HOW KHURAM RAHAT IS CHANGING THE DATA ANALYTICS AND SERVICES FUTURE IN PAKISTAN
Mr Khuram Rahat, a well-known personality recognised among pioneers of IT industry for his great contribution in Pakistan’s IT industry as well in International markets. He is the man behind the success story of TERADATA Pakistan working along with a vibrant group of highly qualified professional originated from Pakistan. He has proven the metal of Pakistan’s talent and potential globally through TERADATA Pakistan. And now he continues to build that success, with double-digit growth of TERADATA Pakistan. Mr Rahat currently is responsible for the strategic direction and management as Managing Director Teradata Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. Teradata Corporation (previously NCR), is one of the leading analytic data platforms, applications and services company globally.
Mr Rahat, an experienced industry executive with over 24 years of proven leadership and in-depth knowledge of leading edge Business Intelligence and Management Solutions, is well positioned to lead TERADATA Pakistan to new horizons. During his career, Mr Rahat has held leadership positions within NCR and Teradata. He holds a master’s degree in business administration from Karachi’s Institute of Business Administration, where he has also been associated as a teacher.
Under his direction, the team at TERADATA Pakistan introduced several innovative products and services engaged strategic alliances and developed new markets. He has been providing consultancy to organisations around their management strategies especially, how they can develop an ‘Information Based’ decision making culture. His vision and contribution to developing human capital especially in IT industry is a great asset for the country.
Luminary: Please tell us about your professional journey and how you started your career?
Khuram Rahat: I finished my master’s degree in business administration from Karachi’s Institute of Business Administration in 1988 and was teaching there as well for a year. My father was in government services so I had the chance of living in different cities, my birth place is Lahore. But most of my schooling is from Karachi. I spent almost seventeen years of my life in Karachi then moved to Islamabad in 1992.
In 1989, I joined NCR Corporation (A leading American computer hardware, software and electronics company) in sales and since then have been involved in the field of IT which has become my passion. NCR Corporation was acquired by AT&T Inc. (An American multinational telecommunications conglomerate) and then again AT&T Inc. split up into three different companies and we became NCR Corporation again. In 1997, I was given the task to introduce the concept of Data Warehousing and thus TERADATA in Pakistan. Those days using information for analytics or strategic decision making was nascent in Pakistan and most of the computing was done to produce batch reports and mostly executives used to depend on their gut feelings and experience to take decisions rather than looking at data and hard facts.
Luminary: So how you got you first project and what was your experience?
Khuram Rahat: I was entrusted the task of introducing the concept of data warehousing in Pakistan. The initial response from most of the organisation was of non-interest as many people thought that such sophistication was not needed in the country and that organisations in Pakistan do not have enough data to warrant the need for a data warehouse.
Our first customer experience in Pakistan was interesting; the government was planning to computerise census data in National Data Base organisation. The initial thought process was to digitally capture the census forms for record purposes, however, we were able to put across the concept of using the data for planning and citizen facilitation purpose. The idea was appreciated and we worked with NADRA’s team to develop the concept further. Today, we see that as a result of the initiative and subsequent formation of National Database And Registration Authority, the citizens of the country have been facilitated in terms of a computerized National Identity Card which is single source of identification and verification for the citizens and saves the citizens from the hassle to long and cumbersome processes of verification that were prevalent in the past. Besides, NADRA is also supporting law enforcement authorities in fighting crime.
I, as an individual as well as being part of Teradata, I feel privileged and proud to have been associated with this project of National importance.
Whenever I look back and recall those interesting comments we use to get initially from people like “this concept is not for Pakistan” and “there is no need for a large amount of data”, I feel amazing the way IT industry has grown over last 15-20years.
Luminary: How do you see the market gearing up for analytics in Pakistan?
Khuram Rahat: The market is really warming up to the concept of using analytics for achieving strategic and operational goals. The margins are dropping down in the banking sector because of the drop in interest rate and State Banks regulations to protect depositor’s interest and ensure minimum returns on deposits. The banks are also realising the importance of data for being competitive. Every other organization wants to take digital journey, but to really have an effective digital strategy they need to understand demographics of the customer segments and analyze the data they can get from these digital channels (websites, mobile banking, online transactions, and social media) to help better develop understanding of the market and customers. The analysis can be utilised for customization of their products or services offers hence improving sales and businesses.
Luminary: How you look at IT industry are you happy with its pace?
Khurram Rahat: We are moving in the right direction. I am not happy with the pace, primarily because it’s not the industry which has to move but it’s the end user their readiness, understanding and acceptance towards the value of data as well the willingness to invest in it. We need to change the mindset as real value is in people and process, not the hardware or software. And we also need to invest more in human capital by cooperating with universities to bring out the right skill set meeting our requirements.
Luminary: How do you look at the current wide gap in industry and academia and the quality of human resource? Since whatever academia is producing is utilised by industry why can’t they play the active and more supportive role?
Khuram Rahat: Yes, you are right the gap is still wide in terms of industry requirement and what academia producing.
We are producing the numbers but the quality needs to improve. The industry needs to invest in universities and colleges to ensure the students are abreast of the latest technologies. This can be achieved by providing mentoring to students. Industry and academia need to work together to upgrade curriculum according to future needs and skill set requirements.
Luminary: Who will fill up this gap? Who do you think should we blame since we all just crib and blame on the government for everything?
Khuram Rahat: It is wrong to blame the government for everything. This is the role of industry and academia. The government cannot be alone expected to forecast the quality and human capital requirement of industry, its industry that should take a step forward and work together with academia to find the right solution. It has to be TERADATA, NETSOL, UBL, TELENOR etc who should give feedback for their requirement in next five or ten years. And this scenario just doesn’t apply to IT only rather, it applies to all the sectors whether it’s engineering, medical, energy or science or any other area.
I partially blame universities and partially blame the industry. When our businessmen’s are so well planned for the raw materials being utilised in production and they plan and forecast it to their suppliers and also give the quality feedback, then why can’t we give the same kind of feedback and forecast to academia since whatever academia is producing is also a human capital supply chain for industry. Sadly most of our universities are more concerned about getting grants rather focusing on working with industry on improving the quality of education.
We have Teradata university network. Almost 1500 universities are part of TERADATA university global network for knowledge sharing. The network provides an equal opportunity for information dissemination to students across the globe. Anybody sitting in Tando Allahyar District (Sindh) or any village and town of Pakistan will have access to the same repository, white papers and research, that a student in MIT would have and it’s completely free.
Luminary: What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader? And what is the one behaviour or trait that you have seen derails more leaders’ careers?
Khuram Rahat: I think the mindset of making yourself indispensable and irreplaceable for the organisation is a wrong approach. One essential element of a leader is that he takes the lead when the going gets tough but at other times he nurtures and encourages others to take responsibility and grow.
Luminary: What are your company ambitions for the future?
Khuram Rahat: We as an organisation are transforming and see a huge potential in terms of analytics in Pakistan. More and more organisations are embracing enterprise data warehouse and business intelligence solutions. Like I discussed earlier the digital channels and how can they improve profitability and effectiveness in business. In our portfolio, we have clients, who are market leaders or are challenging the market leaders. This fact alone speaks for itself about the value we help create for our customers.
Other than Telecom sector, leading companies in Finance, Retail, Airline and Government sectors are using our solutions for Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) and Business Intelligence (BI).
Luminary: How you look at the role of PASHA (Pakistan Software Houses Association)?
Khurram Rahat: Everyone talks of Pakistan as software exports country. Some people believe Pakistan should focus more on manufacturing. But if you look at global markets trends the real value is in services. While the Pakistan Software Houses Association (PASHA) has focused on developing software and have done a lot to support software development houses, I believe they need to focus also on developing services side of IT for targeting export market.
Luminary: Please tell us about your family and what do you do to live a balanced life?
Khuram Rahat: I am married and blessed with three daughters. The eldest is studying in NUST, the middle one is doing A-levels and youngest is in class five. My wife was associated with teaching profession for a very short time but mostly she has focused on home and giving complete attention to the upbringing of kids. I am blessed to have a better half like her as she is very dedicated and focused on the upbringing of our daughters.
I am a regular golfer and usually play in the early morning which keeps me energised rest of the day.
Mrs Khuram Rahat joined us in this part of the interview and we had the liberty of asking her some questions as well.
Luminary: How long you two are married?
Mrs Khuram Rahat: It’s been twenty-three years almost and I am blessed to have a husband like him. He is not only an amazing life partner but a very caring and dedicated father.
Luminary: So how often he takes out time for you and family?
Mrs Khuram Rahat: He tries to take out decent time for me and kids. Since our daughters are studying so we prefer to stay more at home.
Luminary: Mashalha you two are such a beautiful couple and I am really impressed by your dedication and parenting values. Sadly we don’t appreciate homemakers as we appreciate any working women whereas homemaking and children upbringing is a way more difficult task.
Khuram Rahat: Yes you are right the role of mother is remarkable and in fact, she is the first teacher for any child. The nurturing a mother provides is unparalleled and a vital part of a child’s care. That’s why when we praise any leader we give credit to his mother upbringing.
Luminary: How he is in managing anger and stress?
Mrs Khuram Rahat: He is very good at it, I have never seen him bringing office stress at home. Yes, also gets little angry at times like any other normal person but usually, he manages to control his anger.
Luminary: How you feel when people praise your husband and his remarkable contribution to Pakistan’s IT industry?
Mrs Khuram Rahat: Yes it feels really good and I feel proud for him as well for being his partner.
Luminary: What advice would you give to the younger generation of CEOs, managers, startups, entrepreneurs and business leaders?
Khuram Rahat: Pakistan is a big country with more than 70% population of less than 30 age. Our youth is very capable Masha Allah and have creative ideas but they don’t know how to position and market it. This talent, if harnessed properly, can be the real assets for the country’s growth. Hard work and staying positive is the key to success. I will advise new entrants to be appropriately qualified, competent and be ready for the challenges.