Ibrahim Qureshi did not need to work when he studied at Idaho State University and the University of California, Los Angeles. His father is the owner of one of the largest construction companies in Pakistan. But Qureshi quickly
Ibrahim Qureshi did not need to work when he studied at Idaho State University and the University of California, Los Angeles. His father is the owner of one of the largest construction companies in Pakistan. But Qureshi quickly noticed that most students held part-time jobs and not only earned money, but were gaining valuable work experience. So he got a job - first as a "runner" for a dormitory food service managed by Marriott International Inc. and later as an entry-level worker in a technology lab.
Today, Qureshi is the founder and chief executive of Raffles Pvt. Ltd., the first locally assembled, original-equipment manufacturer of branded computer systems in Pakistan. Most major national and multinational corporations are among Raffles' clients. Qureshi was recognized as the 2008 Businessman of the Year by Prime Minister of Pakistan Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani.
The beginnings of Raffles were humble. In 1999, when Qureshi started the company, the Pakistani market was flooded with counterfeit computers and pirated software smuggled into the country. Qureshi wanted not only to establish the first domestic computer brand, but also to bring to the market new opportunities, skills and innovation that go with licensed, legitimate businesses.
This was an ambitious goal. His firm needed local investment and hoped to develop partnerships with Microsoft Corporation, Intel Corporation and similar companies. But investors were reluctant to deal with an unknown start up, and the American technology giants were wary of Pakistan's business climate. Government agencies, which were in the position to validate Raffles through procurement, did not see much value in having licensed products.
It took a lot of convincing and educating by Qureshi. Despite the effort, in the first three years, Qureshi wasn't quite sure whether his company's local computer brand ever would succeed. But a breakthrough came when the Department of Information Technology in Punjab directed that all government organizations and educational institutions consider the Raffles system because the company was local and provided fast technical support and regular software updates.
From that point, Raffles gained more recognition, which led to the company increasing its market share, obtaining more licensing agreements and eventually expanding overseas.
The test of Qureshi's business acumen came with iRaffles, the first premium Apple computer store in Pakistan and a joint venture between Apple Computer Inc. and Raffles. When the store was ready to open in 2008, after a year of preparations, Qureshi suddenly faced demand depressed by tight credit and the global recession, with national political turmoil on top of that souring consumers' moods.
Qureshi decided to press ahead with the opening anyway. "With the right planning and push in the right direction, he hoped to persevere. After a tough first year, iRaffles persuaded some newly launched TV stations to use Apple products, which got the products noticed by viewers and, in turn, drove an increased demand for them.
Qureshi's credo seems to be ‘Push Yourself’ to the limit and never rest, and his aspirations go beyond making profits. Recently, he talked the provincial government of Punjab into forming a partnership with Microsoft designed to curb intellectual property piracy and bring innovation to the province. As a result of those efforts, a Microsoft innovation centre will launch soon in the first Software Technology Park in Lahore.
Qureshi’s vision is that the outside world will read it as a powerful signal that Pakistan is on the road to becoming a good place for investment.
Qureshi’s family wanted him to join his father’s construction business. But he believed that getting a good education is important in today’s challenging business world. So after graduating from a local university, he went to Idaho State University to get a bachelor’s degree and to University of California, Los Angeles, for a master’s in business administration. The education he got in the U.S. turned him from coal to diamond. He learned that many young Americans prefer to go on their own rather than rely on their parents’ position or connections as often happens in Pakistan. So when he returned to Pakistan, he started his own company.
Today, Qureshi is a successful businessman and his company, Raffles, is a leader in information technology in Pakistan. But he has faced many challenges. Initially, no major customers wanted to do business with his firm because it was unknown, and he insisted on dealing only in licensed software. But he kept pushing himself and working hard, patiently trying to convince potential customers that they offer a great value. Eventually, he succeeded.
What he has learned is that, if you have the right intentions, work toward your goal day and night, and don’t cut corners, there is no reason why you cannot reach it.
He believes that members of younger generations should think as entrepreneurs, no matter what they plan to do in life. You can start up your own small company, but whatever you do never lose confidence in yourself and your skills and try to persevere when you encounter problems. Never stop striving to excel.
If before you fall asleep you can remember one or two things you did that have made a difference, you’re on the right track.