August 8, 2008 Leave a comment
Pakistan’s IT Industry was stagnant till the beginning of this decade. A meager sum of US$22 million was being brought in as export revenue up till 2002 in Pakistan. An IT enterprise with more than 50 employees was generally considered one of the bigger software houses in the country. A survey in 2004 by PSEB (Pakistan Software Export Board) indicated there were only a handful of companies with over 100 employees. To make matters worse, a software house formed in the 1990s or earlier would probably not survive its first five years and would most likely close its operations.
However, this past four years has brought about a big change. Since 2004 we are witnessing a phenomenal success and very high growth rate (averaging 50% growth rate annually) for the IT industry in Pakistan. Not only are the companies able to survive longer but are thriving in the national and international markets. And some of them have truly become great success stories worldwide.
I have been associated with the Pakistani IT industry since the mid 1990s when I decided to settle back in Pakistan from the USA. One of the biggest and probably the best change that I have witnessed in Pakistan in recent years has been the emphasis on developing indigenous products and intellectual property rather than just being a typical offshore software house that offers competitive rates as compared to the shop next door. Dozens of local enterprises are not only building some really exciting products here but are also creating waves in the international market. And yes, quite a few are getting funded as well from Venture Capitalists as far away as the Silicon Valley. We even have numerous tech blogs to cover them as well including the popular Green & White that I reviewed earlier this year. So if you want to find out more about the startups and the products in the market check them out.
PASHA (Pakistan Software Houses Association) estimates that today Pakistan’s IT industry is worth over 2 billion dollars. PSEB just came out with numbers that shows that the exports of IT related services and products are now over 170 million dollars (as reported by State Bank of Pakistan). By 2013 it is estimated to grow beyond 1 billion dollars. There are over 1,100 companies registered with the PSEB and over 100,000 people are employed by the industry. The biggest companies now boast a workforce of over 1,000 employees or thereabout. That’s a remarkable change from just a few years back when the biggest could hardly muster 100 employees. For more details about the IT industry and the PASHA survey, check out their website.
This is definitely a very exciting time for the IT industry in Pakistan. And also the best time to invest in a startup in Pakistan. I too left the cozy life of a salaried employee and became an entrepreneur in 2001 to co-found Cogilent Solutions that launched Pakistan’s first job hunt portal, BrightSpyre. Today it boasts over half a million job seekers from across the country and page views in many millions. It is still growing and will probably cross a million unique job seekers before any other job portal in Pakistan sometime soon.