Asif Peer started his career with Systems Limited in 1996 and he has been associated with the company for 19 years now. He has moved back to Pakistan as the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Systems Limited and is very ambitious about uplifting Pakistan in global markets.
In an exclusive interview with IDG, Asif Peer tells us about Systems Limited, and his two-decade-long journey with the company.
Talking about the organization and his role in it, Asif Peer spoke about how they are an export-oriented company.
“The majority of our work was coming from US and abroad when I was managing the portfolio. We had to be well aware of different cultures and markets in the offshore center as well. The responsibility in my role has changed if you look at it from the challenge perspective. I’m trained to the new market and my mission was to open up the geography, which is very challenging. Last year we grew about 60 to 70 percent in range. This year we are expecting a 100 % growth as compared to the year before and are very close to achieving this goal,” he said.
Systems Limited is also a very technology agnostic company and with a strategy driven by IT, they have to be aligned horizontally technology-wise in creating resources that they believe are in demand in the local industry as well as GCC countries and the US. “We don’t believe in traditional business process outsourcing. Our work processing is digitized and we use workflow and management tools to provide visibility in 360 degrees. And that is what allows us to cover both ends of the world,” he explains.
“Every organization is different and you need to be nimble in your execution,” he continues, “therefore, we have developed accelerators in the frame works in all these technologies and that becomes our asset. You need to have a quick time to market – that’s what you clients want. We have invested on a couple of products in our product driven strategy as well. We have our HRP and ERP based solutions that we have been focusing to create those accelerators in the Microsoft Dynamics ERP space. We also have supply chain business intelligence, retail business intelligence and numerous other products. The key strategy is about not focusing only on selling one product and solution. Companies in Pakistan create one product and want to sell its license. It’s a good model but if the marketers are saturated, you barely have any diversification, which requires you to start all over again.”
But the success of any organization is its human resource which eventually defines the culture that will be followed at the company in question. And this is where Systems Limited has managed to make sure that their resources manage to feel part of the business and realize that if the company benefits, then eventually, they will too.
“We are an employee-owned organization and active management owns the major part of the company,” explains Asif Peer. “Everyone is motivated to grow because it pays off and delivers to ourselves only. I believe that is the main motivational factor, not found in many companies, especially in our sector. Human resource is our strategic capital and it is what I had as an asset of everything. We take care of them; we motivate them; having part of them in our partnership and employee ownership programs.”
“Since there are fifteen hundred people in a group and around five hundred and fifty of them are in our technology-agnostic like resources that we have. This number is going to increase in the next few months. So managing, retaining, and grooming these talents is the real challenge.”
Journey At Systems Limited
Having been at Systems Limited for more or less two years now, CEO Asif Peer talks about the journey and how it has come on. “From market insight perspective, we have picked up very aggressively and in Pakistan we have strategized in two spheres,’ he says.
“In public sector,” he summarizes, “we are at least ten years behind because there are lots of papers, no work flow and no processes. We lack in terms of best practices. The population is growing everyday and I think the public sector has started to realize that they need technology to meet the challenges. There are a lot of technology initiatives, donor agencies like World Bank, USAID – they are coming up with the projects about which we are heavily focused.”
The public sector is a huge area of focus because they feel that there are ‘no strong arms than systems to deliver enterprise class large public sector initiatives in both business process outsourcing and in technology.’
The private sector, meanwhile, is also picking up and anyone in the market knows that not only is this sector expanding but that their returns are also great. “If they do not invest in the technology now, they will not be able to manage that growth. That’s a huge opportunity for us,” he explains adding that “in UAE, we have a lot of demand because we compete with Indian resources. They are sending their good talents to the US and GCC and not focusing on those markets – and it is creating a niche for us.”
Dealing with Competition: How Systems Limited Manages to Stay at the Top!
Regionally, Systems Limited faces tough competition… they compete with the same companies within the US as well as in the regional markets. This is primarily because they mostly compete in the US, and, like Systems Limited, they also have their presence established in the region – and almost everywhere else.
Within Pakistan however, they feel they have limited or no competition. “There are many small companies that have common competition, which is great, but larger companies like ours have been following a model such that they may be working only for the US market, like we did before, or they don’t have enough resources to expand into the Pakistani market. After we adjusted our corporate strategy to refocus on the Pakistani market, we realized the other players often engaged in price wars with little or no focus on quality. Of course when quality does not matter, we lose, but otherwise we always compete distinctively,” says Asif.
Sharing his vision and passion for the organization, Asif Peer continues by saying, “We are well established entity and our vision is to maintain top position in Pakistan from Software perspective and IT enabled services provider. We want to be playing our critical part in corporate social responsibility, which I believe generates employment in our country for our folks; training them; and grooming them for boosting our economy. Currently, Pakistan’s software export is approximately 440 million dollars while India is at 86 billion dollars annually. We are playing our part to reduce that trade deficit and empower software export as the way forward.”
Enterprise Mobility: What We Should Be Looking At
Talking about enterprise mobility, Asif Peer shares that in his opinion, in the local context, “we are ten years behind as we have waited too long for 3G and 4G services. I think every organization now needs enterprise mobility strategy and there is no exception anymore. If your website is not responsive and it doesn’t work on the mobile, you are way behind. It’s m-commerce now. The next step is expanding – and that’s what we see.”
“We are expecting 40% of spending in the next few years on cloud computing and enterprise mobility because these are the two things that people are heavily focused on. In Pakistan, especially, if you look at it, we have 20 million cell phone subscribers. About 18% of these subscribers are smartphone users. Plus, we have a younger generation coming so you can imagine the growth and demand of services in the mobile space,’ he says.
Talking Through to the New Generation
Sharing what he feels should be the vision for the new generation; he states that they need to look from a career perspective. “What I have seen as the major difference from when we graduated and now we see the resources, they are not that career oriented and they switch jobs here and there for a few thousand rupees. I think that culture hurts – it hurts the personal growth that you can achieve in one organization and it also hurts that you don’t go to the next level. Your resume or credibility at times hurts as well when you are switching so many jobs just for financial gains. You have to look for the career perspective in a long term scenario. Don’t look for the short term goals. If you are satisfied in your job, and you are taking a little bit less, and if you want to look at the bigger picture, then I would suggest that’s a better bet. You can see a lot such examples at Systems Limited.”
“When I was in the US, I saw that people created a synergy and partnerships with their governments and generated jobs. Right now we are struggling, and we have to sell ourselves first and then our country. People do not want to travel to Pakistan. That’s an unfortunate scenario, but also a fact. We really need to portray the softer image of Pakistan. It is crucial for our economic growth. Everything else comes second, to be honest,” he asserted.
Interesting Facts About Asif Peer
How do you spend your spare time?
I spend time with my family when I am free.
What are your favorite applications?
I love all the products of Apple as I am a Mac user. At this time I don’t use any applications other than Outlook, Word, Excel and Power Point. I used LinkedIn application for professional purpose.
Alternate career if you were not in IT?
I would be a finance guy otherwise. That’s what I love. Number crunching.