Invest in Pakistan Summit: Can Pakistan Benefit From US-China Tech War?

About 200 Pakistani-American and other American investors met at Invest in Pakistan Summit in Silicon Valley on October 3, 2019 at San Jose Sheraton. It was hosted by the Pakistan Embassy in Washington DC. One of the sessions I found interesting dealt with the opportunities presented to Pakistan by US-China technology war sparked by US President Trump's actions against Chinese technology giants Huawei and ZTE.  In response to the US threat to restrict access to American core technology, China is aiming to develop and produce 40% of the semiconductors it uses by 2020 and 70% by 2025, according to Washington-based CSIS report. It is estimated that China needs about 500,000 engineers to achieve this goal. Can Pakistan, a reliable Chinese ally, train and provide some of these engineers?



US-China Tech War:

The technology war between the United States and China has been going on with the roll-out of the 5G next generation broadband wireless technology.  China has developed its 5G technology in an attempt to become independent of the technology developed and controlled by companies in the United States and other western nations.  US has been actively trying to stop adoption of Chinese company Huawei's 5G technology in Europe, East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. So far, the US has had limited success while China's Huawei is continuing to win customers around the world.




Tech Supply Chain Bifurcation:

President Trump has also attempted to block Chinese companies' access to semiconductor components and software developed and sold by US companies. Both Huawei and ZTE have been riding a roller coaster with President Trump's daily tweets on this issue. It has affected reliable access to communication chips, Android operating systems and Google apps store.

The net result of it is that the Chinese have lost faith in US companies' reliability. They are now seeking to to create their own supply chain free of companies from US and its close allies in Europe, East Asia and elsewhere.




China's Plans:

China is currently a net importer of technology. The country wants to move “up the value chain” from final product assembly using imported components to creating advanced technology in China itself, but imports of chips and technology will be the norm for many years to come, according to a report by James Lewis of Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) based in Washington DC.

As of now, only 16% of the semiconductors used in China are produced domestically, and only half of these are made by Chinese firms. It is dependent on foreign suppliers for advanced chips. China aims to produce 40% of the semiconductors it uses by 2020 and 70% by 2025, according to the CSIS report.



Opportunity For Pakistan:

China will need 500,000 engineers trained in chip development over the next 5 years to meet its goal of producing 70% of semiconductors within the country, according to Pakistani-American entrepreneur Dr. Naveed Sherwani who presented at the Invest in Pakistan Summit in Silicon Valley.

Naveed and his wife Sabahat Rafiq see this as an opportunity to train a significant number Pakistani engineers in semiconductor chip development to meet China's needs. This will help develop Pakistan's tech-oriented human capital and open up the possibility for Pakistan to build its own chip design and development industry.

Sabahat said she is already training some engineers at an institute in Lahore for this purpose.  She is hoping to expand it to accommodate more trainees in near future.

Naveed currently heads SiFive, a Silicon Valley startup specializing in RISC V microprocessor cores for customized systems on chip (SoC) development.  RISC V is an open source chip architecture developed at UC Berkeley. It is the hardware equivalent of open source Linux OS software.  Naveed is promoting SiFive in both China and Pakistan for "low-power embedded microcontrollers (as small as 13.5k gates) to multi-core applications processors".

Cloud Design:

Naveed talked about the availability of cloud-based advanced chip design tools that Pakistani chip designers can take advantage of. Among the top vendors offering such tools is  Amazon Web Services (AWS).

AWS says it "offers a secure, agile, and scalable platform with a comprehensive set of services and solutions for high performance design, verification, and smart manufacturing, supporting electronic design automation (EDA) and rapid semiconductor innovation in the cloud. Semiconductor companies, including fabless and integrated device manufacturers, and their IP and foundry partners can benefit from the massive scale of AWS infrastructure to design next gen connected products".

Here's how AWS describes its cloud-based chip design tools offering:

"Semiconductor design simulation, verification, lithography, metrology, yield analysis, and many other workloads benefit from the scalability and performance of the AWS Cloud. For example, compute performance for these applications is enhanced by latest generation EC2 instance types, including the z1d. Run more jobs per core with z1d, the fastest single thread performance of any cloud instance delivering 4GHz sustained CPU, 16 GiB RAM per core, and local NVMe storage. Our virtually unlimited cloud storage and high performance computing (HPC) capability enable you to innovate faster, rapidly design and verify new products, and scale seamlessly to meet increasing demand".

Summary:

US-China technology war has recently been triggered by US President Trump's actions against Chinese technology giants Huawei and ZTE.  In response to the US threat to restrict access to American core technology, China is aiming to develop and produce 40% of the semiconductors it uses by 2020 and 70% by 2025, according to the CSIS report. China needs about 500,000 engineers to achieve this goal. Can Pakistan, a reliable ally, train and provide some of these engineers? Pakistani-American entrepreneur Dr. Naveed Sherwani and his wife Sabahat Rafiq believe the answer is an emphatic Yes. This will help develop Pakistan's tech-oriented human capital and open up the possibility for Pakistan to build its own chip design and development industry.


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Comments

Riaz Haq said…
#China enables #Pakistan to become a #defense exporter. #Technology transfers from China have enabled Pakistan to begin producing #military hardware on its own. It's true with the fighter jet that now forms the backbone of #Islamabad's defense strategy.
https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/China-enables-Pakistan-to-become-a-defense-exporter

When Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan began a high-profile trip to Beijing on Tuesday, he was closely shadowed by influential army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa. But while Khan met with senior Chinese leaders and businessmen, Bajwa was being received by senior army generals, an indication of the close defense ties between the countries.

Those ties are so close, in fact, that China is helping Pakistan become a defense exporter that sells arms to countries like Myanmar and Nigeria.

Pakistan has relied on Chinese military hardware for more than five decades, though Islamabad has used every opportunity to also gain access to Western defense equipment, notably from the U.S.

Pakistan's leaders have long lamented their country's lukewarm ties with the U.S., which have sometimes resulted in reduced arms supplies. This contrasts to the situation with China, which has gradually but consistently nurtured Pakistan as a close ally.

Technology transfers from China have enabled Pakistan to begin producing military hardware on its own. This is true with the fighter jet that now forms the backbone of Islamabad's defense strategy. Pakistan is also increasingly foraying into the production of tanks and other equipment for land forces thanks to technology transfers from China.

Similarly, Chinese hardware is allowing Pakistan to expand its navy.

According to senior government officials who spoke to the Nikkei Asian Review, in the past year Pakistan has redoubled its push to sell batches of JF-17 Thunder fighters that it has built with Chinese assistance. Pakistani government officials said the JF-17 Block III, a version of the JF-17 that will be rolled out in 2020, will include more advanced radar, additional weaponry and other new technologies.

Officials in Islamabad say China has repeatedly helped Pakistan create a more commercially feasible defense industry so that purchasing expensive hardware does not cripple the country's already weak economy.

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"Affordability and high quality are the main selling points of the JF-17," said retired Air Marshal Shahid Latif, a former Pakistan Air Force general previously involved with the JF-17 production project. Encouraged by the publicity given to Myanmar's purchase, Pakistan in the past year has discussed future sales to Malaysia and Azerbaijan as well as sales of additional fighters to Nigeria, which now has three JF-17s.

In the coming years, Pakistan's reliance on Chinese military hardware will grow. China has signed a contract to supply eight new submarines to Pakistan's navy, the largest defense deal ever between the countries. Although neither party has revealed the value of the contract, Western defense analysts say it could be worth from $4 billion to $5 billion depending on weapon systems and other add-ons.
Riaz Haq said…
A More Peaceful #Pakistan Puts On An IT Charm Offensive In #SiliconValley. #Technology #Investment via @forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/dbloom/2019/10/14/a-more-peaceful-pakistan-puts-on-an-it-charm-offensive-in-silicon-valley/#3dd803901841

Pakistan is pushing its IT sector to U.S. companies and investors, hoping international deals will translate to a bottom-line boost for the country’s struggling economy.

The most visible part of this charm offensive came earlier this month with a day-long Silicon Valley conference in San Jose, Calif., backed by the Pakistani government.

“If I were to look at our overall economic performance, the IT sector comes out as one that has performed the best,” said Asad Majeed Khan, the Pakistani ambassador to the United States and one of the conference speakers. “The whole idea of doing the tech summit was to inform the companies in the Silicon Valley about what is our potential and what is it we can do together. ”

More than 200 attendees heard pitches from 14 Pakistani startups seeking venture capital, along with panels on microelectronics, software development, artificial intelligence, gaming, medical innovation, and venture capital funding.

“Over the years, the government has not done as much as it should have in terms of focusing on expanding the IT sector,” Ambassador Khan. “In past two or three years, though, we’ve seen some phenomenal growth.”

In part that’s because the country’s charismatic new prime minister, former international cricket star Imran Khan, has made the economy his top priority.

“The economy is his primary and principal focus,” Ambassador Khan said. “The manner in which he’s approaching foreign policy is rooted in his desire to turn around the economy and provide jobs for the people.”

As part of a broader set of initiatives, the country is trying to grow its already substantial tech sector and attract international investment, especially from the United States and neighboring China, which already has built a vast deep-sea harbor and naval port in Gwadar, on the Arabian Sea, as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Pakistan already generates at least $4 billion a year in IT exports, though the ambassador said the number is likely higher because some IT-related payments get lumped in with international remittances. The biggest areas of operation are software development, Business Processing Offices and call centers. Now, the country hopes to move into more high-end sectors such as AI, gaming and visual effects. One potential opportunity discussed at the San Jose conference is moving into RISC-V microchip fabrication and export.

“Our IT success story is not as widely known and as widely shared as it should be,” Ambassador Khan said. “If you were to only compare the numbers, the actual potential, then Pakistan has really come a long way in terms of harnessing the IT potential.”
Riaz Haq said…
Can a Negative Decision at the #FATF Bolster Hardliners in #Pakistan? The country has taken verifiable actions against militant groups, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba (Let) and implemented tough laws to curtail #terror financing. #India
@Diplomat_APAC https://thediplomat.com/2019/10/can-a-negative-decision-at-the-fatf-bolster-hardliners-in-pakistan/

Later this week, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is set to release its findings concerning Pakistan’s case at the forum. Early reports from the ongoing meeting in Paris suggest that the country may evade blacklisting by the forum. However, it’s still expected that Islamabad will come under a lot of pressure as the majority of the recommendations by the FATF have only been implemented partially.

The case’s outcome will have significant implications not only for Pakistan, but also for the region. A critical outcome may prove to be a blow to the country’s moderate voices within the national security establishment and civilian elite that are working to push against the hardliner’s support base within various institutions.

From Islamabad’s perspective, the worst outcome would emerge in the form of the country being placed on the blacklist, which can virtually choke Pakistan’s struggling economy in the coming months. Policymakers in Islamabad believe that they have done enough in the time given to the country and that moving forward, there is a strategy in place to work on the remaining recommendations. Predictably, Pakistan is expecting an appreciation for the country’s compliance with the FATF’s recommendations and other efforts to contain terror financing and militant groups.

Temporarily, the country’s government has been able to contain groups whose politics are tied to the issue of Kashmir. However, it’s unclear what happens in the coming months if Pakistan’s case gets knocked down at the forum. It’s important to note that the current government in Pakistan is trying to implement the FATF’s plan at a time when religious hardliners in the country have everything to gain from what’s happening in the neighborhood, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir.

Over the last year, Pakistan has taken verifiable actions against militant groups, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba (Let) and implemented tough laws to curtail terror financing. All of this has not been verifiable in the past. Moreover, the emerging narrative within Pakistan’s policymaking circles is one that focuses on discouraging and delegitimizing the so-called Afghan or Kashmir focused jihadi groups and their politics. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent statements that anyone trying to enter Jammu and Kashmir will be an enemy of Pakistan and Kashmiris are unprecedented and point toward the change that the world has demanded from Islamabad over the last couple of decades.

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Moreover, it is unprecedented that there has not been a single major street protest calling for jihad in the wake of New Delhi’s decision to abrogate Article 370/35A of the Indian constitution – a decision that put Khan in a very tough position domestically. Arguably, even if Pakistan is taking all these actions due to the looming pressure from the FATF, it’s something that is encouraging and shows that such pressure can produce sustainable results.

In the context of these developments, the international community invested in seeing a nuclear Pakistan becoming a democratic and politically stable state, should ensure that Islamabad stays away from the blacklist. The acknowledgment of the country’s efforts will assist in undermining hardliners among the ruling elite and the extremist groups that want to go back to its previous policy of using militants as a tool of foreign policy.

The prospect of Pakistan’s blacklisting may end up reviving far-right religious groups that have called for the revival of the state’s jihad Policy in the region, particularly in Kashmir.
Riaz Haq said…
Atoms, shoe #ecommerce #startup founded by #Pakistani husband-wife team of Waqas Ali and Sidra Qasim, nabs $8.1M investment for sneakers you can buy in quarter sizes for each foot. Investors include Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and Kleiner-Perkin. https://techcrunch.com/2019/08/30/atoms-nabs-8-1m-for-shoes-you-can-buy-in-quarter-sizes-and-separate-left-right-measurements/

Atoms, makers of sleek sneakers that are minimalist in style — “We will make only one shoe design a year, but we want to make that really well,” said co-founder Sidra Qasim — but not in substance — carefully crafted with comfort and durability in mind, sizes come in quarter increments and you can buy different measurements for each foot if your feet are among the millions that are not exactly the same size — has raised $8.1 million.

The company plans to use the funding to invest in further development of its shoes, and to expand its retail and marketing presence. To date, the company has been selling directly to consumers in the U.S. via its website — which at one point had a waiting list of nearly 40,000 people — and the idea will be to fold in other experiences, including selling in physical spaces in the future.

This Series A speaks to a number of interesting investors flocking to the company.

It is being led by Initialized Capital, the investment firm started by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and Garry Tan (both had first encountered Atoms and its co-founders, Qasim and CEO Waqas Ali — as mentors when the Pakistani husband and wife team were going through Y Combinator with their previous high-end shoe startup, Markhor); with other backers including Kleiner Perkins, Dollar Shave Club CEO Michael Dubin, Acumen founder and CEO Jacqueline Novogratz, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, TED curator Chris Anderson, the rapper Chamillionaire and previous backers Aatif Awan and Shrug Capital.

Investors have come to the company by way of being customers. “The thing that I love about Atoms is that it isn’t just a different look, it’s a different feel,” said Ohanian in a statement. “When I put on a pair for the first time, it was a totally unique experience. Atoms are more comfortable by an order of magnitude than any other shoe I’ve tried, and they quickly became the go-to shoe in my rotation whenever I was stepping out. That wouldn’t mean anything if the shoes didn’t look great. Luckily, that’s not a problem, I wear my Atoms all the time and even my fashion designer wife is a fan.”

Even before today’s achievement of closing a Series A, the startup has come a long way on a relative shoestring: with just around $560,000 in seed funding and some of the founders’ own savings, Atoms built a supply chain of companies that would make the materials and shoes that it wanted, and developed a gradual but strong marketing pipeline with influential people in tech, fashion and design. (That success no doubt played a big role in securing the Series A to double down and continue to build the company.)

Within the bigger trend of direct-to-consumer retail — where smaller brands are leveraging advances in e-commerce, social media and wider internet usage to build vertically integrated businesses that bypass traditional retailers and bigger e-commerce storefronts to source their customers and sales more directly — there has been a secondary trend disrupting the very products that are being sold by using technology and advances in manufacturing. Third Love is another example in this category: The company has built a huge business selling bras and other undergarments to women by completely rethinking how they are sized, and specifically by focusing on creating as wide a range of sizes as possible.

So while companies like Allbirds — which itself is very well capitalised — may look like direct competitors to Atoms, the company currently stands apart from the pack because of its own very distinctive approach to building a mass-market business, but one that aims to make its product as individualised as possible.

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