Pakistan bound

With price volatility, debts and under development, building a channel in Pakistan is fraught with challenges.

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By  Julian Pletts Published  March 5, 2008

Price volatility, bad debts and under development are just some of the characteristics defining the Pakistani market.

With increasing numbers of vendors addressing Pakistan from the Middle East, it is becoming abundantly clear that building a local channel in the country is fraught with challenges.

When assessing the IT market in Pakistan it is impossible to overlook the political issues plaguing the country over the last year.

The channel is following more of a focus on specific products rather than selling everything. But credit trends are unchanged. Late payments and bad debts are still a major issue in Pakistan.

At the time of writing, general elections are taking place and it is still uncertain as to whether these will lead to a fair and just result or, seemingly more likely, to further turmoil.

There are those in the channel who will play down the extent to which events such as the return of Benazir Bhutto, the scion of a Pakistani dynasty, and her subsequent assassination, have had on business.

"Unfortunately, the political climate is not good at the moment, but luckily it has not impacted the IT business as of now," insisted Qaiser Butt, Gulf distribution manager at China-based hardware vendor Lenovo.

"I do not know what is going to happen after the elections though," he added, reflecting the sort of uncertainty that channel players have had to adapt to over the last few years.

Others suggest the impact is already evident though.

"There has been a big effect on the IT industry," proclaimed Zahid Mahmood, country sales manager, for Pakistan and Afghanistan at Acer Middle East."

"What we had forecasted at the beginning of 2007, growth of between 30% and 40%, did not happen."

"We were only able to achieve our financial plan, otherwise our growth would have been 30% and 40% like it was in 2006."

Sultan Hamdani, COO and senior consultant at Microsoft and Oracle enterprise specialist Maison Consulting and Solutions, says such problems have cast an underlying shadow on Pakistan's IT industry and channel: "The wrong perspective can be created by the wrong geopolitical focus."

"Pakistan is a huge country and if a problem is prevalent in a hundred square kilometers, it does not mean the rest of the country is suffering a problem."

This is a particularly important point from a channel perspective when the country spans more than 800,000 square kilometers.

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