Interview with Syed Nasir Mujtaba of TEO International

An evening with the CEO of one of the leading tech companies of Pakistan
TEO

An Introduction to TEO International

TheoryLamp recently availed the massive oppurtunity of interviewing one of the biggest names of the IT industry in Pakistan. The man in the spotlight was Syed Nasir Mujtaba , the CEO of TEO International. If you haven’t heard of them before then you have most certainly been living under a rock. Please take some time to introduce yourself to one of the greatest IT companies of Pakistan.  This is a new edition of ‘Your Story’ in which we share the life changing interviews of some of greatest people in the world.

TEO International Website

We would like to introduce our organization, Talented Earth Organization as one of the fast growing IT organization in Islamabad. TEO Pakistan Office is an offshore development center serving to specialized European Product Customers providing solutions using state of the art technologies.

With the steady expansion, we are aiming to make a sustainable contribution to social growth and development keeping in mind respect and dignity of people.

We have supported and initiated strategies which represent our corporate values in the first instance and at the same time, enrich them.

Examples of this are scholarships to deserving IT students in universities and supporting them through their education. Currently number of Students are benefiting from our Scholarship program in Islamabad/ Rawalpindi region.

TEO

We are also in collaboration with the education sector as an Industrial Mentor in their Research & Development areas.

Some of the Key areas of our Culture

• Open Door Communication Policy
• Participatory Management
• In house Leadership Development
• Respect, Learning, Quality

The Interview with the Boss

“Many people say that having a rough childhood end up becoming very successful in life. Furthermore, the presence of a guiding figure is the key to making it through a trial. Please tell us about your life. Where were you born and what sort of a childhood did you have?”

“I did not have any such phases in my childhood, it wasn’t very eventful. However, the guidance from my parent and the values they had instilled in me during the process of reaching adulthood was what primarily developed my personality.”

“I never idealized any businessman – again my parents were my guidance since they gave me all the qualities that I would ever need looking up to.”

“Who was the most important figure from your early years? People you would consider mentors?”

“Again, firstly these would be my parents – they were my mentors in life and for life. I also had a lot of mentors in my early years – All of us need to find people around us from whom we can learn from everyday interaction. The biggest mentor so far is the environment and experience.”

“In the first organization that I ever worked in, the central manager they had employed was a top quality professional. I didn’t have any personal interaction with him but I learned lots of valuable qualities and work ethics from him.”

TEO

“That was from my early years. Today I continue being mentored and especially so from my juniors. Listening to the highly inspirational and motivating stories of people working here I continue learning and being inspired.”

“To learn one has to be adaptive and flexible and quality conscious – here, personal relationships and & professional relationships come into play”

“When a child is young, he is often asked the question on what he wants to become when he grows up. All of us have very different answers to that question and usually we end up becoming something very different from what we imagined. What field attracted you the most when you were young?”

“Honestly speaking, during my school years I had no idea on what I wanted to do. For some, reason I had an aim of going into the Navy [smiles].”

“Where did you gain your education from? And was this a choice motivated by self-interest or by societal pressure from family and friends? How did you end up making the best out of it?”

“The story on how I got into studying computer science is quite funny. I had an accidental induction into the program. So the story goes, that I had a friend who was off to giving the entry test for FAST-NU back in the day. He took me with him to accompany him to the test center. I hadn’t prepared and just joined in fun – what happened later on was that I passed the entrance test and he did not.”

“I still wasn’t very serious about it until I told my father. During those times FAST-NU was quite popular (it still is) due to the whole idea of BCCI being behind it. My father then advised me that I should join the program as it was a great opportunity at the time – that is when I decided to seriously pursue computer sciences.”

“One thing I did have in my mind from the start was that I should have something of my own. The first company that I worked for – CresSoft – During the hiring process there I still remember that I had told the interviewer in response to a question he had asked me that I wanted to have my own CresSoft one day – It did happen – it just took me 20 years to get there”

“Managing a single person is so hard. The company you have helped set up is one of the fastest growing organizations in the country and has very positive reputation in the industry. How do you deal with managing such a large firm?”

A path of gradual growth needs to be developed in order that effective management can be rolled out. The authority on the top needs to understand balance. This is a delicate balance structure which lies between employee interests, business interests and customer interests. Any time this balance tips more towards one side the environment of the organization is negatively affected.”

“For example, for the sake of business interests if employees are exploited by having them put in unneeded extra hours then the balance has tipped away from employee interests towards business interests and the environment is negatively affected. Similarly, if we tip too much towards the employee side then the interest of the business will be affected. Ultimately everyone in the organization is affected.”

TEO

“Understanding of this principle should be made with conviction and regard – there can be no compromises in the long run since the overall business of the organization would be affected – this fine balance is a tipping point and should not be disturbed.”

“For effective management, the right team needs to be brought in – the statistics state that one can only manage a team of 5-6 resources. When you have to manage 250 people then the right team has to be onboard as further delegations of tasks have to be made”

Many people find it very hard to motivate themselves to any kind of work. It is said that motivation is a pill to be taken every day – What is your secret pill? What motivates you to give your time and energy to your firm every day in the manner that you are famous for?

“Continuous improvement is the ultimate driving factor for me”

Business or a job? What is your advice and recommendation to the younglings of Pakistan that are making this hard career choice?

“Business has two categories – Innovative products and services. If you have a creative solution that solves an existing or future problem in a disruptive manner then you should go for business right after having finished your studies. As for jumping into a service based business you should start part time while finding a job and learning the ins and outs of the industry. A service based business is a whole different ball game altogether.

Also, let me add, always have a very good mentor – Otherwise you’ll lose out.”

TEO deals with clients that are based abroad mainly in central Europe. Definitely, they would have many concerns when inking a development contract with a Pakistani company. How does TEO deal with this limitation of being based in Pakistan?

“Initially it is always a tough job for a new company dealing in this sort of business. Team building was extremely tough – we started off in a house in F-10. Whenever we would interview someone and we would prefer seasoned professionals – they would run off after seeing the company’s headquarters – even though we were giving a salary much higher than the market average”

“The same type of psyche applies to customers. Funded media campaigns create a negative image of the country and its industry. Initially it was a really hard ball. However, we worked day and night and today we have 60-70 satisfied customers from Denmark.”

“The formula that worked for us was a focused skill set, an effective and talented team and the success stories of our customers – this combination helps us tackle the negative image the media has created in the world of the country.”

What has been the most satisfying moment in your career? Any particular events you would consider career milestones?

“This is a big question. The answer to this is surely the respect I get from people around me and employees. The respect is formed I believe due to having a personalized relationship”

We have read about a startup that you have recently brought into the world. What is the business objective of that startup?

“IE was established with a vision. The vision behind IE stemmed from the fact that in Pakistan, there is a lack of trust in the business community. Collectively, if this issue can be resolved we can be a great power. So we need to come up with an environment where people can work together. IE was created to help develop this culture.”

“IE works on the Partnership model. IE has partnerships with different businesses on various products.”

What kind of a culture exists in your organization? How did you bring about this culture into practice and how is it maintained?

“IE is a small setup established on the same line as TEO. We have developed a culture of Trust, Respect, Transparency, Quality and Commitment. In both organizations besides having an organizational hierarchy for the sake of operations we don’t differentiate between staff boy and a senior manager”

How many hours of work should one put into their goals and objectives before they become successful?

“Life has many roles for you as an individual. You are not only an employee or a business owner you’re also a father, a son and a husband. Each role has its own demand – The Quran tells us two things – We give each of those around us their due rights or we create an environment of injustice with regards to our relationship with them. What this means is that your wife, your children, your friends and your parents should not suffer due to your career. Each of them deserve their dues from your time.”

“Often, many of us for the sake of our career give up on time with our families. This is an act of injustice towards them.”

“As a Muslim and as a citizen always remember never to give all your energy towards 1 role.”

What is a better organization in your opinion, one based on products or one based on projects?

“At the end of the day everything revolves around a product; most of our customers being provided services are actually product customers.

How do you deal with failure?

“I consider failure learning. Once it happens one needs to identify his mistakes. Having faith in Allah (God) is especially important in this regard. One needs to understand that events are designed someplace else”

“One needs to understand that Allah loves you more than 70 mothers could. If a single mother can never imagine hurting you then how can Allah hurt you? When failure happens it maybe due to Allah calling to you for some attention towards Him! Or maybe He thinks that this particular objective we wanted to achieve is not good for us. One should always have faith and trust in Allah and His plans and have a solid connection with Him– that is the key to overcome failure”

What kind of approach to entrepreneurship do you recommend? Jumping out into the wide open sea or having a slow calculated approach to problems?

“The way I see it is that business should be meaningful. Back in the day, I still remember I had a business opportunity via an HR company that wanted to outsource Pakistani resource to the Middle East. I did not take part in it since I didn’t believe it to be meaningful.”

“Career is not our religion and is certainly not the Quran. Taking a huge risk is not justified if it will eventually harm your family and those around you. Islam defines a limit for everything, even for charity we have been advised to take moderate path so that we do not regret later on. We require a careful and balanced approach towards life and should also have such an approach towards our career”

Who is your greatest inspiration from the larger than life entrepreneurs that have come and gone into this world?

“The biggest inspiration for me is that the honest businessman would be raised with the Prophets. This is the ideal that I follow. Business should be purposeful and done via the permissible method. Our needs are limited and we don’t have to go all out to satisfy all our desires. Other than that I think the HAKAAS group and their NGO – Ali trust is quite inspirational.”

“Riphah is also doing a great job. I recently interviewed an IT guy for PHP development and I was pretty much impressed by professional environment he is enjoying at their IT department. They have a pretty good radio channel going as well”

Enough talk about work, what are your hobbies? What do you like to do in your past time?

“Giving time to my family, gaining knowledge on religion (Islam) formally. Prior to this I had a great hobby of trekking. It is a great sport !”

What is the secret to your happiness?

“Allah (God) has given a great life. Respect that I get from people always moves me. The biggest secret to happiness is the connection with Allah”

Where do you see Pakistan in 20 years from now?

“Industry is positive. The society is vibrant and we are growing at a rapid pace. However, geo-political changes we are witnessing raises serious concerns for everyone around the globe. However, we should still remain positive about the future.”

Where do you see yourself in 20 years from now?

“I wish to develop the 3 aspects of positive entrepreneurship through the existence of IE. 1- Contribute to the industry, society & country in general through meaningful business activity; 2 – Make IE a source of pure halal earning for everyone associated with it, by working within well-defined boundaries of Sharia; 3 – Utilize the profits to establish sustainable charity institutions and save something for the hereafter”

Thank you Mr. Nasir for your time, it was a great heartfelt honor to have met you and interview you. We really look forward to interacting with you again.

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