Sajjad Syed, dubbed as the eternal optimist, is a prominent name in Pakistan’s IT industry. A graduate of Computer and Systems Engineering from Rensselaer, Sajjad worked for many multinational companies including Schlumberger, Oracle and SAP. He had a brief stint with government as well where he played an instrumental role in bringing a 20 million USD investment in the IT education sector in Pakistan.
An entrepreneur at heart, Mr. Sajjad Syed is running his own company, Excellence Delivered since 2010. Excellence Delivered has emerged as a major player in Pakistan’s IT industry and is operational in four countries. We decided to have a chat with him about this work, life and future possibilities.
- When did you decide to take a leap of faith and venture out on your own?
Ans.I had always had an entrepreneurial flair and ExD is not my first venture. In fact, I have initiated several companies over the years, some were acquired and some initiatives failed. In 2010, I had recently left heading a multinational and decided it was time to setup something of my own. This was the beginning of Excellence Delivered (ExD) and it has been growing strong ever since.
- As a CEO, how much importance do you give to company culture and why?
Ans.A workplace needs to have a set of values which everyone adheres to, it is essential for such values to exist as they form the basis of the company culture. We, as an organization, place a lot of emphasis on workplace culture because we want to enable a productive environment,where all decisions are driven through our core values. By doing this, we ensure that everything we do is consistent in quality and exemplifies our core values.
- Tell us about the services your company provides and what is the procedure?
Ans.ExD operates on three different lines of businesses; technology, outsourcing and optimization. The technologyside deals with the implementations of major ERPs, such as Oracle and SAP, along withprovidinge-commerce solutions through Shopify. In addition, we have a fully functional development team which focuses on mobile app development, AI and IOT technologies. Our outsourcing line of business providesIT, Accounting, HR and Finance managed services to customers. Through our optimization services, we help customers chart their IT strategy which helps them reduce the total cost of their IT infrastructure while addressing their business needs.
- As a functional company, what ground realities do you think students should be aware of, in terms of job market?
Ans. IT is a growing market but jobs are available to those who have the right skills for it. A good GPA and an understanding of basic concepts of Computer Science, Accounting or whichever subject one has chosen to obtain an undergraduate degree in, is essential but is not enough. Now students need to complement their education with SAP, Oracle etc. as well to stand out in this competitive job market.
- What difficulties did you face starting this company and what advice would you give to future entrepreneurs?
Ans. First of all one has to be fully committed to one’s idea. Commitment means putting in 110% of your available time. Halfhearted entrepreneurial ventures normally fail. One, first off, must focus on the core differentiator and the value one’s venture brings to the consumer. Once the value proposition is clear one should set up a system to monitor the quality of the product or services as the business scales up. On the financial side, the cash flow should be acutely monitored. It is generally the cash flow and not the revenues that hurt businesses.
- Have you been able to achieve a work-life balance?
Ans. As an entrepreneur, one has to live the company, but over the years I have managed to create a line of structure where I have segregated the company from myself. To achieve this, I am blessed with a very motivated, committed and empoweredteam. My advice is to not discuss business at home and compartmentalize ones thoughts.
- In terms of motivation, how do you make sure that your team remains driven?
Ans. While financial compensation is always seen as a motivator, I believe that recognition, empowerment and respect play an even more important role in having a motivated team. ExD has been blessed with a very committed and motivated team who practically built the company alongside me.
- What do you hope to achieve in the long term?
Ans. I want to see my company as a global IT brand originating from Pakistan. Apart from our business, we have major initiatives underway right now.Hunarkaar is a collaborative initiative with Universal Service Fund (USF) to develop the biggest e-commerce platform of Pakistan. This is being done to revolutionize a very niche market of local artisans from the country.
We are also working on an Expedia like website, through which we will provide travel management, on regional and international level. In addition to that, we are venturing into new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT) and Cloud solutions; the idea is to be ahead of the technology curve.
- What future do you see for the IT industry of Pakistan?
Ans. Growth of Pakistan’s IT industry will depend on the quality of manpower available. If we intend to produce billion dollar companies in Pakistan, we need to think big and spend our resources on quality education. At present, our education system seems to focus on quantity rather than quality. That being said, the opportunity for Pakistani IT companies is unlimited. We have the world open to us provided we have a mechanism to deliver our products and services.
- What are your thoughts on the e-Commerce market at this time?
Ans. There is a lot of potential in this sector, as e-commerce is still in its infancy. It will grow rapidly as more and more businesses are looking to create an effective digital presence. Currently, the e-Commerce is mainly being used to sell electronics and textiles, however, I believe that over time all goods and services shall be sold online. I feel this will be one of highest growth sectors of the IT industry.