Salim Ghauri

CEO, NetSol

By Wali Zahid 2.05.2011

About Salim

Salim Ghauri, Founder and CEO of NetSol Technologies, began his entrepreneurial life 37 years ago but his real success came when he started NetSol in 1996, the leading finance and leasing software company of Pakistan. NetSol Technologies is the only CMMI Level 5 organisation in the country and is counted as one of the global leaders in IT services and enterprise solutions.

Salim Ghauri’s efforts as an entrepreneur has made him considerably popular, especially among the youth and he strives to give back to the society by actively mentoring people and helping them succeed. His success, however, is not limited to NetSol Technologies as Salim Ghauri is active in other key roles as well. He is, at present, the Honorary Consul of Australia for Punjab.

The idea behind his initiatives is to provide people with a platform through which they can achieve greatness. NetSol Technologies is a fine example of his vision to help Pakistan actualise its potential as a leading global IT destination as well as his drive to ensure a sustainable market for home-grown talent.

Your one-sentence description of yourself?

I like to try new things. Not afraid of taking risks. Do what was right.

Your first leadership opportunity? When? What was it?

It is in my blood. I was the naughtiest in my Garrison School boys group and led them. At FC College, contested elections. In 1991, became secretary of Australia-Pak Association. When I spoke, people listened.

Were you ready for it? (H, M, L, no)

Task-wise, no.

What was your readiness factor? (luck, will, skill, network)

People skills.

How did you perform then? On a 1-5 scale?


Your all-time most significant leadership opportunity so far (if different from this)?

Setting up NetSol and becoming CEO in January 1996.

Your ideal, future leadership opportunity?

No other! Will stay here.

Is it likely to happen in your remaining work years?


Today in your current role: Where are you on Wali’s Will-Skill Matrix (high, medium, low)?

High will. Moderate skill. (Hence, I have hired smart people.)

What drives you? (one-word driver)

To achieve something that leaves a legacy, makes a difference. I want to be respected by love, and not by fear.

Candidly speaking, have you been happy about growth numbers in the past decade?

Happy but not satisfied. Shareholders and investors are happy as we have built enough performance and our financial product has a price tag of $200 million.

In an uncertain and ambiguous world, how can you make sure that your plans are achievable?

You need to remain focused on delivery. There will always be something that goes wrong. You need to have skills and wits to deal with the situation by going around that.

How easy or difficult is it to manage the Gen Y/Millennials (people born after 1982)?

Very easy. Gen Y is a group of wonderful people. Lead them by showing the way. They work very hard and the amount of quality work they produce is amazing.

Your legacy? How do you want to be remembered? In your industry? In your organisation?

Doesn’t matter to me. I want to leave something behind that is useful and can benefit people.

What would you want to see in your leader (i.e. your leader to do)?

Accept smart person working under him!

Your learning: Where do you turn to for learning – both daily routine, and time-off for courses?

I turn to 24-year-old’s!

Are there sufficient opportunities for C-level learning here in Pakistan or in the region?

I learn mostly by speaking opportunities. Also, sometimes attend an event at LUMS.

Learning and development of your team – what opportunities are available here? Your rating of these programmes? (1-5 scale)

Our training/HR department keeps on organising learning opportunities for everyone in the firm on an ongoing basis. Two classrooms are always filled by in-house learning programmes.

What would you want different about these programmes?

More frequent training programmes by external providers.

What are three core competencies or skill areas you would want your team to develop for this year? Next three years?

Communication skills (both with colleagues and customers). Leadership skills. Technical skills.

What is your biggest time eater at work?

Country’s law and order situation.

Information overload: What is your coping mechanism?

Strategy is my core job. I am always concerned what our tomorrow will look like. Hence, only macro-level data. My people come to me not for more than 10 to 15 minutes. Also, I intentionally avoid new technological information; my people work on that.

Do you have a stop-to-do list?

Yes. I talk less. Do not react to situations at once; improvise on the way.

How can we give up control (and do more empowering)?

Three things. Hire the right people. Get them training. Allow them to lead on projects; they will make mistakes, which is acceptable. Will fire those who play nice, agreeable and say yes to me.

What kind of personal or social networks do you use to enhance your presence and the chances for success?

I am quite active on the diplomatic channel. Senior vice chairman of Australian Business Forum. I also love to entertain people.

Faith? Is faith an inspiration for you?

Yes. I have a strong faith. My life is a miracle. I am a firm believer in destiny.

Ever thought that how could the Prophet (saw)’s personality be a guiding factor for you in doing business, making decisions, empowering others? If yes, in what ways?

The Prophet (saw) had amazing human qualities. As a smart man, he would listen to even adversaries.

CEO derailment? Have you seen colleagues derailing/going down? What was the cause?

Being ‘an owner’ is a derailer in itself. It’s customary to do everything by yourself, take all decisions by yourself. Which is not right.

Any other cause of CEO derailment in our part of the world?

Inability to take good advice. Lack of trust on others. Inability to make decisions. Inability to manage external context. Lack of gaining a scale.

Your messages to new generation of leaders: What leads to success?

Your failures. Acknowledge them. You cannot do things right all the time. Get up again.

Your messages to new generation of leaders: Can you create your own luck? How?

You need to leave home every day to find/locate luck!