Pakistanis living abroad, especially those living in the United States and Europe, spend most of their lives in a state of confusion. Many Asians in Western societies, especially Pakistanis, are unable to adapt socially. Thanks to their abilities, they succeed in business and in professional life, but most of them fail to play a significant role in society because the contradictions between the two civilizations isolate them mentally and socially.
Dilawar Syed, a Pakistani born in Sialkot, lost his father when he was quite young. He spent his early years at Aitchison College hostel, then moved to Ohio for graduate school after completing graduate school. He obtained a BA from the University of Texas, then an MBA from the prestigious Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. He has led software and healthcare companies in the United States for the past twenty years.
Dilawar Syed has been successful in his professional life, has made a name for himself in American society and has been noticed by the Obama administration. On several occasions since 2010, he has served on various White House economic committees, and a few months ago he was appointed as the State Department’s Special Representative for Business and Commerce. He is currently on his first visit to Pakistan since his appointment.
On this occasion, the famous political leader and businessman Zaka Ashraf hosted a dinner in his honor at his residence where we had a detailed discussion with Dilawar Syed. We learned at this meeting that even though he is a representative of the US government, Pakistan lives in his heart. In a brief conversation, he repeatedly expressed his desire to see Pakistan develop.
Regarding the relationship between Pakistan and the United States, he said that the geographical location and importance of Pakistan in the world are such that the world and the United States can never ignore it; Pakistan and the United States are natural allies. The economic problems facing Pakistan today can be overcome with the help of the United States. He said his visit to Pakistan is also proof that the United States attaches great importance to relations with Pakistan and wishes for better relations in the future.
Dilawar called Sialkot a very pure city as he spent his childhood in the city located in the northeast of Punjab. He spent the first part of his life there and still remembers his childhood memories very well. According to him, the lessons learned in Pakistan as a boy are still useful in his professional life today.
He said that Sialkot is a city where a person born in one social class can dream of rising to another class and making that dream come true. In this respect, Sialkot is different from other cities in Pakistan. The possibilities for individual development here are much higher than in other cities.
Dilawar said IT is a sector that can shape Pakistan’s future. He believes young people have a vital role to play if Pakistan’s destiny is to change. Pakistan’s IT sector has the potential to export $15-20 billion per year.
He shared that some venture capitalists have recently invested in Pakistani IT companies. When the investor sees profit, according to Mr. Dilawar, he does not care about risks or perceptions, does not care too much about the general environment and invests for his own profit. There is great potential in Pakistan’s IT sector. With a little care, this can make a big difference in exports. He said apart from that, textiles is also a sector that still has a lot of potential and cannot be ignored. The textile industry can also contribute significantly to increasing the country’s exports, and prominent Pakistani businessmen are associated with the sector.
In response to a question, he said it is unfortunate that businessmen in Pakistan are very quickly satisfied with their success, which is why only a few Pakistani companies stand out among the largest companies in the world. If you look at neighboring countries, billionaire businessmen have invested there in sectors other than their own industry. Pakistani businessmen also need to step out of their comfort zone, be mindful of finding new opportunities and think outside the box in order to be counted among the biggest companies in the world.
Dilawar Syed said that the world is changing very rapidly these days; it also creates new opportunities for new people. There is a lot of hope in Pakistan’s new generation that young people will work on new ideas and adapt to the way the world works.
He again mentioned Sialkot, saying that his sports industry faced a big challenge from China as everything was made by hand here, while with the advent of automation in China, the cost manufacturing of sports equipment could not be matched. Since the people of Sialkot were already supplying goods to the world market, they quickly adapted to the situation and today most of the industry in Sialkot is automated and conforms to international standards, which is why China could not take their market. This proves that if you modify your business and yourself according to the circumstances, then you can face greater risks and compete with stronger competitors.
Regarding his visit to Pakistan, he said he was very warmly received here. The way he was received by ordinary people, businessmen and government officials exceeded his expectations. Pakistanis do not see him as a representative of the US government but as their own Pakistani brother. I really feel like I’m back in my country.
Dilawar said he wants to promote Pakistani business and the state in Washington, but the primary responsibility here lies with Pakistanis themselves. “Where there are flaws, effort will be needed to correct them, and hard work will be needed to further improve our image in the world.”