A few days back I had the opportunity to sit down for an hour long talk with Dr. Aamir Matin, the Cisco Country General Manager who had flown in from Islamabad to be in Karachi for a few days. The casual meeting was arranged through the efforts of Rabia Garib of Rasala Publications and editor of NetXpress Online who just wanted us to sit and talk about anything over a cup of coffee.
There were no questions, per se, but a casual conversation where we touched a number of issues related to the IT industry, the overall economy in Pakistan and at the same time we did also touch the political nerve somewhere in between. It goes without doubt that Dr. Matin catches you a little off guard, where I expected an aloof CEO sitting across the table, but this guy was simply fun to talk to his casual style was definitely worth noting and I must admit he does carry refreshing aura of energy around him
Cisco is without doubt a core player in Pakistan’s IT arena and seems to have done well in Pakistan promoting its products in the open market while at the same time being mindful of its due role of corporate social responsibility here in Pakistan. Dr. Matin heads this unit fully aware of the difficulties facing this country and he remains adamant at exploring every opportunity available to Cisco and Pakistan, he was upbeat to point out that there has been a marked growth in infrastructure in the past few years and expects this growth to continue on into the years to come. To explain this phenomenon he had one simple sentence which aptly summarized the issue ‘if our routers are selling like hotcakes there must be something going on right in the country to show this growth’.
It was truly casual statements like these, that showed the dynamism of this corporate leader, no complicated numbers, no messy chatter, just simple logic. This statement was more of a response to a question where I specifically asked him about the present political uncertainly and a potential failing economy. He honestly believed that the present political unrest was definitely worrisome for everyone in Pakistan but was confident that the industry will continue its due course of growth and development regardless of what and who comes into power.
On further discussions it was really interesting to hear about Cisco Pakistan being fully aware of its social responsibility to the country in general, which quenched my worries to show that Cisco was not all about ‘making money’ but instead played a very important role in selected projects related to corporate social responsibility, which included integrating and managing the entire IT structure of Shaukat Khanam Memorial Hospital and up linking the Lahore based facilities for telemedicine and video conference to centers around the world. Dr. Aamir also pointed out that similar projects are being setup in other parts of the country helping Pakistan come into the cutting edge of medical technology
Diving a little further away from Cisco we had a very spirited discussion on the overall Pakistani Internet, though Cisco is not integrally linked to content production on the Internet but admits that it does carefully watch the overall growth of Internet browsing in Pakistan. Dr. Matin was ready to admit that Internet penetration was not growing in tandem with other sectors and did worry that this may have to do with the a scarce availability of good content in the Urdu language. We both mutually agreed that the present unicode Urdu font typeface used on the websites was difficult to read as compared to typeface people are accustomed to while reading the morning newspaper, we worried that unless the font typeface was not improved the Internet penetration to the Urdu speaking masses may find some serious difficulties.
Rabia did mention and share a few organizations who were previously developing the Urdu arena but we all were unsure as to the present stage of development. Dr. Matin genuinely felt that the government should be working hard in sorting this issue out but bureaucratic stubbornness will most likely lead to nowhere as the Ministry of IT might pass the buck on to the Urdu Board and vice verso the Urdu Board might defer the concept back to the Ministry of IT since its an Internet issue. Unless a concerted effort is made by the Government of Pakistan one might actually not see the Urdu content proliferating on the world wide web
At the same time we did observe that most of people who venture onto a computer and connect to the Internet can in some small way read and maybe understand English, at least enough for them to enter a URL and maybe read the text, whilst it must be remembered that English is still be taught as a main language along with Urdu that the upcoming generation will be far more English aware to make-do with surfing the web. A logical question then comes to mind, is it necessary to work on developing Urdu Internet, when the upcoming generation will predominantly use English as its main language? The answer to this question remained unanswered but Dr. Matin truly felt that more work needs to be done to promote local languages in a far more serious way.
Armed with a PhD in IT Project Management from Cranfield University in the UK, a Masters in Computer Science from the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Shiraz University in Iran, I feel Dr. Aamir Matin has done a spectacular job in raising the bar for the IT industry in Pakistan since his appointment to Cisco Pakistan in early 2006, we expect more from him and for the sake of Pakistan and I would in effect raise the bar slightly higher for him and his team at Cisco Pakistan expecting them to impress us even further.