There are people in the world who aim to do big things, but most of them just end up stuck in the thinking stage forever. However, some people dare to put that thought into practice. People react differently to criticism; some get disheartened and lose their morale, while others see criticism as a chance to shine and prove their success. One of them from the latter category is Khurram Akhtar our guest in today’s interview. Akhtar is the CEO and Co-founder of Programmers Force, one of Pakistan’s leading AI-based tech and IT companies.
Programmers Force (PF) has grown significantly over time, and you have earned a good reputation in Pakistan’s tech industry. How did you start the PF, and what was your strategy?
Generally, most of the startups that are primarily service-based start from freelancing and eventually, build a complete software house based on that experience. The same thing happened with PF, I was working as a freelancer on Upwork prior to Programmers Force. I was doing well in freelancing and after having years of experience in the field, I decided to expand my work and established a software house. That was the beginning of PF.
The model of my company was to foster a healthy work culture for the employees, and I set guidelines to ensure a stress-free, productive, and cooperative working environment. That was the parameters on which I decided to grow the company.
Happy employees are indeed the reason for growth. However, what kind of business/services does your company offer?
We’re a software house based in Pakistan that provides world-class software development services all over the globe. The vision behind PF was to bring innovation and offer top-notch business solutions.
What sets us apart from the rest is that our niche focuses on developing AI-based solutions, and we hold the title of Pakistan’s first IT company. We leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to help businesses automate their operations.
Today, we are a team of over 800 employees working under one roof across 12 cities and 5 international offices. Our AI-powered products are making waves across 230+ countries, sparking a transformative impact on a global scale.
What strategies did you adopt to move away from dependency on a single contract for revenue in your service-based company?
Starting a service-based company and relying on a single contract can be risky, and most of the startups fail due to that reason. Fortunately, I realized early on that the single contract we’re starting with can not be the base of our business revenue, and PF needs to move further from that.
I started working to reach out to additional clients and thought that our essential idea should be to have at least one year of backup to continue our operations in case of an emergency. During the early days, I reduced my own expenses, and my only focus was Programmers Force.
How do you see your organization, and what is your vision as a leader?
Profit had never been my vision in reality. For me, a lavish working environment and giving extraordinary facilities to employees had been my focus.
I had a mission that the company I’ll build will be far more vibrant than the rest of the organizations. Even right now, we’re giving an extraordinary environment to our team members, and I always try to foster a comfortable work environment in my company. To provide them with a positive culture and help them with their financial needs, we offer certain perks to our employees, including in-house lunch, tea, vehicle financing, wedding allowance, tourism, advance salary, and others.
How do you maintain a fair and supportive environment for team members whose performance might fluctuate for various reasons?
Leaders have to keep a balanced approach when it comes to running a company. When a team member’s performance is not up to the mark, and they’re not recognizing how it’s impacting the company, a few things might be up. They might not be comfortable with the environment, not satisfied with the tasks they’re handling, or feeling a bit off. It’s unfair to them if you leave them without support, as it will directly impact their learning. That’s why, as a leader, you’ve to keep a check and balance.
Understandably, no human being can be productive around the year; there will be patches where they will go down, and there will be patches where they will perform exceptionally. As long as this process is balanced and you’re watching them keenly, it’s all good, and you don’t have to hover over everything they do.
What are the plans for the Programmers Force?
In the future, we expect to expand our operations and increase the headcount. We are currently working with major international clients and developing solutions for them that we’ll further expand in the future.
How do you advise young entrepreneurs to approach building a successful company, considering the timeline and mindset needed for realistic growth and sustainability?
If you want to stand a successful company, it will take some years after starting out. The biggest problems come with financial issues and mindset approach.
Most young entrepreneurs start with the unicorn approach that their company will be the next big thing in the market. It does happen, but not in all the cases. Instead, entrepreneurs should perceive things realistically. Their main aim should be to flourish in what they are doing and provide value to their clients, the rest will follow automatically.
Lastly, I can’t stress this enough, “there are no shortcuts to success.” You have to believe in yourself and never give up. If you are honest with what you do, you will achieve what you strive for.