Mr. Salim Ghauri emerged as an IT entrepreneur in 1995 and swept the market off its feet as a smart typhoon. Today, we know him as an IT business icon or the “Bill Gates of Pakistan”. He has been among the most influential Pakistanis who have left the mark on the entire society. Thinking out of the box, he founded and chaired the top branded IT Company, NetSol Technologies. His success spoke for his vision, passion, dedication and hard work. In fact, through his company, he introduced Pakistan IT to the international market and proved it, receiving loads of success and fame.
In spite of his huge success, he is very friendly, sensitive and caring towards people around him. Even his diverse engagements don’t hinder in replying the queries approaching him through internet.
Many interviews of him about IT and his company are available online. So, we decided to take an unconventional interview of him on this blog.
Thank you Salim for being on the interview despite a very busy schedule of yours!
Q: Tell us about your family background, teenage inspirations and success story.
Salim Ghauri: Born in Bahawalpur to an entrepreneurial father. My father has worked very hard all his life to give a good life to his family. He has been my inspiration to do more. He has led his life as an example for me. Today, even at the age of 86 he is up very early in the morning to offer his prayer and goes to play golf five days a week.
From a very young age, I wanted to be a businessman. That came from my father…as I watched him managing his business. Travelling…meeting people from around the world… I used to dream of meeting people from different countries and signing million dollars deals…
Q: What inspired you to choose an unconventional path of being an IT entrepreneur in Pakistan? What was your vision when you started?
Salim Ghauri: I have been in IT industry for over 34 years. My career started with my first job in computer department in Citibank, Riyadh, in 1980. Having worked as a computer programmer and network designer, I had had seventeen years of experience by 1996, when I decided to set up NetSol Technologies. Before coming back to Lahore and establishing NetSol Technologies, I had been working in Australia for eight years. I had a very successful consultancy in Sydney. I left a good life in Australia and returned to Pakistan to establish my own IT Company. I had this desire to build a globally recognized corporation.
Q: What services does your company, NetSol Technologies, offer? What is your biggest achievement that makes you really proud of yourself?
Salim Ghauri: NetSol Technologies is a product company. We have developed a Lease & Finance application. We sell license of our application and provide service to our customers on our product. We are one of the largest company in the world in this domain. We have the understanding how this business works. We provide expert consultancy to our customers to run their businesses more efficiently and profitably. Our biggest achievement is to have developed a globally recognized product from Pakistan. We have captured 90% of Chinese market in Lease & Finance business.
Q: What was the darkest time of your journey? Did you think of closing down at that point?
Salim Ghauri: In 2001, the IT market got crashed down. We lost most of our clients. There was a time I thought we would not be able to pay our salaries even. But we did not give up and continued running the business by selling our personal assets to pay the bills.
Q: Which factors and decision of yours have made your company grow so rapidly? Did you find Pakistani market supportive of you?
Salim Ghauri: We were never dependent on Pakistani market. Since beginning we focused on international market. Fortunately, for us, our focus was on Asian market. When things were bad in North America and Europe, Asia was doing well. Our decision to have the quality standards in our company was our best decision.
Q: What is your advice to youngsters who dream to be entrepreneurs but hesitate to dare it?
Salim Ghauri: There is no success without risk. Success rate in business building is low. But people who have abilities to innovate and have creative ideas must try their luck as entrepreneurs. Rewards are high when you are willing to take risks.
Q: When did you first discover the dynamic leader inside you? How did you manage to play such diverse roles simultaneously as the CEO & Chairman of NetSol Technologies, Chairperson Federal ICT Task Force, Australian Honorary Consul to Punjab, Pak, Charter Member TiE, Lahore Chapter, and, Senior Vice President American Business forum?
Salim Ghauri: We learn about our potential gradually. Our ability to deal with people and success in getting the best out of people is the key to being a successful leader. Slowly you get confidence in yourself to deal with bigger problems and handle more people. A good leader delegates to the best people around. With delegation there is more time to do more than one job. All of the above responsibilities are managed by competent people. I just guide them to the right direction.
Q: What is your way of being organized? Do you plan your days, weeks, months and years in advance?
Salim Ghauri: We plan for three years. With a strategy in place and all people behind agreed plan, every single day is well organized in advance. No ad hoc decisions are appreciated. Even in case of crises, processes have been defined. Every one works through a plan. I spend my time in reviews and guiding the teams to make sure we all are on the same page.
Q: How do you balance your work, family and social life?
Salim Ghauri: Early in my life I worked very hard and long hours. I didn’t remember how my children grew up so fast. Missed their birthdays and school events. But it’s not any more now. I make sure I balance my time between my family and works. Love to spend evenings with my friends.
Q: Do you think that man-woman relationship is changing in our society due to more access of education and work opportunities for girls? How would you comment on it?
Salim Ghauri: Women play a very important role in our society. Female education is positive for the community. An educated female is a good wife; she will be able to look after the household and finances better. An educated mother has proven to be a better mother than a less educated mom.
Fortunately, the new generation of Pakistani female is more educated and ambitious. We have experienced that some of the best team leads are females. Even as workers, they are more reliable than male workers. Going forward, women in Pakistan will play their role in the development of the country
Q: What are your best lessons in your personal and professional lives?
Salim Ghauri: Many lessons learned over the 34 years of professional life. Treat people with respect; without receiving respect, they will not respect you back. Leadership is about hiring the best people and then letting them do their work.
Q: Do you think IT has influenced the overall attitudes of Pakistani society? If yes, how?
Salim Ghauri: We are good at adopting technology. Biggest change has come through smart phones. Next most important change will come once we will have 3G/4G service in Pakistan. More people will now rely on smart phones to access net and exchange information.
Q: These days, the trend of online education is being introduced in our country. Can we educate our poor masses on national level using IT? Can such plans be made despite the entire energy crisis in Pakistan?
Salim Ghauri: IT is now education and will play a bigger role in educating masses. The more our decision makers appreciate how economical e-learning is, the more benefit they will get out of it. And, as a result, we will see a positive change in our society.
In other words, this is the best change which will benefit masses. Future is in e-learning. More and more institutions will offer e-learning, handling larger number of students. Soon, we will have paper less education. Our course material will all be e-based, where we will not need printed text books.
Q: Can we design IT-oriented certificate courses that can make our undergraduate ladies skilled enough to be on their own feet? Alongside, can we provide them with a less competitive freelance market where they can earn according to their potential?
Salim Ghauri: IT education is the easiest medium of teaching and learning. Small IT courses can change life. Freelancing has created new opportunities. Now, we see that a larger number of youth is earning their livings through freelancing.
Q: As Chairman of PASHA, please tell us what PASHA is doing to build a positive image of Pakistan in the field of technology? Also, like India where government is giving subsidy to IT firms, can you convince the Pakistani government to take a step like this?
Salim Ghauri: PASHA is doing its job in highlighting the achievements of Pakistani IT companies. It’s a slow process but I believe we will be more visible to the world. Our industry is now mature and now more companies are working for global customer base. IT industry can be best served by leaving it alone. Entrepreneurship grows when there is no interference.
Q: Do you like any IT-related movies? If yes, what are their names?
Salim Ghauri: I do watch and enjoy movies. Best IT movie was Matrix. Watched it again and again. Interestingly, more and more movies are made through special effects or are computer generated.
Q: What is your concept and way of giving back to your country?
Salim Ghauri: Best way is to reply to questionnaires like this one. This way I share my experiences with others. On the other side, I have opened myself to people. I accept all the invitations to visit schools and Universities to speak to the students. I believe by sharing my failures and successes with young people, I would help them take the right decisions.