The best gift

4 mins read

Tomorrow evening at about 10:30 pm 28 teams will board their respective flights to Taipei, Taiwan from Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.


A mix of young and old, startups that are barely breaking even and billion dollar banks, first timers and seasoned hands on their way to the Asia Pacific ICT Alliance (APICTA) Awards being held in Taipei, Taiwan from the 2nd to 5th of December.

The youngest member of our delegation is 7 years old. The eldest in her fifties.

My first APICTA was Chaing Mai, Thailand in February 2006 as a participant. As a fast rising banking risk technology practice we took seven members of our team with us that spring to Thailand. It was a getaway tour for stars in our office who had all contributed to the product we were presenting at APICTA that year.   We didn’t expect to lose but we did. It was only when I came back as a judge next year that I realized how poor a show we had put up and by what margin we had been outclassed by the competition.

That realization changed us as a team and a company. It marked the point where we no longer wanted to be good. We wanted to be better; someday even acknowledged as the best.

Taiwan is my 10th event; my 9th as a judge; 8th as a category head judge.

Every year for the last 9 years we have taken a team from Pakistan to represent the budding technology industry at the largest regional events in our space. Our teams get a chance to compete against the best of the best, explore a new economy every year, make friends from the region, occasionally close deals with likeminded partners, learn a bit more about themselves and if they are very lucky come home with a prize.

It’s been a remarkable effort lead by PASHA and a large team of enablers, supporters and believers who have managed to grow the PASHA delegation from a single team at the very first APICTA Awards in Hong Kong twelve years ago to the current delegation of 28 teams in Taiwan in 2016.  Remember, it takes a village to raise a champion, not just an individual.

Our biggest haul of wins in a given year was seven awards in Malaysia. In a hall seating a few thousand high profile technology professionals from all over the world, Pakistan’s name was called 7 times. I missed the awards event that night because I was exhausted by training, mentoring and judging our teams and didn’t have the heart to see the very best of them return disappointed. For every single win in the 12 categories our teams compete in, there are always more heart break on the side. The team that we thought would win hands down fluffs an answer in Q&A. The most powerful and visually moving slide deck I have ever seen has a nervous breakdown twenty minutes before he is due on stage. The kid we were all rooting for misses the big prize by the tenth of a decimal point.

Still we were on a high for months after that win. Then there were years where we thought we would come home empty handed but were surprised at the last minute by our young talent.  Last year in Colombo I missed the pre awards night meeting again where the final results for the night are presented for approval and ratification by the Executive Committee and the Board. I was on my way to the airport to catch a flight for a business meeting in Bahrain.


But I will always remember that flight. As we began to taxi and the air hostess started hovering around my seat to ensure I would turn off my phone, the results announcement session for head judges had just started.  We were at four – zero as we took off from the runway. Results for four key categories had been announced and we had missed the prize in all of them.

As I dropped off into an exhausted slumber on my seat, I told myself, next year Jawwad. Next year inshah Allah, we will do a better job.

Five hours later when we finally landed, the slate had change.  We had won three silvers and a gold.

The next year is here.

This year 267 teams representing 17 countries will be competing at APICTA for 12 trophies and 24 runners up awards.

Of the 267, twenty eight teams will be representing Pakistan.  With 41 individuals, Pakistan’s delegation will be the largest contingent in Taipei.


Despite the abuse we have put them through over the last two weeks as part of our 8:30 am training routine and will put them through the next three days as part of the 6 am pre-breakfast dry run, to my mind they are all winners.  Teams that are changing the world, contributing, making a difference in their own way.  Some are already role models for their generation; others, not even in high school.  But they represent the best that we have to offer – in ideas, in spirit, in effort, in hope.

Not all of them will win. Heart break is seeing expectations fade on eager faces we have trained,  have watched so closely.

No, not all of them will win. They won’t. They can’t. But all of them will change.

It will no longer be enough for them to be good. They would want to be better. Some even better than the very best. And it will be the best gift we could have ever given them.