Pakistan is very fertile for the growth of Information Technology. There are problems, which gives a vast space for the dire need of Information technology production to step into the digital future. There is talent and great entrepreneurial minds, which however needs to be directed and mentored for which we need several localized setups of entrepreneurial eco-systems to channel the youth to practically established working environments. While the general mindset in educational institutes trains students to hunt for good jobs, Aafaque Riaz Ahmed, Founder and Chairman of Karachi Institute of Technology and Entrepreneurship, takes a step forward with IT integrated Bachelors programs that are basically entrepreneurial focused.
Aafaque lived outside Pakistan in the US from 1991 to 2004 and moved back to Karachi setting up an institute that equips students with entrepreneurial focused IT programs – and that is what he claims to be the most important factor that would reshape the IT scene in Pakistan. Aafaque states, “Ever since coming back to Pakistan I have acquired a software company and set up our Telco/BPO house along with a Robotics lab for kids. And now I’m deeply passionate about changing the educational environment – making it more tech savvy and tech enabled by building the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Karachi.”
According to Aafaque, everything is becoming interdisciplinary and keeping pace with the modern world, people in Pakistan should have the basic knowledge and mindset to effectively use technology in all aspects of life and make decisions accordingly. For growth of IT, an entrepreneurial ecosystem is essential, which requires the right mindset and advanced skills for further growth and stability. KITE is an innovative venture in that direction. Aafaque Ahmed explains, “I know exactly the constituent elements of the entrepreneurial system and how to bring that change about as I am myself a senior entrepreneur. And I have chosen the path of an educational system to make it happen. I could have chosen a different path but I need to change the mind of the youth and four-year incubation cycle is a reasonable time to make it happen.”
KITE offers BBA and BS programs with the added spice of entrepreneurship and Information Technology. Moreover, there is an additional crash course called Transition to Computer Science, which is a four and a half month long course also for those students who have no computer science degree. Aafaque is very confident that computer science is the most efficient for training youth how to program and become tech-savvy with an entrepreneurial hue that would allow graduates to set up and run their own businesses even if it’s economy or social sciences. “Transition to Computer Science is an intense boot camp semester course for you to learn the essentials of programming and getting yourself a job in the software industry. You do not necessarily have to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science – you can have a bachelor’s degree in anything, and then you can take this transition course to become a software developer. It’s a tough course, but it is doable,” says Aafaque.
One of innovative venture that KITE is currently evaluating is entrepreneurship for doctors where they will go through four and a half months semester courses and training. The same theory can be applied to practically anybody with a course skill. Aafaque elaborates, “We have the standard curriculum in Computer Science and BBA. But in both these curriculums we have added the spice of technology and entrepreneurship. So in KITE, tech and entrepreneurship are going to be integral element of everything that is being taught here. Even if you are doing BBA or Computer Science in KITE, it will be a tech-centric and entrepreneurship focused BBA as well as Computer Science.”
The teaching faculty at KITE is computer scientist and PhDs but the exams are made by my software house. Mid-term and final exams are conducted to meet the Silicon Valley standard and that is the mark all students will have to meet at KITE. The assignments sometimes are also given by the software house for particular courses to equip students with the potential elements required to bring the big change. I run a software house. I know about software and we have been doing export oriented software for a long time – I know the exact standard my students have to meet. If you know the exact required standard, teaching is easy. You just have to know what to teach and with what standard,” explains Aafaque.
The organization also has the angel investment arm in multiple companies. Under this angel investment portfolio, one of the startups is robotics lab –a teaching company for kids where they are taught about robotics, programming, gaming, 3D printing and modeling. It was funded two years again and currently it is in a very good shape. The other company acquired is a software space which is growing remarkably. The angel investment, however, is one part. What helps small companies grow is the network, mentorship, skills and education to meet the global standard.
It’s a high risk proposition to invest in very small companies but this is what the angel investors specialize in. It’s an art – you have to learn how to do it. There are different criteria for investment into startups, but for Aafaque what matters most is a dedicated team that has the passion and determination. Ideas are there but what is important is how they are executed and what standard they meet.
With KITE there are opportunities and a well mentored platform that can help the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Karachi but what matters in the long run is keeping pace with the global world. In the next five to ten years, Aafaque’s prime focus is building KITE and taking it to the level where graduates from KITE are globally competitive and have the right skills set. He is very determined that it can be done without requiring any help from outside of Pakistan. Says Aafaque, “Honestly I don’t need anybody outside of Pakistan telling me how to train my kids and what to teach them. I believe and our team believes we know exactly what needs to be done. And we are doing it!”