Karachi-based Shoaib A. Shaikh is the chairman and chief executive of Axact, the information technology company he founded in 1997 which not only survived the dotcom crash but appears to have hit its financial stride. Shaikh is now onto his biggest challenge yet: shaking up Pakistan’s oversaturated, kill-or-be-killed media world. We spoke with Shaikh recently about his career and media ambitions. Excerpts:
How exactly did Axact come about?
I come from a middle-class family; my father was an advocate. After completing intermediate from Government College, I joined the Institute of Business Administration for an M.B.A. in marketing. From a considerably young age, I aimed to own a winning enterprise. I wanted to make a difference. It was, in fact, during my time at IBA that the idea of Axact was born. Back in 1997, when Yahoo! had just begun to gain momentum and two Stanford students were yet to be called the founders of Google, Axact began its operations from a single room with less than 10 team members. I quickly realized that in order to increase the productivity of the workforce, we needed efficient business processes and systems. Axact set off to create just that, to design business applications, systems, and software for greater performance. Axact has a culture which it passes down to its employees. We, at Axact, do not hoard all the profits for ourselves; we share them. The year 2005 was a milestone for me. I developed and documented Axact’s mission statement and values. These values have made Axact excel. Today, Axact is the world’s leading IT company. That is a true manifestation of my hard work.
Is it accurate to describe Axact as the world’s leading IT company?
Yes, it is accurate. Not only that but [this fact should be] a source of pride for the whole nation. As Pakistanis we need to take ownership of this. We should tell the story of Axact’s success to anyone who is willing to listen around the world. Following Axact’s initial success, the organization expanded its scope to offer back-office services, ERP applications, and design services, among other things. Axact’s excellence has made it a giant in the online design industry. Today, Axact is an industry leader. [Axact] has eight, broad-business units and products, more than 5,200 dedicated employees and associates globally, and as many as 8.3 million customers worldwide. In 2010, Rozee.pk ranked it among the Top 10 companies to work for. We have over 310,000 fans on Facebook. We constantly revisit our commitment to enhance the wellbeing of our country and our fellow countrymen.
Is the upcoming BOL news channel primarily your own initiative?
BOL is 100 percent owned and funded by Axact. It does not have any association with any other party whatsoever. Let me also clarify that BOL TV is just one part of the BOL Network. The enterprise will span television, digital media, print media, cinemas, movies, and radio channels. From the day we announced the arrival of BOL, I have frequently been asked to explain the reasons for the initiative. Axact, through its socioeconomic development plans, seeks to bring about revolutionary changes to education, health, food, shelter, and judicial assistance in Pakistan. The company invests 65 percent of its revenues toward these development initiatives. Moreover, BOL Network has clearly-defined parameters which distinguish it from others in the market. With its visionary leadership, it will be bringing the best practices in the media industry to the forefront via state‐of-the‐art infrastructure, unmatched salary packages far above the industry average, constant on‐the-job training, and perks and benefits unheard of in this industry. All this will bring about visible changes in the lives of all Pakistanis and present a developed Pakistan to the world.
What processes or specialized knowledge does Axact bring to BOL to set it apart?
For starters: our news management system. This system will provide an interconnected platform to the whole news department. Every person—from a reporter to the bureau chief—will be connected to each other. Another example is our advertising management system, a single platform where you can get the most efficient and cost-effective advertising slots, filter your preferences, monitor your budget, and stay connected with your active and inactive campaigns. Then there is the distribution management system designed to constantly improve our network. BOL aims to start nationwide, independent research of more than 5,000 people and share these accurate and reliable ratings with other media players for the collective gain of the industry. These ratings will be updated every hour and even the slightest change will be identified and will help us improve.
Which TV journalists are likely to join BOL?
Birds of a feather flock together. It is only a matter of time when the associations of BOL will be publicly known. I would like to add here that eagles only fly with eagles. They do not fly with any other bird.
A more concise version of this interview is featured in our Nov. 15, 2013, issue.