Unprecedented Boom in Pakistan's Technology Sector
Pakistan's technology sector is in the midst of an unprecedented boom. It is being fueled by the country's growing human capital and rising investments in technology startups. A recent tweet by Swedish fund manager Mattias Martinsson captured it well when he wrote, "Have followed Pakistan for 15 years. Can't recall any time time when VC activity was anywhere near we've seen in the last few months. Impact of reforms kicking in?". New laws have made it easier to create startups and offered greater protection to investors. Digital infrastructure has expanded with over 100 million smartphones and an equal number of broadband subscriptions.
Pakistan is churning out more than 30,000 information technology graduates every year. Over three-quarters of Pakistanis in the top three metros of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad are regularly using the internet. Technology startups are on track to attract more than $230 million in venture capital investments this year, almost 5 times greater than vc investments last year. Technology exports are increasing by double digits every year, reaching $2.1 billion in the fiscal year that ended in June 2021. Pakistani freelancers' revenue grew 47% last year, the highest growth in Asia and the fourth highest in the world.
Pakistan has seen a phenomenal growth of 3500% in broadband subscriptions over the last 8 years . Pakistanis now own more than 103 million smartphones with mobile broadband subscriptions. In a Youtube presentation of the report, Faraz Azhar, Industry Head, Performance, South Asia Frontier Markets, Google said: “With half of its population on the internet - Pakistan is now online!"
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Google Search and YouTube are the most popular Internet applications in Pakistan, according to the study. YouTube is used by nearly 90% of all internet users in Pakistan for streaming music and watching video/TV, and 38% of Pakistan's internet users go to YouTube in the research phase of their shopping journey.
|Lancet Population Projection For Top 5 Countries|
Pakistan has also experienced an e-commerce boom in the midst of the COVID pandemic. 71% of Pakistani shoppers find purchasing products or services online easy, while 66% find it convenient. Another 54% find that online shopping websites or apps give personalized product recommendations, which answer common questions. Two-thirds of consumers believe that online shopping is the way forward. They say they will continue to buy products or services online after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Faraz Azhar, Industry Head, Performance, South Asia Frontier Markets, Google said: “With half of its population on the internet - Pakistan is now online! This is the first time Google and Kantar released a study to understand more about Pakistan’s internet population. But it’s not only about people getting online, this research has uncovered new insights and behaviors that show how COVID is impacting online behaviour and the digital opportunities waiting to be unlocked.”
|Pakistan University Enrollment Growth. Source: Encyclopedia of Higher Education|
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About 7 million have a bachelor's degree and another 3 million have master's or PhDs.
The median age in Pakistan is about 22 years....meaning 50% of Pakistanis make up the denominator to calculate the percentage of college graduates in the country.
That means there are 10 million college grads in a little over 100 million population. The percentage of college grads in the country works out to a little less than 10%.
The figure of 10% college grads is in the same ballpark as India's 8.15% population with college degrees.
Despite a big increase in college attendance, especially among women, fewer than one out of every 10 Indians is a graduate, new Census data show.
Over the weekend, the office of the Census Commissioner and Registrar-General of India released new numbers on the level of education achieved by Indians as of 2011.
They show that with 6.8 crore graduates and above, India still has more than six times as many illiterates.
Half of them (1.01 million) had two-year degree called Associate degree.
0.82 million got 4 year degrees while 0.18 million got master's and PhDs.
Nearly 94 million, or 42%, of Americans ages 25 and over have a college degree of some type.
Nearly 94 million Americans ages 25 and over, which is about 42% of the total U.S. population in that age demographic, had an associate, bachelor's, graduate, or professional degree, according to U.S. Census Bureau's most recent data.
Only 4.5 per cent of the population in the country is educated up to the level of graduate or above while a majority of 32.6 per cent population is not even educated up to the primary school level.
According to the census data for 2011 on literacy, workers and educational levels, released by the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India, literate population who are presently attending any educational institution in the country, below primary occupies the major share of 32.6 per cent.
It was followed by primary (25.2 per cent), middle (15.7 per cent), matric (11.1 per cent), higher secondary (8.6 per cent) and Graduate and above (4.5 per cent).
During the decade 2001-11, improvement is observed at middle and above educational levels and decline in percentage share at lower levels (below-primary and primary).
The improvements at higher educational levels are indication of educational advancement in the country during the decade 2001-11.
The data on workers by five categories of literates namely literate but below matric/secondary, matric/secondary but below graduate, technical diploma or certificate not equal to degree, graduate and above other than technical degree and technical degree or diploma equal to degree or post-graduate degree have also been released.
The data that distributes the population, main workers, marginal workers, non-workers, marginal and non-workers seeking/available for work by literacy status and educational levels separately for total, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes population is also released.
The data reveals that during the decade 2001-2011, there is an overall improvement in literacy status and educational levels of various types of workers and non-workers among total and SC/ST population.
Census 2011 has further exhibited that out of about 55.5 million Marginal workers seeking/available for work in India, the majority of 21.9 million (39.4 per cent) are illiterates followed by 20.9 million (37.6 per cent) literates but below matric/secondary and 8.0 million (14.5 per cent) matric/secondary but below graduate.
Education Attainment 2010 to 2020
No schooling 18.5% to 21.75%
Below Primary 38% to 18.3%
Primary 19.3% to 30.14%
Secondary 22.5% to 23.85%
College 1.7% to 5.96%
Barro-Lee Educational Achievement Dataset
Pakistan Bureau of Statistics
Read more at:
At least 70% of these 583,420 H1-B workers in America are from India. That number is 408,394 Indian H1-B visa holders in the United States.
Assuming median compensation of $100,000 per H1B worker, the total H1-B wages of Indians add up to over $40 billion a year. This is just in the United States.
There are hundreds of thousands of Indians on temporary work visas placed by Indian body shops in the rest of the world.
These body shops not only place H1B in the US but also funnel work worth billions of US$ into India.
"Indian IT Mafia Taking US Jobs"
TruKKer, the largest digital freight network in the Middle East and North African markets, said on Wednesday it had acquired Pakistan's TruckSher, as part of its expansion plans into the South Asian country.
TruckSher, which commenced operations in Pakistan earlier in 2021, raised seed investment from VC firm Sarmayacar, and has grown healthily in the domestic Pakistan long haul sector, TruKKer said in a statement, but did not disclose the financial details of the deal.
It has presence in Karachi and Lahore, with planned expansion across major industrial zones and ports in Pakistan.
TruKKer, which currently operates a fleet of 35,000+ trucks across its primary markets of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and other gulf economies, is backed by Saudi Arabia's STV and Riyad Taqnia fund, IFC and sovereign funds of Abu Dhabi, among others.
INDIA INC LARGELY SILENT
So far, Modi's government has not commented on the backlash on social media and from politicians. None of the sources who spoke to Reuters wanted to be identified as they fear a reprisal from the government and no Indian industry lobby groups has come out and spoken against government or RSS.
The Indian Express said in an editorial it was "time for India Inc to stand up", saying business leaders had maintained "a studied - and perhaps strategic - silence about the vitriol that has been seeping into the public discourse."
The Infosys controversy is related to the government's new income tax filing website launched on June 7. But there were many glitches which Infosys could not fix, despite assurances.
When the Infosys CEO was summoned in August, the finance minister conveyed "deep disappointment and concerns," giving the company until Sept. 15 to fix things.
The magazine Panchjanya said the company was making the same mistakes over and over again, creating doubts about its motives. "There are allegations that the management of Infosys is deliberately trying to destabilize the Indian economy," it said.
After the furore over the article, Sunil Ambekar, the joint head of the RSS publicity wing, sought to distance the organisation from the contents and said Infosys had made a seminal contribution to the country.
But concerns remain others may be targeted, too.
A mutual fund manager with Infosys and Tata investments said he was worried as it indicated "the government was not pro-business", and there were fears other companies can face such backlash for lapses.
Pakistan raised $279 million in a sale of telecom spectrum at the base price, with Pakistan Telecommunications Mobile Ltd. the sole bidder in an auction that was snubbed by the country’s three other major phone operators.
Pakistan Telecom’s unit Ufone won nine megahertz in the 1,800 megahertz band, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority said in a statement late Friday. Pakistan Telecom will pay half the bid amount within 15 days and the rest over five years, according to the statement. The total value of both bands of spectrum on offer was $832 million at base price, the regulator said, adding that no offer was made for the 2,100 megahertz band.
Jazz, a unit of Veon Ltd., China Mobile Ltd.’s Zong and Telenor Pakistan -- which are all in a legal battle with the regulator over renewal of their existing spectrum fees -- didn’t take part in the process, the first such auction since Prime Minister Imran Khan came to power three years ago. Veon Chief Executive Officer Kaan Terzioglu earlier this month said Pakistan’s telecom spectrum should be priced in rupees rather than dollars as the pricing is not sustainable.
The spectrum policy, pricing and rollout obligations deterred Telenor from participating in the airwaves sale, spokesman Saad Warriach said after the bidding was closed Thursday. “The existing circumstances did not present the economic viability to invest in the spectrum during this year’s auction,” he said.
Pakistan’s mobile subscriber’s base has reached 84.4% of the country’s 220 million population, according to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority data.
Two universities featured in the 301-400, five in the 401-600, nine in the 601-800, ten in the 801-1,000 and nine in the 1,001+ rank band.
Pakistan is one of the world’s fastest-improving nations on key metrics for universities, says Shafqat Mahmood.
The overall ranking includes 1,117 universities from 94 countries and regions.
Thirty-six public and private sector universities of Pakistan were featured in Times Higher Education Ranking 2021, marking a significant improvement in the global standing of the country's varsities.
One university featured in the 201-300 rank band, two in the 301-400, five in the 401-600, nine in the 601-800, ten in the 801-1,000 and nine in the 1,001+ rank band.
Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood shared the news regarding Pakistani varsities making it to the global ranking.
Mahmood tweeted: “Last three years have seen a greatest upward movement of Pakistani universities in global rankings. We still have ways to go, but the direction is right, the pace is good. Credit to PTI government and the universities that made us proud.”
Sharing a link to the report on Twitter, the education minister said: “Pakistan is one of the world’s fastest-improving nations on key metrics for universities. We are among the top five nations for improvements in research citations and industry links.”
According to the global ranking, the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) featured in the 300 rank band, while the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, and COMSATS University Islamabad featured in the 400 rank band.
The University of Lahore and NED University of Engineering and Technology were in the 401-600 rank band, while Fatima Jinnah Women University, Jinnah Sindh Medical University and the University of Sargodha were in the 601-800 rank band. The Iqra University, Dow University of Health Sciences and Quaid-e-Azam University were in the 801-1,000 rank band.
The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings is the global performance index that assess universities against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The assessments are done across four broad areas — research, stewardship, outreach and teaching.
The 2021 Impact Rankings is the third edition and the overall ranking includes 1,117 universities from 94 countries and regions.
Big Tech wants to build the ‘metaverse.’ What on Earth does that mean?
Microsoft, Facebook and other tech companies claim a virtual reality universe is the future of the Internet.
What is the metaverse?
The term was coined by writer Neal Stephenson in the 1992 dystopian novel “Snow Crash.” In it, the metaverse refers to an immersive digital environment where people interact as avatars. The prefix “meta” means beyond and “verse” refers to the universe. Tech companies use the word to describe what comes after the Internet, which may or may not be reliant on VR glasses.
Think of it as an embodied Internet that you’re inside of rather than looking at. This digital realm wouldn’t be limited to devices: Avatars could walk around in cyberspace similar to how people maneuver the physical world, allowing users to interact with people on the other side of the planet as if they’re in the same room.
The 2018 sci-fi film “Ready Player One” offers a glimpse of what many technology companies prophesy is the Internet’s next big thing.
Inspired by a 2011 Ernest Cline novel, the film’s orphaned teenage hero flees his bleak real-world existence by immersing in a dazzling virtual reality fantasy. The boy straps on his headset, reminiscent of a pair of VR goggles, and escapes into a trippy virtual universe, dubbed “OASIS.”
“People come to the OASIS for all the things they can do, but they stay for all the things they can be,” the main character says in the trailer.
A number of sci-fi-inspired tech CEOs say that one day soon, we will all be hanging out in an interactive virtual reality world, complete with games, adventures, shopping and otherworldly offerings, just like the characters in the movie.
Instead of OASIS, they call it the metaverse.
The metaverse is different from today’s virtual reality, where clunky headsets offer siloed experiences and few chances to cross-play with people who own other gadgets. Instead, the metaverse would be a massive communal cyberspace, linking augmented reality and virtual reality together, enabling avatars to hop seamlessly from one activity to the next.
It’s a huge undertaking that would require standardization and cooperation among tech giants, who are not prone to collaborating with competitors — though it hasn’t stopped many from saying the metaverse is just around the corner.
Facebook should be known as a “metaverse company,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in July on an earnings call. The goal, he said, is to populate this virtual world by enticing new users with cheap headsets. Eventually, Zuckerberg hinted, this robust user base would prove an adverting boon: “hundreds of millions of people” in the metaverse “compounds the size of the digital economy inside it.”
Facebook moved closer to this vision in recent weeks, revealing a virtual reality workspace for remote workers. The company is also working on a smart wristband and VR goggles that project the wearer’s eyes. The company is investing billions of dollars into the effort.
The metaverse doesn’t exist today, and there’s no clear date for its arrival. Augmented reality and virtual reality have yet to woo the masses and remain a niche interest, despite Zuckerberg’s pledge in 2017 to bring a billion people onto Oculus headsets.
Access to capital has become easier as we are seeing many foreign VCs showing interest in Pakistan
Some might deem this conversation to be a little premature but as more and more Venture Capital (VC) money is coming into Pakistani startups and at higher valuations, one has to ask: how do they plan on making returns? Most of these well-funded companies are being built on the premise of blitzscaling, which involves a high cash burn and (supposedly temporary) disregard for profitability to focus on top-line growth. That basically leaves two ways for financiers to make money on the deals. The first is to take the entity public and sell the stake. Alternatively, dilution through mergers and acquisitions (M&A).
Let’s take the first one: very few tech companies to this date have considered listing on the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) as clear from the particularly small number of scrips in the sector, let alone direct-to-consumer or product-based startups. There is obviously a good reason for that since most of these young organisations require lots of risky money which is the domain of venture capital firms, who are often willing to accord head-scratching valuations otherwise unlikely to be perceived the same way by the general public. Just take Airlift’s latest $85 million Series B which put the grocery deliverer at $275m barely a year into operations and a fleet that takes some effort to spot on Karachi’s roads at least. In comparison, Airlink, the mobile distributor and manufacturer, raised $39m in its initial public offering after over a decade of business and a healthy bottom line.
That still leaves with the second option, M&A, to investors to make a return. However, there again, Pakistan hasn’t been the hottest market in any sector, forget tech. One glimpse of hope has come from the Middle East where VC-funded startups with lots of cash are eyeing for regional expansion to help them raise subsequent investment rounds and are on the lookout to eat up smaller players in their sectors.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’ technology exports have increased by 80.6 percent in August 2021 over the same month last year, the Ministry of Commerce said on Friday.
During the month under review, technology exports recorded at $224 million against $124 million in August 2020.
Similarly, the exports of information and communication technology increased 46 percent to $420 million in the two months of the current fiscal year, according to central bank figures. Last fiscal, the exports were $287 million.
The government has focused on technology and IT sector to boost the exports. For this purpose, different incentives are being offered to freelancers. The startups in Pakistan have also made remarkable progress during recent months.
According to the International Labour Organization Flagship Report 2021, Pakistan has been ranked as the 2nd largest supplier of online labour in software development and technology.
Federal Minister for IT and Telecommunication Syed Amin Ul Haque the other day inaugurated portal for online registration of freelancers at Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB).
Minister said the Pakistani freelancers had fuelled the growth of the gig economy in the country. The growth of Pakistani freelancers would enhance the country’s export earnings.
He also said that the National Freelancing Facilitation Policy has been developed after significant consultation and was focused on accelerating and sustaining the development of the freelancer industry in Pakistan.
Freelancers would be allowed to open a special dollar account to receive payments for their individual IT exports.
The government has been working to introduce Special Technology Zones (STZs) all over the country to further boost the IT industry.
IT exports could jump to $4 billion in a year if the package for the IT and telecom sector announced by the government gets implemented, according to experts.
Last month, the government announced to establish a Rs10 billion fund for providing cash rewards to IT companies against their exports. The government is also set to offer a five percent rebate on these exports.
The higher growth in the country’s technology product and services exports was due to the coronavirus pandemic related rise in freelancing activities.
Telecommunications, computer and information services are the major items of services exports.
The last one year has seen an exponential rise in Pakistani start-up companies, as more and more tech-savvy entrepreneurs attempt to solve longstanding business issues with the help of technology. Backed by investment, pitches are finally moving from mere buzzwords to reality. Eos profiles some of the most prominent of these new companies and the people behind them…
n a Wednesday night, thousands show up to attend an online event titled ‘Pakistani Start-ups: The Next Big Thing’. Before the conference begins, the timer ticks on screen and dramatic music plays in the background. The comments section is already brimming with excitement.
“Hello from Rawalpindi,” one comment reads. “Hello from Los Angeles,” says another. And in a sea of hellos from Pakistan and around the world, one jokester says, hello from Wakanda — referring to a fictional country that is very technologically advanced, from Marvel comics and films.
The event has been organised by Paklaunch, a community aiming to connect start-ups with mentors, advisers and investors. Clearly, many in the virtual audience are looking for connections and mentorship. The comments section continues to populate with young individuals, working in tech, introducing themselves.
Pakistani start-ups have thus far secured at least 240 million dollars in investment in 2021 alone.
The countdown ends and makes way for a promotional video that declares that, in Pakistan, you’ll find the “drive, grit and ambition characteristic of the early days in Silicon Valley.” “The venture-backed start-up transformation that happened in the US, China, India and Indonesia is now taking off in Pakistan,” the voice-over continues, over imagery of tech being used across the country.
Soon, President Dr Arif Alvi is on the screen. “Pakistan is catapulting itself in the new digital era,” he says. After welcoming the participants and investors from around the world, he opens the conference by saying, “Pakistan Zindabad!”
The Pakistani tech industry and start-ups have been a frequent talking point over the past year. “Pakistan has huge potential and we are open for business,” tweeted Prime Minister Imran Khan last month when Airlift — a Lahore-based tech start-up — secured 85 million dollars in ‘Series B’ financing. Less than a week later, it was announced that Bazaar — a Karachi-based tech start-up — had secured 30 million dollars in ‘Series A’ funding. This prompted federal minister Asad Umar to tweet, “Time for the Pakistani tech sector has arrived.”
Indeed, the Pakistani tech sector seems to have arrived in a big way. Good news about this boom has continued to mount over the past year. Pakistani start-ups have thus far secured at least 240 million dollars in investment in 2021 alone. For comparison, 66 million dollars were raised in all of last year.
News reports of these triumphs are often published with images of young men and women, usually dressed in business-casual attire or even t-shirts and jeans, smilingly looking into the camera. Surely, they have something to smile about. They see and are a part of a future not everyone can envision just yet.
While the technologically challenged and those without much business savvy may not understand what Series A and Series B funding are, or what terms such as ‘FinTech’ mean, it is clear for all to see that the young minds behind tech start-ups understand international and local funds, and the needs of Pakistan.
(Cheat sheet: Pre-seed-funding is the earliest stage of funding, while seed-funding is the first official funding stage, according to Investopedia, a publication that aims to simplify complex financial information. Series A, B and C the next are funding rounds. Series B financing is the second round of funding for a company that has met certain milestones. Another Investopedia article says that the term ‘FinTech’ refers to the integration of technology into offerings by financial services companies, in order to improve their use and delivery to consumers).
The COVID-19 pandemic reshaped the education industry, heating up the global edtech startups that made online education more accessible for a wider population, for example in countries like India and Indonesia, Aziz mentioned.
The education market size in Pakistan is estimated at $12 billion and is projected to increase to $30 billion by 2030, according to Aziz.
Taha Ahmed and Rooshan Aziz left their jobs in strategy consulting and investment banking in London earlier this year in order to found a mobile-only education platform startup, Maqsad, in Pakistan, with a goal “to make education more accessible to 100 million Pakistani students.”
Having grown up in Karachi, childhood friends Ahmed and Aziz are aware of the challenges about the Pakistani education system, which is notably worse for those not living in large urban areas (the nation’s student-teacher ratio is 44:1). Pakistani children are less likely to go to school for each kilometer of distance between school and their home — with girls being four times affected, Maqsad co-founder Aziz said.
Maqsad announced today its $2.1 million pre-seed round to enhance its content platform growth and invest in R&D.
The pre-seed round, which was completed in just three weeks via virtual meetings, was led by Indus Valley Capital, with participation from Alter Global, Fatima Gobi Ventures and several angel investors from Pakistan, the Middle East and Europe.
Maqsad will use the proceeds for developing in-house content, such as production studio, academics and animators, as well as bolstering R&D and engineering, Aziz told TechCrunch. The company will focus on the K-12 education in Pakistan, including 11th and 12th grade math, with plans to expand into other STEM subjects for the next one-two years, Aziz said.
Maqsad’s platform, which provides a one-stop shop for after-school academic content in a mix of English and Urdu, will be supplemented by quizzes and other gamified features that will come together to offer a personalized education to individuals. Its platform features include adaptive testing that alter a question’s level of difficulty depending on users’ responses, Aziz explained.
The word “maqsad” means purpose in Urdu.
Tag, a one-year-old startup that offers banking and financial services to users in Pakistan, has raised over $12 million in what is now the largest seed financing round in the South Asian market.
Liberty City Ventures, Canaan Partners, Addition, Mantis and Banana Capital and others financed the round, which brings YC-backed Tag’s to-date raise to over $17.5 million. This is the firm time many of these investors, including Lee Fixel’s Addition, have invested in a startup in Pakistan.
The round values Tag at $100 million, two people involved in the deal told TechCrunch. The new funding took just two weeks to close, Tag founder and chief executive Talal Gondal told TechCrunch in an interview. He declined to comment on the valuation.
The investor’s excitement to Tag comes as the startup builds one of the crucial railroads for users in Pakistan. “We are trying to become both Revolut and Paytm in Pakistan,” the 29-year-old founder said.
Tag partners with public and private firms to offer their employees banking services including getting their salaries on the Tag account and Visa-powered virtual and physical cards. Signing up on Tag — which includes some verification of an individual’s identity — just takes three minutes, he said.
It also provides a range of B2C offerings such as the ability to pay others online and top up utility bills that are available to any user in Pakistan who signs up to the platform.
“We eventually want to offer the complete set of banking and financial services to users in Pakistan,” he said.
A group of very young startups have made splashy funding announcements in recent weeks. Quick-commerce startup Airlift unveiled a record $85 million Series B last month, followed by business-to-business Bazaar’s record $30 million Series A round. Last week, the digital freight marketplace BridgeLinx announced a $10 million seed round, which at the time was the nation’s largest. Wednesday’s announcement also makes Tag one of the most valued firms from Y Combinator’s recent batches.
Gondal said startups are finally having a moment in the South Asian market. “Each country’s startup ecosystem goes through various waves. In India, we saw e-commerce firms like Flipkart flourish in the first wave. Firms like Ola, Zomato and Swiggy and fintech firms like PhonePe and Paytm made inroads in the waves after that,” he said, adding that he saw a similar trend in Berlin.
After working as an investment banker in Canada for a decade, Halima Iqbal moved back to Pakistan in 2017 and quickly realized how difficult it is for women to access financial services. “I had a really hard time opening up a basic bank account. It took me about three and a half months,” Iqbal told TechCrunch. She began researching how Pakistani women deal with money—for example, how do they save or take out credit?
Then she met product designer and entrepreneur Farwah Tapal, who had recently returned to Pakistan from Spain, and the two created Oraan in 2018 to help women access financial services. The startup announced today it has raised $3 million in funding, co-led by returning investor Zayn Capital and Wavemaker Partners, with participation from Resolution Ventures, i2i Ventures, Hustle Fund, Haitou Global, Plug and Play and angels like Claire Diaz-Ortiz, a former investing partner at Magma Partners and early Twitter employee.
Oraan has now raised just over $4 million in funding. Iqbal and Tapal said they are the first women entrepreneurs in Pakistan’s fintech space to raise a seed round.
“There was an opportunity, how can we understand the saving space and informal economy in Pakistan, and where can we capture that?” Iqbal said.
Oraan decided to start with ROSCAs (rotating credit and savings associations), or committees of people who contribute money to a pool that is distributed to a member each month. It will expand into more financial services, with plans to become a digital bank.
Based on Oraan’s research, only about 7% of Pakistani women are financially included, meaning they have at least a basic bank account. For many women, trying to access financial services means facing logistical and social barriers.
“When a woman goes into a bank, the first question we get asked is ‘why do you even need bank account?,’ especially if you’re a freelancer or micro-entrepreneur or unemployed homemaker,” Iqbal said, adding that women are often asked to provide their husband or a male relative’s information so they can serve as a guarantor. “These kinds of restrictions have hindered women from having the kind of financial mobility that they require to be able to contribute equally to the economic growth of the country.”
Traditionally, ROSCAs are formed within communities, for example among family members, friends or neighbors. Then each person puts in a set amount of money per month. Who gets each month’s pool of money is decided by the committee, sometimes by a vote or random draw.
Iqbal and Tapal decided to start with ROSCAs because almost everyone they know had participated in an informal one. Based on Oraan’s research, about 41% of the Pakistani population has participated in a ROSCA and $5 billion gets rotated through them on an annual basis.
“The scale of use and what it provided to the user was just so fascinating,” Iqbal said. “This is a goldmine to create something valuable for the end user, as well as a business opportunity.”
Oraan formalizes ROSCAs, offering five-month or ten-month plans. One of the main differences between Oraan’s ROSCAs and informal ones is that users can pick which month they want the pool of money, because the app’s treasury management backend forms committees based on members’ needs and ability to pay.
and Credit Associations in
This research investigates the scope for digitization of Rotating and Savings Credit Association in Pakistan on the rails of Digital
Financial Service and its potential to increase DFS uptake. 36% of the people in Pakistan save money, but only 4% of those save money
with a formal financial institution, while 33% save through saving clubs called Kamaitis, the local version of Rotating Savings and
Credit Associations (ROSCAs). Its digitization presents an opportunity to bring people to DFS by digitizing a behavior with which
they are familiar.
We follow a Human Centered Design process in 3 phases namely inspiration, ideation and implementation.
This phase consisted of semi-structured qualitative interviews with 80 participants including ROSCA organizers, members and nonmembers. The sample was varied across gender, locality and ROSCA size. The purpose of the qualitative research was to investigate
technology ownership and usage, understanding of and familiarity with mobile money and banking services, and how the overall
ROSCA structure works including motivations for joining ROSCA, problems faced in managing and participating in ROSCAs and
the functioning of ROSCAs.
We studied the functioning of and challenges encountered throughout the ROSCA cycle, which consists of motivation, group
formation, formalization, collection and disbursement and assignment, and exchanges.
Following are the main findings from inspiration phase:
• Social capital is an important element in the functioning of ROSCAs, from group formation stage to disbursements, and in
resolving problems which arise during ROSCA cycle.
• The main motivations for joining ROSCAs include forced saving (37.5%), purchasing durable goods (30%), buying or building
a house (27.5%), starting or expanding a business (22.5%), wedding expenses (20%), religious obligations (17.5%), and
educational expenses (15%).
• In group formation, organizer plays the key role and participants are recruited by the organizer. Social capital exists between
organizers and individual members, but not between members.
• Formalization through rules is more prevalent in large ROSCAs (which require legal documentation) than in small ROSCAs
(which rely on rules and verbal commitments).
There are two popular methods of pot allocation: lucky draw and need-based assignments. Lucky draws are more common in
small- and medium-sized ROSCAs, whereas large ROSCAs have need-based assignments. Turn exchange is a very common
phenomenon facilitated by the organizer.
• Collection and disbursement are done in physical cash mostly. Either the organizer has to go to submit the amount or the
organizer has to collect the amount. Collections take place daily or monthly. Women have problems in collection and
disbursement due to mobility issues.
• Record keeping is done by the organizer, and is one of the core functions in managing of ROSCAs, increasing in complexity
and sophistication with an increase in size of the group. Record keeping is challenging for the low literate organizers, who
often seek help from intermediaries, hence compromising the privacy of the group. Women are more avid record keepers.
• Delayed payments are commonly reported, but there is no standard mechanism to handle it. Different groups have devised
different penalties for delayed payments – monetary penalties proved to be dysfunctional due to the high social capital,
therefore, non-monetary penalties were employed by the organizers to deal with these issues.
• Frauds were not experienced personally by any of the participants, but they had heard about instances of fraud.
“There’s a full pipeline” of companies planning to list, Khan said in an interview this month. “IPOs happen because people need capital, so you need good things happening at the exchange level; that the exchange is functioning well, there’s ample liquidity, investors are available and the valuations are good.”
Khan pointed to the success of Air Link Communication Ltd. -- which started trading last week following the country’s largest private sector IPO -- and Octopus Digital’s offer that was oversubscribed within 30 minutes of opening its book building, as evidence that current weakness in the markets won’t deter potential applicants.
While Pakistan’s benchmark stock index has rebounded about 70% from its pandemic lows in March 2020, it’s up just 1.6% this year, underperforming most of its global peers. Pakistan’s KSE-100 Index dropped 1.5% as of 2:47 p.m. local time Monday.
Companies need money to invest as Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government targets the highest economic growth in four years, PSX’s Khan said. Drugmaker Searle Co. and internet services company Telecard Ltd. are among firms planning to list subsidiaries.
The Pakistan Stock Exchange, which is 40% owned by a consortium of Chinese bourses, is embedding a new trading platform acquired from its partner Shenzen Stock Exchange Co. that will allow new products to be launched in about two months.
The stock exchange is also working on a plan that will enable trading in sovereign bonds by the end of the year, said Khan, adding that index trading, derivatives or options trading will be launched between January-June after consultation with market players.
MSA Capital led the round with participation including from Global Founders Capital, Fox Ventures and First Check Ventures. The Islamabad-based company wants to enter other South Asian markets within six months.
The mix of equity and debt funding was led by MSA Capital, with participation from Global Founders Capital, Fox Ventures and First Check Ventures, the release stated.
Strategic angel investments also came from Simone Mancini and Johnny Mitrevski, co-founders of Scalapay; Ashley Davies, former Venmo chief financial officer and current Sylp CFO; Adam Mawdesley, vice president of Partnerships and Product at Splitit; and United Bank Limited of Pakistan, according to the release.
Read more: Power and Perils of Bringing BNPL to Pakistan
QisstPay offers installment payments for emerging markets and aims to address the hidden fees and lack of integration that has permeated the payments ecosystem in Pakistan, the release stated. When chosen at checkout, QisstPay enables shoppers to pay in installments with no interest or late fees.
Co-Founder Jordan Olivas said in the release he saw the need for such a product when he moved to the country — the fifth largest population in the world — and realized that people could benefit from a financial tool to purchase goods and services.
“Over 60% of Pakistan’s population is under the age of 30, which means that the majority of the country is adopting new technologies,” he said in the release. “Yet so many people still believe that Pakistan isn’t ready to adopt a BNPL system. The rapid growth and use of a platform like QisstPay proves otherwise.”
See also: Pakistan’s TAG Raises $12M in Seed Funding Round
The installment tool gives Pakistanis the ability to pay for items they need every day while also helping them better manage their money in what is largely a cash-driven landscape. Most people in the country don’t have the wherewithal to obtain credit cards and have turned to QisstPay to help them manage expenses to pay for necessities like phone service and food, the release stated.
@Sana_Jamal's exclusive interview with @amerhashmi2, Chairman STZA.
Pakistan unveils ambitious plan to become a tech powerhouse
New tech authority chief reveals how 14 world-class zones will create thousands of jobs
Published: October 08, 2021 18:36
Sana Jamal, Correspondent
Gulf News exclusively spoke to Amer Ahmed Hashmi, the Chairman of Special Technology Zones Authority, Pakistan’s top organisation established in 2021 to oversee the country’s ambitious plans to develop a high-tech economy for rapid eco-nomic growth.
President Dr Arif Alvi on Saturday inaugurated Pakistan Pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020. First lady Samina Alvi and Advisor on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood were also present on the occasion. The president also visited different stalls of the pavilion where he was briefed about Pakistani products.
The president while meeting with heads of leading investment and technology firms in Dubai said that Pakistan is offering promising business opportunities to foreign investors through one-window operations in sectors of innovation and technology. The President said the one-window facility under Special Technology Zones
Authority is aimed at encouraging and facilitating the foreign investors to expand their information technology footprint in Pakistan.
He said the government has set up the STZA with a mandate to provide world-class digital and physical infrastructure across the country and put Pakistan on global technology radar. The President invited the companies to invest in Pakistan’s diverse sectors particularly in e-business. The business heads expressed keen interest to make investments in Pakistan in their respective domains and also briefed them about their companies. The president later witnessed the signing of three MoUs between Pakistan’s Special Technology Zones Authority with Mastercard, Galaxy racer (E-sports) and Shorooq Partners VC Funds.
Colabs is a Lahore-based startup that aims to build Pakistan’s largest community of entrepreneurs and freelancers through its coworking spaces, business solutions, events, and educational programs. It was started in 2019 by twin brothers; Omar and Ali Shah, as a coworking company, and currently operates two spaces in Lahore, with a third on the way. On the surface, it seems like just another coworking operator but what sets it apart is its ambition to create the largest community of entrepreneurs and freelancers in the fifth largest country in the world.
“We want to knit together a community of 100,000 entrepreneurs and freelancers in Pakistan, starting with 5,000 seats within the next two years,” stated Colabs co-founder and CEO Omar Shah in a conversation with MENAbytes. He previously spent 7 years working in Dubai as private equity and venture capital investor in emerging markets including Mexico, UAE, Turkey, and Pakistan, before moving back home to Lahore in 2019, to establish Colabs. Ali Shah, Omar’s twin brother is a real estate developer in Lahore, who leads the family’s construction and development firm, Sabcon, which develops innovative and modern commercial buildings across Lahore in the past decade.
The startup currently has about 700 members who work from its spaces. It expects to add another 400 when it launches its third site early next year. But how can a coworking company in Pakistan with 700 seats build the capacity for 100,000 members over the next five to seven years, we asked Omar.
(For context, WeWork currently has a capacity of about 60,000 seats in India. It entered the market as a result of a joint venture with a local company in 2017 and has invested tens of millions of dollars to date.)
“As a family, we have been developing and managing properties in Lahore for many decades. Initially, it was traditional real estate but then Ali started Sabcon to do modern, innovative buildings a few years ago, so we understand the space very well. We can design our spaces for more efficient utilization than an average coworking operator and drive higher revenue per square foot at half the build cost. With all the learnings we have from our first two years, we’re ready to scale our spaces all over Pakistan. We’ve created a playbook that allows us to quickly turn buildings of different sizes into coworking spaces in a few months.”
When asked if there’s enough demand in Pakistan to sell 100,000 seats, he stated that the rate at which startup and freelance ecosystems of Pakistan are growing, they won’t have any issues in terms of demand, “It is more about creating the capacity to serve the demand.”
Colabs has been largely bootstrapped until now but to move forward with its expansion, it would need external money, “We had raised a small friend and family round when we started the company and didn’t have to raise any capital after that. We’re now considering raising a seed round as there’s a lot of inbound interest and we’re ready to scale our product.” said Omar, speaking to MENAbytes, without disclosing the details of how much they’re looking to raise. He said that the economics of the business are very strong and they’re profitable even today if they stop investing in growth.
Shorooq Partners, a leading VC firm headquartered in the UAE and with offices across Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain,has been granted approval by Special Technology Zones Authority (STZA) for a Zone Enterprise license and will be opening their first office in Pakistan in theIslamabad Special Technology Zone.
Shorooq Partners is the leading technology investor across emerging markets, partnering with startups, and building enduring businesses through seed stage equity and debt funding with afocus on the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan.
Earlier this year, Shorooq Partners signed a MoU with the STZA to support efforts to build Pakistan’s technology ecosystem in the presence of the Honorable President of Pakistan Dr.ArifAlvi.Shorooq Partners was keen to establish a physical presence in Pakistan to support local founders and other local investors through a series of ecosystem initiatives.
As part of its new office, Shorooq Partners intends to invest and extend its one-of-a-kind value-creation arm to its portfolio companies in Pakistan and give them a real competitive advantage in the market.
Shorooq Partners was early in investing in Pakistan and have done more than 10 investments incompanies such as Airlift, PostEx, DigiKhata, Retailo, KTrade Securities and Tazah Technologies.
Chairman of STZA, Amer Hashmi, reinforced the government’s commitment to facilitating global venture capital firms in the Special Technology Zones.
“The presence of a VC firm like Shorooq Partners will be significant for Pakistan as it will bring global best practices that will enable Pakistani tech entrepreneurs and investors to forge connections on a global level, tap into other markets, and learn from top-tier founders and investors.”
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment, Abdul Razak Dawood on Friday said that there is a lot of scope to increase exports in Information Technology (IT) from non-traditional sector at present, announcing that the government has set a new target of $3.5 billion exports in this regard.
“The current annual $2.5 billion IT exports are very low. We now have an annual export target of $3.7 billion this year,” he said while addressing the Technology Roundtable to highlight Investment opportunities in the IT and Information Technology Enabled Services (ITES) sector organized by Board of Investment ( BOI).
“Today is the age of Information Technology and e-commerce, our youth can take full advantage of it,” he said, adding that Pakistan’s exports can now be boosted by focusing on some of the non-traditional sectors from the traditional export sector including textile.
Razak Dawood said that there was a need to promote export culture in the country at present and the government wanted to increase exports on priority basis.
During his address, he said that Pakistan’s economy has made significant progress reflecting a blend of stabilization and structural reforms despite being challenged at economic and geo political front and is moving on a positive growth trajectory.
He added that Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), that use e-Commerce platforms, are around five times more likely to export than those in the traditional economy and the policy aims to pave the way for holistic growth of e-Commerce in the country by creating an enabling environment in which enterprises have equal opportunity to grow steadily.
He stressed that the way forward for Pakistan on the economic front is to focus on exports, specifically IT related exports.
Chairman BOI said that government of Pakistan is making all out efforts to put the economy on the track of long-term and sustainable economic progress.
“IT Sector Policy of Pakistan offers a generous set of incentives to investors” he said.
He also apprised the participants on “Pakistan Regulatory Modernization Initiative” (PRMI), being led by BOI that was launched by the Honorable Prime Minister of Pakistan.
“Once rolled out, it shall transform the regulatory landscape across all tiers of government,’ he said.
He added that the IT sector also allows up to 100% foreign ownership and 100% repatriation of profits.
Secretary BOI, while highlighting IT sector specific reforms introduced in Pakistan shared that the payment limit for foreign vendors of digital services has been enhanced by SBP from $100,000 to $400,000 and the approval from SBP for payment above $100,000 has been waived off for digital services.
She further added that in order to facilitate IT businesses, 62 globally recognized companies have been notified requiring no approval from the State Bank and that the State Bank has allowed commercial banks to obtain the Cloud Outsourcing Services to meet their growing customers’ needs.
Elaborating on some incentives introduced for the Special Technology Zones, Secretary BOI mentioned income tax exemption for 10 years including on dividends and capital gains, exemption of custom duties and taxes on capital goods for 10 years, exemption from GST on import of plant, machinery, equipment and raw-materials and exemption from property tax for 10 years.
The Technology Roundtable was a successful feat in showcasing opportunities in Pakistan’s thriving IT sector and ended with a unanimous vote of re-assurance that all stakeholders will work in close collaboration with BOI to uplift the development of IT sector to ensure export led growth and quality FDI.
Extolling the importance of startups and export-oriented small businesses to the country’s economic growth, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Wednesday he wanted to emulate the success of Silicon Valley and make Pakistan a hub for new businesses.
Addressing the launch of the National Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) policy on Wednesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan vowed to take stern action against government departments and officials who created hurdles in the setting up of new startups and export-oriented businesses.
Saying that fresh incentives would be extended to such businesses, which he claimed had been ignored in the past, the PM said: “We are giving SMEs bank credit facility, land for their businesses on lease and [are committed to] eradicating red tapism.”
PM Khan said the SME sector was the biggest source of employment and had a considerable share in wealth creation.
Giving the example of Silicon Valley — the hub of startups and global technology companies in the US — he said youngsters around the world had become billionaires thanks to IT-related startups.
He said the government was facilitating young people in obtaining credit and other facilities and said he was happy that “$500 million investment in Pakistani startups is coming in from abroad”. This, he said, meant the country was heading in the right direction.
Talking about exports, the prime minister said that small countries like Singapore, which had a much smaller population than Pakistan, had surpassed us in terms of exports. “Singapore with a 5 million population has over $300 billion in exports, while Malaysia has $220 billion,” he said.
The PM said the government was trying to reduce regulations for SMEs to facilitate them. He particularly spoke about the no-objection certificate (NOC) regime, adding that inspections of businesses would be streamlined by using the latest computerised methods.
He recalled that the government had inherited multiple economic problems but said that despite challenges, the country saw a record rise in exports, remittances and tax collection figures.
He vowed to reach his aim of generating Rs8,000 billion in taxes during his five-year tenure, saying that work was being carried out with the help of the National Database and Registration Authority to develop a system to identify persons and entities that didn’t pay taxes.
The PM also announced that the government would not close down businesses or impose blanket lockdowns during the fresh wave of Covid-19, adding that this wave would be countered through smart lockdowns.
He called on the people to observe all standard operating procedures (SOPs) but said that the economy would not be shutdown.
In another meeting on the master plans of large cities, PM Khan said the government was placing special focus on their development as the real engines of growth.
The prime minister directed the concerned authorities to take all possible measures to clear hurdles to the completion of various development schemes on priority basis to provide maximum relief to their residents.
“Due to rural to urban migration, cities are facing multiple challenges and housing, job opportunities and civic amenities are scarce. It is necessary to work on special development packages for these big cities and they must be accelerated,” the prime minister said during the meeting.
He also directed the authorities to work in close coordination and launch a concerted campaign for the uplift of cities like Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Faisalsbad, Rawalpindi and Gujranwala.
https://phys.org/news/2022-01-ups-pakistan-farming-digital-age.html via @physorg_com
Agriculture entrepreneurs are bringing the digital age to Pakistan's farmers, helping them plan crops better and distribute their produce when the time is right.
Until recently, "the most modern machine we had was the tractor", Aamer Hayat Bhandara, a farmer and local councillor behind one such project told AFP in "Chak 26", a village in the agricultural heartland of Punjab province.
Even making mobile phone calls can be difficult in many parts of Pakistan, but since October, farmers in Chak 26 and pilot projects elsewhere have been given free access to the internet—and it is revolutionising the way they work.
Agriculture is the mainstay of Pakistan's economy, accounting for nearly 20 percent of gross domestic product and around 40 percent of the workforce.
It is estimated to be the world's fifth-largest producer of sugarcane, seventh-largest of wheat and tenth-biggest rice grower—but it mostly relies on human labour and lags other big farming nations on mechanisation.
Cows and donkeys rest near a muddy road leading to a pavilion in Chak 26, which is connected to a network via a small satellite dish.
This is the "Digital Dera"—or meeting place—and six local farmers have come to see the computers and tablets that provide accurate weather forecasts, as well as the latest market prices and farming tips.
"I've never seen a tablet before," said Munir Ahmed, 45, who grows maize, potatoes and wheat.
"Before, we relied on the experience of our ancestors or our own, but it wasn't very accurate," added Amjad Nasir, another farmer, who hopes the project "will bring more prosperity".
Apps and apples
Communal internet access is not Bhandara's only innovation.
A short drive away, on the wall of a shed, a modern electronic switch system is linked to an old water pump.
A tablet is now all he needs to control the irrigation on part of the 100 hectares (250 acres) he cultivates—although it is still subject to the vagaries of Pakistan's intermittent power supply.
This year, Bhandara hopes, others will install the technology he says will reduce water consumption and labour.
"Digitising agriculture... and the rural population is the only way to prosper," he told AFP.
At the other end of the supply chain, around 150 kilometres (90 miles) away in Lahore, dozens of men load fruit and vegetables onto delivery bikes at a warehouse belonging to the start-up Tazah, which acts as an intermediary between farmers and traders.
After just four months in operation, the company delivers about 100 tonnes of produce every day to merchants in Lahore and Karachi who place orders via a mobile app.
"Before, the merchant had to get up at 5 am or 5:30 am to buy the products in bulk, at the day's price, and then hassle with transporting them," said Inam Ulhaq, regional manager.
"Tazah brings some order to the madness."
In the Tazah office, several employees manage the orders, but for the time being, purchases are still made by phone, as the part of the application intended for farmers is still in development.
The young company is also tackling a "centuries-old" system that stakeholders are reluctant to change, explains co-founder Abrar Bajwa.
Fruit and vegetables often rot during their journey along poorly organised supply chains, says partner Mohsin Zaka, but apps like Tazah make the whole system more efficient.
Pakistan’s Special Technology Zones Authority (STZA) and Zhongguancun Belt And Road Industrial Promotion Association (ZBRA) of China at a virtual ceremony signed the letter that aims to promote information sharing on science and technology development experience, development of a complete ecosystem, new and emerging technologies, and construction and management of technology zones.
The ceremony was witnessed by STZA chairman Amer Hashmi, ZBRA president Zhang Xiaodong, Pakistan’s ambassador to China Moin ul Haque, and PM’s special assistant on CPEC Affairs Khalid Mansoor.
Under the framework, both parties vowed to facilitate exchanges between high-tech enterprises of both countries in the areas of semiconductors, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, robotics, fintech, blockchain, and biotech for mutually beneficial cooperation.
According to STZA, the collaboration was a cornerstone of its goal to transform the country’s human capital into a high-end future workforce with its tech industry and creating new opportunities for the country’s youth.
“STZA envisions that this partnership with ZBRA will maximize the potential capabilities of the tech industry of both countries,” it said. ZBRA is an organisation headquartered in Beijing, China and legally registered with the Beijing Civil Affairs Bureau. It works to serve Chinese enterprises for high-quality development of the Belt and Road, which will be achieved through projects docking, science, and technology parks cooperation, and
The country's leading telecom and ICT services provider, Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL), posted 7% growth in its revenues, owing to a robust commercial strategy that cements its market standing.
The company has announced its annual financial results for the year 2021 at its Board of Directors' meeting on February 10, 2022.
PTCL Group posted a revenue of Rs 138 billion in the year 2021 which is 6.3% higher as compared to 2020.
PTCL continued its growth trajectory by posting 7% YoY revenue growth which is the highest since 2013.
PTML (Ufone) also posted a revenue growth of 4.3% despite stiff competition in the market.
U Bank continued its growth momentum and has achieved 8.4% growth in revenue.
PTCL Group has posted a net profit of Rs 2.6 billion.
PTCL continued its strong performance throughout 2021. PTCL's revenue of Rs 77 billion for the year 2021 is 7% higher than 2020, mainly driven by Broadband and Corporate & Wholesale business segments.
PTCL registered highest Fixed broadband Sales and Net Adds in 2021 since 2015, which allowed PTCL to grow in the broadband business segment.
PTCL is the fastest growing Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) operator with highest Net adds within FTTH market in 2021.
The company has posted operating profit of Rs 4.2 billion, which is higher by 21% compared to 2020.
Net profit of Rs 6.9 billion is higher by 14% as compared to last year.
The company is continuously upgrading its existing infrastructure and network, besides expanding FTTH across the country to offer seamless connectivity for greater customer experience. Prompt deployment of FTTH and strong performance in Corporate and Wholesale segments are the cornerstone in PTCL's topline growth, which along with focus on cost optimization program, has significantly increased the company's profitability.
PTCL Consumer Business:
During 2021, the company's Fixed Broadband business grew by 11.7% YoY, whereas PTCL IPTV segment also grew by 13% YoY. Within broadband business, PTCL Flash Fiber, the company's groundbreaking FTTH service, showed a tremendous growth of 61.5%, whereas PTCL CharJi /Wireless Broadband Segment grew by 16.5%. Voice revenue stream has declined on account of lower voice traffic and continued conversion of customers to Over-The-Top (OTT) services.
Business services segment continued its momentum sustaining market leadership in IP Bandwidth, Cloud, Data Center, and other ICT services segments. PTCL's Enterprise business grew by 10% as compared to last year, while Carrier and Wholesale business continued its growth momentum and achieved 9% overall revenue growth. Similarly, international business growth was recorded at 4%.
Being the national telecom carrier and connectivity backbone in Pakistan, PTCL Group strives to provide innovative solutions to accelerate growth for a 'Digital Pakistan' through robust telecommunication infrastructure and a diverse portfolio of services with enhanced customer experience.
“Plots will be available at much lower rates in the IT park to encourage maximum number of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) associated with IT services to establish their businesses, which will be fully equipped with state-of-the-art infrastructure and all IT-related facilities,” said the minister.
He was speaking at a meeting with traders during his visit to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI).
The move was welcomed by the financial and technology consultants.
“This will enable our SMEs to grow at a faster pace, which is the need of the hour, keeping in mind not just our current economic situation, but also the overall global situation,” said Saad Gadit, Co-founder Savyour.
“This step will help in creating an efficient ecosystem, which comes when likeminded individuals working with the same vision come together. It also helps in model and information sharing; hence the beneficiaries are significantly higher.”
“Although brick and mortar is not a roadblock to technological development and digitisation, it depends on how the piece of land is utilised to create an ecosystem where incentives are timely provided and technological hubs are created for not only tech businesses but also for all the SMEs backed by tech infrastructure, skill development and research and development (R&D),” said Khurram Schehzad, CEO of Alpha Beta Core.
“It comes as great news that Karachi has finally decided to go in the direction of an IT park as other provinces have already started work on similar spaces; it will prove to be a great opportunity for technological exploration in the region,” said Noman Ahmed Said, CEO of SI Global.
“Karachi already ranks higher in technological prowess and it will prove to be more beneficial to begin development in the city by working under one umbrella and generating more revenue.”
Said described IT parks as the areas with scores of facilities, where IT-related knowledge and service industries were attracted and facilitated through the provision of buildings, industry-specific infrastructure and business support services.
“The ultimate objective of an IT park is to provide an environment that will enable the localisation of tech-related companies.”
Moreover, IT parks attract investment, which gives a boost to the economy, while simultaneously creating room for more companies to establish or expand their operations, thereby leading to job creation, he said.
Start-up investment expert Kapeel Kumar remarked that it would be a great initiative for start-ups and SMEs to accelerate development work and would also encourage the youth to start business with ease and tax benefits.
“Pakistan is one of the fastest growing markets for YouTube globally,” said Marc Lefkowitz, company’s director of partner development and management for Asia Pacific.
KARACHI: YouTube Pakistan brought out the big guns on Thursday evening for its maiden Brandcast — a loud show of song and dance with hundreds of young content creators gathered under one roof to dazzle the deep-pocketed advertisers of the country’s “No. 1 online video and music platform”.
Beginning with a short concert and effusive presentations by popular YouTubers, the event featured what seemed like sales pitches to advertisers by top YouTube officials.
“Pakistan is one of the fastest growing markets for YouTube globally,” said Marc Lefkowitz, company’s director of partner development and management for Asia Pacific.
As many as 62 per cent of online Pakistanis between the ages of 18 and 24 reported watching YouTube at least once a month, he said. Citing a study conducted by parent company Google and research firm Kantar, he said 78pc of internet users in Pakistan said YouTube was the video platform they went to when they wanted to watch shows and online content.
The same study showed 76pc of internet users believed YouTube helped them “learn something new”. Three-quarters of internet users claimed the video platform carried content that helped them “dig deeper into their interests”.
In a separate interaction with reporters after the event, Mr Lefkowitz said the number of YouTube channels making Rs1 million or more in revenue has gone up 110pc on a year-on-year basis. There’re currently more than 5,400 YouTube channels with more than 100,000 subscribers in Pakistan, up 35pc on an annual basis. More than 350 of these channels have more than a million subscribers.
In his presentation and subsequent talk with the press, Google Country Director Farhan Siddique Qureshi said YouTube has become the centre of modern life as it fulfils educational, professional and entertainment needs of ordinary people, he said.
He urged businesses to capitalise on the “deep connections” that YouTube users have built on the platform to remain at the “top of (their) minds” for achieving a “greater sales uplift”.
A case study shared with the press showed Nestle Fruita Vitals was experiencing low sales in a few cities. It decided to test which advertising channel — TV or YouTube — would yield “efficient results”. YouTube surpassed TV’s reach on the third day, the case study showed. The on-target reach of YouTube versus the TV campaign was three times higher while its cost was 70pc lower, it said.
PR minders of the firm kept hovering over the YouTube representatives during the press briefing in an apparent attempt to stop them from oversharing. Mr Qureshi didn’t state any numbers with respect to the size of YouTube’s business in Pakistan, its earnings, payments to local content creators or taxes.
In response to a question about the perception that local content creators don’t make as much money as their counterparts from other parts of the world, Mr Qureshi said advertising rates are auction-based, not fixed.
In a significant development for Pakistan’s IT and Telecommunication sector, Director of Global Licensing and Market Activation at SpaceX, Ryan Goodnight, called on the Federal Minister of Information Technology and Telecommunication, Syed Aminul Haq, to discuss the registration of SpaceX’s Starlink in Pakist
According to the Minister, Starlink has registered itself with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP).
The meeting was aimed at exploring how Starlink’s fastest and cheapest satellite internet services could pave the way for affordable broadband services in every corner of Pakistan.
The Minister expressed his optimism that Starlink’s services could significantly reduce the operational costs of telecom operators, even in remote areas where inactive mobile towers could be activated at low cost.
“Our main objective is to provide broadband services to every corner of Pakistan at affordable tariffs,” said the Minister, adding, “Starlink can play an important role in this regard.”
Ryan Goodnight thanked the Minister for his full cooperation and appreciated Pakistan’s progress in the IT and Telecommunication sector. “Basic steps are complete, and now we are ready to go fast,” Ryan added.
This development could potentially revolutionize Pakistan’s telecommunications industry by providing faster and more affordable internet services, even in remote areas. The successful implementation of Starlink’s services in Pakistan could be a significant step towards achieving the goal of a connected Pakistan.