Is Paypal officially coming to Pakistan?

In a very surprising move today, Paypal has started rolling out its merchant services in Pakistan and now if you try to setup a merchant account through any country other than the US, (e.g. UAE or UK), you will see that you can select Pakistan from the drop down list when adding your business information.

https://www.paypal.com/ae/merchantsignup/create

Now you’d think – why the sudden mysterious change of heart by Paypal for Pakistan?

Online marketers, digital business owners and bloggers have dreamed of this day when PayPal would officially add Pakistan to its list of supported countries so they can take their business to the next level but as previously discussed on numerous occasions and forums, its not easy for Paypal to come to Pakistan for multiple reasons such as volume of business, abundance of terrorism and the vague rules imposed by the State Bank.

So why is Pakistan listed in Country List of PayPal while Signing up?

Honestly there is much speculation around this move and most people on social media believe that it could be possible because of several reasons:

  1. It is a technical fault (or bug) and will be fixed soon.
  2. They are working on their systems to add Pakistan in allowed Country List and slowly updating their system.

So rejoice while you can. It is best not to get excited until unless you read an official blog post by PayPal about adding Pakistan to the list of supported countries.

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Update: Looks like we have an official answer now. Better luck next time Pakistan

Meet the Pakistani who is reinventing the Internet. Well kind of!

najam-ahmad-facebookOn Wednesday, Facebook announced “Wedge”. For layman, think of it as a crucial hardware device that transports Internet information between machines (like a networking switch).

What you don’t know is that Wedge is part of the Open Compute Project (OCP) which is being led by Najam Ahmad, the director of Technical Operations at Facebook. Najam, who was born in Karachi, Pakistan, holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from NED University of Engineering and Technology and later on went to do his Master of Science in Telecommunication Protocols and Computer Science from The George Washington University and prior to Facebook, Najam was the General Manager of Global Networking Services at Microsoft where he looked after the operations, overall architecture, design & implementation of Microsoft’s global online network.

This basically means that Facebook (and other companies who support the OCP) will be able to use and contribute to the open hardware design of these switches and this is bad news for vendors like HP, Dell and Cisco who basically have the monopoly over the $150 billion data center hardware market.

Najam’s role in this whole project, though limited, gives us hope and motivation as there are still hundreds and thousands of engineers here in Pakistan who dream of going to the Silicon Valley and making an impact that can change the world and now they have someone to look up to.

What it takes to be a Social Media Professional in Pakistan?

Social media has changed the dynamics of the modern way of working. It is not just the channel itself that is now being used by brands and companies to find talent rather social media itself has grown into this giant web of conversations and interaction that we now need professionals to manage this new medium.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be a social media addict or a crazy content publisher to get a ‘social media’ job. There is more to the social media scene than just content publishing and to be good at it, you need to be a patient learner and a content consumer yourself to keep up with the trends and buzzwords.

The professionals working in this field use various titles. The most common one you will find is ‘social media officer’, or a ‘digital media manager’ but other titles have also begun to hit the job market such as interactive media manager, inbound marketing specialist, new media specialist, marketing engineer, marketing technologist, digital marketing officer, online media officer, web and social officer, digital communication specialist etc. Essentially, regardless of the title, the responsibilities of a social media professional remain the same.

There are three avenues to this game. First, the creative part where your ability of idea generation and coming up with new interactive campaigns matters most and second, the monitoring and analytics area where your ability to draw stories from collected data is put to test. And third, technology.

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As for the education and qualification requirements, most companies looking for a social media professional would prefer hiring a fresh candidate who has done their bachelors/masters in marketing or a bachelors in social sciences but that certainly doesn’t leave out those who have done a degree in engineering or arts. In fact it would be safe to say that getting into social media doesn’t require you to have a degree in a specific discipline at all and what matters is how much you are into this game and what experience you have in managing social media platforms. In fact, degree programs such as computer sciences and mass communications or journalism are also very relevant as long as you understand the work and have the ability to deliver.

Although, computer science and engineering graduates with a knack of digital marketing definitely have an edge as they understand the platforms and technology that is used behind-the-scenes which facilitates them in developing a teach-and-learn relationship with their clients.

Managing social media for a company, whether working from within that company or working as a servicing professional in an agency, has no such rules and boundaries and therefore should not be taken as an operational job where there is an excel formula to rule every spreadsheet. The key ingredient to be eligible for such a job is to have the element of creativity as there is no rule-book or any guidelines which will tell you if you are going in the right direction. In fact, unlike electronic and print media where there are certain yardsticks to measure the performance of your ads, press release or announcement, in social media there is no standard of calculating feedback and this makes it a great opportunity for social media professionals to create a flowchart of feedback as they progress with their campaigns.

Analytics is another important area in the social media culture and it’s also its biggest value proposition for companies and brands who are looking to invest more in this medium. As a social media professional, you must have the skill to create stories out of data as social media gives you the opportunity to work in big-data environments where you can run campaigns, experiment with new technology and interact with your audience on a massive scale.

The third and most important pillar of the social media triangle is ‘technology’ and one that decides how far you will go up this ladder in this industry. Wireframes, search engine optimization, memes, webinars, hashtags, engagement rate, infographics, app development, social insights, viral videos, media optimization, retweets, followers: these are just some of the social media jargons that you will get to hear everyday and will also probably use them in your daily reports and monthly social media strategies but jargons can get you only so far. What matters at the end of the day is how good you are when it comes to delivering what you promise and how will you make best use of the knowledge you have to solve a problem. Questions like ‘why should I have a Facebook fanpage?’, ‘Please create a viral video for me!’, ‘Can we integrate a blog on our website?’ are just few of the many questions that you will be answering and therefore it is good to have knowledge of web development, content creation, graphics design and video editing because it will differentiate you from the rest who are applying for the same job and possess almost same amount of experience as you do. Diversity of skill matters more than years of experience you have in such an industry.

It goes without saying that you need to have an inviting attitude towards change as social media is fast, robust and roller-coaster crazy. From YouTube getting blocked overnight to Facebook’s change of layouts and Google’s algorithm upsets, you will have to consistently keep yourself updated so you can sync up to the trends of this industry.

Overall, social media is a very unique industry and very welcoming for those who want to do a job where there is a mix of creativity, numbers and technology implementation. Depending on the company/agency, you can start your job at around 40,000/month and go up to as high as 200,000/month (or even more) within just two years depending upon the diversity of your work and skills.

As the industry is new, there is a lot of room for experimentation and a great opportunity for innovative minds out there to get started and have a greater impact on the online community.

A version of this article appeared in June 2013 issue of Spider Magazine.

Ready for Elections 2013? Here’s How to Vote in Pakistan

It’s important to vote and this is regardless of whether you want to vote to support the ideology of a ‘Naya Pakistan’ or ‘Roshan Pakistan’. The whole point of going out to vote is to contribute to the political change and restore the country with help of stable governance.

Think of a it like a moving car. Every nut and every bolt matters and you can’t just leave out any bit just because it doesn’t look like it’s making any difference in the whole mechanical ecosystem. The government is exactly like this car which needs nuts and bolts to keep running smoothly and in a democratic state, such as ours, every vote makes a difference.

However the dynamics of democracy are very different in the digital era where reputation is the currency and technology is there to keep a check and balance and provide you feedback at every move. The Pakistan of 2013 is more digitally aware and connected than it was back in 2008 and that’s exactly what’s going to make a huge difference in the voters turnout this year.

Tools and resources for Elections in Pakistan 2013

For example: take a look at some of the available tools that can help you make a wise decision about how, when, where and who to cast your vote for.

1. MyVote.pk: This tool lets you find your ‘halqa’ (constituency) and also gives you data about registered voters density and 2008 voters turnout density. Polling stations data is coming soon!

2. ECP: The official website of the Election commission of Pakistan which has all the up-to-date details upcoming elections such as voters data, information about candidates and their eligibility, polling scheme location etc.

3. Dawn Election Portal: The Election 2013 portal by Dawn gives give you access to in-depth details and profiles of parties along with a tool to let you find the constituency profiles and party positions.

4. Google Election Portal: It lets you view live search trends and news from various portals about parties and their leaders.

5. Where is my Ballot?: Quite simple, lets you view your polling station address.

6. VoterMaps: This is my favorite one. It gives you an overlay of the current constituencies with a table showing the candidates from those constituencies and the winner from that constituencies in 2008.

And obviously, if you are in for some fun, do play Go rich boy, go! which is a fictional role-playing based game based on the day of Elections in Pakistan. It’s EPIC!

Also take a look at this “How to vote in 60 seconds” video created by me and my wife to raise awareness about how to vote.

In the digital age, there is no reason why your decision should be based on mere ego and relationships when you have actual data and plethora of resources to help you make your decision. Vote wisely, vote for the future of this country.