Interview: Shah Elahi, GM, Imanami Asia

Shah Corporate
Mr. Shah Elahi, GM, Imanami Asia

Imanami is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner providing affordable, easy to use Identity and Group Management solutions to ensure accuracy and productivity from Microsoft Exchange and Active Directory.

Imanami is a small company, claiming big success all around, has five “Mystery Men” behind the scene, making it play wonders in a short period of time since 2003.

Robert Haaverson the founder of the company leads the team by his vision, Edward Killeen reshapes the vision to fit into customers expectations, Raja Mani converts the vision into reality by his technical expertise and very vast experience purposing portable, robust and adaptable solution architecture, Shah Elahi (GM Imanami Asia) providing the offshore development facility gets the purposed solution implemented my managing a cost effective resource lot and finally Roger Manson (VP Client Services) providing comfort to the customer by extending an efficient after sale service.

I got a chance to interview one of these mystery men Shah Elahi, GM, Imanami Asia, to uncover some of the mystery, talked about the problems he faced while establishing this offshore facility and following is the rest of what I found:

How did you start with the offshore facility for Imanami Corporation? Can you give us some background?

After college at San Francisco State University, I came back to Lahore to help manage Cranium International (Pvt.) Ltd. After some discussion, my brother in the U.S. who owned Imanami U.S. decided that he wanted to start outsourcing to Pakistan and hired me as General Manager to grow and maintain Imanami Pakistan. This was a strategic move for Imanami who had the foresight to see that there would be a significant savings for Imanami as the company expanded.

What were the major issues/problems that you faced while establishing this offshore facility?

HR: Hiring was quite difficult in the beginning! We placed newspaper advertisements and then found out about websites like Rozee really helped us find some qualified candidates.

Market Awareness: Not many people in Pakistan had ever heard of Imanami so it was difficult to attract and convince people to join at first! However, once they saw our customer list and realized we were working in a completely different domain than most IT companies in Pakistan, they seemed to be convinced that Imanami had some potential.

Power outage as you mentioned was a big issue, what measures did you take to resolve it?

Bought a small Honda generator at first, that proved to work in the short run, then we decided to move to a building that would fulfill our electricity demands without us having to make a huge investment in infrastructure.

How much cost did this add to your overall expenses when you added power backups?

Purchasing a generator was a relatively inexpensive cost for us, however when we started growing our workforce, it was apparent we needed a better solution, so we moved into an office building that maintained their own generator (although the monthly cost went up due to this)

What major issues did you face regarding human resource management?

Major issues faced regarding human resource management included coming up with salary packages that would attract the appropriate resources for the job. I also experienced a lot of unprofessionalism from potential candidates in the beginning who would show up late for job interviews or not show up at all! In the U.S., being late for a job interview or not showing up at all would not be acceptable.

Are you comfortable with resource planning in your organization?

Not as comfortable as I would like it to be, but I feel we are taking small, slow steps to improve resource planning. We had major issues at times (e.g. not having enough resources to get the work done)

What areas do you seek improvement in, regarding resource planning?

Understanding how many resources are required for each release of a product. Understanding how many resources are required for each department (maintenance, core team, PSO team, customer support team, tech writing team, sales team)

Attrition rate was an issue in the beginning as you mentioned, what measures did you take to resolve it?

Attrition can be attributed to many factors, some resources are just not happy with a company and will leave, and others will leave for better opportunities or better salaries. Sometimes, internal issues exist and if they are not solved immediately, this can lead to unwanted attrition.

How does your hiring works? Do you face issues finding good resources?

Our top priority at this point is to interview internal references first. Usually your best employees who love your company will send you references of people they know would suit your organization well. When references are coming in from your employees, you usually know that your employees are satisfied enough with their job that they would even refer friends/previous colleagues!

How do you feel about hiring fresh resources?

Given the nature of Imanami PK (product based company) and the high expectations of management abroad in the USA, I always felt experienced candidates were the only worthy people hiring. I think that once a company has stabilized, fresh college graduate hiring should start (and we are at that point now I feel).

Are you comfortable with existing resources and their output for your organization?

Yes, definitely.

What measures have you taken to increase satisfaction level of your resources to manage attrition?

Offer attractive salary packages; remove any obstacles that may cause the work environment to be less ideal.

Did you face any issues because of cultural difference?

Yes, I found that US management wanted us to install a “westernized” culture here at Imanami PK. That meant making sure employees realize that they have a “say” in the organization and should speak up when they want to be listened to. I find that In Pakistan many people are used to the “hierarchy” system and will not speak unless spoken to (and sometimes they don’t speak at all!) I also noticed the feudalism/“Seth” mentality that exists in Pakistan. In my opinion, this is a horrible disease that STILL exists in Pakistan today. I want to make sure that everyone at Imanami PK is treated and listened to with respect.

Last but not the least, how did terrorism affect you and your business in Pakistan?

For us in particular, terrorism makes it much harder to convince our own US management to fly to Pakistan! They(or their spouses) are not prepared to take the risk that is involved in flying over here. That being said, we have successfully managed to get at least 80% of our executives in the US to visit us on one occasion or another!

What measures did you take to minimize the effects of Terrorism?

I have prepared a “Welcome To Pakistan” guide that explains the ins and out of Pakistani culture. When US management has visited, I have tried my level best to show them that Lahore is not what they thought it would be by taking them out to the finest restaurants, shopping, and tourism sites available! The number one items our guests like to buy are “pashmina” shawls for their loved ones!

Finally, what would you recommend to new entrepreneurs who are planning to start software houses in Pakistan?

Realize that HR is not easy and be prepared to take some pain finding the best of the best!

Make sure you make the necessary expenditures on your office (Finding a good building that offers a generator and reliable Internet connection)

Have your processes in place before you get started

Maintain your integrity and trustworthiness with your clients never leave them in the dark, always keep them informed.

Thank you.

  • I know a few Dutch software houses in the Lahore Gulberg area, they all had problems with HR. People here just don’t have the same level of professionalism, and in the long run it really hurts. Pay raises of minimum 10% are unheard of here, but common practice in Pakistan. Just my 2 rupees.

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