With Strikes in all cities, the entire IT industry is upset over a recent arrest of the CEO of a local IT company over suspected VoIP termination.
I wont name the CEO or company (let’s call them Innovator-X), nor will I claim to know the specific circumstances or evidence behind the arrest, but I did meet with them a few times last month and I can tell you what I know.
These people had worked very hard the past 4-5 years building a concept into a very well respected brand in Pakistan. Beating all the odds against every entreprenuer, and also every odd that doing business in PK adds, AND the odds of starting up without US-based VC funding, Innovator-X is perhaps a shining example of how to contribute to your country’s economy.
So why were they arrested? Let’s give it some context.
VoIP is by and large disrupting the telecom environment all over the world. In 2005 global IP-PBX sales outgrew sales of traditional PBX systems, creating an entirely new market for enterprise IT software that provides value-addition over converged IP networks.
The promise of Converged IP Networks for global enterprises is NOT cost-effective call-plans over the next few years, but how it enables new paradigms of business solutions for the firm, resulting in greater ROI. VoIP-based IT solution is the holy-grail of intuitive interfaces — wouldn’t you rather get an SMS, or be automatically connected in a call with your Supply manager as soon as your stock level went down? Wouldn’t you rather have CRM systems that can perform pattern recognition on recorded audio to give you an instant search on typical customer questions or answers?
That is the next frontier of IT solutions, and Innovator-X was the first-to-market with an enterprise convergent IT solution product to give that value-addition. They were planning to launch this product with a presence that they were setting up in Palo Alto, CA. They were planning to hit the US Enterprise market with a product allowing for value-added IT solutions over Convergent networks.
So, why were they arrested? On the charges that they were running an “illegal VoIP termination point” for services such as Skype.
According to the PTA in a press statement on Tuesday (paraphrased) ‘The agreement signed with the DSL provider was that bandwidth was for Data only — we found that it was being used for VoIP’
This casts a heavy veil of confusion for any similar but future innovations — should WebEx or MS Live Server be banned too? How does anyone decide if a set of bits on a pipe is ‘data’ or ‘voip’? What about Geo and CityFM89 streaming their radio shows through their website?
What about IPTV — or for that matter Remote Desktop? Should people get a license before Remote desktop over VPN just because it seems like video trasnfer between two parties?
Things such as these make Pakistan seem like the toughest business environment in the world.
However, like Jawwad mentions in his blog — there are bad, confusing, frustrating days, but then there are many great points about Pakistan’s economy that makes it a worthwhile business environment.
Because of our good social values, we will ensure that Innovator-X gets through this current hiccup smoothly. I wish them well, and if there is anything I can do I am available for it.