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The Best Startups of Pakistan in 2018 to Leave Mark in 2019

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Startup culture in Pakistan has grown exponentially in the past few years, but questions still remain about whether startups have what it takes to survive, mature and scale.

Finding seed funding is where many startups struggle. However, things may be set to change on the venture capital front as big names including Bakery, Golden Gate Ventures, Wadi Accelerator, and Fatima Ventures are showing interest in investing in the Pakistani market.

Here is a shortlist of startups that have already made their presence felt in 2018 expected to go bigger in 2019.

Bykea

Founded: December 2016

Bykea is a local ride hailing service which uses bikes as the primary mode of transportation. Apart from getting a ride, the app allows customers to avail multiple other services such as bill payment, and parcel collection or delivery.

Just like competitors Careem and Uber, Bykea allows its users to track rides and rate them based on the quality of service.

Why are they on this list?

Given the low maintenance and fuel consumption of a bikes, Bykea is able to offer economical rates to its users, compared to other car hailing apps.

Moreover, the app is also available in Urdu making it easier for the masses to understand and use it.

With additional services of collecting and delivering parcels, Bykea is catering to a huge local market and has already shown potential to make it big in the months to come.

CertCars

Founded: February 2017

CertCars makes buying and selling cars easier, eliminating middlemen and connecting buyers directly with sellers. All cars listed on the website get inspected by trained technicians, and they also carry out a detailed photo shoot.

Their service is currently free until the end of 2017, but they will be charging an undisclosed amount from 2018.

Why are they on this list?

A young startup fresh out of tech incubator The Nest I/O, they recently secured investment of Rs5 million from ecommerce portal homeshopping.pk.

MicroPower Labs

Founded: 2015

MicroPower Labs is a technology innovation startup that develops tech gadgets, one of their products being Flash Pack, which claims to be the world’s fastest charging power bank with charging time of 15 minutes.

The startup also aims to launch Cooly in 2018, which they say is the world’s first solar powered wearable cooling device.

Why are they on this list?

With a customer base spread across 35 countries, MicroPower Labs has been able to secure funding from international investors in a very short period, with $100,000 in sales in 2017. The most recent push for the startup came in September 2017 when they secured an equity free grant of AUD $100,000 from the Government of Queensland Australia.

Car Chabi

Founded: December 2015

Car Chabi is a digital car key app that allows users to lock, unlock, start, and secure their car through smartphones. They have introduced many other interesting features for this digital car key as well, such as engine kill, automatically saving parking locations, and pre-heating or cooling the car.

Why are they on this list?

Within one year of operation, the startup was able to generate a revenue of over $30,000 and also secured seed funding worth $150,000 from Treet Corporation Limited in 2017. The first-of-its-kind local app has gained interest of many car owners for both security and convenience.

Patari

Founded: September 2014

Patari claims to be Pakistan’s largest audio streaming platform that not only produces original music, but also the first Pakistani digital media platform that pays royalties to its artists. Users can stream music on the Patari website as well as on its mobile app.

Why are they on this list?

The startup raised $200,000 in seed funding in December 2016 from Sarmayacar, and has since launched many successful projects. Patari’s userbase has been consistently increasing since its launch, and according to Humayun Haroon, co-founder of Patari, they are currently attracting over a million visits and over four million streams each month.

UrduBit

Founded: August 2016

UrduBit is Pakistan’s first Bitcoin trading platform focused on safe transactions and maintaining a level of professionalism that doesn’t exist on the cryptocurrency front locally. The site functions by allowing users to trade directly with each other via the platform, charging a 0.75% trade fee.

Why are they on this list?

Urdubit continues to gain traction as awareness regarding cryptocurrency has increased in the local market. Bitcoin has gained the attention of people around the world who are now looking to invest in this largely unregulated digital currency, and Urdubit shows a lot of potential as a local platform for bitcoin trade in Pakistan.

Courtesy  Dawn.com

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Anees Shah

Getting funds for your start-ups or business is really a difficult job. List of Startup Investors and Firms which Invest in Pakistani Start-ups

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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SadaPay to launch e-money services in Pakistan after Green Signal from SBP

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SadaPay has announced that it has been granted the in-principle approval by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) for an Electronic Money Institution (EMI) license. This approval allows SadaPay to ready its operations for the pilot phase, during which the digital wallet will be available on a limited scale, under supervision of the regulator. 

The startup is founded by American serial entrepreneur Brandon Timinsky, who ventured to Pakistan after his last startup in the US was acquired. Over the last year, Timinsky has assembled a team of banking veterans, liaised with the regulatory authorities, and built the foundation for a “digital first” financial institution in Pakistan. Dr. Waqar Masood Khan, Pakistan’s former Finance Secretary, has joined SadaPay as Chairman of the Board.

Pakistan is now the 5th most populous country in the world, with over 76 million 3G/4G subscribers and nearly 1 million new smartphones users coming online every month. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, internet adoption is only accelerating and more people turn to digital solutions for everyday payments. This presents a tremendous opportunity for SadaPay not only in Pakistan, but also a number of other regional markets that the team hopes to expand to. 

“Sada” translates to “simple” in both Urdu and Arabic. SadaPay’s mission is to do away with the cost and complexities of traditional banking through their simplified digital-first experience. SadaPay offers a smartphone-based digital wallet accompanied by a free Mastercard debit card.

As soon as a SadaPay account is activated, a virtual debit card is provisioned for immediate use. Also, users can perform free and instant transfers to any bank in Pakistan, and withdraw cash from all of the 14,500+ domestic ATMs with no fees (3x per month). Furthermore, users can also load their account with cash at any of 30,000+ retail locations across the country.  

Speaking about the news on the approval, Brandon stated “It’s really amazing to see how committed the State Bank of Pakistan is to adapting to changes in consumer behavior and advances in technology. In the last few months alone, we’ve witnessed tremendous progress by SBP with the release of a number of new regulations that are certain to make an incredible impact on Pakistan’s economy by catalyzing the digitization of its financial system. We’re also very grateful for the support we’ve received from the Bank of Punjab and Mastercard, which will certainly spur our journey towards rapidly expanding financial inclusion in the country”

BRANDON TIMINSKY, FOUNDER OF SADAPAY

Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Waqar said “The role the Central Bank is playing in laying the foundations of a broad-based and user friendly digital payment system in Pakistan is laudable. These efforts have gained momentum since last July. Pakistan would soon be a leading country in digitizing its payment system and SadaPay would play a prominent role to achieve this goal”.

DR. WAQAR MASOOD KHAN, CHAIRMAN OF SADAPAY

Early access to SadaPay will be available for those who have signed up for the waitlist through the website; www.sadapay.pk. SadaPay also has a very feedback-centric approach to their product development roadmap, and they’re also welcoming suggestions via email, hello@sadapay.pk.

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