First Global Data Corp, a Canadian company headquartered in Toronto, is a leader in financial services technology sector and one of the largest mobile technology developers with a customer base of over a million. FGDC is starting its business operations in Pakistan with Khalid Mahmood, a Pakistani-Canadian national, as CEO and Country manager of First Global Data Pakistan. Khalid Mahmood has been associated with FGD since 2008 and has a vast experience in Business and IT.
Khalid has been a Consultant with Hewlett Packard Education Canada and HP Pakistan, Comstar ISA and Citigroup Canada. He talks to Blue Chip about his new role as CEO & Country Manager Pakistan for FGD, his relocation to Pakistan, his business plans and his literary pursuits. He writes poetry in Urdu and has participated in numerous mushairas in Canada. He is currently working on his new book The Art of Bold Leadership.
What prompted First Global Data to enter the Pakistan market?
Khalid Mahmood: “Pakistan has a massive consumer market. There are more than 100 million cell phone subscribers and only 5 -10% of the market has been tapped so far. This was primarily the reason for First Global Data to enter into the Pakistani market.”
KM: What are your views on the popularity of non-banking funding alternatives facilitated through companies like First Global Data?
KM: “Branchless Banking caters to the un-banked economy globally, especially in third world countries. Africa is a prime example where branchless banking through mobile technology is a very practical and popular alternative to traditional banking. Pakistan, being a growing underdeveloped economy has a huge scope in this area and we, at First Global Data are trying to bridge the gap between consumers and banks, through our robust, mission critical and real time mobile and online solutions.”
You have a wealth of international experience in technology, what role can e-banking and mobile banking play in Pakistan’s economic development?
KM: “Pakistan has had a unique road map of getting to the current stage in online and mobile market. Unique non-collaborative and individual products have been servicing individual banks and telcos’ customers since 2009. A collaborative and cohesive All-Pakistan solution would give a huge thrust to the E and M transactions in Pakistan, hence creating an eco-system which will be able to tap a larger market. First Global Data’s ‘fonepay’ switch and network has the capability to create this All-Pakistan Eco-System which can enable customers to use the online and mobile platform to communicate between all banks and all merchants on the same network.”
What new technologies do you see emerging in the financial services sector?
KM: “I think there’s a big scope for more online payment systems, financial switch, e-commerce portals and transactions.”
What are your views on increasing regulatory scrutiny of global financing activity?
KM: “First Global Data is heavily regulated by FINCEN and FINTRAC. Compliance and monetary regulations have become a must for all organisations entering into the payment space, especially in countries like Pakistan. Data security and scrutiny is also a must for all such organisations trying to enter into the financial services and technology space and must be regulated through the State Bank.”
You are based in Karachi. When was FGD Pakistan established?
KM: “First Global Data is a Canadian publicly traded company, being traded in the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX-V). First Global Data in Pakistan is still in its infancy stage and is currently operating as a Franchise office of the Canadian entity, in Pakistan. We are going through our company’s registration and structuring phase in Pakistan at this moment.”
What challenges do you foresee in doing business here?
KM: “Starting a new business anywhere is tough. We’ve been lucky to have a few good partnerships in the initial stage. However, business ethics are very different here. Lack of regulations and law enforcement also creates some challenges. Lack of interest in taking initiatives and lack of response is also part of the work culture here and things take much longer here than they would in any other developed market. But in spite of all these challenges, Pakistan is a big market and has a lot of opportunities.”
Who are your main competitors in Pakistan?
KM: “In International Remittances we have Western Union, Money Gram and Zoom, but we are exclusive partners with Western Union for Digital transactions in Pakistan. There are a few solution providers in the mobile and online solutions space, but no one in Pakistan offers both the Remittance and E and M solution as a joint product. In addition, First Global Data’s switching technology is a one of its kind solution being offered in Pakistan.”
Who are your principal customers?
KM: “They are mainly Banks, Remittance, Financial Services and Retail Organisations.”
Having worked in Canada for 15 years are you facing any adjustment problems regarding work and social life?
KM: “It is difficult to adjust initially but once you make a few friends, there’s no place like Pakistan. It is home to me and the weather is awesome. Labour and personal help and services are also reasonably affordable. Security is a big issue, especially in Karachi but food and social life is amazing. I would love Pakistan to progress and prosper and may we all live in peace.”