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Will PTI Government Support and Promote Startups Culture in Pakistan?

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Startups are the innovative ideas of our Youth and these are launched with great expectations to succeed and transform into Enterprises or  Corporate Entities in The Long Run. Startups culture is being viral throughout the world including Pakistan. With the great success of Uber and Careem, the Youth graduates of Various Business Universities and IT Professionals pitch their Ideas and start their Entrepreneurial Journey. Pakistani Youth has great talent to be explored through devising a Youth Policy and Startup Ideas.

Funding Challenges : 

The Startups need funding to cover their maintenance and recurring costs of Webhosting, Staffing and  Marketing the Products and Services. Most of the  Entrepreneurs start their Businesses on the solo flight which results in tough challenges if they run short of funds. Unfortunately, we have limited options in Pakistan for  Venture Capital that makes the roadmap of Startups tougher and challenging. At present, we have very few Startup Funding resources which warrant that  Government should take notice of such dearth and start Venture Capital or Fund to finance the Innovative Ideas of Pakistani Entrepreneurs. Former Government had announced to Set Up Venture Capital Fund for Startups but it was not launched due to unknown reasons. The  Following List of  Venture Capitals and  Startups Incubators is very short and only available to selected high growth Startups of Pakistan.

StartUp Incubators & Venture Capital Firms in Pakistan

  1. LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship (LCE) – The Foundation Fund

    Address: LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship, 3rd Floor, Suleman Dawood School of Business, LUMS, DHA, Lahore, Pakistan 54792

    Phone: +92 423 5608439
    Email: lce@lums.edu.pk
    Website: https://lce.lums.edu.pk
    Twitter: http://twitter.com/lumscent

  2. Lakson Group

    The Lakson Group is one of Pakistan’s leading business conglomerates. The Lakson Group (“Lakson”) was established in 1954 and is one of the largest business groups in Pakistan. Today we manage and own companies that are industry leaders in their respective sectors including agri-business, call centres, consumer non-durables, fast food, financial services, media, paper and board, printing and packaging, surgical instruments, technology (data-networking, BPO and software) and travel.Phone:  (021) 111-525-766
    Email: info@li.com.pk
    Website: http://lakson.com.pk/

  3. Shell Tameer

    Shell LiveWIRE is a Royal Dutch Shell Social Investment Programme, which enables young people to start their own business and create employment.

    Website: https://www.shelltameer.com
    Address: Shell LiveWIRE Trust. Shell House, Karachi, Pakistan
    Phone: (021) 111 888 222
    Email: info@shelltameer.com

  4. PLAN9 TECHNOLOGY INCUBATOR

    PLAN9 Fellowship Program.

    Address: Level 09, Arfa Software Technology Park, 346 – B, Ferozepur Road, Lahore.
    Phone: +92.42.3588.0062 – ext. 1910, 1915
    Email: incubator.pitb@punjab.gov.pk
    Website: http://plan9.pitb.gov.pk

  5. Frontier Digital Ventures

    Funding to accelerate the growth of amazing online classifieds businesses

    Website: http://frontierdv.com

  6. Golden Gate Ventures

    Website: http://goldengate.vc
    Address: 73B Duxton Road Singapore 089532
    Phone: +65 6602 8050

  7. Northstar Group

    The Northstar Group is a Singapore headquartered private equity firm managing more than US$2.0 billion in committed equity capital dedicated to investing in growth companies in Indonesia and to a lesser extent, other countries in Southeast Asia.

    Website: https://www.nsgroup.com

  8. Northstar Advisors Pte. Ltd.

    Address: 6 Battery Road Unit #35-05 Singapore 049909
    Phone: +65 6533-3210
    Fax: +65 6533-3211

  9. Abraaj

    We are a global institution investing in growth markets across Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Turkey.

    Website: http://www.abraaj.com

  10. IJARA Group

    A Pakistan based Private Equity Firm, led by exemplary turnaround specialists who understand what it takes to grow businesses to the next level. IJARA is focused in supporting partner companies through their most difficult challenges.

    Address: First Floor Federation House, Abdullah Shah Ghazi Road, Block 5 Clifton, Karachi 75600 Pakistan
    Phone: +92 (21) 3582-2312
    Email: info@ijara.com.pk
    Website: https://www.ijara.com.pk/

  11. Techstars Ventures

    Techstars Ventures is the venture capital arm of Techstars

    Website: http://www.techstars.com

  12. Invest2Innovate

    Invest2Innovate supports startup communities in growth markets and has been operating in Pakistan since 2011. They have an incubation centre and they also invest in selected companies. You can find more information on their site.

    Website: http://invest2innovate.com

  13. 10xc

    10xC provides seed funding, advice and shared services to entrepreneurs working on ideas or concepts towards validation of product/market fit. Whether you’re a new startup trying to get off the ground or an existing company in need of growth capital, 10xC has the means to support you. They offer up to 1M Rupees initial investment for the sake of 20% equity and incubation to the accepted startups.

    Website: http://10xc.pk

  14. National Incubation Center

    NIC is supported by Government and Jazz with the help of Teamup. Support in raising capital from Angel investors locally and globally.

    Website: http://nicpakistan.pk
    Email: contact@nicpakistan.pk
    Phone: +92-51-844-3333 / +92-51-844-2222

  15. Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) Islamabad Chapter

    TiE runs numerous angel investment groups and funding forums throughout its network. They also host the Pakistan StartUp Cup.

    Invested in: Sukoon.
    Website: http://islamabad.tie.org

  16. WECREATE Pakistan

    Women’s Entrepreneurial Center of Resources, Education, Access, and Training for Economic Empowerment (WECREATE) Projects.

    Website: http://pakistan.wecreatecenter.com
    Address: Office #1, Select Plaza, F-11 Markaz, Islamabad
    Email: wecreatepakistan@gmail.com
    Phone: +92 51 2228969

  17. PLANX

    With a strong network of local and global investors associated with PlanX, we connect our startups with the best potential investors to help aid their growth.

    Website: http://planx.pitb.gov.pk
    Address: 2nd floor, Arfa Software Technology Park, 346-B, Ferozepur Road, Lahore
    Phone: +92-42-35880062 Ext. 1206
    Email: planx.pitb@punjab.gov.pk

  18. Planet N

    Planet N provides a platform for prime growth to start-ups through collaboration and shared services.

    Website: http://planetngroup.com
    Address: 1st Floor, Plot No. E-23, 2nd Zamzama Comm. Lane, Phase V, D.H.A., Karachi, Pakistan.
    Phone: +92 21 3537 9106 – 8
    Fax: +92 21 3581 0445

  19. National ICT R&D Fund

    This is the best place to get funding for your startups. National ICTRD provides big funds on zero equity to promote entrepreneurship. They have already Invested in More than 50 startups.

    Website: http://www.ictrdf.org.pk
    Address: 6th Floor, HBL Tower Jinnah Avenue, Blue Area, Islamabad, Pakistan
    Email: helpdesk@ictrdf.org.pk
    Phone: (+92 51) 921 5360 – (+92 51) 921 5361 – (+92 / 51) 921 5362 – (+92 / 51) 921 5363 – (+92 / 51) 921 5364

  20. Dot Zero Ventures

    Dot Zero ventures primarily invest in early-stage companies that have successfully demonstrated through pilots that their service, product or idea has mass appeal. Invested in: PerkUp, Sukoon and two others.
    Website: http://dotzeroventures.com
    Address: 14th Floor, Dilkusha Forum, Karachi
    Phone: +92 (021) 3455-6352
    Email: info@thedotzero.com

It is  imperative  that  current  PTI Government  should  set  up  Venture Capital  Fund  immediately to help improve the  Startup Culture in  Pakistan Since  the  Finance Minister Asad Omar  has  been the  active  Entrepreneur himself and remained  the  CEO of Engro Chemical limited  and  he  must be quite aware  that  There  is  a Grave  Need  to set  up  Venture Capital Fund  through SME Bank or  microfinance  Banks  0r  Commercial Banks  . The  Startups  Culture has a mushrooming growth in Pakistan with various  Innovative Ideas taking birth as real Businesses through the  Efforts of Youngpreneurs. With the  Set up of  Venture Capital Fund, The StartUps Growth will expand throughout Pakistan. It will ultimately boost the Youth Entrepreneurs  Ideas and relieve them of financial Challenges.

ALSO READ:  Pakistan's small businesses hit hard by COVID-19
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Founded in 2014, PlanX takes in mid-stage technical school start-ups that have already got a viable product and transforms them to the next level by increasing their business and providing them access to multiple funding resources, mentors, connection with angel investors and exposure to the global market. It’s totally different from other accelerating programs as a result of it doesn’t take any equity from start-ups. YES, NO EQUITY. This is most likely as a result of the program is backed by the Punjab Information Technology Board.
https://startupsopportunity.com/job/planx-technology-startups-accelerator/

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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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.

ALSO READ:  Pakistan's small businesses hit hard by 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.

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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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