment cycles, guaranteed collection, improved margins and up to a 15 percent increase in milk yields. Through its wide network of over 900 milk collection centres, Engro Foods focuses its impact at the most economically challenged communities in Pakistan - an effort that has also been recognised at local and international fronts including the IFC managed G20 Challenge on Business Innovation where Engro Foods was declared the winner from over 300 global contracts.

The Company also had the unique opportunity to become the first company in Pakistan to produce one billion packs within a year in 2010 alone; a distinction that has been achieved by only 18 companies out of 3,000 Tetra Pak customers world-wide. Living its vision of 'elevating consumer delight world-wide' the business established its Global Business Unit (GBU) and acquired Al-Safa Halal - the oldest Halal meat brand in North America in 2010. With presence in key retail stores including Loblaws, Wal-Mart, Sobeys, Metro, Kroger etc, Engro Foods GBU has obtained a market share of 15 percent in Canada and three percent in USA in the branded foods category.

Speaking at the occasion, Afnan Ahsan - CEO Engro Foods said: "The story of Engro and that of Engro Foods is a source of national pride. The fact that in a short span of seven years a home-grown multinational company has been created - with a geographic footprint spanning across Pakistan, Afghanistan, US and Canada - is testament to the vision and business acumen of the Company. Engro Foods is an example that through focused approach companies can create real business value - not just in the Pakistani market but also globally." Building on plans for the future of the Company Afnan said: "We are in the early stages of our growth trajectory and looking ahead we will continue to further explore diversification with focused growth in our dairy and beverage business - both locally and on the international front. We are also confident that we will continue to create real value for all our stakeholders by pursuing an inclusive growth strategy that positively impacts each individual through the value chain process."

http://www.brecorder.com/business-a-economy/189/1226476/

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 15, 2012 at 7:47am

Here's an ET story on US fund to support private investing in Pakistan:

The United States on Friday announced a multi-year Pakistan Private Investment Initiative worth $80 million in financial support to promote economic activities in the country.

Drawing on public-private partnerships, this initiative will spur job growth and economic development by expanding access to capital for Pakistan’s small to medium sized companies, according to a statement by the US embassy.

“Pakistan has a wealth of talented entrepreneurs that desperately needs capital to fully realise their potential,” said US Charge d’affaires in Pakistan, Richard E Hoagland.

He said that through this initiative, the United Stated can move beyond the traditional foreign assistance by playing a constructive role to help entrepreneurs expand their businesses, provide new jobs to Pakistan’s fast-growing population, and by improving lives in the country.

He said that market-oriented, commercial solutions which support Pakistan’s economic development have been a priority for the United States.

The US Charge d’affaires said that the “Pakistan Private Investment Initiative” will generate investment funds catalysed by US assistance.

The initiative seeks private or other qualified sources of capital for matching investments and funding management services. The investment funds will make equity investments in promising Pakistani companies, under-served by existing sources of capital.

The Pakistan Private Partnership Initiative welcomes proposals from qualified Pakistani, regional, and international fund managers keen on investments in Pakistan by October 12, 2012, said a statement of from the United States embassy.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/436968/us-announces-80-million-for-paki...

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