Unprecedented Times

By Samina Qureshi

Nadeem Yunus is the Group Chairman of REDtone (LDI) and REDtone Digital Services, which has offices across five cities of Pakistan, Malaysia, UAE, UK and USA. Simultaneously, he is also the Group Chairman of Clicksat (satellite operator) and QGC (international voice/SMS service).

Nadeem Yunus is the Group Chairman of REDtone (LDI) and REDtone Digital Services, which has offices across five cities of Pakistan, Malaysia, UAE, UK and the USA. Simultaneously, he is also the Group Chairman of Clicksat (satellite operator) and QGC (international voice/SMS service).

He serves on the board of Avanza Innovations, a global technology company with a focus on nascent technologies such as Blockchain,  Artificial Intelligence and RPA and Golootlo, Pakistan’s largest in-store QR discount mobile application.

Q. What are the emerging digital services in Pakistan and worldwide these days? Are Pakistani companies ready to excel in these?

A. To truly answer this question, you have to examine innovation and digital transformation from a global perspective. Although we see nascent technologies like Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Edge- Computing etc becoming buzzwords, the adoption curve demands that for technology to take hold in any economy, the enabling layer needs to be strong.

The emerging digital services that are going to drive Pakistan towards nascent technology enablement are; connectivity (Fiberoptics) virtualisation (Cloud computing), security (at both the infrastructure and software level), financial inclusion and digitisation (hardware and software led practices across brick-and-mortar locations).

Companies like ours in Pakistan are investing in infrastructure and digital transformation; if our pace is break-neck and we collaborate to build public/private sector synergies, we will leap-frog and join the global innovation race soon.

Q. How do you see the importance and growth of the technology sector in Covid-19 times?

A. I am very optimistic; although Covid-19 has led to massive losses globally and has hurt businesses everywhere, we have witnessed a lot of digital adoption and transformation. Our adoption of digital payments moves towards paperless/online onboarding systems etc was a huge win during these unprecedented times. The technology sector allowed us to remain connected and to keep businesses afloat during lockdowns and uncertainty. I believe, now more than ever, the current times have shown us the value this sector plays in any economy and the sort of human and capital investment that needs to go into consistent and steady innovation.

The pandemic was a test of our resilience; as a species to better ourselves. I think we are moving in the right direction and need to see a digital transformation not as a destination, but as an ongoing journey.

Q. How do you see the opportunities for fintech, e-commerce, and digital payment service providers in the local market?

A. Financial inclusion and digital payments are on the rise. There are numerous firms that have stepped into the arena with respect to domestic payments, lending etc. I believe e-commerce as an industry will also see a massive spike since it is all about habit-building; people have now built a habit of buying online during Covid. But for the e-commerce industry to really grow, key issues around merchandise quality, after-sales-service/returns, payment methods etc need to be addressed efficiently and diligently.

Q. What are the benefits of digitisation of the economy and businesses in Pakistan?

A. The major benefit will be the ease of use. We lose so much time between rudimentary tasks (paying bills, school fees, customer onboarding etc) due to the physical nature of said tasks. If we could automate and organise some of that workload, it would help us progress and focus on national uplift, boost our own local production capability, organisation of work etc.

Look at any nation – they have progressed in terms of their societal structure when innovation/technology helped take care of rudimentary tasks. The industrial revolution led to a boost in food production, introduced vehicles, automated systems and provided tools to optimise life etc.

So essentially, digitisation is the next industrial revolution, where businesses will see new users emerge, expand their reach, and through automation, grow their profits. In addition to these with respect to the economy, a massive boost in income, production exports and expertise.

Q. How do you see the impressive growth of IT exports by Pakistan’s companies?

A. The Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) under the MOITT is working extensively on this front. They have introduced an expansive IT export strategy and are building IT Parks across the country. This is an extremely impressive initiative because they understand that the building blocks of boosting our IT exports lie in bringing infrastructure and innovation home. When our foundation will be strong, it is only then, will we be able to compete with other nations and deliver quality IT services.

Q. How do you see the role of the Special Technology Zone in Pakistan?

A. I believe the Special Technology Zone is a phenomenal initiative and one which will go a long way in driving the future of technology in Pakistan. It will encourage investors, tech-firms, and institutes to operate from Pakistan, thereby revolutionising the industry in the country. I look forward to the positive impact this will have on both businesses and the economy at large, where jobs will be created, skills and knowledge imparted and overall growth to an industry that needs to be promoted.

Q. What are the major core areas for the businesses of your company? Please explain.

A. Our companies include a long-distance international operator, a local loop operator, a satellite operator and a digital solutions hub. We are a telecommunications firm and have been providing connectivity services for over a decade. We have also ventured into nascent technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, cloud-powered services and solutions and digital transformation.

Q. How challenging is it for a company to work in diversified fields with operations in different countries?

A. It is challenging when operations expand beyond borders. However, the approach we have taken towards expansion is a steady and organised one, thereby not overburdening our existing operations. The diversity, albeit challenging at times, gives us flexibility and excitement in order to provide our customers around the globe with complete, turnkey solutions.

Q. What are the challenges of operating in Pakistan?

A. There are challenges operating in any country; Pakistan is no different. We have to work with the systems and enable positive change. If we pick up relevant challenges and try to solve them, there are brilliant people and systems in place that can facilitate this process.

Q. How do you see the future of the country in terms of adopting technology mainly in payment systems and E-commerce?

A. I feel the country is headed in the right direction, with many companies introducing innovative technology around payment systems and E-commerce, and the adoption rate is also growing at a steady pace. I believe it eventually boils down to two things: consumer habit and consumer trust, and now with an increasing number of organisations taking part in this drive, the consumer has accepted and become a part of this movement.

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