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Entrepreneurial startups – the fuel needed by Pakistan to take-off

Currently, Pakistan is one of Asia’s fastest growing internet markets, with over one million people going online via mobile phones every month. The e-commerce market has similarly witnessed phenomenal growth recently, driven by the country’s large population, rising middle class, and strong digital adoption rates. It is growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 100%, and as per Google’s analysis, it will surpass the $1-billion revenue mark by 2020.

Access to capital has remained a big challenge for entrepreneurs. High impact entrepreneurs are the building block of a healthy economy as they can change the world by creating “billion dollar companies” from scratch. Few big success stories can have a big impact on a country’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Successful start-ups require team spirit and getting the right people and creating the right environment is the key to successful scale ups. In addition to this, forging long term partnerships with investors, who also think of themselves as mentors, is also pivotal for young entrepreneurs aiming to scale up their ventures.

Many start-ups believe in playing safe and are reluctant to take any risk, when in fact investors are actually looking to invest in businesses that are willing to start something new. Foreign investment is also necessary for Pakistan just like many other countries, for example Alibaba was funded by Yahoo. If local investors are not investing, foreign investment can work as a catalyst. However, the sustainable way is only the local investment, which will take time, but we have examples of countries like Hong Kong, one of the richest countries, where entrepreneurs found difficulties in attracting investments.

There is a lot of room for home grown start-ups; after all problems of Pakistan have to be solved by Pakistanis, not by someone from Microsoft or Apple. For instance, there are many challenges for low cost housing solutions but a Karachi based start-up, ModulusTech has come up with a one-room, flat-packed housing unit that can be assembled in just three hours! The standard 256 square feet model costs around Rs300, 000. Customized or bigger version will require more cost and time. The company is primarily targeting the affordable housing market: the internally displaced persons, refugees, and low-end housing projects for the poorest of the poor.

Pakistan is currently passing through a demographic transition which has resulted in a “youth bulge” (63% of our population comprising of youth, 69 million aged below 15) and an increase in the working-age population as a share of the total population. To reap the “demographic dividend” of this change, the economy needs to provide education and create productive and remunerative employment for young workforce entrants. Foreign entrants such as Uber & Careem, through their entry, have acknowledged the economic potential of a nation with young population. Moreover, innovation through digitization and entrepreneurship are playing their part in human capital development. Below are some of the examples:

 

Fiverr (Nadeem Yousuf)

Fiverr is an online website that allows you to get a job. Nadeem Yousuf (Pintoo) hails from Faisalabad is our real-life unsung hero who started from $25 and went on to earn $31,000 through completing 900 orders using Fiverr platform.

Chimera (Laraib Zamir)

Laraib has emerged among a group of youngsters being capable to work as a multitasking professional in spite of her inabilities. She is a source of inspiration and motivation for young women who could not manage to initiate any startup and feel discouraged due to social issues. Through consistent behavior and perseverance, she has been able to explore herself as a change maker. She wants to work for women empowerment and youth could benefit from her experiences. She has the primary focus to create awareness and proper platform for others where each person could become an entrepreneur on their own. Presently, she is working with many collaborative companies and aims to work as a graphic designer, front/back end developer and programming genius.

Pixel Art Games Academy (Sadia Bashir)

The video game industry is the second largest industry in the world. The trend of video game development and designing is increasing day by day in Pakistan and is proving to be fruitful for the economy as video game geeks of our country are competing at international level. Globally, many women are working in the field of gaming industry, but in Pakistan the video game industry is considered as a male dominated field. Sadia Bashir has managed to break this stereotype and came forward as a successful female video developer, designer and artist of Pakistan.

Currently, Sadia is the co-founder of Pixel Art Games Academy (PGA). It is a platform for the gaming developers who want to pursue their careers in gaming industry. Presently, it provides workshops and training sessions to make sure that the budding video game artists receive the best education and guidance so that Pakistan could compete globally in the gaming industry with high quality standards and development.

The story of Sadia is an inspiration for all those women entrepreneurs who want to try their hands in unique or male dominated fields. She has in fact become a role model for many people through her achievements, especially the female entrepreneurs of our country.

The writer is a Karachi based freelance columnist and is a banker by profession. He could be reached on Twitter @ReluctantAhsan

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