Imran H. Khan

President Obama’s state of the union focused on investments into education and innovation as the key engines for maintaining USA’s leadership position in the long term. The same is equally applicable for developing countries like Pakistan. OPEN has been facilitating entrepreneurs in America for over ten years. OPEN joined hands with MIT to conduct Business Acceleration Plans as a way to doing the same in Pakistan.  It was felt that rather than focusing on start ups it would be socially more effective to take companies whose sales were $1M-$5M to the next level. This is the reason for naming it as an acceleration plan. BAP has impacted 120 companies over the last four years that it has been conducted.  The four finalists of the BAP were in Boston today and interacted with OPEN’s New England Chapter members.

As the global economy tumbled, and local conditions, both economic and political conspired to arrest their growth and development, alumni companies of the Annual OPEN/MIT Enterprise Forum of Pakistan Business Acceleration Plan Competition have somehow seemed to defy conventional wisdom and establish themselves as world class operators in their specific domains. You may not have heard of these entrepreneurs, nor their stories of entrepreneurial struggle and success, but it’s very likely that the products and services they provide intersect with your digital lifestyle here in the US, or directly impact the lives of friends and family members in Pakistan. Astronomical revenue growth rates that range from 3x to 50x (year over year and 3 year), addition of international operations and leverage of OPEN members’ reach and experience in international markets have made the OPEN/MITEFP BAP a signature event of Pakistan’s innovation economy.

The event for the finalists  was held at Cambridge Innovation Center, which houses nearly two hundred and fifty start ups in the Kendall Research Area of Cambridge MA.  Dr. Kenneth Morse, who has been instrumental in getting BAP off the ground, opened the event with an overview of what is happening around the world and how it relates to Pakistan.  He said that BAP’s objective was to create a vibrant and supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem for Pakistan’s ambitious tech entrepreneurs. He said that BAP was from conception tethered to OPEN and that it was the wind beneath our wings. The finalists of BAP are given one week intensive training at MIT and also get to visit most of the six OPEN chapters. There they interact and network with charter members.  Each of the OPEN chapter offers a different and complementary areas of expertise.

There were two winners this year. They were accompanied by two finalists as guest speakers.

Dr. Zakiuddin Ahmed, CEO NexSource - Joint Winner – 2010 OPEN/MITEFP BAP

Dr. Zakiuddin Ahmed is a visionary strategist specializing in developing innovative solutions for Healthcare Services through information technology. He holds the following positions in various companies and organizations: As a globally recognized speaker Dr. Zaki has presented on eHealth / mHealth in many international conferences around the world in the last 10 years. His list of “Pakistan’s First” include: First “Medical Call Center”, First “Hub & Spoke” Telemedicine model, First Family Health Membership Program, First Videoconferencing Studio and Services, First National & International Telemedicine / eHealth Conference and Exhibition, First TeleRadiology project, among many others. His areas of interest, expertise & experience are eHealth, mHealth, eMarketing & MedicoMarketing, eLearning, Videoconferencing & Web Conferencing, Medical Tourism & Medical Ethics.
Dr Ahmed holds a Bachelor’s degree in Medicine and a Master’s degree in Health Management and serves on the boards of various organizations.

Mr. Tanveer Sharif, CEO Vopium – Joint Winner – 2010 OPEN/MITEFP BAP

Tanveer Sharif is the founder and CEO of Vopium involved in the overall management of the company by starting it from scratch and listing it today on NYSE EURONEXT in Paris. He holds a B. Sc in Business Administration from Copenhagen Business School. He initiated his career in the IT field by working for Danish companies like Soft Design and Columbus IT partner. He also worked as an advisor for Danish Parliamentarians and various Danish ministries. In 2000, Tanveer Sharif joined a Not-for-profit organization where he was appointed CEO arm for Venture Cup. The main purpose of Venture Cup was to help entrepreneurs in their business start-ups. This was a successful venture for him where he created almost 80 companies and raised 40 million dollars in venture capital along with his team. In 2002- 2006, he worked as an elected member of Copenhagen County Council, where he represented his party in the Social and Health Committees. In 2010 he raised another 16 million dollars for Vopium, the largest investment that year in a Danish startup. He was runner-up for business leader of the year 2010, awarded by the crown princess Mary of Denmark.

Mr. Reza Samad, CEO Noblet – Finalist – 2010 OPEN/MITEFP BAP

Reza Samad is the founder and CEO of Noblet. His business experience spans over 15 years within the technology space. Having founded Pakistan’s Automated Clearing House (ACH) for banks (, he helped revolutionize the cheque processing system in Pakistan. NiFT currently handles 95% of Pakistan clearing instruments for all banks operating in the country. Reza simultaneously founded a logistics company that could handle the transportation of clearing instruments to and from bank branches 4 times a day across the country. The operation stands at over 400 people in 20 cities catering to over 200 cities/towns in Pakistan. Reza then established Noblet Consulting representing Manpower Inc (among others) in Pakistan. A host of Soft-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications covering HR, Admin and Finance have and are being developed for roll out across the MEAA region. Noblet made the top 5 companies in the MIT Business Acceleration Program 2010 competition.

Mr. Faisal Khan, CEO, Ovex Technologies – Finalist – 2010 OPEN/MITEFP BAP

Mr. Faisal S. Khan is the CEO of Ovex Technologies Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd and is a Chartered Accountant by profession. Prior to his joining Ovex Technologies, he has been working with KPMG TaseerHadi& Co. as a Partner for approximately a year and half. During his tenure of all inclusive 20 years, with KPMG TaseerHadi& Co. He spent two years with KPMG Oman, on international secondment. With KPMG, Mr. Khan has been involved primarily with assurance and some advisory work. His areas of expertise included banks and financial institutions, manufacturing concerns and retails businesses. He is well conversant with risk management and SOX requirements. He has also worked in an educational institution primarily in the field of Accountancy. He is a member of The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan.

The panel discussion was moderated by Imran Nasrullah, the Chief Business Officer of Massachusetts BioTech Council and Dr. Scharukh Jalisi, Directorof Boston Univerty’s  Head and Neck Oncologic Surgery. It was interesting to see that the Pakistani businesses are viewing the Middle East, Asia and Africa as areas of operation. They see these regions as not being adequaltely serviced by the established western corporations. It was exciting to see highly democratized technologies of communication and medical devices being effectively employed to deliver quality health care services to widely dispersed populations in the rural areas of Pakistan. With the infrastructure in place, these technologies and processes could be expanded to deliver other services like education. The are potentially 120 Million Pakistani who can eventually benefit from these efforts.

One thing that was evident right from the start is that the next generation of Pakistani Americans are now running OPEN. The young Dr. Bilal Zuberi, who runs VC fund, encouraged the participants to come forth with new ideas. He said that he could write a check for $200K today, without going through any process. This was also reflected by younger Pakistani students studying in the Boston universities also being present. The event was moderated Raza Sarwar is the new Vice President of OPEN New England chapter.

The Incredible OPEN Spouses

OPEN would not have been formed without the active participation of spouses. I would like to appreciate the incredible support provided by them to OPEN right from the early days to today. They were also present today to encourage the OPEN activities.

The Right Revolution

In conclusion I would like to observe that as we see revolutionary events unfold in the Middle East and Africa, that create the potential of great uncertainty but also hope;  a better way to bring about transformational change in developing countries is through innovation and entrepreneurial activities. Pakistani leadership in different domains have a unique opportunity to encourage their incredibly talented technology entrepreneurs to achieving their true potential. They also have an opportunity to leverage the Pakistani diaspora in speeding up the societal transformation that the burgeoning youth of Pakistan so desperately needs.

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4 Responses to “OPEN/MITEFP BAP:Innovation and Entrepreneurism in Pakistan”

  1. tahir chaudhry on January 30th, 2011 5:30 am

    Nicely written Imran.

  2. Imran Nasrullah on January 30th, 2011 12:42 pm

    What was apparent to me was the disruptive technologies on display. “Disruptive technology” has drifted from its original meaning introduced by Clayton Christenson – taken to mean a innovative technology that supplants and dominates over current technology. Rather, as intended, disruptive technologies are those that enable others to leverage and create more efficient and more profitable business models.

    This was aptly showcased by the winners of the BAP, and perhaps, evinced most clearly by Dr. Zakiuddin Ahmed. Dr. Ahmed takes off the shelf technologies and deploys them in a grass-roots oriented, scalable, and fractal business model, making healthcare available for all. We in the biotechnology industry always speak of developing drugs for unmet medical needs, as a distinguishing feature over the pharmaceutical industry; Dr. Ahmed’s business, and the services he provides, truly lives up to meeting unmet medical need.

    And while he provides such services in Pakistan, I would argue for the tens of millions of Americans who cannot afford healthcare and access proper medical care- despite what tea baggers and Republicans think – perhaps opportunity awaits Dr. Ahmed should he introduce his business to the US market.

  3. aamir shah on January 30th, 2011 6:57 pm

    Yes there are diamonds in the rough. Technology and the converging global village have provided tools to leverage an idea regarless of it surroundings, and disseminate it globally. Chaos or otherwise.
    Way to go. THere is hope and in hope we all live.

  4. Malik Khan on January 30th, 2011 8:18 pm

    Thanks for the comprehensive write up. I was quite impressed by Dr. Ahmed’s work. It is highly commendable given the ecosystem in which he has been able to pull it off.