GLOBAL IT COMPANY EYES KAZAKHSTAN AS
Astana, September 19: UST Global, an international
information technology services and software development company, is exploring
the possibility of moving to Kazakhstan. The company, which has a presence in
the Americas, Europe, East and South Asia and the Middle East, now wants to
expand into Central Asia and UST Global Chief Commercial Officer Murali Gopalan
told The Astana Times that Kazakhstan is “a natural choice.” According to him,
Kazakhstan has great IT potential – and can’t afford to waste it.
In June, UST Global CEO Sajan
Pillai, Gopalan and other company executives visited Astana and met with Prime
Minister Karim Massimov and other ministers to discuss establishing a presence
here, after which they rated the country’s attractiveness highly.
The government’s support for
innovation and the IT industry is one of the country’s key attractions, the
executives said. “We found the Kazakhstan government to be extremely
progressive and dynamic [and] keen to build an innovative information
technology industry. The government is very forward-looking in this regard and
has invited constructive dialogue from us,” said Pillai. With the company’s
experience in developing the IT industry in hitherto unknown IT destinations,
like India, Mexico and other countries, they say, they can have a positive
impact on the level of IT services in Kazakhstan.
“In addition to being a large market
for advanced software services, the country’s involvement in the Eurasian
Economic Union also allows a larger market access. This is also extremely
attractive,” Gopalan said.
The government’s investment in
technology parks is also a big plus for the company. “The Technology Park in
Almaty is a great start for Kazakhstan. … Technology parks play a vital role of
being a catalyst for labour force aggregation, especially in knowledge
industries, where sophisticated interactions create innovations,” Gopalan said.
“The Almaty Technology park … has high potential to aggregate the technology
professionals in the country. Together with the IT universities that exist and
that can be established in future, a great story in information technology
services in Kazakhstan can be written.”
The company would expect to continue
serving their global customer base with the move into Kazakhstan, Gopalan said.
“Global organisations have requirements related to IT that stem from different
parts of the world. At this time, there are a limited number of global IT
organisations that have the capability to serve such needs out of Kazakhstan
and neighbouring countries. We expect to be able to extend our service to this
They would also be interested in
serving local businesses and government organisations within Kazakhstan and in
neighbouring countries, he said.
Kazakhstan can’t afford to dawdle on
developing its IT sector, Pillai said. “Technology is the new oil,” he said.
“Information technology is today, without a doubt, the industry with the
strongest growth potential worldwide. Nations cannot afford to ignore the
importance of a robust IT industry to grow their economies, especially as
driven by a middle class population.”
There are some challenges to
establishing a global business in Kazakhstan, however. A lack of skilled
workers is often listed as a problem, but the UST Global representatives said
they found local talent they said they could build on.
“We have observed that Kazakhstan
has excellent engineering and maths talent, which is vital for the IT
industry,” said Gopalan. “We witnessed the work of some of the talented
engineers in the country in the areas of robotics, artificial intelligence and
so on, that has excellent potential.” What UST Global would like to do, he
said, is bring businesses operations problems to this talent base and allow
innovative solutions to flourish.
Other challenges relate to infrastructure
and changing clients’ attitudes. Gopalan said, “The typical challenges for our
business centre around the attraction and retention of good talent in the
volumes that are needed by our business, the ability to convince global
customers to have their IT requirements serviced from Kazakhstan instead of
more popular destinations like India and infrastructural challenges including
power, bandwidth, easy access to hardware, et cetera.”
In the World Economic Forum’s
recently released Global Competitiveness Index, Kazakhstan’s ability to attract
talent was ranked 37th out of the 144 countries surveyed, but ranked 71st in
its ability to retain it. UST Global would enter the country with a plan to
overcome the talent challenge, Gopalan said.
“We have several talent sourcing
models that could help us overcome the talent challenge. Our understanding of
our clients’ requirements allows us to position Kazakhstan’s strengths very
well to overcome.”
Infrastructure is in the hands of
the government, he said. “We have a high level of confidence that the
government of Kazakhstan has the highest commitment to ensuring appropriate
infrastructure that is necessary for the IT industry to succeed,” he said.
The tax breaks, including suspending
corporate and land taxes for 10 years, and other incentives for investment
announced earlier this year by the Kazakh government would be a great bonus,
the UST Global executives said, but not the main reason they’d be drawn to the
country. “We applaud the tax breaks and investment incentives that have been
announced by the government of Kazakhstan. However, UST Global’s decision to
move ahead in Kazakhstan is based on the immense potential that we see in the
region, both as a producer and as a consumer of information technology
In general, they say, the country is making the
right moves to attract sustainable business. “Our experience with the
government showed us their speed of decision making, solid support for our
plans, openness in hearing our feedback, willingness to invest in
infrastructure needed to create jobs and business.”