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Five Reasons How Startup Fever engulfed Pakistani Entrepreneurs

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Startups changing the world with the innovations in every type of business . The Entrepreneurs around the World have gathered to rock the World with their innovative ideas . When world is inclined to change then Pakistan cannot be an exception . The Entrepreneurs like Asad Omar and man behind the source of inspiration and CEO of Naseeb Networks , Mr Moonis Rahman have already left the world How a Developing country like Pakistan could tap the resources and Entrepreneurs who are doing wonders in their fields.

There are several reasons for the inspiration of Pakistani Entrepreneurs to come up with innovative ideas and help build the Small Business Company that fuel the Economy of Pakistan at large . let’s see what inspired the Pakitreneurs to emerge on the pages of Inc , Forbes and Entrepreneurs Magazines .

1.Business & Management Institutes :

The Business Institutes such IBA Karachi , Lums , IBA Sukkur , KITE , KSBL etc have nurtured the business graduates and their entrepreneurial institutes have brought out the creative genie among them and provided them with the platform to create ideas and turn them into reality through incubation and acceleration Centers Such asLUMS center of Entrepreneurship , The Center for Entrepreneurial Development (CED) -IBA Karachi are some of the prominent centers where business graduates are groomed and Ideas are turned into reality through trainings and Grants .

 2.Global Startups Impact :

Startups such as Amazon ,Mashable , Box.net , Google ,Inc , yahoo, MicroSoft etc have really played the key role to attract the young Entrepreneurs . Their Sales , Marketing ,Finance and profit details prompted the Entrepreneurs including Pakistani Entrepreneurs to start their own E-Businesses .

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3.Government-backed Incubation Centers :

Finally , Offical launch of Plan9 & Plan X has surfaced . Plan9 is the Pakistan’s first technology startup incubation program which is being run by the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB). Plan9 is the greatest Program to provide space, mentor ship, electricity (yes, electricity), and legal support for startups who are incubated. Like Business institutes IBA ,LUMS , Plan 9 & Plan X have attracted the Youth and they (youth) successfully launched their Startups .

 4.Private or Independent Incubators :

Before the Official launch of Government backed incubators ,there were only the Private Sector or Independent incubators who really fueled the Startups and helped the entrepreneurs to Start their business . There are Several Independent incubators but the prominent incubators are : Ivest to innovate I2I is the great Incubator having Startups Savaree , Dheere etc .Net I/O [email protected]’s Incubator supported by Global partners such as Google for Entrepreneurs .

5.The Smartphone Market and Broadband Revolution :

Pakistanis are lucky to have 3G and 4G Spectrums at last . The Next generation Internet Services have transformed the nation and the focus has been shifted to the Technology Driven Startups , IOS and Android APPs etc . With rising demand of Smartphones Android and IOS , Startups have already started reaping the benefits and the figure is expected to go up as the time goes by and with permission from Google Play store to allow Wallet accounts for Pakistani to Sell their APPs globally . With over 14 crore Mobile phone users , the figure is go up and will facilitate the the Small business Investors to reap benefits as 3G and 4G grounds all over Pakistan in next couple of years .

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It is high time for Government specially the Ministry of IT and Telecom at Federal Level and IT departments at Provincial , Division and District Level to devise policies to help boost Startup culture and Establish Business Incubation and Acceleration Centers to encourage young Entrepreneurs of Colleges and universities or Even Schools to Turn their Dream into reality and help the country in Economic Development , Eradication of Poverty and Unemployment .The Startups will help in creating jobs and contribute to Social and Economic Development .

Digital

Karachi-based digital bookkeeping startup, CreditBook raises $1.5 million in seed funding

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The Karachi-based digital bookkeeping startup CreditBook, which is trying to ensure that tracking of transactions goes digital, has announced that it has raised US$1.5 million in seed funding from international and local investors.

Key investors included Pakistan’s BitRate Venture Capital, VentureSouq from the United Arab Emirates, US-based Better Tomorrow Ventures, Ratio Ventures, Quiet Capital, Toy Ventures, and i2i Ventures.

Established in June 2020 by Hasib Malik, Iman Jamall, and Hisham Adamjee, CreditBook strives to help microentrepreneurs digitalize and track their transactions.

CreditBook aims to utilize the funding to scale its user base and diversify its product offerings. As indicated by the startup, its registered client base grew 5x in the last six months to reach 500,000.

“Before the launch in June 2020, we had planned to use a mix of digital marketing and offline acquisition. But with lockdown restrictions, we pivoted to a purely digital strategy. We were surprised when we saw thousands of users come onto the platform in the first month with less than $1,000 in total spend,” Malik told Tech in Asia. Via TechinAsia

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Digital

Pakistan Moves Closer to Train One Million Youth with Digital Skills

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Enabling people to bring at least an additional US$1 billion each year into the Pakistani economy through E-Commerce skills by 2025.

Pakistan Moves Closer to Train One Million Youth with 100+ eCommerce and Digital Skills

Karachi, Pakistan, February 05, 2021  ………Pakistan has a large labour force that stands among the top 10 largest labour forces in the world, and it’s growing day by day. To create adequate employment opportunities for them is a huge challenge. On the other hand, employers frequently keep saying that they are unable to find workers with the appropriate skills necessary for their businesses. This obviously shows that there is a mismatch between the demand and supply of skills.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) has shown that skills development can play a major role in the alleviation of poverty, when carefully planned and implemented in the context of the available and emerging employment and income-generation opportunities. This multiplies many folds when the skills are acquired in the digital spheres. It not only widens the work opportunities but also opens up avenues for entrepreneurial ventures as well.

Extreme Commerce, Pakistan’s largest and renowned E-Commerce capacity building platform has excelled in its mission of making Pakistan a hub of entrepreneurial opportunities. Under the guidance of Sunny Ali, thousands of aspiring individuals from Pakistan have successfully initiated global e-commerce businesses.

Extreme Commerce, Pakistan’s largest e-commerce skill development and the entrepreneurial platform has achieved yet another milestone with the expansion of 100+ skills training courses through the “Video Boot Camp (VBC).” The Video Boot Camp includes virtual sessions and videos encompassing around 100 essential e-commerce and digital skills required to excel in the spheres of online businesses. The Video Boot Camp training program is specifically tailored to facilitate the budding entrepreneurs and businessmen and freelancers.

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According to Ali, “E-commerce has skyrocketed after the pandemic and is estimated to grow to a whopping $4.3 trillion within this year.” He further adds, “There is a huge potential for growth in eCommerce both domestic and international, and that is why Extreme Commerce has pledged to enable people to bring at least an additional $1 billion each year into the Pakistani economy through E-Commerce skills by 2025.”

The Video Boot Camp includes over a 100 plus income generating E-Commerce skills (income streams) which an entrepreneur needs to skyrocket their businesses. Some skills offered through the VBC include: Selling through Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) model, Virtual Assistant and FBA Freelancing, online store management of international and local E-Commerce marketplaces, bookkeeping account management services, digital and social media marketing, content writing and graphic designing, 3D designing & modelling, data science and analytics and more.

This initiative of Extreme Commerce will be immensely fruitful in helping their trainees become leading entrepreneurs of the country. Ali, contented with his vision states, “At Extreme Commerce, we offer a multitude of digital skills that are categorized into 100+ courses/income streams under the umbrella of Video Boot Camp (VBC 2021). These skills are pivotal to reducing unemployment and enhancing the capital of our country.” Sharing his focus and goals, he adds, “Skills that actually help you succeed as an online freelancer and even in the real-life environment plus increase your income thereby, are our prime focus right now.”

Earlier, Extreme Commerce and Mishal Pakistan, the Country Partner Institute of the World Economic Forum had signed a partnership to mainstream e-commerce in Pakistan, this includes capacity building initiatives for the media and industry players, including trainings, seminars and workshops.

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The government of Pakistan has estimated digital skills global industry, often referred to as online outsourcing, is expected to generate gross service revenue between $15 billion and $25 billion in 2021.

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Covid-19

Pakistan’s small businesses hit hard by COVID-19

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Small businesses in Pakistan have been adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The low demand at home, disruptions in supply chains, constraints in international trading, and expected prolonged lockdowns are now leading to severe cash flow problems, the inability to pay back debts and cancellation of orders from clients. 

This rising uncertainty is gradually leading them to lay off employees which will have welfare implications. In some sectors where recovery is difficult to predict, small businesses have started planning for the worst: complete shutdown. This crisis could also imply a much bleaker outcome for the startup ecosystem in Pakistan.  

The government has announced a SME relief package. The central bank has also come forward to relieve some of the funding and finance related concerns of private enterprises. Yet, many micro and small businesses do not understand how to apply or if they are eligible, to receive such assistance. There are others who argue that this one off relief may not be enough given that businesses are going to face depressed demand for a longer term. Pakistan’s past record of small businesses trying to access such fiscal packages is also not encouraging, partly because many such firms do not access formal banking channels for their needs or banks impose steep collateral requirements. Also, large segments of micro enterprises have the entire or some components of their businesses in the informal sector.

Federal and provincial governments have two issues to address now: how to ensure that small businesses are able to access and utilize existing government-provided assistance, and secondly, what more can be done to support private enterprise in these times.

A progressive fiscal policy and commitment to redistributive taxation is in line with the spirit of Riasat-e-Madinah to which Prime Minister Imran Khan often refers to. A sincere effort is required to reduce the burden of compliance costs faced by small firms- often filing returns several times during a year and to multiple tax bodies across the country. 

Dr. Vaqar Ahmed

On the former, it would be best to start by addressing information and outreach gaps. As the problems for businesses are evolving in real-time, hence there remains a need for structured and more frequent public-private dialogue which should be inclusive enough to also give representation to women, youth-led firms and social enterprises. Such a dialogue will also give a sense to the government about how these businesses will get affected in the forthcoming rounds of Covid-19.

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On the latter, I believe the forthcoming budget for the fiscal year 2020-21 should be seen as an opportunity not only to provide support to collapsing businesses but also to put in place economic incentives that encourage enterprises to consider resilient business models. A large part of this has to do with reimagining a better taxation regime.

A progressive fiscal policy and commitment to redistributive taxation is in line with the spirit of Riasat-e-Madinah to which Prime Minister Imran Khan often refers to. A sincere effort is required to reduce the burden of compliance costs faced by small firms – often filing returns several times during a year and to multiple tax bodies across the country. It is an opportunity now to automate, rationalize or eliminate several filing and payment layers in taxation to ultimately help reduce the cost of doing business.

After a lot of persuasion from local think tanks and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), federal and provincial governments agreed to establish a National Tax Council (NTC) to harmonize the general sales tax (GST). 

Currently all provinces have a different structure of GST on services. There are also issues regarding definition of certain activities which the federal government may assume to be under its jurisdiction. Perhaps smaller firms have been the hardest hit due to the fragmented tax structure across the federation and it is time now to expedite NTC’s establishment and work in this direction. Even when the system is finally harmonized, the GST should not be collected by multiple windows at federal and provincial levels. A unified tax return and collection should be made possible through online mechanisms.

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It will also be timely to think about which sectors should be motivated to scale up production and services in the face of this health-related emergency. Hospitals and private clinics operating at micro, small, and medium scale are primary candidates for cut in GST on services and even rationalization in direct tax rates. Firms producing personal protective equipment should also see a relief in taxes. The trade taxes faced by such producers or even hospitals importing from abroad need to be revisited. The agro-based and food processing enterprises will need similar help as their input supplies face price and supply volatilities.

Covid-19 also increased demand on several other sectors providing essential services. Our policy circles have rarely seen these sectors as important for the social and mental wellbeing of society until the pandemic struck. It will now be timely to recognize the services of firms (including schools) providing online services. The economic policy managers must think out of the box how best to leverage e-commerce in the battle against Covid-19. 

– Dr. Vaqar Ahmed is an economist and former civil servant. He is author of ‘Pakistan’s Agenda for Economic Reforms’ published by the Oxford University Press. Twitter: @vaqarahmed

Courtesy : ArabNews

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