The PASHA ICT Awards are now open for nomination. Category winners represent Pakistan at the APICTA ICT Awards 2007 in Singapore.
As a participant in the 2005 awards in Thailand as well as a judge in the 2006 awards in Macau here are some of my thoughts on why a Pakistani company should look at participation at the event:
a) The awards represent the best of breed solution in the region and are a great opportunity to benchmark yourself as well network with other companies in your space. In 2005, we competed head to head with a Thai firm called WMSL. We both lost in 2005, WMSL lost in 2006 again but the exposure we had to each other as well as to each other’ products lead to a joint venture between the two firms in November 2006. We have now together pitched to three customers in Thailand as well as looking at a broader alliance targeting Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. It is a great relationship because of our strategic fit, our chemistry as partners and our friendship as individuals. Somkiat, the Chief Executive of WMSL also acts as a mentor and a role model for our small practice. We would have never met, if had skipped the APICTA Awards.
b) Before the events in 2005 and 2006, we always thought that we had something special on the product side. However I was reminded strongly in both years that we may have a product that is good enough for Pakistan, but will take a lot of effort before it becomes a credible solution in the region. This reminder and realization pushed product development as well as business development on our side. Without, this realization I think we would possibly be just sitting fat and happy in Pakistan gloating over how great a job we had been doing while losing out on far greater regional opportunities.
c) Please note that we didn’t win. We were just finalists in our category from Pakistan. However despite losing out in Thailand, winning the PASHA ICT Award in Pakistan gave us instant credibility with other participants and judges in the region. In addition to Somkiat (WMSL), because of the award, we also built a solid relationship with Wilson Tan (ex President ASOCIO) and Bill Liu (a venture capitalist out of Singapore). To the extent that Wilson spent a day with us here in Karachi and Bill arranged for multiple meetings with qualified customers in Singapore.
d) For the last two years, we had two primary issues as Pakistani companies at the Awards. The first was that the number of judges and the number of entries from a country has an impact on your chances on winning. Hong Kong sends thirty entries ever year and close to 12 judges. Hong Kong walks away with the most awards. Not because the process is biased, but simply because there is strength in numbers. For the last two years we could only afford 3 judges from Pakistan. This year we are planning on sending six.
e) The second issue however is more important. We don’t know how to sell ourselves at the Awards. I certainly don’t. But some of my very close friends in the industry who are generations ahead of me in terms of selling experience and credentials had a similar experience at the Awards in 2005 and 2006. The companies from Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia come very well prepared. Their pitches are polished, focused and tuned to the judging criteria used at the Awards.
f) Having said that, we have won at the Awards. We have had one honorable mention in 2004 as well as 2006 and a category win in 2005. So it can be done.
The real reason why you should participate is that the Awards are a very strong mechanism for changing perceptions about Pakistan. Two of my very good friends in the region thought that this country had no significant technology focus or future when it came to technology. Their interaction with the number of technology companies from Pakistan at the awards and the depth of our product offerings changed their point of view. Both of them are now bullish on us as a nation. Both took the time to travel to Karachi. One of them, I suspect is responsible for the Singapore Pavilion at our local IT exhibition this year.
So if you think you have done something remarkable that the world or at least the Asia Pacific region should know about, use the PASHA ICT Awards and the ASOCIO APICTA Awards to showcase yourself. Make us proud. It makes for great bragging rights.