Promoting investment opportunities for Pakistan in Europe, China and Middle East
Imaad Zuberi talks to Peerzada Faizan of SouthAsia in this exclusive interview.
What is your educational background?
I have a B.Sc. from the University of Southern California and an MBA from Stanford University.
What is your professional background?
I am a Partner at Avenue Ventures which is venture capital firm investing in startup companies in Asia, Europe and U.S. We are focused in certain sectors at early stage. Previously I was Vice President of Strategy and Market-Corporate Development at AEGON-Transamerica Insurance & Investment Group which is one of the largest financial services companies in the world with over $500 billion of assets under management (AuMs). The company is on the Global Fortune 500 list. While I was running businesses in Asia we were the first foreign company to acquire insurance and mutual fund companies in China in joint-venture format. Other than China, I expanded our Taiwan office, India office, Hong Kong office and etc. I opened both our first Singapore and UAE offices from scratch and made them profitable within six months of opening, which is unheard of in insurance because it takes up to a decade to break-in and asset management business we went in as joint-venture so we hit the ground running. We were lucky that we had local banks lined up to buy and sell our products and services. Other than working for major company, I am investor both on company’s account and personal accounts and served as employees to support the companies we invest in like serving as Vice President of Strategic Development for Manhattan Street Capital which is one of the first online investment platforms in that sector. I serve or have served on various boards of directors and boards of advisors of companies from startup and large companies like DebtDog, iCapital, Aon International, EggFinancial, CarPrices, Vehix, ConnectCom etc.
What do you believe Pakistan needs to achieve?
Pakistan has not done great job of marketing or promoting itself to international investors, both institutional and individuals. When people in the West think of Pakistan they think of negative things like terrorism, kidnaping, FATF and things along these lines. However when I come to Pakistan I experience none of this. My experience in Pakistan has been extremely positive. Pakistan with more than 225 million people is the 5th largest population in the world according to WorldMonitor. In a country with the 5th largest population in the world, everyone needs food, clothing, housing, education, transportation, entertainment and so on. Therefore, there are investment opportunities in these products and services. When I go on business trips, people usually ask me about opportunities to invest in China and Far East when I tell them about Pakistan they tend to shy away. To my surprise, many have not been approached by Pakistani Government to pitch to them opportunities available in Pakistan. At most people only know about Pakistan with regard to garment outsourcing. No one has pitched to them about agricultural exports the country can offer. No one has pitched to them about software outsourcing. Of course, small software outsourcing is being done in Pakistan but nothing at the level of what India, the Philippines or even small population countries like Singapore or Malaysia have achieved with much smaller number of software engineers and programmers, who tend to be much more expensive than Pakistan. I pitch Pakistan at every opportunity I get in Europe, China and the Middle East. I especially tell people in Europe, China and Middle Eastern countries about much-needed infrastructure investment which Pakistan can absorb from various untapped avenues, such as water desalinization, electricity generation and distribution, fiber optic network, etc.
Recently I have been involved in joint ventures with Chinese companies for Pakistan and have brought many of these firms to the country. Especially, we are working with various Chinese technology companies for Karachi, mining companies for projects in Balochistan and agriculture exports from Punjab