by Chuck Anderson
http://www.imran.com/li/advance/ Advance readers may have puzzled over this arcane legend appearing in every issue lately. Much of it is self-explanatory, but the "imran" part may need introducing.
In the Arabic language, "Imran" means "the father of Moses" or giver of knowledge." In the new Testament Imran was the father of the Virgin Mary, and in Urdu, the chief language of Pakistan, it means "one who is social." It would appear that at least two of these definitions apply to Imran Anwar. Imran Anwar, a resident of Heron Pointe in East Patchogue who put the Long Island Advance on the World Wide Web, rebellious student in his youth, electrical engineer, Columbia MBA, and the man who brought the Internet to Pakistan, is living evidence that the world has indeed become a global village.
Entering his spacious home, one quickly becomes aware of the synergy of two cultures. It is a pristine home, where visitors are encouraged to remove their shoes at the entrance. At the same time, piles of technical magazines and books are strewn over every available counter top. The walls are adorned with photographs of family from Pakistan, in native dress; however, there is also a giant screen television and a state of the art computer system.
We asked Anwar how he washed up on the shores of East Patchogue: "At the time, I was living in Manhattan, which to me was the center of the universe. I wanted to buy a house, so I made up a list describing my ideal home: it had to be new, on the water, a small community with educated people, and about an hour from the city, where I still maintain an apartment. I faxed the list to various real estate agents in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. A real estate agent from the local area met me at the train station at Ronkonkoma and showed me this place. I guess you could say it was fate that brought me here."
While his family, including a younger brother and sister who are doctors, has remained in Pakistan, Anwar has lived in this country for seven years, and sees it as a place of great opportunity. He describes himself, using the acronym "HASTE," meaning "Happy, Available, Single, Totally Entertaining," and says, "I'm a firm believer in planned drifting."
In the same breath, he said he felt he could make a great difference in his home country by working in the United States. "Ten dollars earned here in the states can send someone to school over there," he said. He said there are many problems in his country: "It can take years to get a telephone line installed in parts of Pakistan. Here in Patchogue, it takes one call, and it's done in one day."
Anwar was born in Pakistan in 1962. His father was an engineer sent to work in remote, rural parts of the country, many of which have no schools. At the age of six and a half, Anwar's father gave him a choice: stay at home and be educated by his family, or go off to Karachi, live with a grandparent, and attend a British-style school.
What appears to be a harsh choice was almost enlightened in a country that still practices arranged marriages. According to Anwar, his decision gave him the self-confidence that is with him today, and he has no regrets in embarking on a British-style education, replete with competitive A and O-level examinations that got him into the university at Lahore.
During his student years at the university, Anwar's country went through several major political shifts, from the repressive democracy of Bhutto to an even more oppressive military regime of General Zia. One day, after a student demonstration, Anwar was "arrested at 6 p.m., beaten at 7, shackled at 8, taken from the jail at 2 a.m., court-martialed (with no lawyer), put on a truck and taken to prison, where he was thrown into a cell with death row inmates. "I do not think my father approved of me going into student politics," he said.
His stay in prison was brief, for an uncle came to bail him out after two days; however, the experience made a lasting impression on the young rebel. "I learned two things," he said. "When you spend time with death row inmates, you get a perspective on how fragile life is, that you don't waste it on something stupid like crime, that you make the most of life while you have it. The experience also taught me self reliance. My mind went into a survival mode, and I thought of things I would do to make the time pass while I was in jail. It would be an opportunity to learn music, solve Rubik's cube, things like that."
Anwar came to the United States in January, 1989, and earned an MBA from Columbia University in 1990. At the same time, he was putting his active mind to work. He had been selling personal computers to businesses in Pakistan, and worked as the business manager and weekly columnist for Jang, the largest newspaper chain in Pakistan with a circulation of about one million readers. While there, he sold the publisher on the idea of going into television, as well as using Internet services, a $20 million package including computers and communications equipment to publish a multi-city daily and eventually leading to other businesses like cable TV and multimedia.
He founded the Internet in Pakistan, running a business which he directed from New York via computer and the Internet, using fax and telephone. Called IMRAN.NET, the company served Pakistanis both home and abroad, and his clientele varied widely. The Ministry of Defense in Pakistan used e-mail to save on the costs of overseas faxes. Villagers brought in handwritten letters that were entered into a computer in Lahore and e-mailed the same day to Europe or the U.S., at a fraction of the cost of a courier system. Anwar's system even accepted Urdu script. "We were bringing the benefits of the Internet to people who didn't even have electricity," Anwar said.
He also brought MasterCard-branded credit cards to Pakistan.
In this country, Anwar has developed several new projects, such as the idea of using an inexpensive computer to dial up the Internet and display it on television. Other companies like Time Warner and Tele communications are also jumping onto the Internet's World Wide Web as a way to quickly and cheaply provide a watered-down version of interactive television to the masses; however, Anwar sees his device as less expensive, a stripped-down personal computer whose sole purpose is to browse the Internet. At last report, he sold the PC idea to a foreign manufacturer.
Anwar said he had a number of ideas "under development", and he is currently working to create three "e zines," or on-line publications: LIPS (Long Island Political Stories), LINES (Long Island News, Entertainment, and Sports), and eLIgible, which will have "little feature articles about eligible bachelors and single women."
Anwar admitted that he has been under some pressure to return home and go into politics. He said, "All over the world, there has been a movement to get independent, educated people into politics, even here in the states. Of course, Ted Turner is really the president of the world, for CNN decides what the world will see, and it wields enormous influence. Remember what happened in Somalia. One media report of a dead American soldier dragged through the streets changed U.S. policy in that part of the world."
Anwar recently met General Colin Powell at a convention in Los Angeles, and believes the retired soldier will someday be president of the United States. As for his own political career, Anwar has decided to put it on hold for awhile, so as to pursue his interests in business technology.
"I'm not selling computers in the conventional sense," said Anwar. "My ideal customer is himself a visionary, someone who is not satisfied with the way business is running, even if it is successful, someone who wants to do something different. For example, a few years ago, the idea of setting up a Web page, sort of an electronic billboard, was new and different. Now, everybody is doing it. My specialty is going into a situation and showing a customer how to use multimedia to improve the process and direction of doing business, in a context of the big picture and where the industry will be five years from now. Right now, people get excited about buzz words like Web and Internet. People are spending thousands of dollars to get on the Web, but aren't training their employees how to deal with it properly, how to take advantage of the new technology. That's where I come in. We need to sit down and say, 'What does this technology mean? How can we integrate it into our overall business strategy?"
The Advance 's Web page is a good example. Right now, the page has a brief description of the paper, biographies of the editor and reporters, advertising rates and a selection of recent stories. Anwar pointed out that the page is a "work in progress," and it will be updated periodically.
Who knows? This profile may appear one day at http://www.imran.com/li/advance/.