Be All You Can Be – Because America Is The Land Of Opportunity

Forbes.com, the online service of Forbes magazine, has a very interesting article about America not really being the proverbial land of opportunity.

It suggests that America is not as great a land of opportunity as Americans like to believe. It makes many interesting points, but I had a strong counterpoint that I wrote for Forbes.com but am sharing with you here.

You all know how openly and boldly I do criticize American social flaws, excessively liberal coddling of society, the evil regime of neo-conservative George Bush and Dick Cheney, and its foolish, self-defeating and unfair foreign policy in the Middle-East and towards Palestine. But, that does not mean I do not love America and all that it, and its real people, and values, stand for.

This is my response to Forbes.


I was born into a good life – in a comfortable, upscale, professional, educated, well-off, well-known, respected and popular, loving and devoted family in Pakistan.

I had hardly any need to walk away from an established public/media identity (fame?), successful career (fortune?), family and comfort just for the sake of “Coming to America”.

But that is what I did in January, 1989.

I arrived with the total US$1000 that Pakistanis were allowed to leave with, and came to Manhattan to attend Columbia Business School for my MBA. Despite my delusions of greatness and brilliance, most of my friends will tell me I am neither brilliant, nor overly hard-working.

Yet, it was because I was in America that I COULD be whatever I wanted to be. I started my MBA studies in 1989, working with a Pakistani newspaper chain to help them establish and publish simultaneously a multi-city newspaper in 1991, and helping the Pakistani Embassy in the USA start a computerization effort.

I also started a small consulting service, a media-syndication business serving media clients in global markets from NYC, AND went on to become pioneer and founder of Internet email, as well as cofounder of the top level .PK domain for Pakistan. Soon thereafter I was also the one to bring MasterCard credit cards to Pakistan.

I had a challenging 1996 (when 90% of my six-figure income from two global clients dried up within 2 months) but was fortunate to join first a start-up, then a Fortune 50 NY-based company for a few years, and then back to being CEO of my own startup.

I am proud of my Pakistani heritage, but I am even more proud of being an American for just a few years and already living the American Dream far more, and far better, than many of my fellow American even dare to dream.

I am NOT rich by any stretch of the imagination – but even as a mere “technology professional” and “media expert” I have everything any Billionaire in the USA can have. From oceanfront homes in NY and FL, to flying small planes, to having a small “fleet” of boats from 23-40 feet in two states, I probably enjoy an incredible life more than I can even tell people for fear of being accused of showing off.

I can meet, see, date, love, marry (if I was not Happily Single!), befriend, or associate with anyone, of any race, religion or country.

I can (and do) say and write anything positive or critical that I want about anyone (even about the American government or its policies) on my blogs as well as on radio and TV, from CNN to Fox News. I can charge hundreds of Dollars per hour for my time as a business consultant, or work in child welfare or any other cause that I choose.

Despite all this, yes, I am nowhere near my fullest potential. And, that is because I need to be more focused, not because America does not offer ample opportunity to everyone. It is because I am in America that I do still have the opportunity to pursue my 100 other dreams.

Yes, I AM behind in publishing the books and screenplays I have partly written. I do have to be more diligent about hunting venture (not vulture) capital for my small portfolio of Web 2.0 startups that help monetize social networking and content online.

I still have to make time to play Tennis and learn to ski and swim (yes, it’s shameful, I can barely swim despite my flying/boating passions). I only half-joke when I say that my list of pending Things To Do is 7-10 years long. And, on top of all that, I do need to finish up the patent drawings and claims to file the 22 patent applications I have pending for different products.

America is surely not perfect, but even people who complains about it do not, and would not, choose any other country to live, work, play or even dream in. Thank you America.

Imran Anwar
http://imran.com


I would love to hear from native born Americans, immigrants living in America and non-Americans who dream of coming to America (as long as they speak English πŸ˜‰ and will not come to burden society and raise my taxes πŸ™‚ ).

So, “Dare to Dream, Dare to Speak, Dare to Be All You Can Be”.

Imran

Advertisements

Pssst, Want To Make Money Monetizing Social Networking Instead Of Time-Wasting Social NOT Working?

FaceBook, MySpace, linkedin, and so many other social networking sites offer great ways to connect with people – and lose touch with reality (and the total time spent on a computer). That is even before location-aware GPS and RFID devices, married to addictive platforms like FaceBook, Twitter and MySpaceTime.net (more on that later) make social networking mean even more being social and not working even during working hours.

It is so ironic that just about 16 years I wrote an article contradicting people’s then assertion that computers and the Internet were going to make us all anti-social.

Having started what was considered the first online matrimonial sites, at http://imran.com, I dared to disagree.

I felt that though we may spend more time on our computers, the Internet would actually help us find that one in a million connection from places around the world we could never have gone or known or met that person.

Little did I realize how social networking would grow. Lesson learnt, something that you consider merely a social observation, or the earliest makings of a trend, must be pursued zealously even as the trend changes shapes and directions from market forces. If you are riding, even shaping, it along the way, your opportunities to start something huge are….well, huge.

Of course, as is my forte, I have a knack for starting new things. But, in the past I also had a “rebel without a cause” habit of not sticking around in such businesses long enough to become a millionaire off them. So, my advice is to never lose your idealism – as that is what will help you achieve the impossible. But, temper that idealism with pragmatism.

Wanting something to be a commercial success does not necessarily mean you “sold out” your dream. Take an alternate view. If you work hard and make Project X a huge money-making success, even if you have to sell the company to investors or venture capitalists, you did not sell out.

All you did was leverage Project X to give you the freedom to freely experiment and play with your many other some-crazy some-great ideas without being worried about getting funding for them. That can take you from being a “serial entrepreneur” to a “parallel serial entrepreneur”, capable of trying multiple new ideas and businesses and achieving success far beyond what Project X alone would have given you.

In my own case, idealism was a strength, but it was also definitely a huge liability. Usually, I sat back and a few years later watched someone else do the same thing, with funding instead of personal funds, and grow rich/er. I saw the same thing as online dating grow into a huge business with the likes of match.com and others many years after I had launched the first matrimonials database.

When I started Internet email for my native country of Pakistan, I also became “co-owner and co-founder” of the .PK top level domain with my friend and neighbor, the technical genius Ashar Nisar, who went on to establish PKNIC to manage the ccTLD.

Besides getting a kick out of being called “father of the Internet” (at least in Pakistan), I even gave many people free email addresses on imran.pk (the country’s first email provider and ISP) to promote email. But, never could I have imagined that sticking around giving something for free I could later have sold it to a giant corporation as hotmail.com did a few years later. Oh, well. Live and learn.

Today, FREE is a valid business model. If you grow a business large enough, no matter how much money it is losing, as long as you have enough users, someone will buy you out for millions of Dollars.

When I started writing an online journal and political opinions (Occasionally Obnoxious, Obviously Outspoken Opinions) at http://imran.com in 1995-96, little did I know that I could have built some sort of “blogging” empire on that.

Once again, despite having an MBA and thinking of myself as a savvy entrepreneur, I missed the boat. So, look around you – some of the very ordinary problems you are solving daily without thinking twice may hold within them huge business opportunities. First, recognize them. Then, go for them with everything you’ve got.

In 1995 I became a heavy GPS user in boating and later in aviation as a pilot. In 1998-2000 I became CEO of EverTrac, among the first out the gate selling RFID and GPS based solutions. Alas, as usual, like Panasonic’s slogan, I was just slightly ahead of my time.

Fortunately, EverTrac and my team survived the dot-com bust, but only because we were gobbled by a Fortune 50 level company – which did nothing with what they bought. Lesson learnt. It’s important to survive, but if you sell out to a big company, try not to feel heartache when they don’t make any use of the technology.

But, this current new momentum of GPS based devices we are seeing will prove I was on the right…. umm.. EverTrac?

Hopefully, this time, with my current projects, covering GPS, social networking and mobile-monetization – I’ll actually make some “real” money if I can sell something to a Google or Yahoo or, some even smarter business!

If that does not happen, I guess the pattern (or call it the Corporate Culture of an Entrepreneur) here is that I love to start new things, just before their time, that others make billions off later. But, so what? The sheer joy of starting something new, taking something from an idea that everyone says is dumb, or will never work, and making it at least take shape, get launched, and become popular is, in itself, a huge reward.

So, feel free to call me about what I an doing now. Surely I can help you become a Web 2.0 multi-millionaire doing whatever I am too lazy (or not smart enough πŸ™‚ ) to make money from!

Good luck and God Speed, fellow entrepreneurs.

Real World News Of Real World News Media Making News In Virtual World

Recent news items mention how CNN, the global, respected, cable news leader, has established a presence in Second Life, a virtual world online.

Even though I have cautiously resisted jumping on the Second Life bandwagon (for fear of wasting time even more than I do at present), this seemingly innocuous news item has far greater long term impact on an industry, and society, than, say, Citibank or McDonald’s creating a presence.

For the most part, even large companies like these are merely touching the tip of the benefits iceberg that a real viable virtual world presence will bring businesses in real world terms.

News, by its nature, is the most well suited to that virtual world being leveraged in the real world.

A virtual burger sold by McDonald’s will not fill my hunger, virtual or real. Sure, some bank’s virtual branch could lend me virtual money in Second Life to buy some virtual property there – while they could charge me a fee in the real world, costing me real Dollars.

But, a virtual CNN reporter asking me a question of my virtual persona (especially if it is based on my true identity) can get the same valuable (or useless) insights as if they had met me in Atlanta or New York.

A citizen journalist in Pakistan could provide detailed accounts of dictator Pervez Musharaff’s latest hooliganism against journalists, judges and the Constitution of Pakistan in a virtual world, far quicker, safer and better than than it could be done in the real world.

That is one small aspect and there are many more. Here are the key points to keep in mind particularly for large businesses:

– Real world businesses can be in virtual worlds merely for appearing virtually cool

– Some large businesses can make small incremental revenues quickly in the real world by leveraging “services” delivered in the virtual world

– News media are ideally positioned to leverage virtual world presences for real world benefits far greater than other industries can experience at this stage.

What do you think – “really”?

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Beats Bush Rice Pudding For World Peace

My sweet tooth (more like sweet teeth!) mean there are few desserts, and hardly any ice-creams, that I do not like. But, among my favorites are Ben & Jerry’s flavors, along with Hagen Daz and many others.

I have been a fan of B&J’s ice-creams from before they showed the courage to take the challenge of exposing our government’s, especially the Bush administration’s, follies and foolish policies.

Obviously I just consume massive quantities of Chunky Monkey, Chubby Hubby, Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dreams, Half Baked, and many other flavors just to support Ben and Jerry be great corporate citizens. Fine, don’t believe me!

Anyway, when I saw a link to it, I was happy to become a fan of their “fan page” on FaceBook. I saw that they have actually created several flavors and brands in support of world peace.

During the same Facebook session, I clicked on the page of a very interesting person in Israel, who had connected to me. On his page, in a section called The Wall, which is standard on most FaceBook profiles, it was very heartening to see Palestinian and Israeli members, writing literally side-by-side, for world and middle-east peace.

It was just a coincidence. But one that reminded me again that individuals, like Yaakov Ort and Ben & Jerry (as people and as a business), can, do and will achieve far more for world peace with simple web pages, than President Bush ever could, even if he had thought about actually trying.

Even just by naming some flavors for World Peace, Ben and Jerry has/have done more for peace around the world, than President Bush did in 8 years. Even with his FaceBook profile, people like Yaakov, do more than Rice can do inviting world leaders for photo-ops.

Of course, Bush still has a SO many weekends left to solve the Mid-East problem, Darfur, and other issues. Many effective techniques are at his disposal. He can have the conflicting parties come and solve it all in day — perhaps by having some (kosher/halal, one hopes) hamburger cookoffs at his ranch.

I am not sure what dessert they serve at the Bush ranch. Surely it is not Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream…

Perhaps the dessert is Rice pudding — served on a water-board?

As I wrote in a comment on one of the profiles on FaceBook… Peace, with Dignity, and Equal Justice, to All.

Can “Atom” Bomb? Imran’s Law of Expectations

Sharon Gaudlin’s article in ComputerWorld April 3, 2008 begins: “With Intel Corp. betting so heavily on the mobile Internet device market exploding in the next several years, industry analysts are wondering if the fledgling business can live up to the expectations.”

Intel has named the technology/chips in question ATOM. So, I guess, the question is, will Atom bomb in the marketplace?

I think some of the comments from analysts like Charles King suggest that might be the case. “For a market now in its infancy to grow that fast in just five to 10 years would be an enormous growth curve – one that may not be realistic, especially with so many people satisfied with today’s iPhones and other smart phones, said Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT Inc. in Hayward, Calif.”

I think King’s comments are an example of Imran’s Law of Expectations: “Any technology can be sufficiently overhyped to be perceived as failing to meet expectations, even if it is commercially successful in the market.”

Yes, Intel (and others) will overhype this chip, this technology and this market demand. But the market 5 years from now will be far different from current form factors, so using those as benchmarks is surely a silly way to analyze the potential for this technology. The market may be smaller than Intel’s hype, it may be bigger than analysts guesses, but it will be BIG. Big enough to be commercially successful.

Five years ago people using handheld PDAs could not have foreseen millions of iPhones in people’s pockets today. As Apple readies its iPhone 2 device for release shortly, with even more functionality, it will be even more likely to hit its target of number of units sold.

I can only imagine what general magic Apple, and its many copy-cat product designers will do when Intel’s Atom and others’ even more exciting technologies become available to them to design the next generation of cool new products.

What do you think?

Technorati Tags:
, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Is Indian Outsourcing Industry Losing Out To Other Sources?

Someone posted an interesting question on LinkedIn, that I have also seen being asked in other places, whether India was not the top outsourcing destination and why?

From discussions I have had with various people, and my own observations, I think that, yes, India’s value as an outsourced services provider has increased in volume but is now less of a cost advantage to client companies. Quality has suffered, and many American companies in particular have pulled back from Indian operations.

While it will take some time for India to fall off its perch as the main focus of IT and even other professional services outsourcing, IT is beginning to show some changes.

Several factors are at play. In the past Pakistan, etc. could not really come close to what Indian companies could offer in a scalable manner. Such countries are getting better, though India still has far more momentum.

A major problem, besides India’s poor infrastructure, is the fact that GOOD Indian engineers can now command salaries not a small but a significant fraction of salaries for similar positions in the USA.

Additionally, the quality of resources being churned out, almost mass-produced, by the professional/educational system there is not at par with what Indians have previously built a great reputation on. So some clients are starting to see significant declines in quality and significant increases in the amount of hand-holding or reiterations needed to get things right.

That still does not mean it is a slam dunk for Pakistan, Bangla Desh, etc. to steal India’s thunder. India still offers far greater stability than, say, Pakistan can – so a US businessman is not going to worry too much about being beheaded during a trip to India.

So, yes, India is vulnerable to good competition on cost with good quality work. But, it is not on the way out.

Certainly many Pakistani and other countries’ companies are leveraging that. But, I do not see Pakistan’s built-in tendency to self-destruct any great opportunity going away anytime soon. Having been born in Pakistan, I have been an entrepreneur in Pakistan in the 80s. I know how tough it was then – even before suicide bombings became a problem. Now, suicide bombings targeting Pakistanis are a DAILY occurrence. I can only imagine how difficult it would be for a Pakistani company to convince Americans or any foreign clients to visit and freely move about the country.

I surely respect those that are trying to do it in the even worse situation of law and order they face. Their job is not going to be easy to even catch up to India, much less get ahead. But, time, effort and rising Indian costs can give them a better foot in the door than ever in the past.

In the meantime, Indians being far more strategic and better business-minded thinkers, are doing a great job not just moving up the “food chain” in services they provide, but are also leveraging global capital markets to turn the tables and buy American and European companies.

I do not see Pakistan’s biggest business, industry and media tycoons thinking or being far sighted beyond the lengths of their own noses.

What do you think?