KARACHI: Pakistan can increase its IT exports by a wide margin if it focuses on providing training to its youth on how they can form groups or companies rather than operating as individuals to compete more efficiently in the bidding process.
This was stated by E-commerce Gateway Pakistan President Dr Khursheed Nizam in a press conference held in connection with upcoming 19th IT Exhibition Telecom Conferences (ITCN).
"Pakistan has factories in shape of educated minds which can bring foreign reserves," he said. "Our target is to take IT exports from $1 billion to $5 billion in the next three years along with increasing the share of e-commerce to 80% domestically and 20% cross-border."
He added that non-technological exports, which were around $23 billion, could be uplifted to $50 billion if the government played the role of an enabler.
Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) and Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT and ITES ([email protected]) have 4,068 member companies out of which 1,016 are IT companies and 3,052 are Business Process Outsourcing (BPOs) companies.
Pakistan produces 500,000 graduates of business and other subjects and 25,000 graduates of computer science.
"Up to 20% of them get jobs and the rest keep struggling for employment. The 80% is the potential which can be used to attract dollars in the country," he stressed. "Without any help from the government, millions are working as freelancers in Pakistan."
According to statistics, around 1.15 million Pakistanis are registered with freelancing.com.
He expressed pleasure that these leftover graduates were human capital of Pakistan who knew English, which was demanded all over the world.
There are different project-based jobs on the internet payment for which ranges from $15 to $28, however, Pakistan's youth, which is untrained to negotiate, bids out of proportion and loses jobs to foreign freelancers, he said.
"We need to train the youth in accordance with new demands, particularly online job demands," he underlined.
Pakistan ranks fourth in the largest freelancing countries and the country can grab more business if freelancers form companies before seeking jobs, Nizam pointed out.
A company could be set up even by two people. It divides administrative cost along with increasing credibility because globally, companies are trusted more than individuals.
The size of global freelancing market is $250 billion out of which Pakistan occupies a small share of $1 billion, which can easily be enhanced to $5 billion by increasing number of freelancing companies in the country.
He added that Pakistan did not have a large number of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) because business-minded youth was reluctant to convert its unregistered businesses into companies out of fear that authorities, like the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), would harass them.
He urged the government to encourage SMEs and provide them one-window service regarding tax payment and other legalities.
Youth should develop domestic e-commerce portals for rural areas, which could eliminate the menace of middlemen, he said.
He said China's buzzword was Belt and Road Initiative and Pakistan was a flagship country in the project, therefore, Pakistan could establish call centres for China who is targeting Western Asia, South Asia, and Central Asia to set up call centres.
"When somebody in the US calls for customer care, the bell rings in Lucknow, why can't the same bell ring in Karachi," he questioned. "Pakistan needs good connectivity with Chinese businessmen who can help us double our exports."
He said online sellers in Pakistan were stuck with business-to-consumer deals only and advised them to go for business-to-business deals in which one deal could result in the sale of whole containers.