Returning home to set up an IT company

Three Kashmiris left their lucrative careers to set up an IT company in Kashmir that is empowering youth and successfully conducting business with global companies

INSPIRING KASHMIRIS

MAJID MAQBOOL

About 10 years ago Tahir Qazi, a US based technology executive with extensive international business experience, along with two other friends having years of experience in IT sector, thought that it was time to contribute back to their people in Kashmir. Amin Bhat with 20-year industry experience and Fayaz Bhat, who was working in a software company in Yemen at that time, held several discussions with Tahir before deciding to leave their lucrative careers abroad. Despite initial struggle and many hurdles in their way, they successfully set up their company, iQuasar, which is the only Kashmir headquartered Technology Company with work or offices also in USA, Canada, Germany, South Africa and Western African countries, besides other places in India, like Bangalore.
A decade ago, Tahir was at Amin’s house in Northern Virginia discussing how to setup the company in Kashmir. They were exchanging Instant Messages with Fayaz who was 8,000 miles away in Yemen. Then they talked on phone to finalize a name, an initial structure, and a brief plan to get started.  “Amin and I had met in greater Washington D.C. area about 10 years ago and had started talking about opportunities to contribute back to our people in a meaningful way,” recalls Tahir who, with Amin, currently oversees the company in US.  He had known Fayaz from his NIT days in Srinagar, where they were engineering students. Amin and Fayaz came from the same locality in the Nishat area and had been talking to each other before engaging Tahir into their discussions. “We decided that Fayaz will leave his job overseas and return back to set up the operations in Srinagar first,” says Tahir who has a 20-year employment history abroad with reputed multinational companies. After that, they decided, Tahir and Amin would also leave their jobs at opportune times in an organized manner and join their company. 
A graduate of National Institute of Technology, Srinagar with a Master of Science from Virginia Tech and MBA from the prestigious Wharton School, Tahir has held many top positions such as Senior Manager, Director, and Vice President with reputed global companies like Cingular Wireless, AT&T and Comcast. Tahir is particularly adept in successfully leading multi-functional areas – from strategy, planning, and development to operations. He does this by providing the kind of strategic vision and meticulous management direction that consistently lead to exceptional individual and team performance. In his prior positions, Tahir has led the engineering, operations, project management, product development, and systems delivery functions with budgets of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Currently serving as the CEO of iQuasar, Tahir says their company is working to shatter the barriers between for-profit and nonprofit characterizations of a company. Tahir is also serving as the President of Kashmir Education Initiative (KEI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to help Kashmiri students achieve excellence through quality education.
Amin Bhat is a senior business and information technology executive with international business experience and has background in Information Technology, Sales & Marketing, HR & Recruitment, Humanities, and Hospitality. His 20-year industry experience includes positions such as Director and Vice President of Business Development & Talent Acquisition. A graduate of Osmania University, India and the National Council of Hotel Management, Amin is currently serving as the Chief Business Officer of iQuasar where he is responsible for setting the direction of the company in Information Technology Consulting, Sales and Marketing, Business Development, and Community Outreach. As board member and Secretary of KEI, Amin firmly believes that quality education is a panacea for solving social issues. He has a deep passion and interest in bringing quality education to the masses, especially to the less-fortunate.
As the Chief Operating Officer of iQuasar Software Solutions, Fayaz Bhat oversees the India based operations and provides overall leadership and vision in developing business process and knowledge process outsourcing initiatives of the company. Prior to iQuasar,  Fayaz has held many information technology positions such as a Project Manager, Lead Computer Architect, IT Solutions Implementer, and a Consultant  for a number of world class information technology companies including InfoSys India, National Informatics Center Government of India (NIC) and Yemensoft - a Yemen based Information Technology software Company. He also headed the Computer Engineering department of Jammu and Kashmir Bank. After completing his engineering degree in Electronics and communication, he traveled globally, providing IT services and consulting in banking, financial and government domains. A passionate entrepreneur and a hard working leader, he is spearheading operations despite all the hurdles that others in similar positions elsewhere don’t have to face.
Tahir, Amin and Fayaz held several discussions in the years prior to setting up the iQuasar office in Rangreth, Srinagar. All of them shared a deep sense of gratitude towards the society that gave them the education and made them who they are. They were aware of their obligations. They had a vision to do something in Kashmir that would help Kashmiri youth to become positive contributors in an increasingly connected global society. In simple words, says Tahir, while our mission was to create solutions and value, it was only possible when we helped others to realize their potential. “We thought of our leadership model to be like farmers, who provide water, fertilizer, support, take the weeds out, and soon the sapling becomes a big strong tree,” he says.
Over a decade of concerted efforts—and dedicated teamwork—has started to bear fruits. And the results are there as a testimony of their success despite all odds of working out from Kashmir. Today the US office of this company is on the list to become one of the fastest growing top 500 companies in America. It is the largest software development and knowledge process outsourcing services company in Kashmir with about 100 team members throughout the world. iQuasar was the first corporate house in Kashmir to organize a charity run event in 2008, in which about a thousand people participated, raising awareness and funds for the plight of orphans. It is also the first local company to provide free training and resources to aspiring IT engineers with a concept of helping them become self-organized learning teams. With clients like Comcast, the largest cable company in the world, and other similar Fortune 100 companies, iQuasar is creating jobs and opportunities wherever they operate. iQuasar has now become a registered software developer for Apple and has started to develop Apps for the popular iOS devices like iPhones and iPADs.
Initially, it was difficult for them to find the right technical and soft skills in Kashmir. As a result, they had had to put in thousands of hours of training in technical skills and basic soft skills like expressing ideas in a meeting, not being fearful about disagreement, communicating clearly, owning and managing plans and working with honesty and dedication. In the beginning, says Tahir, some employees didn’t realize that using iQuasar provided resources or time for doing work for others was really the same thing as stealing.  “Many would say something and mean something different and had a “chalta hai” attitude towards work,” he says. “We had to instill the values of honesty, hard work, excellence, loyalty, and discipline into our team by constantly talking about it, discussing it, and living it every day.” He says they were not hindered by hurdles in their way and kept on focusing on figuring out solutions.
Given the political uncertainty, immature infrastructure, and a very small pool of experts with relevant technical skills, it has not been easy for them to work in Srinagar or even in Jammu. “But those are like small pebbles in shoes for a team that wants to scale a mountain peak,” says Tahir. He says their team members have walked to work during heavy snowfalls because the roads weren’t clean for normal vehicular traffic. “They have kept the operations going during curfews by reaching office before 6 a.m. in the morning and leaving late at night after the curfew was lifted,” Fayaz adds. “They do it because they realize that we have to set a positive role model for others to follow. That despite difficult conditions, excellent results can be created. And that if we don’t provide our services in time and with quality, our customers have choices to go to our competitors elsewhere in the world,” he says.
On one occasion, Fayaz shares a funny, telling incident with a smile, their engineers in Rangreth office were having a conference call with a customer in United States and the cows roaming within the industrial complex started bellowing loud “moo” sounds outside the office building. After that incident, it became a practice to mute their phone whenever their team was not talking during a conference call. When the reliability of Internet connections in the Srinagar office became a problem, they would arrange connections from three providers, hoping that one would work.
Tahir believes when youth are treated with respect and given a learning environment, where they are part of something bigger than each individual, magical things can happen. Tahir, Amin and Fayaz believe their team members and managers are some of the best locally and that they treat their jobs as a mechanism to transform their own and others’ lives. We are very proud of our team, Tahir says, which is at par or in certain cases better than any other similar team in the world. “Our team members are some of the most resilient and honorable people and they are role models for those who want to earn an honest living,” says Tahir. “There is a lot of room to grow and make improvements, but the good news is that our team is aware of those opportunities and works tirelessly to become better every day.”
iQuasar leaders—Amin, Tahir and Fayaz – believe that Kashmiris are an honorable and resilient people with a lot of potential. However, Tahir says, there are no short cuts to success and instead of a focus on “what will I get,” a focus on “how can I contribute” will give us happiness and make us true leaders. “Leadership is not being in a position of power or authority, but leadership is an act of making a difference, no matter what position you are in,” he says. Our young people, he adds, need to see themselves as honest, upright, hardworking, and disciplined professionals. “They need to build excellent work habits: read a lot of quality material, write at least two pages of print quality English every day, have a passion to contribute, make plans and stick to them, keep their commitments, see customer or employer relationships as sacred connections, and strive for excellence in everything,” he emphasizes. “They need to shed the victim mentality or point to all the hurdles or wait for what the government will do. They must act to stand on their own two feet, take ownership of their careers, and feel accountable to learn and contribute.”
Tahir wants Kashmiri youth to shun the traditional “government job” mentality and 10 to 4 work hours. “Our peers in the rest of the world are working 18 hours a day and learning and growing much faster than we are,” he says. “Kashmiri youth need to prepare themselves to compete.” More importantly, he adds, they need to collaborate with each other and become self-organized learning teams. They need to ask themselves, he says, if Switzerland, for example, can become the banking capital of the world, why can’t we become the banking software capital of the world?
Amin, Tahir and Fayaz believe in what the success of their company proves – that all barriers are mental barriers, and they can be crossed to become productive, proud and equal members of the global community.
(Readers can check iQuasar blog at http://iQuasar.com and their Facebook page at https://facebook.com/iQuasarLLC lists career opportunities)

Lastupdate on : Tue, 30 Apr 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 30 Apr 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 1 May 2013 00:00:00 IST




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Returning home to set up an IT company

Three Kashmiris left their lucrative careers to set up an IT company in Kashmir that is empowering youth and successfully conducting business with global companies

INSPIRING KASHMIRIS

MAJID MAQBOOL

About 10 years ago Tahir Qazi, a US based technology executive with extensive international business experience, along with two other friends having years of experience in IT sector, thought that it was More



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