VentureDive. While the Information Technology industry in Pakistan continues to grow in leaps and bounds, there are challenges within the industry that need to be tackled for it to grow further. Some organizations within the industry, however, have managed to attract professionals from larger global organizations who bring not only the experience required for the industry to thrive as a whole but also the desire to see a global tech giant rising out of Pakistan. VentureDive’s Director HR and Corporate Communications, Anas Ahmed, is one such professional. In his insightful conversation with NetMag, Anas speaks his mind on his passion to see young disruptive minds make an impact, his goal of helping VentureDive gain global recognition as a Pakistani technology solutions company, and the challenges faced by tech companies in Pakistan in terms of Human Resources.
Q1 Before we investigate about VentureDive, we would really like to know a little about your educational and professional background?
Unlike a lot of professionals I know, I chose to be an HR professional (as opposed to having landed in it accidentally). HR at the time was an emerging field in Pakistan (to some extent it still is), and I wanted to play a role in taking it to the next level while directly being able to impact people’s lives. Not a lot of careers in the corporate sector provide that opportunity. I started off 14 years ago at a call center, primarily because the timings suited me since I was a full time student as well. For 2 years, I juggled university and a full time job, while financially supporting my education. It was the toughest period of my life but I was driven by this desire to differentiate and make an impact. I completed my education from Bahria University in Islamabad and continued on the journey within HR at local and international companies in multiple industries. The same passion and drive is the reason why I chose to move from an MNC and work with a startup in the tech industry, where I hope to make a bigger impact.
Professionally, I am a CIPD-Certified HR professional and a Certified Results Coach accredited by the ICF, Australia. I am also a licensed Neuro-Linguistic Programming Practitioner, accredited by the Society of NLP.
Q2 How was VentureDive founded and what was the vision behind such a project?
VentureDive was the collective vision of four visionaries who met in Silicon Valley, California. What they envisioned then is a reality that each one of our employees are living now – a world-class technology organization in Pakistan that is at the epicenter of innovative solutions. Since its inception, the organization has strived to deliver impact in people’s lives by facilitating an innovative approach to problem solving on a global scale, whether it’s through solving transportation problems with Careem or by delivering smart government applications to the RTA in Dubai; our goal is to influence lifestyles through efficient intervention from technology. As the world continues to progress, we can proudly count ourselves among those who choose to work with intelligence. We endeavor to develop newer and smarter solutions with the help of untapped talent which is present in abundance in Pakistan. While the use of technology will gradually become inevitable in most aspects of life, it is organizations like ours that will ensure that societies world over, are ready to adapt to technology in order to revamp life for the better. We not only see ourselves as purveyors of technology but through our efforts we also strive to become socio-economic accelerators.
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Q3 After working at some of the top MNCs in Pakistan, why did you choose VentureDive?
Like I said earlier, it is a combination of my passion for making an impact in people’s lives, a need to play a small role in taking Pakistan forward and a drive for excellence. MNCs are a fantastic place for learning and developing as a professional. I think it is a must have experience, however, in the long run (unless you are at the very top), you are cog in a well-oiled machine. You play your part and others play theirs to keep the machine running. That’s where learning slows down and as a professional; you need to keep learning in order to grow. My vision is to see VentureDive become an MNC in the future, only this MNC will be originated out of Pakistan and will help Pakistani talent get recognized around the world for the capabilities and skills they bring to the table. On a side note, I am a millennial at heart and love working with the young workforce at VentureDive.
Q4 What do you aim to achieve at VentureDive?
As I said earlier, the founders of VentureDive firmly believe in creating technological solutions that improve the quality of living on a global scale, in a diverse range of social settings. There are a number of tech companies operating out of Pakistan, yet we are not adequately represented around the globe. My aim is to help VentureDive as well as IT industry in Pakistan scale, by bringing global best practices and hopefully create a globally recognized tech giant of Pakistani origin. Once technology companies step up, this will inevitably, have a knock-on effect in improving infrastructures and essential public services such as healthcare and education. However, for a more personal goal, what I see around myself every day is positivity, passion, energy and disruptive minds. I willingly take upon myself the responsibility of helping these young minds channel their energies to their optimal usage, while also facilitating their learning and development.
Q5 What differentiates VentureDive from other IT companies in Pakistan?
Overall, I think a number of IT companies in Pakistan are doing exceptional work (with little recognition). For us, the first and foremost are our products like Careem and VistaJet which are now billion dollar companies. Not many tech firms can claim that. But even more important are our people behind these applications. The people who brought life to these apps. Our Management team consists of 3 Stanford, 2 MIT and 3 Local Grads who set the tone. Then there are the people who make up our empowerment driven and diverse yet fun and collaborative culture. Engagement drives performance. We have an average age of 28 years and it is not easy to keep young minds engaged all the time. But this challenge is also the opportunity that pushes us to explore and experiment new ways of working and unlocking their potential. For instance, we recently launched an initiative where the entire company voted to select 10 individuals who now comprise the Engagement Committee. The candidates were allowed to run campaigns for a week and some of them were really outstanding. None of the individuals are from the management or HR, and are tasked with designing engagement initiatives within a budget. Now, the whole organization has a say in how they would like to be engaged and this drives inclusiveness. There are a number of such unique initiatives at VentureDive that set us apart.
Q6 What are some of the challenges HR faces in the IT Industry?
I think the first and foremost is the talent supply. While overall talent supply is healthy in terms of volume, the number of top quality graduates is limited. That has a lot to do with our education system not keeping at par with the world and changes will be required in our curriculum. VentureDive aims to play a part in the solution by establishing a learning organization where we will provide training to young individuals on multiple technology platforms, utilizing the experienced and highly skilled individuals within our company. The second main factor is the brain-drain. A high number of highly skilled professionals either immigrate or are picked up by foreign companies. I don’t blame them for taking decisions that best suit their circumstances and careers. However, we have to make a combined effort to curb this trend if we are to progress our own IT industry and make best use of our home grown talent. Third is the lack of information and data availability (in terms of HR). We need to come together as an industry to set some guidelines/parameters around how we will operate. Finally, we need to invest in our people. We are not doing that enough as an industry. While the bottom line is important, we must appreciate that unlike manufacturing concerns, our people really are our assets and we need to continually develop them if we are to compete with the world.