Sunday, May 1, 2016

OPEN Forum 2016: Pakistani Entrepreneurs Conference in Silicon Valley

OPEN Forum 2016 in Silicon Valley drew over 700  Pakistani-American entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, bankers, accountants, lawyers and high-tech executives to Santa Clara Convention Center on Saturday, April 30, 216. The forum featured keynotes by Qasar Younus, the Pakistani-American head of Silicon Valley's top incubator Y-Combinator, and  Atif Rafiq, Chief Digital Officer at fast food giant McDonald's Corp.

OPEN Forum 2016 Agenda:

The conference included presentations and discussions in four parallel tracks to inform and educate attendees on various aspects of starting and building businesses at different stages. In addition, there were panels on social entrepreneurship, women empowerment, inspiring Pakistani-American youth and dealing with the rise of Islamophobia in the United States. Also screened was a documentary "K2 and the Invisible Footmen" about the unsung mountaineering heroes of Pakistan's tallest and the world's second tallest mountain peak K2 and the film "The PHD Movie" about grad school.

Silicon Valley's Impact on Jobs in America:

The first keynote I attended in the morning was about order automation at fast food giant McDonald's. The effort is spearheaded by Atif Rafiq, a Pakistani-American who has been hired by the restaurant chain operator as its first Chief Digital Officer. After the presentation, I asked Atif as to how he sees the impact of his work on employment at McDonald's? Given the fact that the service sector is the largest employer in the United States, how would the ongoing service sector automation efforts impact the larger jobs picture?  Would the emerging gig economy a la Uber be enough to make up for service sector job losses?   Rafiq confessed it's a significant issue but he did not directly answer it.

Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, including Pakistani-Americans, are credited with creating millions of new jobs in new industries ranging from semiconductors to computers, communications and software  and biotechnology over the last several decades. The question is: Will the new industries spawned by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs help or hurt the overall employment in America?

Twin Forces of Globalization and Automation:

The twin forces of automation and globalization are now causing significant unemployment and underemployment in the United States. The impact of job losses and growing inequality are  the subject of the current election campaigns.

First, it was the manufacturing jobs that moved offshore in 1980s and 1990s in an effort to save costs and fatten profits. This forced many factory workers to move into service industries and take pay cuts. Now the service sector jobs are also falling prey to outsourcing and automation.

Instead of addressing the root causes of economic difficulties faced by many Americans, Republican front-runner Donald Trump's presidential primary campaign is blaming immigrants and Muslims for their problems. This is  giving rise to forces of racism, bigotry, xenophobia and Islamophobia in America.

Future of Capitalism and Democracy in America:

The success of American capitalism and democracy is built on the firm foundations of nearly full employment and a large middle class. The erosion of these two ingredients threatens the very foundations of America's peace and prosperity.

In response to high unemployment in 1930s, British economist John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) argued: "The government should pay people to dig holes in the ground and then fill them up." He advocated massive spending by government to stimulate demand when all else fails.

John Maynard Keynes:

 Who was Keynes?  Here is how UC Berkeley's Robert Reich described him a few years ago: "A Cambridge University don with a flair for making money, a graduate of England's exclusive Eton prep school, a collector of modern art, the darling of Virginia Woolf and her intellectually avant-garde Bloomsbury Group, the chairman of a life-insurance company, later a director of the Bank of England, married to a ballerina, John Maynard Keynes--tall, charming and self-confident--nonetheless transformed the dismal science into a revolutionary engine of social progress."

Keynes was clearly a very smart man. His ideas of modern Capitalism have created unprecedented wealth and lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. And his ideas may still help save capitalism yet again. However, what Keynes couldn't have imagined are the new heights of avarice and wickedness of the modern political-industrial elite in America that has threatened the very foundations of the system that brought them wealth and power. During recent decades, the behavior of American capitalists and politicians has been unbelievably self-destructive.

What Can Silicon Valley Do?

I think it's in the best interest of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, particularly Pakistani-American entrepreneurs, to pay attention to the economic difficulties being faced by many Americans who are losing jobs to automation and globalization. These difficulties lie at the root of growing xenophobia and Islamophobia. The Pakistani-American entrepreneurs need to think of new ways to help people who are being left behind. They need to explore ideas such as helping build new skills needed for the new economy, promote policy discussions on the idea of universal basic income and expansion of safety nets and development of new gig economy to ensure full employment with decent incomes. Failure to do so could lead to significant social strife and cause irreparable damage to the very foundations of the system that has brought great wealth and power to America as a nation.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Can American Capitalism Survive?

The Trump Phenomenon

Islamophobia in America

Silicon Valley Pakistani-Americans

Pakistani-American Leads Silicon Valley's Top Incubator

Silicon Valley Pakistanis Enabling 2nd Machine Revolution

Karachi-born Triple Oscar Winning Graphics Artist

Pakistani-American Ashar Aziz's Fire-eye Goes Public

Two Pakistani-American Silicon Valley Techs Among Top 5 VC Deals

Pakistani-American's Game-Changing Vision 

Minorities Are Majority in Silicon Valley 


r_sundar said...

Good. Hope this provides tangible business returns.

Majumdar said...

Prof sb,

pay attention to the economic difficulties being faced by many Americans who are losing jobs to automation and globalization. These difficulties lie at the root of growing xenophobia and Islamophobia.

Very good article as usual. But there is one thing I dont understand, how would Amerikkkans losing jobs to globalisation fuel Islamophobia - I can understand xenophobia, but not Islamophobia. After all it is the chaptas and Hindoos who are stealing their jobs, not Muslims.


Riaz Haq said...

Majumdar: "I can understand xenophobia, but not Islamophobia."

Islamophobia is a manifestation of xenophobia. It's all about the identity politics of fear that's driving Trump's campaign. Its victims include anything foreign, including religions such as Islam that are seen as foreign, even though Christianity is foreign too.

Majumdar: " After all it is the chaptas and Hindoos who are stealing their jobs, not Muslims."

Not entirely true. Indonesia and Malaysia are mostly Muslim. Mexicans are Catholics.

Riaz Haq said...

sundar: "Good. Hope this provides tangible business returns"

Please read the following and follow the links below:

Silicon Valley is home to 12,000 to 15,000 Pakistani Americans. Thousands of them are working at Apple, Cisco, Google, Intel, Oracle and hundreds of other high-tech companies from small start-ups to large Fortune 500 corporations. Pakistani-Americans are contributing to what Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee describe as "The Second Machine Age" in a recent book with the same title.

Pakistani-American Ecosystem:

Pakistani-American entrepreneurs, advisers, mentors, venture capitalists, investment bankers, accountants and lawyers make up a growing ecosystem in Silicon Valley. Dozens of Pakistani-American founded start-ups have been funded by top venture capital firms. Many such companies have either been acquired in M&A deals or gone public by offering shares for sale at major stock exchanges. Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs (OPEN) has become a de facto platform for networking among Pakistani-American entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. It holds an annual event called OPEN Forum which attracts over 500 attendees.

Riaz Haq said...

It’s No ‪#‎SiliconValley‬, but ‪#‎Pakistan‬ is Building Its Own Startup Scene. ‪#‎Technology‬

In the past five years, Pakistan’s startup ecosystem has grown from a nascent colony to a self-sustaining environment. Zameen, an online real estate startup based in Lahore, has ridden that startup wave in developing a Zillow-like app and website that allows users to search and buy real estate listings in Pakistan’s largest cities.

Like many famous U.S. internet companies, Zameen started with a gamble. In 2006, Zeeshan Ali Khan and his brother left their e-commerce business in the United Kingdom to move to Pakistan and started Zameen in their bedrooms. Back then, online-only services in Pakistan were rare, but Ali Khan followed the money coming into Pakistani real estate from expats living abroad—a million of whom lived in the United Kingdom. Now Zameen employees 500 people and has offices in nearly all major cities in Pakistan.

“ came into being when we realised there was a desperate need for a trustworthy online real estate enterprise in Pakistan, especially given the importance the average Pakistani attaches to property,” Ali Khan tells Newsweek in an email. “Back then the state of internet infrastructure in Pakistan was extremely poor but the offline property market was exploding. Facilitated by large investments from the Pakistani diaspora, people found that investing in real estate would earn them significant returns.”

Pakistan’s fast-growing economy and, perhaps more importantly, large English-speaking population has provided a backbone to encourage startups to form and work with foreign companies.

The country has seen startup hubs form around elite universities in cities like Lahore and Karachi—similar to Boston and San Francisco—in the last few years. The Punjab province, where Lahore is located, has been the major hotspot for startups in Pakistan. Plan9, the Punjab provincial government-run technology incubator, hosts over 80 startups. Ali Khan believes there are 140 startups in Lahore, a city of 5 million people.

But Pakistani startups are still minnows compared to those in Silicon Valley. Cultural and economic norms, like being predominantly reliant on cash for transactions, are big obstacles for startups. Despite leading the South Asian region in consumers using mobile payments, only 9 percent of Pakistani men and 2 percent of women have used mobile phones for money transfers. Around 39 percent of Americans have used mobile banking in 2015, according to a report from the Federal Reserve.

To accommodate its cash-based users, Zameen employs motorcycle riders to collect payments from Zameen agents across 30 Pakistani cities in person. “The situation is improving, and a lot of people are beginning to feel more comfortable with online payments and even mobile transactions,” says Ali Khan.

Earning public trust for a little-known startup—a concept now just becoming understood in Pakistan—was a big challenge as well. When Zameen began, it discovered most of the Pakistani property market undocumented, and reliable data was nearly non-existent.

Pakistani consumers, including Ali Khan’s family, had a hard time becoming comfortable with Zameen and its Silicon Valley-inspired ideas. “My family was a little apprehensive when I told them I wanted to start a business of my own,” Ali Khan says. “Today however, the attitudes have greatly changed, thanks to the startup ecosystem that is supporting the startup culture in Pakistan.”

The two biggest hurdles Zameen and fellow startups face are the low penetration rates of 3G/4G mobile Internet and the lack of support from its government. In 2015, only 22 million out of 182 million Pakistanis had 3G/4G technology, leaving little room for startups to continue growing and scale upwards with their online services.

Infrastructural issues like 3G/4G technology need the government’s help, but such support has been lacking, according to Ali Khan.

Riaz Haq said...

With #Trump as presumptive #GOP nominee, ‘It could get a lot worse for #Muslims in #America’ #Islamophobia

By Dana Milbank Opinion writer May 3 at 5:55 PM
My neighborhood of Chevy Chase is a leafy and peaceful slice of Northwest Washington. But this week, the news here is of a woman assaulted outside the local Starbucks by a Donald Trump supporter, she says — for the sin of being Muslim.

Police on Monday released surveillance video showing a heavyset white woman shouting at, and then pouring a bottle of liquid onto, a woman in a Muslim headscarf seated outside a Starbucks on a recent weeknight. Police are investigating a possible hate crime.

The victim said the attacker called her a “worthless piece of Muslim trash” and a “terrorist.” And the attacker said she was supporting Trump because he would send the Muslims “back to where you came from.”

“She mentioned this man’s name to me as a way of saying he’s going to put all of you out of this country,” the woman, who asked not to be identified, told me Tuesday.

But this is her country. She’s African American, born in Minneapolis, reared in Chicago and now living in the District — where, until now, she never thought she’d have a foul-smelling liquid poured on her for wearing a headscarf.

Asked about a system to register and track Muslims in the United States, Trump said, “I would certainly implement that — absolutely.” He said he would “certainly look at” closing mosques.

He falsely said there were “thousands” cheering the collapse of the World Trade Center from New Jersey, with its “heavy Arab population.”

Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

Trump continues at rallies to repeat an apocryphal story about U.S. Gen. John Pershing executing Muslim prisoners in the Philippines decades ago using bullets dipped in pig’s blood.

At a rally, a Trump supporter called President Obama a Muslim and said Muslims are “a problem in this country.” Trump allowed both of those statements to stand.

Trump previously led the “birther” challenge to Obama’s birth certificate and speculated, “Maybe it says he is a Muslim.”

Trump said in a TV interview that “Islam hates us,” and, later asked if that meant all 1.6 billion of the world’s Muslims, Trump said, “I mean a lot of ’em.”

Muslims have been taunted outside Trump events, and at one event in South Carolina, a woman in a hijab who stood in silent protest was escorted out by police as Trump supporters booed her, chanted Trump’s name and suggested she was a terrorist.

Trump can’t be blamed for everything his followers do. But his ascent has coincided with a rise in the number of anti-Muslim incidents to the highest level the Council on American-Islamic Relations has ever found. A sampling from the past two months:

●A self-proclaimed Trump supporter was sentenced in California for making death threats outside a Muslim center and for building pipe bombs.

●Demonstrators claiming to be Trump supporters staged public desecrations of the Koran in Atlanta and Phoenix.

●A man chanting Trump slogans at a gas station shouted “brown trash” and other epithets at a Muslim who is student-body vice president at Wichita State University in Kansas. (The Trump backer and a friend of the Muslim student were charged for fighting.)

●A man in downtown Grand Rapids, Mich., was captured on cellphone video chanting “Trump!” and yelling “Kill the Muslims.”

●And here in Washington, my Chevy Chase neighbor was attacked on her way home from her county-government job when she stopped outside Starbucks to use the WiFi. She says she told the responding officers that her attacker had invoked Trump, but that detail apparently didn’t make the police report.

Riaz Haq said...

Sen Elizabeth Warren says the presumptive #GOP nominee #Trump is "toxic stew of hatred & insecurity" … via @Newsmax

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has taken to Twitter to attack what she calls presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's "toxic stew of hatred & insecurity."

The Massachusetts Democrat issued a series of tweets Tuesday night as results from the Indiana GOP primary forced Texas Senator Ted Cruz from the race and left Trump as the overwhelming favorite for the nomination.

Warren tweets that Trump has built his campaign on "racism, sexism and xenophobia" and that there's more enthusiasm for him "among the leaders of the KKK than leaders of the political party he now controls."

Warren says what happens next is "a character test for all of us -- Republican, Democrat, and Independent."

Warren has been mentioned by party insiders as a potential running mate for likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

r_sundar said...

Trump is the confirmed contender now from Republican side. It will not be an easy cake walk for Hillary. Trump as the president will not tolerate Pakistan's double game play. Interesting times ahead....

Riaz Haq said...

sundar: "Trump as the president will not tolerate Pakistan's double game play. Interesting times ahead...."

Nor will Pakistan tolerate Trump's nonsense as made clear by Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in a rebuke to the GOP presumptive nominee.

Pakistan calls Donald Trump ‘ignorant’ after Bin Laden comments

Khan was referring to comments Trump made Friday on Fox News. In that interview, Trump said if elected president he would use the weight of the presidency to force Pakistan to free Afridi, who remains held on vague charges.

"I think I would get him out in two minutes," Trump said. "I would tell them, 'let him out,' and I'm sure they would let him out."

Khan responded that Afridi is a “Pakistani citizen, and nobody” including a President Trump “has the right to dictate to us about his future.”

“Pakistan is not a colony of the United States of America,” Khan said. “He should learn to treat sovereign nations with respect.”


“Pakistan is a country which has suffered much, and the cost it had to pay in supporting the U.S. over the years has been mind-boggling,” Khan said. “Mr. Trump’s statement only serves to show not only his insensitivity, but also his ignorance about Pakistan.”

In many ways, Khan’s statement appeared to be a preemptive strike against one of the central tenets of Trump’s apparent foreign policy. On the campaign trail, Trump has been rallying his supporters by warning he will use the threat of reduced foreign aid or American investment to force policy changes or, in the case of Mexico, build a border wall.

Riaz Haq said...

Is #China to Blame for Political Extremism in #America? Where Jobs R Cut by #Chinese Trade, Voters Seek Extremes.

COURTLAND, Ala. — In this forlorn Southern town whose once-humming factories were battered in recent years by a flood of Asian imports, Rhonda Hughes, 43, is a fervent supporter of Donald Trump. Her 72-year old mother is equally passionate about Senator Bernie Sanders.

Disenchantment with the political mainstream is no surprise. But research to be unveiled this week by four leading academic economists suggests that the damage to manufacturing jobs from a sharp acceleration in globalization since the turn of the century has contributed heavily to the nation’s bitter political divide.

Ms. Hughes avoids discussing the election with her mother, but their neighbor Benjamin Green, 83, knows just what Washington needs. “It’ll take a junkyard dog to straighten this country out,” he said.

Cross-referencing congressional voting records and district-by-district patterns of job losses and other economic trends between 2002 and 2010, the researchers found that areas hardest hit by trade shocks were much more likely to move to the far right or the far left politically.

“It’s not about incumbents changing their positions,” said David Autor, an influential scholar of labor economics and trade at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the paper’s authors. “It’s about the replacement of moderates with more ideological successors.”

Mr. Autor added: “In retrospect, whether it’s Trump or Sanders, we should have seen in it coming. The China shock isn’t the sole factor, but it is something of a missing link.”

In addition to Mr. Autor, the research was conducted by David Dorn of the University of Zurich; Gordon Hanson, a professor at the University of California, San Diego; and Kaveh Majlesi of Lund University in Sweden.

“Exposure to import competition is bad for centrists,” Mr. Hanson said. “We’ve known that political polarization and income inequality track each other, but that pattern is simply a correlation. We’ve now found a mechanism for how economic changes create further political divisions.”

Parker Griffith experienced the move away from the political middle firsthand.

A so-called Blue Dog Democrat who represented Courtland and the rest of Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District, he switched to the Republicans in 2009 and metamorphosed into a moderate Republican. But that wasn’t enough to save his seat.

Dr. Griffith was beaten in the Republican primary in 2010 by Morris J. Brooks Jr., who has emerged as one of the most right-wing members of Congress.

“If you’re under economic stress and you can’t provide for your family, the easiest answer is to find someone to blame,” said Dr. Griffith. “Mexicans, illegal immigrants, Obama.”

Representative Brooks has said that he would consider “anything short of shooting” illegal immigrants to get them out of the country and that he favored imposing heavy tariffs on China to “level the playing field” and punish Beijing for what he sees as currency manipulation.


As the South industrialized in the second half of the 20th century, poor Alabamians who once toiled on farms were able to secure a toehold in the middle class. In the shadow of Tennessee Valley Authority dams that supplied cheap power, thousands of workers sewed jeans and T-shirts, and could earn upward of $20 an hour in heavily unionized factories.

But the collapse of the apparel industry here in the first decade of the 21st century, following China’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001, reversed that process.

Nearly 10,000 manufacturing jobs disappeared. At 7.4 percent, the regional unemployment rate is well below its peak of 12.8 percent in 2010, but remains far above the national average of 5 percent.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan To Enter #MSCI #EmergingMarkets Index. #CPEC … $VWO $EDC $EDZ $SCHE $IEMG $EMF $MSF $EEV $EUM $ADRE $EET


Pakistan likely to be added in MSCI Emerging Markets Index.

P/E multiple re-ratings on the cards; discount to regional peers likely to narrow down.

Economy moving forward on a positive track. CPEC - the real game changer.

MSCI is considering reclassifying the Pakistani equity market from frontier to emerging market status on June 14th, 2016.

MSCI - a leading provider of research-based indexes and analytics - announced that it will release on June 14, 2016, shortly after 11:00 p.m. Central European Summer Time (CEST), the results of the 2016 Annual Market Classification Review. As a reminder, three MSCI Country Indexes are currently included on the review list of the 2016 Annual Market Classification Review: MSCI China A and MSCI Pakistan Indexes for a potential reclassification to Emerging Markets and MSCI Peru Index for a potential reclassification to Frontier Markets.

It is important to note that MSCI is not the only index provider that classifies markets but is considered the reference benchmark for many markets. MSCI and other index providers base their market classification on a number of quantitative measurable and comparative criteria while aiming to avoid qualitative and/or subjective criteria.


Pakistan is a country with a population of 190 million people. Pakistan's GDP stands at USD 250 billion (Year 2015). Pakistan's economy continued to pick up in the fiscal year 2015 as economic reform progressed and security improved. Inflation markedly declined, and the current deficit narrowed with favorable prices for oil and other commodities. Despite global headwinds, the outlook is for continued moderate growth as structural and macroeconomic reforms deepen.

Selected economic indicators (%) - Pakistan 2015 2016 Forecast 2017 Forecast
GDP Growth 4.2 4.5 4.8
Inflation 4.5 3.2 4.5
Current Account Balance (share of GDP) -1.0 -1.0 -1.2
Source : Asian Development Bank


China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a mega project of USD 46+ billion, taking the bilateral relationship between Pakistan and China to new heights. The project is the beginning of a journey of prosperity for Pakistan and China's Xinjiang. The economic corridor is about 3,000 kilometers long consisting of highways, railways and pipelines that will connect China's Xinjiang province to the rest of the world through Pakistan's Gwador port.

Riaz Haq said...

Only 15% of the capital on Wall Street goes into investments in real businesses on Main Street. #US #Capitalism

risis always brings opportunity. And right now, we are having a crisis of capitalism unlike anything experienced during the last four decades, if not longer. The evidence is everywhere – in rising inequality, in the division of fortunes between companies and workers, and in lethargic economic growth despite unprecedented infusions of monetary stimulus by the world’s governments (a huge $29tn in total since 2008). Eight years on from the financial crisis and great recession, the US, UK and many other countries are still experiencing the longest, slowest economic recoveries in memory.

This has, of course, diametrically shifted the political climate, creating a paradigm of insiders versus outsiders. In the US, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are different sides of the same coin; in Britain, Jeremy Corbyn is an equally dramatic response to establishment politics. The challenges to the political and economic status quo are not going away anytime soon. A recent Harvard study shows that only 19% of American millennials call themselves capitalist, and only 30% support the system as a whole. Perhaps more shocking, the numbers are not much better among the over-30 set. A mere half of Americans believe in the system of capitalism as practised today in the US, which is quite something for a nation that brought us the “greed is good” culture.

In some ways that is no surprise because, as I explore in my new book, Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business, the system of market capitalism as envisioned by Adam Smith is broken – the markets no longer support the economy, as a wealth of academic research shows. Market capitalism was set up to funnel worker savings into new businesses via the financial system. But only 15% of the capital in the financial institutions today goes towards that goal – the rest exists in a closed loop of trading and speculation.

The result is much slower than normal growth, which holds true not just in the US but in most advanced economies and many emerging ones. The politics of the day – populist, angry, divisive – reflect this, in the US, Europe and many parts of the developing world as well.

But the bifurcation of our economy and the resulting fractiousness in politics has become so extreme that we are now at a tipping point. And as a result, we have a rare, second chance to change the economic paradigm – to rewrite the rules of capitalism and create a more inclusive, sustainable economic growth .

Riaz Haq said...

As 7th largest immigrant population, #Pakistanis not eligible for US diversity visa. #Pakistan #America #Immigration

According to the US law, diversity laws are only allowed to counties that have low rates of immigrants, said US consulate in Karachi’s spokesperson Brian Asmus, during a media tour of the Karachi consulate’s visa section on Friday. Pakistan had 104,000 immigrants in the 10 years between 2005 and 2014, he said, explaining why Pakistanis are no longer eligible.

The state department has only stopped diversity visas and there are a lot of other options, such as petitions, student, visit and exchange programme visas, which come under the non-immigrant category. “One can always apply for immigrant visa if they have immediate family in the US,” explained US consulate’s Non-Immigrant Visa chief Mary Pellegrini.

She also explained that it takes around one year for spouse and children, two years for parents and, for siblings, the time can vary up to a decade.

Nevertheless, the Pakistanis who have managed to immigrate are doing pretty well. According to a recent survey, an average Pakistani in the US earns $63,000 every year while an average US citizen earns only $51,000 a year, said Asmus.

Asmus dismissed the misconception that fewer Pakistanis are able to get visa for the US. The percentage of applications is increasing every year and the number of Pakistani citizens getting visas has also increased by 20% between 2014 and 2015, and another 20% between 2015 and 2016, he said.

The US Consulate in Karachi only deals in non-immigrant visas while immigrants visas are dealt at the embassy in Islamabad. Last year, the consulate issued a total of 72,000 visas across the country. So far in 2016, the US consulate in Karachi has issued a total of 14,400 visas.