Food is the new Oil

In a world where oil is the new gold and food is the new oil, Shaikh Nahyan of Abu Dhabi group who has recently received the ‘Largest foreign investor of Pakistan’ award from the privatization ministry of Pakistan is now eying the agriculture sector of Pakistan. Here is what he had to say about opportunity in the agriculture sector in Pakistan.

Addressing the forum, Shaikh Nahyan said agriculture is crucial to Pakistan’s economic prosperity. “Investment opportunities in agriculture sector are attractive. I encourage all potential investors to take a long-term view of Pakistan’s economy as one of the emerging markets of the world — a market where astute investors should want to establish and sustain a long-term presence.”

p.s: My grocery store bill just nodded in agreement with the Shaikh when the price of a 5 kg rice bag took a straight jump of Rs 100 from Rs 375 to Rs 475.

PakistanTelecom & Economy Indicators

Amir Rajput has posted an interesting analysis of the ‘Telecommunication Indicators’ recently published by PTA. The figures (economic_growth.pdf) in the analysis conclude that most of the economic growth being recorded in Pakistan is attributed to the Telecom sector.

Juniper mulling Backoffice in Pakistan

Update: I have been grossly mistaken in putting up this blog post. The company in this report is NOT Juniper networks but a start up called ‘Paxterra’. Paxterra has been formed by a senior Juniper Networks staff who recently left the networking giant to form the new company. The company, among other things, will be getting contractual work from Juniper Networks and intends to get it done locally in Pakistan. So while the headline of this post has proven to be grossly wrong, there is still some original excitement in the news. The confusion was caused because my contact at Juniper Network broke this news to me and the way the dialog progressed, I mistook Paxterra for Juniper. I am sorry. 

p.s: The openings are still there and local Pakistani resources are welcome in this new venture.

Juniper Networks Some senior Juniper Networks’  staff might end up opening a technology back-office in Pakistan. The project, very small right now, can prove to be a great news for the nascent but budding IT and Telecommunication industry of Pakistan.

It is interesting to note that despite considerable sales that Juniper Networks has recently made in the otherwise invisible-on-the-sales-map Pakistan, this is NOT a sales office. Some patriotic and situation-aware Juniper guys have managed to convince the company to have a back end technology office in Pakistan. This is reportedly for the stress testing and other iterative testing jobs for which good engineers are readily available in Pakistan.

If this goes through and continues to grow, from a strategic view point, Pakistan will move upwards the value chain of the BPO business. Let us hope for the best!

Mobilink embraces data

The long on-going, almost over-due project was declared signed and closed with Alcatel-Lucent. Daily time has the full story here. This is going to be the second major countrywide Wimax project, the earlier one being deployed by Wateen and uses Motorola’s gear. The project, whose financial size or commercial availability dates has not yet been publicly disclosed, reportedly makes extensive use of the strong channel sales partners that Mobilink has developed in the rewarding cellular market of Pakistan over the past many years.

The next similarly sized announcement should come from PTCL which is still talking to a number of solution vendors in this domain. Apart from these three large scale projects, a number of other entities, some of which are in the security infrastructure of the country, are deploying Wimax technology for their respective requirements.

There are till a number of players like Telecard and Cybernet who won the 3.5 Ghz frequency in the open auctions during deregulation but are not moving ahead with their Wimax adventures for want of some business case precedence and internal priorities.

Etisalat might double stakes in PTCL

In what seems like a signal that the party night is still young, Etisalat is said to be considering an increase in its shares in PTCL from 26 per cent to 51 per cent. A repeat order, after all, is a sign of the ordering partying enjoying the value of the stuff ordered!

DUBAI (Reuters) – Emirates Telecommunications Corp. (Etisalat) said on Sunday it was considering doubling its stake in Pakistan Telecommunications Co. to 51 percent.

“We are evaluating that option and once we’ve arrived at the decision that this is positive, we will talk to the (Pakistani) government,” Chairman Mohammed Hassan Omran told Reuters. He declined to say when the decision might be made.

Etisalat had earlier bought 26 per cent shares and management control in a privatization deal with the Government of Pakistan. The deal has been repeatedly attracting objections, criticism and bad press for a number of reasons ever since it was struck in 2006.

Industry fellows at  PTCL regularly disclose that change in the organization so far is skin deep. The absolute mess in fields of customer services, presentation and heck, even the corporate website is the reason that a makeover in these areas appear to be so ‘image changing’. The first batch of change-makers that the company is said to have hired are all from non-technology sector and the middle management at PTCL criticize that ‘no one is addressing the technical issue that actually deserve the real attention’.

However, we also need to appreciate that quantum personality changes that go deep below the skin is no easy task giving the size and responsibility – both technical and social – that lies at PTCL.

CMPak’s plans for R&D and Training Center

CMPak (former Paktel) is mixing corporate social responsibility and profits.

On September 2, CMPak won approval from the Pakistani government to secure a 15,000-sq-m plot to build a campus with integrated functions of research and development, training, and commercial use.

Sounds good!

Pakistan Bandwidth Appetite

I had been meeting a lot of fellow friends in the industry in person lately for a number of reasons. One interesting number that I came out with was that of the total transit Internet bandwidth that Pakistan is currently subscribing to. Between PTCL, Transworld, Multinet (the companies) and SMW3, SMW4 and TW1 (the three cables -and a couple of transponders worth of satellite back up bandwidth) we are talking about an aggregated 2.5 Gigs of IP transit bandwidth (give and take an STM-1).

Not only the figure is respectable, the growth trend that my contacts described is excellent. Drivers for increased consumptions, as we discussed and nodded at, included new DSL services, VoIP traffics and the popularity of bandwidth hogging Internet services like Youtube.

A number of other potential bandwidth-suckers that are waiting around the corner include mass distribution alliances that are expected to talk place between bulk bandwidth suppliers mentioned above and the new distribution channels like Niyatel’s (and other similar outfits in Central Pakistan).

This trend is impressive. Additionally, it also presses the managements of the local industry to come forward and think broadly out of the box for some badly needed but missing standard industry practices like local peering and Internet Exchanges and local Data Centers. If the growth trends continue, it can soon become a major foreign exchange eater and the only way we can reign this in is through localization of traffic within Pakistan.

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