2021: A Banner Year For Pakistani Tech Startup Investments

The year 2021 is turning out to be a banner year for Pakistani tech startups. At the end of the third quarter of the current year, technology startups have already raised $278 million, twice the funding raised in the previous 5 years combined. In per capita terms, this is still just over $1 per person, a lot less compared to neighboring India where startups attracted $20 per person

Venture Capital Investment in Pakistan. Source: Kalsoom Lakhani, i2i Ventures


The third quarter (July-Sept 2021) alone has seen startup companies raise $172.6 in 17 deals closed in the three-month period, according to data compiled by Kalsoom Lakhani of i2i ventures. The top deals closed in the third quarter were: 1. Airlift $85 million series B 2. Bazaar $30 million in series A and 3. QisstPay $15 million seed round. 

Source: Kalsoom Lakhani, i2i Ventures

The lion's share of the ,money ($117 million) went to E-commerce startups followed by Fintech ($35 million) and trucking platforms ($13.6 million). Male-founded startups got 46.5% while female-founded companies received 1.7% with the rest of the money going to startups whose founding teams include both male and female founders. 

Venture Funding in Pakistan Lowest Among Most Populous Nations. Source: Crunchbase


In per capita terms, startup investment in Pakistan is still just over $1 per person, a lot less compared to neighboring India where startups attracted $20 per person. As expected, the startups in the United States dwarfed all other countries in both per capita terms ($808) and in total size ($269 billion) of venture capital investments. 

 
Largest Global Market For Venture Funding. Source: Crunchbase

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. 

With expanding Internet infrastructure and rapidly growing user base, Pakistan is now seeing robust growth in venture money pouring into technology startups. Pakistani startups have already attracted more than $278 million in funding in 2021, more funds than all the money raised by Pakistani startups in their entire history. A recent example is Kleiner Perkins, a top Silicon Valley venture capital investment firm, that led a series A round of $17 million investment into Pakistani start-up Tajir. The startup operates an online marketplace for small store merchants in Pakistan. The announcement came via a tweet by Mamoon Hamid, a Pakistani-American Managing Partner at Kleiner Perkins who led the investment. Last year, Tajir raised a $1.8 million seed round.  The company's revenue has increased by 10x since its seed round. 

Pakistan Technology Exports Trend 2007-2021. Source: Arif Habib


Pakistan's technology exports are experiencing rapid growth in double digits over the last decade. Total technology exports jumped 47% to $2.1 billion in fiscal year 2020-21. 

Pakistan University Enrollment Growth. Source: Encyclopedia of Higher Education

The foundation for Pakistan's digital transformation was laid with the higher education reform and telecommunications deregulation and investments starting in the year 2001 on President Musharraf's watch. With a huge increase in higher education funding, Higher Education Commission Chairman Dr. Ata ur Rehman succeeded in establishing 51 new universities during 2002-2008. As a result, university enrollment (which had reached only 275,000  from 1947 to 2003) soared to about 800,000 in 2008. This helped build a significant human capital that drove the IT revolution in Pakistan.      

Please watch the following video presentation for more details on Pakistan's technology startup ecosystem:

https://youtu.be/ePApXOM3vkQ

Comments

Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan #agriculture #startup Tazah gets #2 million pre-seed funding. It screens produce for quality, removes rotten produce. It sorts into categories for specific types of buyers. Now it offers 5 products: ginger, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes & onions. https://tcrn.ch/3lgDm7C

The founders of Tazah Technologies, a B2B agriculture marketplace in Pakistan, met while serving leadership roles at Uber subsidiary Careem. Abrar Bajwa and Mohsin Zaka bonded during long working hours as the platform dealt with COVID-19’s impact. Eventually, the two started talking about creating their own startup. When asked how they got from ride-hailing to agri-tech, Bajwa told TechCrunch that the two grew up in farming communities. “We are from central Punjab and every family there has something to do with agriculture,” he said. “We had seen firsthand how farmers, or people who are involved in small holder farming, do not encounter social mobility based on how the deck is stacked against them.”

Agriculture is Pakistan’s biggest sector, contributing about 24% of its gross domestic product and employing half of its labor force, according to government statistics. But fragmented and complicated supply chains lead to inflated prices, food waste and low profits for farmers, all problems that Tazah wants to solve. The startup, which launched two months ago in Lahore, announced today it has raised a $2 million pre-seed round led by Global Founders Capital and Zayn Capital. Other participants included Ratio Ventures, Walled City Co, i2i Ventures, Suya Ventures, Globivest, Afropreneur Syndicate, +92 Ventures, Sunu Capital, Musha Investments and angel investors like senior executives from ride-hailing platforms Careem and Swvl, where Bajwa worked before launching Tazah.

There are currently about 300 small- to medium-sized sellers buying inventory through the platform and it moves multiple truckloads of produce per day. Right now it offers five main kinds of products: ginger, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes and onions. Tazah plans to expand into other vegetables and fruits, but wants to ensure that it can guarantee consistent supply and quality. For example, instead of just serving as a marketplace to connect farmer and buyers, Tazah also screens produce for quality, removing rotten produce. Then it sorts them into categories for specific types of buyers.

For example, potatoes are separated into ones for households, restaurants, small retailers, or to be made into French fries, based on what Bajwa and Zaka learned during market research. “We have spent months in wholesale markets, we’ve interviewed hundreds of retailers and we got to know that standardization of product is needed in Pakistan,” said Bajwa. “We get into the bottom of operations, because retailers will know what exactly is in the sack.” This has resulted in a monthly retention rate of more than 80%, and most customers buy from the platform about four times a week.

“We’re not just a box-moving operation because in one sack of potatoes, there can be multiple rotten potatoes, so you don’t want to just buy from farmers and then give to retailers. That doesn’t add a lot of value,” said Zaka. Tazah is currently focused on small to medium-sized sellers who are overlooked by fast-moving consumer goods and grocery product inventory providers because they aren’t able to buy at sufficient bulk. It’s also started talking to other customer segments, including B2C marketplaces, grocery apps and stores.

Increasing farmers’ profits and reducing food waste
Tazah’s founders say fragmented supply chains mean that about 30% to 40% of produce is wasted because they perish or are damaged each time they are unloaded, warehoused and reloaded onto a truck. The company wants to fix that by creating a shorter, more streamlined logistics infrastructure. It plans to keep costs down by working with third-party warehouse and trucking providers instead of owning its own facilities.

Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan #agriculture #startup Tazah gets #2 million pre-seed funding. It screens produce for quality, removes rotten produce. It sorts into categories for specific types of buyers. Now it offers 5 products: ginger, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes & onions. https://tcrn.ch/3lgDm7C


“There is the traditional supply chain and we’re building a parallel customized supply chain that is a more efficient supply chain,” said Bajwa. “It’s almost like reinventing the wheel to build a supply chain that ensures products move as fast as possible from point of harvest to point of retail.” This means Tazah will make early investments as it works with its warehousing and trucking marketplaces for middle- and last-mile deliveries, establishing best practices for how to handle produce.

Since Tazah needs to make deliveries early in the morning, it operates small fulfillment centers in addition to warehouses to stay close to customers. Part of its new funding will be used to expand its fulfillment center network in Lahore, with the goal of being operational in the entire city by the middle of October, before expanding into new regions.

Over-harvesting also contributes to food waste, and one of Tazah’s goals is to build a data and analytics platform that will help farmers plan crops to make sure there is no oversupply in the markets they serve. Farmers typically sell their produce at markets, occasionally forming groups with other farmers. But they don’t have a lot of information about market places and supply/demand beyond their communities. They also often end up in debt to middlemen because they lack access to working capital.

While Tazah is currently focused on its supply chain work, it plans to eventually add financing options for farmers after doing research, like going through several more procurement cycles to understand what how much capital farmers need and how they are able to repay it. Some of the barriers they face include lack of formal credit histories or access to financial institutions that usually don’t open branches in rural areas. Sometimes they borrow working capital from intermediaries in the supply chain, or loan sharks who charge interest rates of more than 60%, creating cycles of indebtedness.

“Financing is something we are aggressively looking after because it’s a future play for us and we are working with farmers to know what they are doing, and how they are actually getting financing,” said Zaka.

Tazah’s founders hope to see more startups emerge to solve problems for Pakistan’s farmers. “Agriculture has been a mostly ignored sector in Pakistan from a technology perspective, and I think that as more people come into this, they’re going to help each other, as opposed to competing with each other,” said Bajwa. “We feel that as more people come in, it will be better because it will accelerate the problem solving in this very difficult space.

He added, “this is such a large space in Pakistan and it’s so inefficient that if we are even able to make a small dent, it’s going to lead to social uplift for hundreds or possibly thousands of farmers, improve the availability of fresh produce, result in less food tasted and reduce food price inflation.”

Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan Launches #STEM program for youth. It is being initially introduced in 50 schools (grades 9-12) with building of special laboratories and teachers training. Students will be enrolled "based on their ability and talent" #science #STEMeducation https://www.dawn.com/news/1650447

President Dr Arif Alvi stressed on Wednesday the need to focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects in the education sector, saying it was important for the country and people to progress.

Addressing a ceremony held to launch the STEM programme for higher secondary school students, he compared Pakistan with its neighbouring countries in this regard.

"China produces around 4.7 million graduates in STEM subjects every, while India produces around 2.6 million and Iran 350,000. And where do we stand?" the president said, adding that he believed that the number of STEM graduates was lower in Pakistan.

He called for increased focus on STEM in the education sector, saying that it was crucial for the nation to compete with the rest of the world so that it did not lag behind and progress.


The STEM programme
According to a report by Radio Pakistan, the programme, which will train students in STEM subjects, will be launched by the Ministry of Science and Technology in 50 government-run higher secondary schools across the country.

Students of grades 9 to 12 will be enrolled in the pilot programme and selected "based on their ability and talent", it added.

In a video message ahead of the programme's launch, Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz said STEM subjects had acquired a "special importance" in the world.

Sharing details about the programme, Faraz said the programme was planned in 2020 and he and his team had worked on it day and night to give it "practical shape".

Initially, the programme would be introduced in 50 schools, he said, adding that special laboratories would be built and teachers would be given specific training.

"These schools will also be associated with universities. The schools have been selected purely on merit, not political reasons. The principals will be our guests [in today's event]."

A new era of progress will start because of these STEM schools in which we have given a new direction to the education system to make our students competitive globally, he further said.

The programme would have three aspects — labs, teacher training and STEM modules, he shared.

Meanwhile, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, who previously held the portfolio of science and technology, termed the programme a "game changer".

He said he had designed the programme because the country will "not change" until government schools are modernised.

"I am very happy that this plan is turning into a reality despite delays," he said in a tweet.

The minister expressed hope that more schools would adopt the STEM model following its implementation in 450 schools initially. Universities have been instructed to "adopt" schools and improve the level of science education, he shared.

Last year, Prime Minister Imran Khan had approved the STEM project in collaboration with varsities.

The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) had said at the time that special laboratories for science and technology, engineering and mathematics would be established in 40 schools in the first phase.

Around 100,000 children in 400 schools will have access to education and training in modern sciences through the project.

Riaz Haq said…
Udhaar Book, a #Pakistani #tech #startup providing cashflow management services for small businesses, raised $6 million seed from VCs like Muir Capital to digitize mom-and-pop stores. Pakistan’s startups have seen record funding rush this year. #Digital https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-11-07/pakistan-s-fintech-looking-to-digitize-small-stores-raises-funds

Udhaar Book, a Pakistani cashflow management services provider for small businesses, raised $6 million in early funding to digitize mom-and-pop stores that mostly operate using a manual register and handwritten entries.

The Karachi-based startup, whose parent is Toko Lab Inc., raised the money in seed funding from investors including Fatima Gobi Ventures, Plaid co-founder William Hockey’s Muir Capital, Tinder co-founder Justin Mateen’s JAM Fund LLC, Integra Partners and Commerce Ventures LLC.

Venture capital and private equity investors are ramping up investment in Southeast Asian nations and India. Startups in Pakistan too have seen the funding rush this year with inflows at a record about $300 million, which is more than the past six years combined, according to data from Crunchbase and Invest2Innovate.

Pakistan is mostly a cash-based economy but startups are looking to change that. The nation is home to as many as 30 million micro-, small- and medium-enterprises that operate manually and deal in cash. Many small business owners such as grocery shops are not able to expand since they need to keep an eye on drawer holding all the cash, Fahad Kamr, Udhaar’s co-founder said in an interview.

Udhaar Book that started last year has 1.4 million registered users and a little over half-a-million monthly active users. The company’s app allows small businesses digital book keeping, inventory, invoicing and payroll management along with other features.

“We’ve barely scratched the surface so obviously expanding the reach of the product is super important at this time,” said Kamr, who moved back from Canada for the venture and was previously a founding member of data portal Capital IQ. “That’s where a lot of the funding will also go.”
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistani financial platform Abhi Pvt. raised funds at a $40 million valuation just four months after introducing its business that allows salaried employees to access funds before payday.

The Karachi-based company’s bridge round was led by U.A.E.-based Global Ventures, which invested for the first time in Pakistan, according to Chief Executive Officer Omair Ansari. U.S.-based Next Billion Ventures, VEF AB, Rally Cap Sarmayacar and VentureSouq also participated in the fundraising, along with TPL e-Ventures and i2i Ventures, he said.


https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-11-15/pakistan-startup-abhi-raises-funds-at-40-million-valuation

Venture capital funds have ramped up investments in startups across Asia. Pakistan, the world’s fifth most populous nation, received more than $300 million funding in startups this year, a record amount that is more than the past six years combined.

“Pakistan has trailed in its adoption to the internet economy and startup formation,” Noor Sweid, general partner at Global Ventures said in an interview. “The startup boom in Pakistan is attracting global attention.”

Abhi has seen “explosive growth” that’s prompted the bridge round, said Ansari, who left Morgan Stanley in New York and moved to Karachi for the startup. The company plans its Series A round early next year.

The early wage access platform will start operations in Bangladesh early next year, said Ansari. There is no such platform in Sri Lanka and countries in the Middle East, he said, providing expansion opportunities for the company.



The platform is an alternative to people asking their company, family or friends for cash, or making a credit card withdrawal to make ends meet until the next salary. The app takes less than 30 seconds and two clicks for a registered user to access the funds, with a flat 2% transaction fee. The funds are automatically deducted from the next paycheck. Abhi is also offering working capital to businesses.

The company is already working with 75 companies including ice cream joint Baskin-Robbins and online retailer Daraz in Pakistan. About half the staff at coffee chain Espresso have used the service after it went online, Ansari said in an interview at a co-working space in Karachi. The company is moving into a dedicated office next month.



Other than the app, about 10% users accessed funds by sending an SMS and 15% via WhatsApp. It plans to add more products including savings instruments. Abhi is set to become cash flow positive next month, the CEO said.

Co-founder Ansari was overseeing two funds at Morgan Stanley, and looking at investment opportunities in consumer companies and fintech in emerging and frontier markets. He had helped with early stage investments in fintech companies from China to Brazil.

He was also an adviser to VEF, which focuses on fintech in frontier and emerging markets. That’s when he came to the conclusion that Pakistan is being overlooked in terms of opportunities in that space.

“It didn’t make sense for me, Indonesia and Pakistan are literally the same country from a very 30,000-foot view,” said Ansari. “I’ve seen this work in other

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan Startups Draw Record Money, Helped by Covid and China's Tech Crackdown - Bloomberg


https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-11-17/pakistan-startups-draw-record-money-helped-by-covid-and-china-s-tech-crackdown

The startup scene in the world’s fifth-largest nation is having a breakout year.

More money has flowed into Pakistan’s nascent technology sector during 2021 than in the previous six years combined, with investors from the U.S., Singapore and the United Arab Emirates joining the rush. And one former Microsoft Corp. and LinkedIn Corp. employee has been involved in about half the fundraising deals.

Until 2018, Pakistan-born Aatif Awan was living the dream in Silicon Valley. After more than a decade working for tech heavyweights, he’d become an angel investor for American startups and bought a house in San Francisco. Then he went to visit his parents in Lodhran — a small town known for growing mangoes and cotton — and new opportunities became clear.


Many young nationals have left high-paying overseas jobs at places like Morgan Stanley, McKinsey & Co. and BNP Paribas SA to become entrepreneurs back home. The opportunity has also seen a few foreigners moving to Pakistan.

The country has “the last large population that hasn’t been tapped,” said U.S. citizen Jordan Olivas, 32, co-founder of QisstPay Inc. The Islamabad-based startup is modeled on Klarna Bank AB, a buy-now, pay-later fintech firm and Olivas’s former employer.



“Just the population size and the average age of the consumer alone creates a good market,” he said. “Up until this year there hasn’t been any big VC money coming in.”

In addition to rising interest from global venture capital companies, the entrepreneurial ecosystem is also benefiting from a growing network of local investors, incubators and shared working spaces. Pakistan’s government has also increased support for the tech sector after realizing its potential for exports.



The startup scene’s atmosphere is encapsulated at the Karachi offices of e-commerce startup Bazaar Technologies Pvt., which in August raised $30 million in the nation’s largest series A fundraising. Of more than a dozen investors, only one met with the company in person.


Tucked away in an old office building, it’s a modern workspace with gleaming floors and furniture that buzzes with casually dressed young workers. Co-founders Hamza Jawaid and Saad Jangda, both 28, respectively worked in Dubai for McKinsey and ride-hailing company Careem Inc. before returning home last year to start Bazaar, which operates a business-to-business marketplace for grocery stores.

Just a few years ago, startups in Pakistan struggled to raise funding. Risk-averse banks routinely turned down loan applications from entrepreneurs, while most cash-rich businesses and other private investors were not even willing to speak with them.

“In 2012, there were zero significant funding sources,” said Kalsoom Lakhani, co-founder of investment fund i2i Ventures. “You really had to have the network in Pakistan to raise your funds for business.”

“If you fast forward, there has been a support system that has been growing in speed around the startups,” she said.



A number of risks could slow the funding momentum. Investors may lose faith if Pakistan’s pace of digital adoption is slower than expected — and banks with big pockets have been failing for decades to convince most of the population to take up bank accounts. An abrupt change of government policy — such as a more punishing tax regime or stricter regulation — would be a real threat to the fledgling tech sector. Investors may also find it difficult to exit through Pakistan’s stock market since startup valuations are high relative to listed companies, according to Suleman Rafiq Maniya, head of advisory at Vector Securities Pvt. Pakistan being on the monitoring list of the Financial Action Task Force, a financial watchdog, is also a concern for investors and has created extra hurdles for startups.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan Startups Draw Record Money, Helped by Covid and China's Tech Crackdown - Bloomberg


https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-11-17/pakistan-startups-draw-record-money-helped-by-covid-and-china-s-tech-crackdown

For now though, there’s a lot of venture capital funding to be scooped up. “People realized this is a much larger force,” said Awan.

Several startups have found themselves attracting more money than they had initially sought, while ideas and the results of a small test-run can be enough to raise funds, according to people who asked not to be named since the matter is private. Some are also hiring staff at double or triple their current salary as they have money to spend, two of the people said.

“If you have a good team and a good idea, you’d come in and just revolutionize,” said Olivas. “There’s so much white space.”


Early-stage success stories include Airlift Technologies Pvt., a Lahore-based online shopping delivery platform, which in August raised $85 million in the nation’s largest single private funding round ahead of overseas expansion plans. Digital payments startup TAG Innovation Pvt. is now valued at $100 million after raising funds in September, while competitor SadaPay is projected to be the fastest-growing mobile wallet in the world in the five years to 2025, according to London-based fintech company Boku Inc. Neither company has begun fully fledged operations yet.

“What happened in China, India and Indonesia has started to happen in Pakistan, only faster,” said Awan. “The wheel has started turning now.”
Riaz Haq said…
#Paytm Stock Collapses After #India’s Largest-Ever #IPO. A wave of IPOs has swept India this year with bullish sentiment focusing on high-growth #technology companies. But as Barron’s warned last month—“India’s tech IPOs look too pricey.”https://www.barrons.com/articles/paytm-stock-warren-buffett-india-initial-public-offering-ipo-51637232626 via @BarronsOnline


Shares in Paytm dropped 27% Thursday in the group’s first day as a publicly traded company, after the fintech startup caught the attention of investors around the world in India’s largest-ever initial public offering.

Paytm (PAYTM.India) counts SoftBank (SFTBY), Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A and BRK.B), and Alibaba (BABA) among its backers, and has positioned itself as India’s answer to companies like China’s Ant Group. Its interests cover a range of finance and technology businesses but its primary focus is mobile payments.

Pricing its IPO at 2,150 Indian rupees, Paytm raised $2.5 billion in the largest float in Indian history. But the stock tumbled in its Mumbai trading debut, closing more than 27% lower at INR 1,560. Indian stocks have been on a tear over the past year, with the benchmark NIFTY 50 index up more than 39% from November 2020, compared with a 31% rise in the S&P 500.

A wave of IPOs has swept India this year with bullish sentiment focusing on high-growth technology companies. But as Barron’s warned last month—“India’s tech IPOs look too pricey.”

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan Receives $635 Million by Exporting the Information Technology Services

https://www.phoneworld.com.pk/pakistan-earns-635-million-by-exporting-the-information-technology-services/


The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics is a federal agency of the Government of Pakistan tasked with providing reliable and comprehensive statistical research as well as commissioning national statistics services. According to figures from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), the exportation of Information Technology services increased by 40.90 percent between July and September 2021, rising from $348.4 million in the previous financial year to $490.89 million this year. During the first quarter of the financial year 2021-22, Pakistan earned more than $635 million by supplying various IT services to different countries

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Ovais
@Sabbandkardo
·
2h
Pakistan IT Exports in OCT 2021 were 195 M$
The momentum of IT exports persisted and IT exports are projected to reach around 2.5 B$ by FY end .
Pakistan should aim to reach 5 B$ soon
#PakistanMovingForward

https://twitter.com/Sabbandkardo/status/1461707968664285188?s=20
Riaz Haq said…
From Twitter:

Arif Habib Limited
@ArifHabibLtd

During Oct’21, technology exports was up 29% YoY to $ 195mn. During 4MFY22, technology recorded exports worth $ 830mn contributing 39% to the overall services’ export and marking a 39% YoY jump.

@StateBank_Pak

@Hammad_Azhar

@aliya_hamza

@MuzzammilAslam3

#Pakistan #Economy #AHL

https://twitter.com/ArifHabibLtd/status/1461747220114550791?s=20
Riaz Haq said…
#India's #Paytm shares fell 37% in the first two trading days after #PaytmIPO. The disappointing performance of India’s largest #IPO will cool sentiment a bit, but a dose of reality could make for a healthier market. #payments #tech https://www.wsj.com/articles/paytm-flop-will-skim-froth-off-indias-ipo-market-11637838841?st=f2ig1vu1bial64o&reflink=desktopwebshare_twitter via @WSJ

That poor performance bucks the trend of this year’s technology boom in India. IPOs amounted to $14.6 billion this year according to Dealogic—already a record amount. And investors have reaped big profits. Shares of food delivery company Zomato and FSN E-Commerce Ventures, which owns online cosmetic retailer Nykaa, have both more than doubled from their IPO price. Goldman Sachs expects another $50 billion worth of IPOs in the next two years. SoftBank-backed hotel chain Oyo and logistics company Delhivery have already filed to list. Money has also rushed into the private market: Venture capital investment last quarter amounted to a record $14 billion, according to KPMG.

The large size of Paytm’s IPO—it raised around $2.5 billion—is one reason why the market is dealing with a bout of indigestion. But the company also priced its IPO very aggressively given there is still no clear path to profitability. Strong competition from Google and Walmart -backed PhonePe and potential regulatory risks added to investor concerns.

The Indian market as a whole has also gotten a bit frothy. The MSCI India has gained 27% in 2021, making it one of the best performing markets in the world. China’s regulatory crackdown has probably sent some foreign investors hunting for growth in India. The MSCI China is down 17% in 2021 and technology giants like Alibaba and Tencent continue to be harried by regulators.

Individual investors in India have added another big push. The number of trading accounts and overall amount of retail equity ownership both hit new highs this year. There have also been record inflows into mutual fund investment plans.

Earnings growth has been strong but is also largely priced in already. The MSCI India is trading at a 60% premium to Asia-Pacific ex-Japan, according to Goldman Sachs—compared with a long-term average premium of 27%.

Given India’s huge potential—a country of 1.4 billion with low levels of internet service use—there is no lack of interest in jumping into the market. But the Paytm debacle is a timely reminder that the market isn’t willing to pay any price for that potential.

The flop probably won’t halt the coming unicorn stampede into India’s market. But their IPOs may need to be priced a little more reasonably.
Riaz Haq said…
KASBIT, STZA signs MoU to develop a special tech zones

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/902292-kasbit-stza-signs-mou-to-develop-a-special-tech-zones

KASB Institute of Technology Private Limited has taken the initiative to construct KASB Altitude Special Technology Zone, which is a thirty-five floor building located in Clifton, Karachi with modern high-tech technological infrastructure providing futuristic entrepreneurship opportunities in Pakistan. It would be the first zone developed in Karachi for the said purpose.


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KASB altitude tower 32 Storey which was onhold since 10 years, now it is under construction once again with huge tower crane on it.

https://youtu.be/SnPoyBonF_8
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistani #ecommerce #startup PostEX raises $8.6 million in early stage #VC funding. The latest tranche was led by Global Founders Capital, and also included first-time investments by FJ Labs and RTP Global in #Pakistan. #technology https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-11-29/postex-completes-one-of-pakistan-s-largest-early-stage-funding

Pakistan’s e-commerce seen growing to $10 billion before 2025
Nation’s startups have seen record amounts of funding in 2021

Pakistan startup PostEx, a provider of courier and financing to e-commerce companies, completed one of the country’s largest early-stage funding to help with its expansion plans.

The Lahore-based startup raised $8.6 million through multiple tranches in its seed funding, according to its founder Muhammad Omer Khan. The latest tranche was led by Global Founders Capital, and also included first-time investments by FJ Labs and RTP Global in Pakistan.
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PostEx, a Pakistani fintech and logistics startup, announced on Monday that it has raised an additional $7.1 million to extend its seed round after raising $1.5m last month.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1660942

"This brings the total capital secured by the company at seed to $8.6m, making it the second largest investment at this stage in Pakistan," a statement issued by the startup said.

It added that the extension round was led by Global Founders Capital (GFC) along with participation from FJ Labs — an investor in companies such as Alibaba and Ant Financial — Russian venture capital (VC) firm ru-NET, Alma Capital, Zayn Capital, MSA Capital, Shorooq Partners and Swvl Chief Financial Officer Youssef Salem.

With the influx of new funds, the startup aims to increase its vertical lending.


"Our focus from the very beginning has been to become the go-to growth platform for merchants looking to realise their potential. We are at the forefront of innovative technology solutions that bridge merchants’ logistics needs with their capital requirements," the statement quoted founder Muhammad Omer Khan as saying.

He said PostEx was the "differentiator" that helped merchants grow faster and more economically with its range of customised financial products compared to traditional financial providers that underserved the segment.

Tito Cost of GFC said that the startup offered a "unique product" to e-commerce players in Pakistan's ecosystem that would allow them to access the capital required for growth. "We are excited to back the team as they build out their suite of financial and fulfilment products," the statement quoted him as saying.

FJ Labs Founding Partner Fabrice Grinda said they were "thrilled" to partner with PostEx for their "first-ever investment" in Pakistan. He pointed out that Pakistan was one of the "largest untapped frontier markets going through digital transformation".

Services like PostEx's technology and financial products would form the "backbone of this future" by supporting local merchants to grow faster, Grinda added.

Kirill Kozhevnikov, a partner with ru-Net, also expressed excitement over the deal. "We see tremendous potential in emerging markets such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and MENA (Middle East and North Africa). Big and growing market, disruptive business model and exceptional entrepreneurial talent — our must-haves criteria for portfolio companies — were matched in the 20th minute of the first meeting," the statement quoted him as saying.

The startup's statement pointed out that the wider e-commerce logistics space has picked up steam recently and seen increasing interest from local and foreign investors.

"Other than PostEx, Rider has also secured foreign VC-led investment worth $2.3m while BlueEx went the other way and listed itself on the Growth and Enterprise Market board of the Pakistan Stock Exchange, raising around $2.5m," the statement added.

Riaz Haq said…
Quality higher education
By Atta-ur-Rahman December 08, 2021


https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/915013-quality-higher-education


The landscape of higher education changed dramatically between 2002 and 2008 so much so that Pakistan not only caught up with India but also overtook it in the year 2018. This is no small achievement as India had been investing in higher education since its very birth – this includes the visionary policies of Nehru who established the IITs and other good quality higher education institutions in the 1950s and 60s.

The single most important element that determines the quality of higher education is the quality of faculty. For this reason, when the HEC was set up in 2002 under my chairmanship, the highest priority was given to the training and recruitment of high-quality faculty in our universities.

After a rigorous screening process, some 11,000 students were sent to the world’s leading universities, and to attract them back on completion of their doctorate degrees, several important initiatives were introduced. First, a new contractual salary structure was introduced with the salaries of professors several times higher than that of federal ministers in the government. Second, students completing their PhD degrees could apply for research grants of up to $100,000 – one year before completion of their work.

Third, graduates would have jobs on arrival with the HEC paying the salary. Fourth, an excellent digital library was set up that provided free access to 65,000 journals and 25,000 textbooks through the Pakistan Educational Research Network (PERN) that connected all universities with high-speed internet. Fifth, free access to sophisticated instruments was provided. Sixth, grants were made available through a liberal research grants scheme – National Research Projects for Universities (NRPU) – to help young academics to win sizeable research funding. These and other such measures led to a 97.5 percent return rate of scholars.

To control plagiarism, specialised software was introduced, which controlled this problem to a great extent. However, this issue persists – to a small extent – both in India and Pakistan and other countries. According to an article published in 2019 in ‘Nature India’, 980 papers published by top Indian institutions, including those from the IITs, between 2000 and 2017, were fraudulent or plagiarised and had to be retracted. Between 2005 and 2021, 254 publications were also retracted from Pakistan. This is an average of 15 papers per year (about 0.1 percent to 0.3 percent retractions annually).

To promote blended education, a mirror website of the MIT Open Courseware was set up in 2005 when I was the HEC chairman, and many undergraduate computer science courses were downloaded, copied on CDs, and distributed to all universities. An exciting scheme for live distance education was also introduced by us with top professors delivering daily lectures which were listened to live and interactively across Pakistan. A major programme was initiated to attract our highly qualified Pakistan diaspora back to the country.

Some 600 eminent academicians returned and played a valuable role in uplifting the quality of higher education in the country. Split PhD programmes were introduced so that PhD students in Pakistan could do a split PhD with a part of their time being spent in good foreign universities under the supervision of eminent foreign scholars. Pakistan was soon recognised internationally for these efforts, and glowing tributes were paid in numerous articles written by the world’s leading educational authorities as well as by neutral experts of the British Council, World Bank, USAID, and UN. I was conferred the highest prize for institution-building by the World Academy of Sciences (Italy) and by the Austrian and Chinese governments.

Riaz Haq said…
Quality higher education
By Atta-ur-Rahman December 08, 2021


https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/915013-quality-higher-education



Unfortunately, there was a sharp decline in the quality of higher education due to the actions of the former chairman HEC in the last three years which were condemned by 178 out of the 180 vice chancellors of different public and private universities, who participated in a recent event organised in Bhurban.

Prime Minister Imran Khan is interested in the development of science and higher education in Pakistan. This is reflected in several actions of his government to support the efforts of the PM Task Force of Knowledge Economy: First, after years of stagnation, the present government has announced a sizeable increase in the operational budget of universities by a grant of an additional Rs15 billion on top of the Rs66 billion previously allocated – this is an increase of about 23 percent.

Second, after a decade of neglect, the salary structures of the tenure track faculty have been increased by 35 percent for all and by 100 percent for the best faculty members. Third, the Pakistan-Austrian University of Applied Science and Engineering has been established which is the only university in the country (and possibly in the Subcontinent) with 100 percent PhD-level faculty. This university has been developed in collaboration with three Austrian and five Chinese universities – its academic session has already started. Two other such universities are now being set up in Sialkot and Islamabad.

Fourth, a huge scholarship programme of Rs13 billion has again been launched. Fifth, the research grants NRPU initiative that had been dropped by the previous chairman has been given a new life and some 1,200 research grants will be given to young faculty members across Pakistan this year. Sixth, centres of excellence in new and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, materials engineering etc are being set up across Pakistan, and 26 projects worth over Rs67 billion have already been approved.

Seventh, the development budget of the Ministry of Science and Technology has now been increased by about 600 percent by the Knowledge Economy Task Force projects after years of stagnation. Eight, IT education is being prioritised. The visionary new policies proposed by the IT/Telecom task force of which I happen to be co-chairman have resulted in a 50 percent growth of IT exports from $1.3 billion to $2.1 billion during the last one year, and a huge revival of the IT industry is underway.

A silent revolution is now finally underway in Pakistan. The credit for this goes to Prime Minister Imran Khan and his whole-hearted support to three important task forces – the Science and Technology Task Force, the IT/Telecom Task Force and the Knowledge Economy Task Force – that are being steered by us.

Riaz Haq said…
#UAE’s Tricap invests $2.3 million in pres-series A round in #Pakistani #ecommerce #startup Clicky https://www.wamda.com/2021/12/uae-tricap-invests-pakistans-clicky via @wamdame


UAE-based Tricap Investments has participated in the $2.3 million pre-Series A round of the Pakistan-based e-commerce Clicky. Former Souq CFO Asif Keshodia, UAE-based CSHL, Careem executives and a few other angel investors in the UAE also participated in the round.

Founded in 2016 by Muhammad Khalid and Syed Shahzad, Clicky offers fast fashion products with a focus on apparel, footwear, and accessories, provided by local manufacturers, international brands, and white labels.

The new funding will help Clicky add more categories and SKUs to its online store, and bring international fashion trends to its customers in Pakistan.

Press release:

Lahore-based fashion e-commerce retail & marketplace Clicky has raised $2.3 million in a pre-Series A round, led by early-stage investors in UAE and Pakistan. Notable among them are Tricap Investments, Asif Keshodia, UAE based CSHL, Careem executives and a few other angel investors in the UAE.

Founded in 2016 by Muhammad Khalid & Syed Shahzad, Clicky offers trending fast fashion products with a focus on apparel, footwear, and accessories. The e-commerce platform works with diverse local manufacturers, international brands, and white labels.

Fatima Ventures and Souq - acquired by Amazon in 2017 - have also invested in earlier rounds of Clicky. This recent investment adds up to the previous funding of $700,000 raised by the startup in December 2020. Since then, the company has been experiencing growth of over 20 per cent month-on-month and has grown the business 4x in less than a year. This growth has been driven by their private labels and curated fashion retailers.

Clicky has launched over five private labels across footwear and apparel, directly working with 20+ manufacturers. With this new funding, it aims to scale these labels, through working tightly with manufacturers and fashion designers. The vision is to serve ultra-fast fashion, where 1000+ designs are launched every day. With the post-pandemic challenges and the uncertainty of dollar value, building a sustainable local supply chain has massive value.

Clicky will be introducing more categories, adding 3000-5000 new SKUs per month, bringing a vast selection of designs to its customer base. It aspires to bring the customer experience and design assortment of online fashion destinations launched in other markets such as Asos in the UK, Net-A-Porter in France, Zalando in Germany, and Namshi in the Middle East to its customers in Pakistan.

Sharing his support for the startup, Partner, Tricap Investments - Suleman Soorani shared, “We are happy to become part of Clicky’s journey to create Pakistan’s largest fashion e-commerce platform. We are particularly impressed with Khalid and Shahzad’s perseverance, ambition, grit, and eagerness to learn and believe they have all the qualities to make Clicky one of the largest technology success stories out of Pakistan and a major disruptive force in the fashion retail and e-commerce space”

Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistani #startups high on global investors’ radar, drawing more than $300 million in 2021. The travel/ ticketing startup ‘Bookme’ and beauty/ fashion startup ‘Bagallery’ have just attracted a combined $12 million in advanced round of fund raising.
https://tribune.com.pk/story/2333254/pakistani-startups-luring-global-investors

Bookme, “the largest online travel and ticketing platform in the country”, has raised $7.5 million in its Series A round, according to its founder Faizan Aslam, Bloomberg reported on Thursday.

Bagallery separately raised $4.5 million in a similar round, its Co-Founder Salman Sattar told the international media outlet.

Both rounds were co-led by Zayn Capital, Lakson Venture Capital and Hayaat Group.

Global investment in Pakistani startups has reached $310 million this year, crossing the $300 million level.

“It is a record high investment. It is more than what the country has attracted cumulatively over the past six years.”

Pakistan has a huge potential to attract foreign funding since it has largely remained untapped. The country has adopted technology-driven solutions at an accelerated pace during the pandemic.

The combined international funding of around $310 million in local startups was more than what companies raised at the Pakistan Stock Exchange this year, it was learnt.

Many global venture capital firms have invested for the first time in the current wave including Kleiner Perkins, an early investor in Google and Amazon.com Inc.

“Pakistan’s e-commerce industry is just picking up with online retail accounting for about 2% of gross domestic product (GDP), compared with 20% in Indonesia,” Bloomberg said.

Alibaba Group Holding’s Daraz Group is expected to double its retail volume every year over the next five years, sustaining the pace of the past four years.

Read Pakistan enjoys rapid digital evolution

Earlier, around 52 startups raised over $300 million in the sector including transport and mobility, logistics, e-commerce, fintech, healthcare and freight in the first nine months of 2021, according to Alpha Beta Core (ABC).

“Average deal size increased five times to $5.9 million in the first nine months (Jan-Sept) of 2021 compared to $1.2 million in 2020 with foreign participation growing massively.”

Among the prominent ones were Airlift and Bazaar, which fetched $85 million and $30 million respectively in advanced-level Series B and Series A fund raising, according to Arif Habib Limited.

Besides, QisstPay, TAG and Oraan got $15 million, $12 million and $3 million respectively in initial-level seed financing.

Startup financing increased in the backdrop of Covid-19, as they presented technology-based business models to facilitate people amid lockdowns.

The startups would continue to fetch significant financing, as there was ample liquidity available with global investors, while interest rates had remained low in advanced countries, ABC CEO Khurram Schehzad said.

“Pakistan being a highly untapped market will remain in their focus with the regulatory regime becoming accommodative (in the country),” he added.

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) have relaxed rules for attracting investment in technology-based business solutions, he underlined.

They have allowed Pakistanis to set up holding companies abroad and attract investment through those companies into the country, he pointed out.
Riaz Haq said…
#Karachi-based #Pakistani #grocery #startup Krave Mart, which promises 10-minute delivery, raised $6 million in its pre-seed funding round, which was led by MSA Capital, ru-Net, Global Founders Capital and Zayn Capital. #technology #VentureCapital https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-12-15/grocery-startup-scores-pakistan-s-largest-early-stage-funding

A funding frenzy in Pakistan’s startup scene this year has seen investments cross $300 million after two e-commerce companies raised fresh funds.

Bookme, the largest online travel and ticketing platform in the country, raised $7.5 million in its Series A round, according to its founder Faizan Aslam. Bagallery, a beauty and fashion startup, separately raised $4.5 million in a similar round, co-founder Salman Sattar said. Both rounds were co-led by Zayn Capital, Lakson Venture Capital and Hayaat Global.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan #fintech #startup raises $11 million pre-seed round led by Tiger Capital. Firstminute Capital, Banana Capital, VentureSouq, Ratio Ventures and i2i Ventures, as well as angel investors Sriram Krishnan and Julian Shapiro also participating. #tech https://techcrunch.com/2021/12/16/tiger-global-backs-fintech-creditbook-in-first-pakistan-investment/

“We started the research and began experimentations in late 2019,” said Iman Jamall, co-founder of CreditBook, in an interview with TechCrunch. “I was working as a service designer on a project for one of the largest Pakistani banks at the time and was observing different persona types to understand why financial inclusion is low at the level that it was at the time.”

The challenges that Jamall, one of the few female founders in the country, identified were cash flow, the role of credit and the social relationships around it, and the over reliance on “paper for everything essentially,” she said.

The over reliance on paper to maintain ledger and the always-running low cash flow is a challenge that merchants in many markets in South Asia and Southeast Asia share. As we previously covered, often these small businesses run on informal credit and rely on money they secure from selling their existing inventory to buy their next batch. The customers buy things for weeks and sometimes months before they clear the tab.

These shortcomings are hurting these small businesses and mom and pop stores and impeding their growth at a time when large e-commerce giants are attempting to court customers.

CreditBook today offers a bookkeeping app to merchants, enabling them to digitize the handwritten ledger that they have traditionally used to keep track of daily accounts.

The eponymous mobile app has amassed merchants in over 400 towns and cities, the startup said. CreditBook declined to reveal the number of merchants who are using the service, but said that the number of transacting users has increased by 10 times since last year.

Digital bookkeeping is the startup’s marquee offering today, but Jamall said CreditBook is working on building and testing financial products on top of it. It’s too early to unveil precisely what those financial products would look like, she said. (But it’s definitely not e-commerce, she said.)

Jamall offered some context around the areas CreditBook is exploring. “In Pakistan, what you do is that there is a huge whitespace in payments. But mobile money has started to gain traction, especially amid the pandemic,” she said, adding that the local regulator has also made a push in recent years to accelerate the adoption of mobile payments and is focusing on building an instant payments infrastructure. (Similar to India’s UPI, which in recent years has become the most popular way users transact online.)

It’s a massive opportunity. CreditBook estimates that there’s a $45 billion unmet financing gap for small businesses. Pakistan, home of over 220 million people, 60% of whom is under the age of 30.

“We are excited to partner with CreditBook and make Tiger Global’s first investment into Pakistan,” said John Curtius, a Partner at Tiger Global, in a statement. “The investment is a testament to the incredible traction and vision demonstrated by the team.”

Friday’s announcement builds on what has been a watershed year for Pakistan’s fast-growing startup ecosystem as several global investors, including Kleiner Perkins, Addition, 20VC and Buckley Ventures make their first bets in the country. Startups in Pakistan have raised over $300 million this year, more than previous six years combined. Grocery delivery startup Krave Mart announced earlier this week it had raised $6 million in its pre-seed funding round.
Riaz Haq said…
Tiger Global Joins Rush for Pakistan Startups With Fintech Bet
By Faseeh Mangi


https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-12-17/tiger-global-joins-rush-for-pakistan-startups-with-fintech-bet?sref=8HTMF4ka

Pakistan’s CreditBook, a firm that offers digital bookkeeping solutions to small businesses, has raised funds that marks the first investment by Tiger Global Management LLC in the nation’s booming startup space.

CreditBook has raised $11 million investment led by Tiger Global and Firstminute Capital LLP, according to a statement. Previous investors Better Tomorrow Ventures LLC, VentureSouq, Ratio Ventures Ltd. and i2i Ventures also participated in the current funding round.

The South Asian nation has seen funding in excess of $300 million this year into its nascent technology sector, more than in the previous six years combined. Pakistan has seen a wave of investments from many global venture capital firms, including Kleiner Perkins -- an early investor in Google and Amazon.com Inc.

“We have been studying the country and understand the country is at an inflection point seen before in other emerging markets,” said Sam Endacott, a partner at Firstminute.

Startup Fever Grips Pakistan, World’s Last Big Untapped Nation

Small businesses in Pakistan mostly operate using a manual register and handwritten entries in a nation that is mostly cash-based but startups are looking to change that. The nation is home to as many as 30 million micro-, small- and medium-enterprises that operate manually and deal in cash. Udhaar Book, a Pakistani cashflow management services provider for small businesses, also raised $6 million in early funding last month.


Pakistan’s central bank will pause interest-rate increases to preserve economic recovery after delivering Asia’s boldest hikes since September, Governor Reza Baqir said.

“We are going to take a pause to first look at the effects of the tightening we have already done,” Baqir told Bloomberg Television’s Rishaad Salamat and Yvonne Man. “Fiscal policy has been very complementary and is also withdrawing stimulus so a coordinated macroeconomic response, we think, will be number one to sustain recovery and keep inflation broadly in check.”
Riaz Haq said…
https://pakobserver.net/shorooq-partners-to-open-its-first-office-in-pakistan/

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.”
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan's Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication has drafted “National Broadband Policy-2021” targeting the contribution of digital/broadband development to the economy to the tune of $5 billion investment and $20 billion revenue by 2025.

https://www.brecorder.com/news/40144728

The draft policy also envisages up to eight percent contribution towards the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from digital/broadband development in the next four years.

One of the objectives of the draft policy is to ensure that 100 percent population living in tier-2/3 cities should have access to high-speed internet, an average per user internet speeds of 50Mbps in major cities and facilitate 75 percent of the internet users with digital bank accounts by 2025.

The draft policy aims at addressing some of the specific challenges; (i) the need for affordable access to broadband for all; (ii) to address the challenges concerning digital divide especially in unserved and underserved areas nationwide; (iii) overcoming the challenges in rolling out the required digital infrastructure and related financing models including extensive fiberization and efficient spectrum management; (iv) harmonization of existing tax regime on telecommunication services; (v) stimulating the development of local and relevant content and services; (vi) the need for improved and consistent broadband quality of service; (vii) urging the importance digital trust over telecommunication networks to promote wider use of digital technologies in all spheres of life; (viii) understanding the impact of internet in terms of socio-cultural developments, economic growth, and environmental sustainability; (x) lowering barriers for investments applied on existing licensees and for new investors in telecom sector and promoting public-private partnerships; and (xi) challenges vis-Γ -vis accelerated evolution towards adoption of Xth Generation technologies and fiberization, necessary for improving the state of broadband infrastructure.

The policy envisaged for furthering the initiative of “Digital Pakistan”; it is pivotal to craft a policy vision which is user-centric, market-oriented, simple to govern and all-inclusive in nature, laying a strong foundation to address outstanding issues expediently and exploring new opportunities in the most agile manner.

The National Broadband Policy–2021 aims to “revitalise the state of telecommunication by accelerating the efforts for digital inclusion of every citizen in any corner of the country to gain universal access to high speed affordable internet, enhance the use of digital space by providing equal opportunity for socio-economic wellbeing in a safe, responsible and healthy environment through evolving policy and regulatory measures required for timely and sustainable adoption of cutting edge technologies and digital infrastructure”.
Riaz Haq said…
https://www.brecorder.com/news/40144728


The user-centric policy drivers on which the foundation of the National Broadband Policy–2021 is laid consists of the following four major pillars.

The first pillar will focus on the digitally divided people who are yet to be digitally included and will provide guidelines regarding use of existing fibre resources, facilitating infrastructure sharing, introducing national broadband networks and its role in the development of sustainable broadband infrastructure in public-private partnerships, reviewing the role of USF for sustainable penetration of broadband services in unserved and underserved areas of the country further enhancing the capability for use of already laid infrastructure, further assessing the rolling spectrum strategy and offering interventions for resource optimization as well as roadmap for inclusion of new mobile spectrum bands, facilitating the provisioning of rights of ways, plan for commercial use of data satellite and proposal for smartphone adoption and increased local manufacturing of internet devices/terminals in Pakistan.

The second pillar will help in organising matters related to enhancing the use of internet and for market enablement such as; roadmap for service-based competition, review of licensing framework, outlining the future course of OTT platforms and content management, broadening the role of Ignite as research and innovation enabler, facilitating the cloud infrastructure and internet exchange points, reviewing the quality of service rules for improving user experience, developing and implementing new services and technologies in public-private partnerships, supporting with necessary infrastructure and services for enabling social services in the digital space.

The third pillar will emphasise on the privacy and protection of user consuming internet and will help in creating awareness and propose a framework for securing identity and data online, ease of access for reporting criminal activity online, guidelines for constituting CERTs, standardising and implementing user privacy, propose common operating environment and standards for internet security, environment protection support, framework for standardising new technologies and services.

The 4th and final pillar of the policy would help user by providing a transformational roadmap for legacy services and technologies, review the role of different public sector organisations responsible for facilitating different telecommunication services, plan for adopting open source technologies and platforms, broadly identify future technologies and make provisions for early adoption, propose broad strategy for the adoption of internet of everything, and last but not the least provide guideline for international cooperation in ICTs.

Riaz Haq said…
Fatima Gobi Ventures
@fatimagobivc
2021 has been full of growth for Pakistan’s vibrant #startup ecosystem. We are proud to have continuously backed #PakistaniEntrepreneurs as the most active #VentureCapital investor.

Congratulations to our portfolio for a remarkable finish to 2021 and a momentous start to 2022Rocket

https://twitter.com/fatimagobivc/status/1480494892862382080

-------------------

$360 million raised by Pakistani startups in 2021
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan PM #ImranKhan invokes #SiliconValley as model for #startups. “We are giving SMEs bank credit facility, land for their businesses on lease and [are committed to] eradicating red tapism.” #technology #economy https://www.dawn.com/news/1670432

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.

Riaz Haq said…
Silent revolution in education
By Atta-ur-RahmanDecember 29, 2021

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/920623-silent-revolution-in-education

As a result of numerous projects undertaken by the technology-driven Knowledge Economy Task Force set up by Prime Minister Imran Khan in early 2019 under his chairmanship, the landscape of higher education, science and technology are presently undergoing a major positive change.


There has been a huge 600 percent enhancement in the development budget of the Ministry of Science and Technology over the last three years and projects of over Rs100 billion have either been approved or are in the final phase of approval. I happen to be the vice-chairman of this task force and the members include the federal ministers of finance, planning, education, science & technology, and IT/Telecom.

The fact that the prime minister himself oversees the working of this critically important task force and personally intervenes if matters are blocked by the bureaucracy gives it the political clout needed to forge ahead quickly in our plans to change the strategic directions of Pakistan from a weak natural resource based economy to a powerful knowledge economy. It is only by doing so that we can unleash the creative talent of our real wealth, our youth, through investments in education, science, technology and innovation/entrepreneurship.

It was under the Musharraf regime that the nation witnessed the first major thrust forward in science and technology, when I succeeded in convincing Gen Musharraf that the future of this great nation lay in investments in higher education, science & technology, thereby paving the way for developing a strong knowledge economy. The result was a 6000 percent increase in the development budget for science when I was the federal minister of Science, IT/Telecom. Later, when I became the founding chairman of the Higher Education Commission, a similar budgetary enhancement was witnessed in the budget of the higher education sector.

The programmes launched during the first decade were largely focused on strengthening the scientific manpower of the country, strengthening social sciences and linking universities with industry. There was a complete transformation of the IT sector with thousands of the brightest young men and women being trained at PhD level in leading universities abroad, and over a hundred computer science departments being strengthened with faculty and facilities. The first IT policy and implementation strategy was approved under my leadership in August 2000 which laid the foundations of the development of this important sector.

There was razor-sharp focus on the quality of education in universities rather than numbers during that period with the top priority being given to high quality faculty development. About 11,000 students were sent abroad to leading universities in the US and Europe for PhD level training. To ensure their return, salaries of professors were increased under a new contractual salary structure so that they became four times the salaries of federal ministers. However, to ensure top quality, there were six international evaluations by foreign experts introduced to judge the quality and productivity of the research output of the persons appointed. Each student abroad was offered the opportunity to win research grants of up to $100,000 for which they could apply a year before their return.

The state of university libraries was pathetic before the formation of the HEC. A digital library was therefore created that provided free access to 65,000 textbooks and 25,000 international journals. The Pakistan Educational Research Network was established, connecting all universities with high speed internet access. All students returning after PhD degrees from abroad were guaranteed jobs in universities. These and a host of other measures resulted in an astonishing 97.5 percent return rate of scholars sent abroad.
Riaz Haq said…
Silent revolution in education
By Atta-ur-RahmanDecember 29, 2021

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/920623-silent-revolution-in-education

The state of university libraries was pathetic before the formation of the HEC. A digital library was therefore created that provided free access to 65,000 textbooks and 25,000 international journals. The Pakistan Educational Research Network was established, connecting all universities with high speed internet access. All students returning after PhD degrees from abroad were guaranteed jobs in universities. These and a host of other measures resulted in an astonishing 97.5 percent return rate of scholars sent abroad.

To boost the IT sector, I persuaded the CEO of Intel to join hands with Pakistan, with the result that some 220,000 school teachers were trained with funding from Intel in 70 districts of the country. To boost mobile telecommunications the ‘Calling Party Pays regime was introduced. Previously subscribers had to pay for receiving calls. The result was an explosive growth in the mobile phones sector from 200,000 phones in the year 2000, now to about 180 million phones. The internet was also rapidly spread across Pakistan and our first Satellite PakSat 1 placed in space, thereby securing the only slot available in space for this country.

The amazing progress made in a short period was applauded by the UN and other experts and Pakistan was considered a model for developing countries to follow. In an article, ‘Another BRIC in the Wall’, the world’s leading ranking agency Thomson Reuters applauded the quality of research publications that were being published in international journals as compared to the four BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – and concluded that the highest percentage of good quality highly cited papers was from Pakistan as compared to the BRIC countries. Some pseudo experts have tried to downplay these developments by publicising that some 258 papers have been retracted over the last 20 years. However about 20,000 papers are published annually from Pakistan in international journals and retraction of a small fraction of 0.1-0.3 percent of these is normal and comparable to the retraction rate from other developing countries such as India.

A number of excellent foreign engineering universities are now being established in Pakistan through our efforts. The Pakistan Austrian University of Applied Science and Engineering started functioning last year in Haripur in collaboration with eight foreign universities from Austria and China. Two other similar foreign engineering universities are now being established in Sialkot and Islamabad in close collaboration with local industry to help develop a strong knowledge economy. The focus of these new universities is on the new and emerging technologies such as AI, robotics, industrial biotechnology, new materials, energy storage systems, minerals development, bullet train manufacture and advanced agriculture.

The exciting initiatives now introduced by the HEC after three years of stagnation include the magnification of research programmes to support bright young faculty, a huge Rs13 billion knowledge economy task force project to send our brightest students for doctoral level training abroad, introduction of blended education in universities so that excellent online courses are integrated into the teaching programmes and encouraging university-industry linkages so that focus can shift from basic research to industrial and agricultural research.

Thanks to Prime Minister Imran Khan, a silent revolution is underway. The declaration of a National Education Emergency is now under active consideration so that Pakistan can tap into its real wealth – the 67 percent of its young population below the age of 30.

The writer is chairman PM National Task Force on Science and Technology, former minister, and former founding chairman of the HEC.
Riaz Haq said…
While jumping 29 percent to $251 million in December, IT exports surged 36 percent to $1.3 billion in the first half of this fiscal year, mostly riding a massive stream of investment pouring into Pakistan’s technology sector, data showed on Saturday.


https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/927335-it-exports-surge-36pc-in-first-half-of-fy2022


Technology exports amounted to $667 million in the second quarter. Pakistan’s total IT exports stood at $1.44 billion in FY2020, which increased to $2.1 billion in FY2021.

According to Khurram Schehzad, CEO of Alpha Beta Core, this growth will gather more momentum down the line.

“Increased investment in the startup ecosystem is helping Pakistan develop technology infrastructure, which will in turn increase IT exports growth,” Schehzad said.

However, the recent increase in foreign investments in Pakistan, especially in tech based startups doesn’t reflect in the IT exports.

But Schehzad says it has been helping develop technology infrastructure and increase job opportunities in tech-based companies, which will eventually help increase IT exports further.

“I see IT exports recording a historic high of $2.8 billion to $3 billion in the fiscal year 2022,” an IT sector analyst said.

“But it depends on if the government is willing to incentivise the sector.”

He said the government also needed to establish tech zones to help the sector grow more.

He said around 15,000 IT companies were being established and hiring fresh employees, adding, expansion of the technology sector would subsequently fuel IT exports growth.

Wajid Rizvi, Head of Strategy and Economy at JS Global, expects IT exports to grow to $2.6 billion by the end of FY2022.

“The market-based exchange rate and devaluation of rupee has also enhanced the potential of technology sector exports as the companies/individuals associated with the sector receive their payments mostly in dollars,” Rizvi said.

He added that Pakistan was a net exporter of IT services and the sector had a great potential to grow, evident from a rising trend of software and other IT exports.

Riaz Haq said…
#Startups bringing #Pakistan's #farming into #digital age. Since October, #farmers in Chak 26 and pilot projects elsewhere have been given free access to the internet—and it is revolutionizing the way they work. #agriculture #technology
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.

Record investment

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.

Riaz Haq said…
Great potential for Pakistan’s IT upgrade
Various incentives given to sector including tech parks, tax breaks

https://tribune.com.pk/story/2340938/great-potential-for-pakistans-it-upgrade

Pakistan is experiencing a silent revolution in the IT industry.

Various incentives are being granted to the sector including the establishment of 15 software technology parks, zero income tax on IT and IT-enabled services export, zero income tax on Pakistan Software Export Board-registered IT startups and tax holidays for venture capital firms till 2024.

IT startups also remain on the radar of global investors and their exports continue to surge.

“The primary reason is that the requirement of ICT services in the global market has grown exponentially due to the pandemic and our rival countries were impacted due to Covid-19, so we got the overflow,” said Infotech Chairman Naseer Akhtar.

Tkxel Innovation and Technology Director Haseeb Khan believes that customers are attracted to Pakistani enterprises because of their service quality.

“For example, if you talk about web application development, we have expertise in .Net, Java, Python, Ruby on Rails and others,” he said. “Besides this, our organisation is a CMMI level-3 certified company, and we rank among top 1-2% of the global software companies in various authentic platforms.”

Facing the opportunities and challenges of the international market, Pakistan keeps finding ways to improve the capacity and seize the chance.

“Some services are advanced like artificial intelligence, blockchain, machine learning and internet of things and they are on top of the pyramid,” said Pakistan Software Houses Association Central Executive Committee member Badar Khushnood.

He believed that the upgrade of IT services was a must for Pakistan.

“We have every kind of service but most of them are at the bottom of the pyramid hence we need to bring ourselves higher to gain more export potential.”

Blockchain

According to interviews with senior executives of IT companies in Pakistan, one advanced technology that they mentioned the most was blockchain.

To talk about how Pakistan got started in this area, CEN consulted Jian Peng, Pakistan’s Honorary Investment Counsellor in China.

“The front-end research and development of blockchain technology requires huge costs, which would be too big an investment for one or several IT companies,” Jian said. “I suggest applying blockchain technology in public services as a start.”

The counsellor said that it could be applied in the fields of public medical care and public education as well. In this way, a large part of the initial investment risk could be reduced and it could also quickly bring economic benefits.

Jian said that blockchain technology has been slowly introduced in government service, medical care, education and other fields in China. THE ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON THE CHINA ECONOMIC NET
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistani start-up wins first place across South Asia in maiden Stanford SEED Spark Program


https://southasia.stanford.edu/news/pakistani-start-wins-first-place-across-south-asia-maiden-stanford-seed-spark-program#:~:text=The%20Stanford%20SEED%20Spark%20Program%20is%20a%20four%2Dmonth%20training,one%20mentorship%2C%20and%20live%20expert



January 21, 2022
By
Usman Aslam, TechJuice
National Incubation Center (NIC) Lahore at LUMS nominated start-up Codeschool.pk has won top laurels and a cash prize in the capstone business pitch competition in the Stanford Seed Spark Program for high-achieving entrepreneurs across South Asia. This was the inaugural cohort from Pakistan and was introduced by NIC LUMS.

“Our partnership with Stanford SEED Spark reflects our confidence in Pakistani entrepreneurs and their ability to compete with the very best talent globally,” said Saleem Ahmad, Chairman NIC LUMS Lahore, and Quetta at the graduation ceremony of Stanford SEED Spark’s inaugural cohort in Pakistan. “Our conviction is reinforced by the fact that all of NIC LUMS mentored start-ups made the top 20 finalists and have brought home much pride in also winning the top position across South Asia.”

83 ventures participated in the program, from across 17 collaborating institutions such as IIT Bombay, TiE Chennai and CII-Young Indians. The competition selected only the top 20 graduates as finalists. After a rigorous scoring process, the top three start-ups were selected to win a cash prize as well as a virtual showcase feature in the global Stanford SEED Spark gallery.

“Our collaboration with NIC LUMS for Spark’s maiden cohort in the Pakistan start-up ecosystem has been a great experience,” said P. R. Ganapathy, Regional Director, Stanford Seed South Asia. “We are thrilled to see the energy and enthusiasm that NIC LUMS nominated entrepreneurs brought to the program. We are looking forward to meeting more innovators and problem solvers from Pakistan to apply and make best use of a word-class online entrepreneurship program at their own pace and time.”

Speaking about her journey with the program, co-founder Sadaf Rehman commented,

“The Stanford SEED Spark Program was instrumental in helping us articulate our vision. The frameworks, expert sessions, as well as the one-on-one mentorship provided just the right mix to propel us beyond what we could have achieved on our own. I am deeply grateful to NIC LUMS for introducing this program to Pakistan, and for the networking opportunities and support that they have provided along our journey.”

Her venture, Codeschool.pk, provides fun, interactive coding classes to children aged six years and up, with the aim to promote critical 21st-century skills like problem-solving, creativity, and resilience. Within the first year of operations, the startup is reaching over 450 students in ten countries. She was mentored by LUMS alumnus Adeel Saya, Program Manager, Google in Zurich.

Another NIC LUMS-backed entrepreneur, Malik Waleed Tariq, founder of XStak, also made the top 20 finalist list. His venture is an all-in-one, self-service Retail Operating System that enables retailers to perform omnichannel commerce, marketing, payments, and business intelligence operations on a transaction-based pricing model. He was mentored by another LUMS alumnus, Ali Almakky, Strategy and Operations, JPMorgan, London.

Haris Anwaar, AWS Finance, Amazon, (Seattle) also joined the NIC mentors list with a start-up in the top 20 finalists.

The Stanford SEED Spark Program is a four-month training for early-stage entrepreneurs in the traction or growth stage and seeks to empower them with practical tools to refine and develop their businesses through an action-based curriculum, networking opportunities with peers, one-on-one mentorship, and live expert sessions. NIC LUMS brought the Stanford SEED Spark program to Pakistan and will be expanding it nationwide, with the second cohort due to begin in March 2022.

Riaz Haq said…
#Ecommerce platform Retailo has raised $36 million to digitize mom-and-pop #retail stores in #Pakistan, #UAE and #SaudiArabia. #startup #technology #digital https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-02-01/early-snap-backer-leads-fundraising-for-middle-east-e-retailer


The Riyadh-based company’s Series A round was led by Silicon Valley’s Graphene Ventures, an early-stage investor in Snap Inc. and Lyft Inc. The funding round is among the ten largest over the past year in the three countries Retailo operates in, according to data by Crunchbase. It raised $29 million in equity and $7 million in debt.

A string of startups has sprung up in recent years targeting the region’s retail shops, which often run with manual cash registers and handwritten entries. It’s a $500 billion industry made up of more than 10 million small businesses in the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan, according to Retailo. Tiger Global Management LLC made its first investment in Pakistan two months ago in CreditBook, a firm that offers digital book-keeping solutions to small businesses.


Retailo is looking to digitize these stores by giving them a one-stop portal to order all their products at better margins, instead of making multiple calls and visits to wholesale markets. That strategy has become more attractive amid the surge in global commodity prices.

“As global supply chains come under stress pushing up commodity prices and depressing GDP growth, the value of smart supply chains becomes even more important,” said Talha Ansari, chief executive officer at Retailo.

It is also offering credit lines and flexible payment options through buy-now-pay-later services that will be scaled up by the debt funds raised. Leveraging its regional presence, Retailo has recently begun offering its sellers a cross-border distribution platform across its market. The funding will help Retailo move into the next phase of expansion in new geographies, said Ansari.

“We are building something which is much more scalable faster,” he said in an interview. The company expects revenue to grow by six times this year, Ansari added.

Investors in the round include 500 Global, Agility Ventures, Aujan Group, Tech Invest Com and Mentor’s Fund, all of whom have exposure in the retail industry’s technology companies.

The debt was raised from Nahda Fund - one of the Middle East’s first venture debt funds, backed by Hong Kong-based IMM Investment Global. Shorooq Partners, Abercross Holdings, Arzan Venture Capital, AgFunder Inc. also participated in the round as repeat investors
Riaz Haq said…
#Karachi-based #logistics #startup "Truck It In" gets $13 million round led by Global Founders Capital & Fatima Gobi Ventures. Others: Picus Capital, Millville, Wamda, Zayn Capital, i2i Ventures, ADB Ventures, Cianna Capital, Reflect Ventures, K3 Ventures https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-02-04/truck-it-in-raises-largest-early-funding-in-pakistan-mena

Pakistan’s Truck It In has raised $13 million in early-stage funding, the largest for a logistics startup in the Middle East, North Africa and its home country.

The Karachi-based startup’s seed round is jointly led by venture capital firms Global Founders Capital and Fatima Gobi Ventures. The other investors in the round include Picus Capital, Millville, Wamda, Zayn Capital, i2i Ventures, ADB Ventures, Cianna Capital, Reflect Ventures and K3 Ventures


--------------

From Dawn in September 2021:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1645040

Karachi-based startup Truck It In, a road freight tech platform, announced on Tuesday that it has raised another $3 million in an extended pre-seed round, taking the total amount to $4.5m which it will use to digitise Pakistan's logistics sector.

In a press release, the startup said it was the "largest pre-seed round in the regional trucking sector".

The funding will be used to expand Truck It In countrywide and make it the largest trucking platform in Pakistan, the press release stated.

The company's co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO), Mohammad Sarmad Farooq, said: "We're at the very early stages of transforming a critical industry and aim to help over three million businesses save $1bn annually in supply chain inefficiencies."

He added that the company's long-term aim was to "streamline and digitise the country's logistics sector to create a ripple effect on the economy".

The extended round was led by Global Founders Capital, a global seed and growth investor, along with Fatima Gobi Ventures, one of the most active multi-national venture capital firms in Asia. They had also led the earlier round, according to the press release.

In addition, Picus Capital, an early-stage technology investment firm, and Zayn Capital also joined the round this time.

"Truck It In has partnered with strategic investors that are helping it tap into their local supply chains and also leveraging their regional connections for the next growth phase," the startup said in its press release.

Truck It In, which started operations in 2020, had announced a pre-seed funding round of $1.5m in April.

"This opportunity represents 10 per cent of the GDP in Pakistan and the company aims to be the nexus of road freight in the country, helping businesses scale while improving the lives of its truckers," it had said at the time.

"We are going to solve the supply chain inefficiencies in a $25bn market, which is growing faster than its regional peers, to help unlock more than $1bn for Pakistani businesses," it had added in its announcement.

Riaz Haq said…
China, Pakistan to enhance scientific cooperation

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/931728-china-pakistan-to-enhance-scientific-cooperation

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 international talents training.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan #Telecommunication : #PTCL Posts Highest Revenue Growth Since 2013.PTCL is the fastest growing #Fiber-To-The-Home (#FTTH) operator with highest Net adds within FTTH market in 2021. #broadband #Internet https://www.marketscreener.com/quote/stock/PAKISTAN-TELECOMMUNICATIO-6492707/news/Pakistan-Telecommunication-PTCL-Posts-Highest-Revenue-Growth-Since-2013-37974785/?utm_campaign=promo+202102+share_article++en_us&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=display

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

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

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:

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.

Riaz Haq said…
Rising #smartphone penetration in #Asia. #India, #Bangladesh and #Pakistan have new opportunities to #export online #labor to #America, #Europe. #Asia has the highest mobile phone users globally. #freelancing #gig #digital #economy https://theprint.in/world/india-bangladesh-and-pakistan-have-new-opportunities-exporting-online-labour-to-the-west/828549/

https://twitter.com/haqsmusings/status/1492664640039309312?s=20&t=pHOuQWj-VFbB-wMdOCry_Q


The region should adopt more cross-country collaborations, such as Go Digital ASEAN. These kinds of initiatives undeniably broaden the landscape of the digital economy and boost related infrastructures in the region. Meanwhile, national-level strategies like India’s National Digital Communication Policy (2018), 1st Policy for Digital Pakistan (2018), and Bangladesh’s National ICT Strategy need to be fully implemented and monitored as an utmost priority. Finally, South and Southeast Asian governments should foster a more sustainable digital ecosystem by promoting digital start-ups, removing entry barriers, developing human capital, and establishing national regulatory frameworks for the digital economy.



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Digital transformation worldwide was already increasingly changing how companies make and offer their propositions and interact with their customers. But the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified this, with technology emerging as a critical means of resolving public health challenges and continuing to facilitate the new online consumer landscape. This accelerated digitalization is disrupting the world’s economy, making it one of the most significant growth engines for many developing nations.
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What’s more, with the advent of rapid digitalization, Asian countries like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Philippines are tapping new opportunities by exporting online labour to the West. In Bangladesh, for example, the digital economy is bringing employment to hitherto excluded sections of the population.
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We are already seeing how digitalization is reshaping Asia. The digital transformation of South and Southeast Asia is opening a range of opportunities for its citizens, especially for younger generations. Many Asian countries are even in the lead globally in certain sectors of digitalization. For example, the Philippines and Malaysia have become the top two countries in e-commerce retail growth, increasing by 25% and 23% per year, respectively.


Asia countries are performing impressively on e-commerce growth
Image: eMarketer
What’s more, with the advent of rapid digitalization, Asian countries like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Philippines are tapping new opportunities by exporting online labour to the West. In Bangladesh, for example, the digital economy is bringing employment to hitherto excluded sections of the population.

The pandemic effect
During the COVID-19 pandemic, digital connectivity in Asia played a vital role in overcoming the difficulties of conventional trade. The digital economy acted as a key enabling factor in the Asian recovery, Observer Research Foundation reports. According to Nikkei Asia, the pandemic has had a striking impact on Southeast Asia’s digital economy: 60 million people in the region became online consumers during this period. With this accelerated uptake of technology, there was an increase in nearly all e-commerce during the pandemic, with solid growth in sports equipment and supermarket items.


The pandemic had a beneficial effect on most areas of e-commerce
Image: Datareportal
Asia now accounts for nearly 60% of the world’s online retail sales. Asian-Pacific e-commerce is expected to nearly double by 2025, reaching $2 trillion, according to Euromonitor International. From online retail to ride-sharing services to exporting online labour, this digital boom is reshaping almost every aspect of business and social life in this region.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan #IT incentives: IT/ITES firms & #freelancers to pay no tax, keep earnings in Pak banks in #US$. No restriction on outward #remittances from #PSEB-registered IT Companies & freelancers. No capital gain tax for #startup #investors. #tech #exports https://www.brecorder.com/news/40156290

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan approved on Tuesday a number of incentives, including tax exemptions, to facilitate the IT sector, freelancers and startups, a statement from the ministry said, as the country looks towards the digital economy to boost its dollar inflow.

The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT) added that the tax exemption benefit was the biggest demand of the sector.

"The other fiscal and non-fiscal incentives for the industry were proposed by the MoITT," it said.


https://twitter.com/MoitOfficial/status/1496148406380769285?s=20&t=gOGJFpMBfKEH24sqcYaWiw

"Long-outstanding issue of IT companies regarding easy inflow/outflow of foreign currency has also been addressed as specialised foreign currency accounts (FCY) for IT/ITES companies and freelancers will be introduced to meet their operational needs."

The approval was made in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday. Officials of MoITT, Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), Special Technology Zone Authority and Ignite National Technology Fund were also present in the meeting.

Faulty submarine cable causes internet disruption in Pakistan

According to the MoITT statement, the PM has directed to allow IT/ITES Companies and freelancers to retain 100% amount of remittances received through proper banking channels, in FCY Accounts without any compulsion to convert them into PKR.

Furthermore, there will be no restriction of outward remittances from FCY account for PSEB-registered IT Companies and freelancers.

PM Imran bets on IT sector to generate employment, dollar inflow

The prime minister has also directed the SBP to introduce financing streams for IT/ITES sector and freelancers keeping in view operational architecture and industry needs for these sectors.

"Recommendations of the Pakistan Technology Startup Fund was also approved by the Prime Minister as part of this historic package for the creation of a public-private partnership venture capital fund. Ignite National Technology Fund will create this Fund through Public private partnership."

Earlier, Business Recorder reported that the MoITT has prepared a package of fiscal and non-fiscal incentives for freelancers including the proposal of reduced sales tax rate, not exceeding two percent, as well as income tax holiday on exports income/ revenue/ receipts till 2030 and fast-track and simplified opening of foreign currency bank accounts to create a favourable business environment.

As per the report, the MoITT wanted to re-align the government strategies to attract a reasonable chunk from global spending on outsourcing and freelancing services in Pakistan, which, according to the ministry, will help create thousands of new jobs for freelancers in different sectors in line with the current government policy of creating high-end and well-paying white-collar jobs for youth employed in the digital economy.
Riaz Haq said…
NayaPay secures $13 million, largest seed funding in South Asia for its messaging and payment app – TechCrunch

https://techcrunch.com/2022/02/23/nayapay-secures-13-million-largest-seed-funding-in-south-asia-for-its-messaging-and-payment-app/


Pakistan-based fintech platform, NayaPay, has raised $13 million in a seed round to rollout its multi-service messaging and payment app, and to build payment acceptance and financial management tools for businesses in the South Asian country.

NayaPay CEO and founder Danish Lakhani told TechCrunch that the super-app allows people residing in Pakistan to send and receive money, split bills and make payments conveniently from smartphones. They have also issued virtual and physical Visa cards linked to the NayaPay wallet further allowing its users to make POS payments, and businesses to accept payments.

Lakhani said that NayaPay is leading a digital payment revolution in Pakistan, a cash-heavy economy, where only 1% of $4 trillion payments are done electronically. This is in a country of 220 million people. But NayaPay’s goal is even bigger; to bank millions of adults that remain unbanked, with women affected the most — only one in three women holds a bank account. The youth and freelance communities in Pakistan are also majorly locked out by traditional banks. About 100 million people are unbanked in Pakistan, according to this World Bank report.


--------------

Pakistan’s NayaPay Pvt. has raised $13 million in early stage funding as it seeks to capture millions of users in one of the world’s largest under banked nations.

The Karachi-based startup’s seed round was led by Zayn Capital, MSA Novo and Silicon Valley early-stage investor Graph Ventures, Chief Executive Officer Danish Lakhani said in an interview. NayaPay became the first startup to offer financial services after receiving a license from the State Bank of Pakistan in August. The fintech’s chat-led payments app started by targeting students and freelancers.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-02-24/startup-nayapay-raises-pakistan-s-biggest-fintech-funding-round

Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistani #Tech #Startup Bazaar raises $70 million from Tiger Global and Dragoneer to digitize #Pakistan's #retail. It’s a $170 billion market that comprises 5 million small and medium-sized businesses and enterprises across the country. https://tcrn.ch/3i6bfoX via @techcrunch

Dragoneer Investment Group and Tiger Global are backing Bazaar, a startup that is attempting to digitize Pakistan’s retail with e-commerce, fintech and last-mile supply chain solutions, they said today, joining a growing list of high-profile investors making large bets in the South Asian market.

The two investors are leading Bazaar’s $70 million Series B funding. Existing backers including Indus Valley Capital, Defy Partners, Acrew Capital, Wavemaker Partners, B&Y Venture Partners and Zayn Capital also participated in the new round, which brings one-and-a-half-year-old startup’s all-time raise to over $100 million.

Bazaar is attempting to build what it calls an “operating system for traditional retail” in Pakistan. It’s a $170 billion market that comprises 5 million small and medium-sized businesses and enterprises across the country.

But these merchants are largely unbanked and offline today. Banks and other formal financial institutions don’t extend credit to these merchants because they don’t have a credit score. This gap has forced many of these shop operators to take loans from shark loan providers.

For those following the South Asia coverage, this challenge will sound very familiar.

Business-to-business e-commerce Udaan, logistics startup ElasticRun, and Dukaan, a startup that is helping shops go online, as well as scores of startups and giants including Reliance and Amazon, are solving a similar problem in India.

Bazaar is combining many of these offerings.

The startup’s B2B e-commerce marketplace, thanks to its network of a dozen fulfillment facilities, is helping merchants in 21 towns and cities across Pakistan procure items to sell.

These merchants also use the startup’s Easy Khata app, which helps them maintain bookkeeping. Bazaar’s financial arm, called Bazaar Credit, is offering these merchants, many of whom operate neighborhood stores, with short-term working capital financing.

Piecing together many of its services makes sense for a startup like Bazaar in Pakistan because it enables the startup to offer a more comprehensive set of values to a merchant, and Easy Khata is helping the firm win customers, Saad Jangda, co-founder of Bazaar, said in an interview with TechCrunch.

In August, “we had just started piloting our credit product and at the time we had partnered with a third-party,” he said. “Now, our credit product is developed completely in-house and is digitally enabled that connects to our last mile network. Everything from order generation to credit disbursement to cash collection is done completely by Bazaar,” he said.

“We acquire customers through Easy Khata, funnel them through commerce, and once we have enough data on the merchants, we start building a credit product atop of it,” he said, adding that the startup has issued thousands of loans in recent months.

Easy Khata has amassed over 2.4 million registered businesses across 500 cities in Pakistan. “But more importantly, Easy Khata is serving as both a core system of records and also helping us launch in new cities,” he said.

Merchants have recorded over $10 billion in annualized bookkeeping transaction value on Easy Khata, the startup said. “Our expansion within Pakistan in the last few months is a testament to how crucial Easy Khata is for us,” Jangda said.

The startup’s last-mile network, which was operational in just two cities in August of last year, is now adding three to four cities each month.

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan’s startups take centre stage

https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2022/3/16/pakistans-startups-take-center-stage

#Pakistan’s #startups take centre stage. In 2021, 83 startups raised $350m. And so far this year, the sector has already raised $136m. #technology #economy #entrepreneurship #venture #investment #venturecapital #vc | Infographic | Al Jazeera


Kalsoom Lakhani, the founder of Invest2Innovate and general partner at its sister firm i2iVentures, an early-stage investor, says 2021 was a record-breaking year and says people will question if the momentum is sustainable.

“What’s really important is for the ecosystem to also be building the health overall,” she told Al Jazeera, referring to startups and investors preparing for things such as how to grow the talent pipeline to meet the needs of these fledgling businesses, or how to improve the policy and regulatory environment to help them grow. “So while this momentum is exciting, there needs to be strengthening of these pillars in order to create sustainability and longevity and the continuing growth of the startup ecosystem,” she said.

COVID-19 was a catalyst for the startup landscape in Pakistan, which saw investments rise from $65m in 2020 to $350m in 2021. Extended lockdowns and quarantines provided entrepreneurs the opportunity to create digital products with a human impact.

With more than 250 startups since 2015, an increasing internet penetration driven by low-cost smartphones – there were 184 million cellphone users at the end of 2021 – and affordable data, Pakistan is one of the final few untapped markets for startups and investors to offer internet-based services similar to those in other parts of the world. These services include ride-hailing, and food and grocery delivery, among others.

Faisal Aftab, CEO of Zayn Capital, a venture capital fund and one of the primary investors in the Pakistani startup landscape, estimates that Pakistani startups will be worth $50bn by 2030.

“Today the number sits at $1.8bn, if we count Daraz and FoodPanda, which people should, then we’re sitting at $3bn to $4bn. We’re looking at an easy 10 times growth here,” says Aftab. Daraz, an e-commerce platform, was founded in Pakistan and now offers its services in several countries, and Foodpanda is an international food and grocery delivery business.

“It’s profound what is happening,” says Aftab, referring to the many first-time investors that have mushroomed in the country to pour money into these startups in hopes of handsome returns down the line. Many of these startups straddle parts of the informal economy and will help bring that under the formal economy and the tax net for the first time, he adds.

The five largest disclosed startup funding rounds in 2021 were: Airlift ($85m), Bazaar ($30m), Tajir ($17m), Qisstpay ($15m), and TAG ($12m).

Invest2Innovate’s Pakistan Startup Ecosystem Report 2021 highlights the need for more attention directed towards startups to create a supportive ecosystem in which businesses can flourish.

Opportunities for growth, however, come with the challenge of finding the right human and capital resources to allow the building of infrastructure that can absorb the two million new people entering the workforce every year, the report says.

Infrastructure
Recent reforms, including a legal framework for Electronic Money Institutions set up by the country’s central bank, the State Bank of Pakistan, have allowed new businesses to be set up and have led to an increase in investments. Another policy that led to investor cheer was the Digital Banking Policy, which was finalised in January and allows digital banks to not just be e-wallets, but also provide credit, investments, and other products.

The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, which oversees non-banking companies, has established legal definitions for startups, and the federal government has helped set up Special Technology Zones.

Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistani B2B #ecommerce #startup firm raises $22m in series A #investment round led by Sary, a B2B marketplace that focuses on the Middle East, North Africa, and Pakistan (MENAP) markets. Sarmayacar and Systems Limited also participated in the round. https://www.techinasia.com/pakistani-b2b-ecommerce-firm-raises-22m-series-money

Jugnu said that more than one million kiryana (mom and pop) stores in Pakistan lack access to convenient inventory procurement, and that over two-thirds of retail stores don’t get serviced directly by any organized distribution channel.

The startup aims to resolve these challenges by connecting retail stores and SMEs directly to manufacturers through its app.

Since its establishment, Jugnu has onboarded more than 30,000 kiryana stores across Lahore, Rawalpindi, and Islamabad, and it is currently expanding into other cities. It has also started offering buy now, pay later services for kiryana owners.

Jugnu was founded in 2019 by Sharoon Saleem, Yasir Memon, Syed Khurram Haider, and Ahsan Muhammad Khan.

In addition to the investment, Sary has also entered into a partnership with Jugnu.

“The strategic investment and alliance with Sary paves way for consolidation in the B2B space in MENAP, providing both companies with the ability to leverage diverse expertise and talent transfers across the region,” the companies said in a joint statement
Riaz Haq said…
Colabs gets $3 million seed to expand across #Pakistan, launch back-office SaaS solution. #Startup hosts 100+ firms with 1,200 people at 3 locations in #Lahore. It plans to open 100,000 seats nationwide in next 5 years, including #Islamabad & #Karachi.

https://techcrunch.com/2022/03/24/colabs-gets-3-million-seed-to-expand-across-pakistan-launch-back-office-saas-solution/

Lahore-based coworking space startup Colabs is set to roll out a SaaS product to enable businesses to meet back-office needs including company registration, talent sourcing and management, payroll processing, and legal and tax compliance. It also plans to hire more staff, which will include increasing the product team for its SaaS workspace business service that is emerging from the beta phase.

The new plans come after the startup secured $3 million in seed funding in a round led by Indus Valley Capital, Zayn Capital and Fatima Gobi Ventures, the first time that the three Pakistan-focused VCs are investing in a startup together.

“We realized that people setting up operations in Pakistan need other services; they need help to set up companies, process payrolls and to ensure tax compliance,” Colabs co-founder and CEO Omar Shah, a former investment banker, told TechCrunch. “That is why we introduced our business solutions.”

“Our plan is to get to 600 paying customers in the next 12 months, and from there we will roll this product out to the market,” said Shah.

Shah and his twin brother Ali Shah co-founded Colabs as a coworking outfit for entrepreneurs launching businesses and multinationals setting up hubs in Pakistan. This was in 2019, when they were inspired by the flourishing startup ecosystem and advancing technology space in the country.

Prior to launching Colabs, Shah worked in the private equity sector for about eight years, with his last assignment at Abraaj Capital, before he collaborated with his brother, who operates long-established family-run real estate and development firm SABCON, to launch the startup. The family-owned real estate firm develops Colabs spaces.

Planned national expansion
The startup hosts over 100 companies with a combined 1,200 people across its three locations in Lahore. It plans to open 100,000 seats across the country over the next five years in a nationwide expansion to major cities, including Islamabad and Karachi.

“The idea for Colabs is to create spaces across the country, where we can service freelancers, startups, SMEs and large enterprises. It is a community for anyone who wants to start up their career or a company or wants to enter the country. Colabs will support them in their journey. We want to become that gateway into Pakistan,” said Shah.

“Our growth plan is very ambitious. But we see a demand for what we are offering because by the time we open our new spaces, they are already sold out. And this is because there are so many companies that are entering the country. And so many startups here that are raising capital and want to be inside spaces like ours, as opposed to investing in their own campus,” he said.


The rise of flexible workplaces has also grown amid the pandemic as more companies reduce the overhead associated with operating exclusive physical locations. Coworking spaces like Colabs also host events, which are important for networking, learning, or meeting potential investors or clients.

According to Shah, the rising interest in Pakistan by major investors like Tiger Global means that the growth of the country’s startup ecosystem is set to continue, increasing the demand for spaces like Colabs. Investments into Pakistan rose to $350 million in 2021 amid a fintech and e-commerce boom.

Colabs’ new funding brings the total amount raised by the startup to $4 million, including capital from an unannounced pre-seed round.

Riaz Haq said…
Kalsoom Lakhani
@kalsoom82


1/This is *not* an April Fools Day joke - our latest
@Invest2Innovate
Insights graphic is out. In Q1 2022, Pakistani πŸ‡΅πŸ‡° startups raised $163M in funding via 15 deals -- more than 50% of what was raised in all of 2021 ($350M) & > 7x of what was done in Q1 2021 ($22.2M)/

https://twitter.com/kalsoom82/status/1509907382503100416/photo/1

--------------
Most of this amount was thanks to larger later stage rounds, mostly achieved by the b2b e-comm space,
@BazaarTechPK
's $70M Series B (led by Tiger & Dragoneer),
@RetailoT
's $36M Series A (led by Graphene) & Jugnu's $22.5M Series A (strat alliance w/ Saudi b2b ecomm play Sary)/
----------

3/Fact that b2b e-comm players raised later stage rounds is a strong signal for the PK market, esp given concerns around a "cooling off" or a dearth of growth stage capital. Fintech also did well this Q1 albeit mainly via earlier stage deals, like
@nayapaypk
's $13M seed/

-------------

4/ Like other emerging markets, we oft see "triangle" of funding raised most by e-comm, fintech & logistics (
@TRUCK_IT_IN
's $13M made up total raised in logistics), since those sectors have symbiotic relationship. Kudos to our team for this amazing work, esp
@ShifraKhan
! πŸš€πŸ’œ
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan’s Zaraye, a B2B supplies platform, raises $2.1M from Tiger Global and Zayn

https://techcrunch.com/2022/04/14/pakistans-zaraye-a-b2b-supplies-platform-raises-2-1m-from-tiger-global-and-zayn/

Obtaining raw materials is a major pain point for Pakistan’s manufacturers, who need to have multiple phone calls with suppliers while waiting for rates, say the founders of Zaraye.

The startup, which runs a platform that connects manufacturers directly with suppliers, announced today it has raised $2.1 million in pre-seed funding from Tiger Global and Zayn Capital. This marks the first time Tiger Global has made a pre-seed investment in a Pakistani startup. Other investors include +92 Ventures, Alan Rutledge, Jack Rizvi and current and former employees of Careem.

The startup was founded in late 2021 by Taha Iqbal Teli, Hashair Junair Ahmedani and Ahshan Ali Khan, who went to school together. Zaraye provides manufacturing businesses with working capital, in addition to raw materials. It currently serves the textile and construction industries, with more than 300 partners and suppliers in about 20 cities.

Teli and Khan worked together at Careem, Swvl and other companies, while Ahmedani’s family worked in the conventional manufacturing business. “The manufacturing sector in Pakistan has been operating with very marginal innovations [for] decades, [with] WhatsApp being the only notable change in how processes have evolved. Zaraye intends to change that,” said Khan.

Materials on the platform include cotton yarn, which CEO Khan told TechCrunch is the single biggest raw material used for creating end-use fabric in the textile industry. For the construction industry, Zaraye provides cement, sand, gravel and crushed stone. The company is focused on smaller manufacturers, whose annualized revenue varies between $250,000 up to $2 million USD.

Typically, manufacturers connect with intermediaries or directly with suppliers and wait for them to furnish rates. Zaraye, on the other hand, gives more autonomy to manufacturers by allowing them to post their requirements and wait for quotes from suppliers. For suppliers, this means they can see consolidated demand from Zaraye’s network of buyers.


Based on data aggregated by Zaraye from the Pakistan Credit Rating Agency, Pakistan’s industrial manufacturing sector contributes to 20% of the country’s economy with $35 billion in raw materials annually, with raw materials contributing 60% to 65% of total costs for manufacturers, who need to deal with small net margins.
Riaz Haq said…
CPEC enters second phase of improving people’s livelihoods.
Smart Classrooms, CPEC project, is growing vigorously in 50 universities across Pakistan.
It is learnt that total of 100 smart classrooms will be built at 50 public universities in 49 cities.

https://www.geo.tv/latest/411742-muslims-boys-arrested

Smart Classrooms, a project under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), is growing vigorously in 50 universities across Pakistan, which may inject new life into Pakistan’s education system in the near future.

According to Chen Chun, project manager from China Railway Signal and Communication Shanghai Engineering Bureau Group Co Ltd, in the smart classrooms, teaching can be realised both offline and online at the same time, overstepping the boundaries of time and space, and interaction between teachers and students will be much more enhanced.

“Moreover, through advanced information and communication technology from China, an intelligent system of data sharing and assessment will be established (in Pakistan),” he added.

“The smart classrooms will improve the accessibility of students from one location to the best teachers located at another place,” Umar Idrees, Pakistani site engineer of the Smart Classroom project told CEN.

It is learnt that a total of 100 smart classrooms will be built in 50 public universities in 49 cities from Hunza in the northernmost to Karachi in the far south, covering all the provinces and regions of Pakistan, which means the state-of-the-art educational resources will be better utilised and distributed over the whole country. It is indeed inspiring for students who currently lack high-quality educational resources in the country.

Chen Chun said the construction of the Smart Classroom project started in September, 2021. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the team had risen to many challenges in equipment and material imports, customs clearance and construction, etc.

“Now all the equipment and materials of the project have arrived at our warehouse in Pakistan. We’re striving to complete the whole project by November,” he added.

As CPEC entered the second phase of improving people’s livelihoods, education has become one of the key areas to develop to help Pakistan alleviate poverty and let more Pakistani people live a better life.

“The Smart Classroom project will benefit the university students in Pakistan, who are the pillar of the state in the future. It will greatly promote the development of higher education in Pakistan, supporting Pakistan to evolve into a knowledge-based economy,” Chen Chun concluded.
Riaz Haq said…
Kalsoom Lakhani
@kalsoom82
Our
@i2i_ventures
portfolio company
@abhikaropk
just announced their $17M Series A, led by
@speedinvest
, their first deal in Pakistan. So proud to back an amazing team, bringing financial wellness to the region! πŸ‡΅πŸ‡°πŸš€

https://twitter.com/kalsoom82/status/1516251848558223364?s=20&t=2oNXNR4rSzlAzbgA7PEDhA

----------

Pakistani financial platform Abhi Pvt. raised funds at a $90 million valuation within a year after introducing its business, the latest startup to benefit from investors’ increasing interest in the South Asian country.

The Karachi-based company’s $17 million Series A round was led by Speedinvest, marking the venture capital firm’s first bet in Pakistan, Abhi Chief Executive Officer Omair Ansari said in an interview. Global Ventures, VentureSouq, VEF, Sturgeon Capital, Rallycap, FJ Labs, Fatima Gobi, Sarmayacar and i2i Ventures also participated.

Pakistan is attracting investors eager to back startups in one of the last large untapped markets. Companies raised more than $350 million last year in the country, greater than the amount over the previous six years combined. Among the firms making their first-time investments in the country recently are Kleiner Perkins, Tiger Global Management and Dragoneer Investment Group.



Startup Fever Grips Pakistan, World’s Last Big Untapped Nation

The lending startup offers an alternative to people asking their employer, family or friends for cash to make ends meet until their next salary. It also gives small- and medium-sized companies financing for working capital requirements. The company has now become cash-flow positive.

“This is the first time you’re able to get this access in the country,” Ansari said in an interview. “As people and smaller companies get this access then it becomes something they want to keep using.”

The app takes less than 30 seconds and two clicks for a registered user to access the funds, with a flat 2% transaction fee. The funds are automatically deducted from the next paycheck.

Co-founder Ansari previously oversaw two funds at Morgan Stanley, and was looking at investment opportunities in consumer companies and fintech in emerging and frontier markets. He helped with early-stage investments in fintech companies from China to Brazil. He was also an adviser to VEF, which focuses on fintech in frontier and emerging markets.



The company has increased users to 650,000 from about 200,000 since a previous round in Novemberand also on-boarded over 150 companies. Individuals are accessing 15% to 20% of their monthly wage through the platform, Ansari said.

“Abhi has the potential to change millions of lives across MENA and South Asia,” said Stefan Klestil, general partner at Speedinvest. “It’s no wonder they have been able to establish themselves as one of the fastest-growing Pakistani startups.”

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-04-19/pakistan-startup-abhi-raises-funds-at-90-million-valuation
Riaz Haq said…
“It’s like drinking from a firehose”: Inside Pakistan’s tech investment boom
Pakistani VC Kalsoom Lakhani on the good, bad, and ugly of the recent funding boom.

https://restofworld.org/2022/pakistan-tech-investment-boom/

In 2019, when Kalsoom Lakhani and Misbah Naqvi founded i2i Ventures, a $15 million Pakistan-focused venture capital (VC) fund, they hoped to sign about three deals a year. Now, they’re signing that many deals every quarter.

“I can barely keep up with the deal flow,” Lakhani told Rest of World. “My days are insane. My partner and I work anywhere between 10- and 14-hour days. I’m meeting about four to five new teams each week, in comparison to one or two a year back.”

Pakistan is in the midst of a massive boom in its tech startup sector: In 2021, Pakistani startups raised $365.87 million in VC funding, more than every previous year combined. By the end of the first quarter of 2022, the sector had received seven times as much funding as in the first quarter of 2021. The world’s fifth-most populous nation has also caught the fancy of some of the world’s largest VC investors: Tiger Global made its first investment in Pakistan in December and has since backed at least two more startups.

But Lakhani says these international investors are still not seeing Pakistan as a “strategic” investment destination but are, rather, simply “dipping their toes” into the country. In fact, the flood of funds has her worried. “There’s a lot of noise, and sometimes the valuations [that the startups are getting] are not priced right. What I would have laughed at a year ago is the norm now. I keep wondering, when did we become comfortable with valuations like these?”

Lakhani spoke to Rest of World, via Zoom from Washington D.C., about the reasons for the recent spurt, the change it has triggered on the ground, and why she’s cautious about the future.

As someone who has been a stakeholder in the Pakistani startup space for a while, what do you think of the recent funding boom?
It feels like we’re drinking from a firehose. The pace at which things are moving right now is probably 20 times faster than I’ve ever seen in the ecosystem. Earlier, on average, you would get a deal, and it would take a month or two to close. So, you had about six weeks to do due diligence, and by the end of it, you felt quite sure. Now, sometimes I have to do the due diligence in a week! You have international investors who aren’t really on the ground. So, they’re doing their diligence but not to the extent of checking things on the ground. These are early deals, so they oftentimes make decisions in a few days.

Not only are the first rounds happening really fast but the time between successive funding rounds is also getting shorter. I’ve seen people raising funds again within four months. Like, how? A company that we invested in raised their first and second rounds within six months of each other. As an investor, it felt like I was barely caught up with what was happening.

Will we see more international investors do their debut rounds in Pakistan soon?
Many international investors are looking at Pakistan right now. Tiger Global is actively looking at the market for more deals. Sequoia Capital has been looking at Pakistan for a while. There have been rumblings about Accel investing in the country. Dragoneer Investment Group has invested in the country. Among the newer funds, Vibe Capital and Buckley Ventures have already invested, and [British VC] Harry Stebbings’s fund 20VC has done some deals. Village Global [backed by Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg, among others] has a scout on the ground. [San Francisco–based] Global Founders Capital hired their first official person in Pakistan recently. There are a lot of people who have not even been to the country themselves but are scoping out people that can join them.

Riaz Haq said…
“It’s like drinking from a firehose”: Inside Pakistan’s tech investment boom
Pakistani VC Kalsoom Lakhani on the good, bad, and ugly of the recent funding boom.

https://restofworld.org/2022/pakistan-tech-investment-boom/

What kinds of investment opportunities are available for these investors?
Like a lot of early emerging markets, most companies, especially the ones that are venture backable and raising funding, are coming up in the B2B or B2C e-commerce, fintech, and logistics. With a growing consumer class and digital adoption, these three sectors grow, often in relation to one another. I’m also seeing a lot of ideas that have a sibling version in another market — something might be the “Khatabook for Pakistan” or the “Stripe for Pakistan.” Founders still have to localize and innovate the model for the local realities, and a lot of international investors like pattern matching. While they may not know Pakistan well, they can understand the model because they’ve seen it work before.

Why are we seeing this sudden spurt in investment in Pakistan?
Before 2021, Pakistani tax residents were not allowed to set up holding companies outside of the country. So, if an investor wanted to invest in a startup operating in Pakistan, they had to invest in an entity within the country. That was a very big risk, as many foreign investors felt they didn’t know how to invest in Pakistan, and the process felt very opaque. In 2021, the State Bank of Pakistan changed that legislation, which meant that international investors could easily back an entity in Singapore or Dubai or Delaware [which operates in Pakistan]. At the same time, the pandemic forced a lot of international investors to get comfortable with investing without having been to a country. The idea of remote diligence became a thing.

Then, there was a lot of liquidity, and people were looking for avenues to invest, and if you wanted to put your money in places that are still relatively untapped, Pakistan is one of those markets. It’s the fifth-largest market in the world, and the addressable market is getting significantly larger with the consumer middle class growing.

Finally, the sophistication of founders in Pakistan has also improved pretty significantly. A lot of that has to do with Uber’s acquisition of Careem. Many people who worked at Careem started their own companies, and they already have a network to reach out to. There’s a massive network of ex-Careem people that are angel investors now. These young people have had significant experience working in a high-intensity, operationally heavy business and the exposure that others before them did not have. I’ve invested in two ex-Careem companies and [am] potentially investing in a third, hopefully, today.

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan’s Fintech SadaPay Raises Funds Ahead of Mass Rollout
SadaPay is country’s most-funded fintech after $10.7 mln round
U.S. entrepreneur moved to Pakistan to start venture

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-04-19/pakistan-s-fintech-sadapay-raises-funds-ahead-of-mass-rollout?utm_source=google&utm_medium=bd&cmpId=google

Pakistan’s SadaPay raised additional funds to become the nation’s highest-funded fintech as it received permission for full-fledged operations that will allow it to add millions of new users.

The Islamabad-based startup scored $10.7 million in a seed-extension round, according to Chief Executive Officer Brandon Timinsky. The funding announcement comes a day after the central bank allowed it to offer financial services through its smartphone app.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistani #Startup Oware Raises $3.3 Million To Address Pakistan’s $35 Billion #Logistics Market. #US investors include Flexport Fund, Ratio Ventures, Seedstars International Ventures, Osiris Group, Swiss Founders Fund, Reflect Ventures, others.
@forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidprosser/2022/04/28/oware-raises-33-million-to-solve-pakistans-logistics-problems/

"To get to its end destination, a product has to move between several warehouses, fulfilment centres and trucks,” adds Nisar. “This complex ballet is managed by multiple businesses without interconnected systems. Our vision is to build a large scale connected world of distribution that enables a faster route to market for our customers.”



-------

Fixing Pakistan’s outdated logistics infrastructure will help the country's businesses grow and expand the economy, says start-up Oware, which is today announcing a $3.3 million seed financing round. The company, founded last June, promises to help businesses increase sales through more flexible warehousing and smarter distribution.

Oware founders Raza Kazmi and Adil Nisar argue that businesses across Pakistan are being held back by antiquated logistics systems. They struggle to secure new warehousing capacity to store inventory, the founders say, find it difficult to monitor their inventories, and face complex distribution problems.

“Our solution to that problem is based on a shared infrastructure that enables businesses to build sales without substantially increasing their costs,” explains Nisar. “The aim is to level the playing field for Pakistani businesses, because it’s currently only the large multinationals that have access to modern systems.”

In that context, Oware’s solutions are essentially three-fold. First, the business has opened 15 warehouses across four cities offering 500,000 square foot of space to rent; businesses can simply sign up to lease the space they need in any of these facilities, rather than having to find warehousing for themselves.

In addition, Oware offers a distribution service, moving businesses' goods from the warehouse to customers such as retailers and fulfilment centres, in line with their orders. This business-to-business distribution is crucial in a country were competition for last-mile delivery to the consumer has improved performance in recent times, but where previous stages of distribution have been ignored.

The final piece in the jigsaw is modernised logistics technology. Oware is building out dashboards that connect to all the moving parts of supply and distribution so that customers have far greater visibility of their stock levels and operations. The technology can also help reduce costs – for example, by analysing the trade-off between warehousing costs and delivery prices to identify where best to store inventory.

"Local businesses remain trapped in an archaic and opaque environment dealing with antiquated supply chain systems that are no longer fit for purpose and remain slow, limited, and capital intensive," says Kazmi. "The time to set up operations is too long, there is limited visibility or tracking of orders, and the execution of processes is inefficient in terms of speed and cost, which we are on a mission to solve".

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan women fight gender norms to build online health business
by Zofeen T. Ebrahim |

https://news.trust.org/item/20220427154524-2hs38

Growing number of Pakistani women jump into health tech

Women founders face multiple barriers in conservative Pakistan

Mental health care not considered legitimate

Pakistan, April 28 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - After surviving a car crash that left her hospital-bound and unable to walk for months, Saira Siddique embarked on a mission: making health care accessible to Pakistanis.

The 45-year-old left her high-profile job in government health to pitch her app linking doctors and patients by video to investors.

Months later, with COVID-19 hurting businesses across Pakistan, Siddique's firm, MedIQ, burst on to the scene as the country's first "virtual hospital".

"(The pandemic) really gave a boost to my company," said Siddique.

With face-to-face doctors' appointments restricted due to contagion risks, Siddique's company, connecting patients across Pakistan with doctors and pharmacies, was suddenly in demand.

MedIQ served 16,000 patients in its first six months. Almost two years on, the number has increased by nearly 20 times.

Siddique is one of a growing number of women in Pakistan who are defying conservative gender norms by jumping into the health tech industry.


"Running a startup business is like riding a bull," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from the capital Islamabad.

"You never know which way or how hard it's going to buck."

Siddique's company raised $1.8 million in an early stage of financing last week after receiving mentoring in the World Bank-backed WeRaise programme, which helps women-led ventures in Pakistan raise capital.

'DOCTOR BRIDES'
Others are blazing a similar path.

Two entrepreneurs in Karachi wanted to use the untapped potential of tens of thousands of so-called "doctor brides" - women doctors who quit their medical practise after marriage in a country where millions have no access to medical care.

Iffat Zafar Aga and Sara Saeed Khurram's platform allows female medics to provide e-consultations from their homes to patients in mostly rural communities.

In the country of some 210 million the doctor-patient ratio stands at just a little over one for every 1,000 patients, according to the World Bank.

Countries such as the United States, Japan and Brazil have more than two doctors for every 1,000 patients, while Britain has nearly four.

The pair has set up dozens of 'e-health clinics' in low-income communities where, for as little as 80 rupees ($0.43), a patient visits a nurse who uses the online platform to reach a doctor.

Khurram said they provided free consultations during COVID-19 after the government sought their help - a task made possible by their team of 7,000 doctors, many of whom are former doctor brides.

The phenomenon of doctor brides remains pervasive with many families encouraging their daughters to study medicine not for a career, but to bolster marriage prospects.

More than 70% of the country's doctors are women, but only half will ever practise, according to the Pakistan Medical Commission.

'LATE-NIGHT DEALS'
From domestic violence to anxiety over job losses and grief of losing family members to Covid-19, requests for virtual appointments on ReliveNow, an online mental health care platform, surged during lockdowns.

Amna Asif, its founder and CEO, said most of the clients were women, including single mothers, struggling to juggle children while working from home.

"This put us on the radar, and helped increase our sales," said Asif by phone.

Founded in 2018, ReliveNow has clients - 80% of whom are women - in dozens of countries including Pakistan, Britain, Canada and Australia.

But the road to success for firms like MediIQ and Sehat Kahani has been paved with misogyny, stereotypes and discouragement.
Riaz Haq said…
there has been a robust growth of IT and IT-enabled (ITeS) remittances in the past five years. According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan (2020-2021), the compound annual growth rate for IT and related services reached 18.85 per cent, the highest growth rate of any industry in the region. In addition, micro enterprises, independent consultants and freelancers contributed around $500 million to IT and ITeS exports while the annual domestic revenue exceeded $1 billion.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1686067

According to the survey, from July to February of the outgoing fiscal year, IT export remittances in sectors including telecommunication and computer IT services surged to $1.29bn at a growth rate of 41.39pc, compared to $918m during the corresponding period in FY20. Enabling government policies have contributed to this remarkable growth. These include numerous sustainable development and accelerated digitisation projects, incentives to bolster growth, including 100pc equity ownership and specialised foreign currency (FCY) accounts for IT/ITeS firms and freelancers to fulfil operational demands, thus addressing a long-standing concern of IT companies regarding the easy inflow/outflow of foreign currency.

Now IT/ITeS companies and freelancers can keep 100pc of remittances received through proper banking channels in their FCY accounts without being forced to convert them to rupees. Moreover, outward transfers from FCY accounts are also unrestricted for Pakistan Software Export Board-registered IT companies and freelancers.

However, the revelation that the IT sector carries tremendous potential is not new, though the industry remains unexploited. Google recognised Pakistan as far back as 2018 for rapidly turning into a “digital-first country”. At present, Pakistan has the fourth-largest growing freelancers’ market globally. The country is known for software development, business process outsourcing (BPO) and freelancing of IT-related services.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan’s IT exports reach $1.94 billion within the first 9 months of the financial year 2021-22 (FY22)
However, due to political unrest, the country may not reach its desired target of $3.5 billion through IT exports.

https://pk.mashable.com/tech/15787/pakistans-it-exports-reach-194-billion-within-the-first-9-months-of-the-financial-year-2021-22-fy22


Pakistan’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) exports have skyrocketed in the current fiscal year (2021-22). The IT export value continues to close down the $2 billion mark in FY22.

According to the latest data released by the State Bank of Pakistan, the industry maintained a solid rise of inflows, which totaled $1.94 billion from July to March in the current financial year 2021-22, representing a 29.2 percent year-on-year gain.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak, Pakistani enterprises and freelancers have been capturing the increased global demand for tech-related services as a result of remote working and e-learning arrangements. During that time, exports of ICT services increased in practically all areas, including software consulting, call centers, and telecom services.

The net exports connected to the IT industry exclusively, excluding additional services like call centers, were $1.47 billion in the first nine months of this fiscal year, accounting for 75.56 percent of the overall $1.94 billion in ICT exports.

In comparison to FY21, net IT-only exports increased in the current fiscal year. Last year, net exports were $1.12 billion, accounting for 74.72 percent of the $1.50 billion in export proceeds.

With a quarter remaining in the fiscal year 2021-22, IT exports are likely to reach more than $2.5 billion by the conclusion of the current fiscal year. Due to political problems in the country, Pakistan may not be able to reach the desired target of $3.5 billion which was set by the previous government.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistani startups raise over $200 Million
Sadapay raised a $10.7M seed round just after receiving their EMI license. Meanwhile, Abhi Pvt. raises a $17M Series A round.

https://www.globalvillagespace.com/pakistani-startups-raise-over-200-million/


Pakistani startups have raised over $200 million in funds with the recent Sadapay funding round of $10.7 million. According to the stats by Chief Executive Officer Brandon Timinsky, the Islamabad-based startup has become the nation’s highest-funded fintech.

The funding announcement comes a day after the central bank allowed it to offer financial services through its smartphone app.

Pakistan is seeing a rush of investors eager to back startups in the world’s fifth-largest nation, one of the last large untapped markets. A flurry of fintech’s is emerging in Pakistan, which has the world’s third-largest unbanked population, according to the World Bank.

Earlier, Pakistani financial platform Abhi Pvt. raised $17 million in a Series A round led by venture capital firm Speedinvest. The Karachi-based salary advance platform has raised funds at a $90million valuation within a year after introducing its business.

“All sizes of companies and their employees want the services we provide. The proceeds will support our exponential growth, and help us meet customer demand,” Omair Ansari, CEO at Abhi, said in a statement.

Reportedly, another startup Dastgyr is close to raising a $45 million Series A round as it gears up for expansion. The country’s startups raised a record over $350 million in 2021. From 2015 to 2022 YTD, Pakistani startups have raised a total of $728 million across 272 deals.

Timinsky, an American entrepreneur, came to Asia to explore new opportunities after a previous startup was acquired in the U.S. Last year, the fintech started operating in pilot mode, which restricted users to 10,000, before it got the Electronic Money Institution license from the State Bank of Pakistan on Monday.

The opportunity lay in “a huge population of young people with smartphones, high cellular-broadband penetration, sleepy incumbent banks, and massive policy reform by the government to support digitization,” Timinsky said when he first visited Pakistan.

Unlike conventional banks, Sadapay allows customers three free cash withdrawals in a month, offers round-the-clock in-app chat support, and opens an account in two minutes.

Riaz Haq said…
#PayPal Ventures leads $50M Series B for #Egyptian #fintech Paymob. The #MiddleEast #technology #startup has seen 4x monthly volume growth, and it is expected the company’s expansion into #Pakistan will yield even better results. https://tcrn.ch/3vYq2dm via @techcrunch

Monday, May 9, is upon us, and today is a day of browser-cache-powered drama in the form of a Wordle word The New York Times decided was too controversial, but still existed for people who hadn’t refreshed their browser in a while. Find out what the word was, and why there was dramaaaaaaa, in Amanda’s piece. Incidentally, DRAMA would be a great Wordle word, so there’s that. – Christine and Haje

The TechCrunch Top 3
An offer they couldn’t refuse: It looks like Egyptian fintech Paymob snagged one of the largest funding deals in the region — a $50 million Series B, with PayPal Ventures and Kora Capital leading — based on its ability to turn cash-loving customers into digital users with its cards and wallets. That subsequently led to 4x monthly volume growth, and it is expected the company’s expansion into Pakistan will yield even better results.
Wall Street’s downward spiral continues, but not everyone is feeling it: The stock market was still showing red as we wrote this, so it might be good to hold off on checking your investments for a bit. However, not all is bad in the world of stock performance, and Alex and Ron took a look at four tech companies that actually did OK last week, despite the choppy markets.
Hacking your Tesla’s radio: If you are looking to get CarPlay into your Tesla, look no further than one of TechCrunch’s resident tinkerers Matt, who decided to give it a try on his Ford F-150 to show how easy it could be.

Startups and VC
If you’re a startup founder, money – specifically, your own wages – can be a sticky point. You need permission from your board to give yourself a wage bump, but how do you know whether you’re under- or over-paying yourself? We got a hold of a 250-company dataset that sheds some light on that question.

Over on TC+, Alex described the current stock market spiral as “joker detection,” which we are all for. Meanwhile, Connie talked with Sequoia’s Jess Lee to get a deeper understanding of how VC companies think about their deals.


Feed your brain with these tasty morsels:

Hug it out with linguistically progressive robots: We’re fans of startups with great names, and the now-valued-at-$2-billion Hugging Face may very well be up there as one of the best. The company is building the “GitHub of machine learning” and just raised $100 million to continue down that path.
Workin’ 9 to 5 (Indonesia edition): Atma, an Indonesian startup that wants to make job hunting less painful, raised $5 million in pre-seed funding led by AC Ventures.
Workin’ 9 to 5 (Middle East and Africa edition): For the Middle Eastern and North African market, Manara raised $3 million to grow the region’s tech talent pool.
So clever you can barely beleaf it: When machines take a closer look at plants, some fun things start to happen. Brightseed’s Forager is a machine-learning platform that identifies and categorizes plant compounds. It has already mapped 2 million, considerably more than is characterized in scientific literature. And it raised $68 million to get deeper into the science.
I fought the law and … well, the jury is still out, actually: Swedish startup PocketLaw — a contract automation software-as-a-service legal tech platform that is mainly focused on SMEs — has pocketed $11 million in Series A funding to fuel expansion in Europe.
Virtually unstoppable home improvements: South Korean startup Bucketplace, which operates a home decorating and interior app OHouse, is looking to continue capitalizing on the DIY trend, raising $182 million to add some AR to the mix.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan #Tech: MEDZnMORE Online #Pharmacy #Startup Raises $11.5M in Pre-Series A Funding Round led by Integra Partners, Nunc Gestion, Sturgeon Capital, and Alta Semper. #healthcare #medicine https://propakistani.pk/2022/05/12/medznmore-raises-11-5m-in-pre-series-a-funding-round/


MEDZnMORE, a Pakistani health-tech platform on a mission to reshape healthcare for over 220M people, has raised the largest investment of any healthcare startup in Pakistan.

The startup has raised $11.5 mn in Pre-Series A funding from Integra Partners, Nunc Gestion, Sturgeon Capital, and Alta Semper. Other Investors include AlTouq Group, ACE & Company, Key Family Partners, Reflect Ventures, Atlas Asset Management, and a few angel investors who are closely aligned with MEDZnMORE’s mission to transform healthcare in Pakistan.

The company had previously raised $2.6 mn in September 2020 which was the country’s largest seed round at the time.

The company, founded in late 2020 by Asad Khan, Saad Khawar, and Babar Lakhani, is a B2X pharma delivery platform that aims to solve problems that have persisted for decades in buying medicines and wellness products for consumers and retail pharmacies alike.

In a market riddled with counterfeit medicines, where over 40% of all dispensed medicines are either spurious or have lost efficacy; MEDZnMORE is looking to solve this epidemic of counterfeits by improving the availability of, and ease of access to, authentic medicines all across Pakistan.

MEDZnMORE partners with pharmaceutical companies and/or their authorized distributors across Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad, where it operates its warehouses, to deliver genuine products, and the best-in-class experience, to patients and retail pharmacies.

The company has seen phenomenal traction and has been growing ~42% month over month for the past 12 months and now controls over 1% of the Pakistani pharma market and delivers over 100,000 products from its 7 cold-chain enabled warehouses located across Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad every day.

Asad Khan, CEO MEDZnMORE, shared, “In a market of over 220m people, where public healthcare spending is only 1.2% of the GDP, and where 55% of all healthcare spending is out-of-pocket, people generally rely on medicines to alleviate their suffering, rather than spend on prohibitively expensive medical procedures.”

“Ensuring the accessibility of affordable and authentic medicines is essential. At MEDZnMORE our aim is to make health and wellness products available in all corners of the country,” he added.

Talking about the matter, Saad Khawar, Co-Founder MEDZnMORE said, “Constantly having to play catch-up with ever-increasing consumer demand has kept us humble and on our toes, and our journey has only just begun.”

He added, “We’re spending most of our energies on building scalable technology that can handle the complexities that come with a cold chain enabled Pharma supply chain and, getting together a world-class team that is passionate about reshaping healthcare in this country.”

“MEDZnMORE is solving some of the most pressing problems within the Pakistani healthcare space and has shown phenomenal traction in a very short span of time,” said Jinesh Patel, Managing Partner, Integra Partners.
Riaz Haq said…
How #Tech #Startup Markaz Raised $2.4 Million Seed Funding to Build A New Marketplace For #Pakistan’s Micro-Enterprises. Pakistan's retail market is worth $170 billion a year, but only 2-3% of that is online. #DigitalTransformation #Technology https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidprosser/2022/05/16/how-markaz-built-a-new-marketplace-for-pakistans-micro-enterprises/?sh=49d2ef0d451b

At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the four founders of Pakistani start-up Markaz Technologies, noticed something going on around them. Like people all around the world, their friends and families were buying more products online than ever before; but crucially, they were purchasing from micro-enterprises via social media channels such as Facebook and Whatsapp, rather than the large ecommerce platforms.

The idea for Markaz, an online reselling platform that has just completed a $2.4m seed funding round, came from that experience, says Shoaib Khan, one of those founders. “My a-ha moment was when my mother told me she had bought some sheets through the Whatsapp account of a woman she had known for more than 10 years,” he recalls. Shoppers such as Khan’s mother were embracing ecommerce, but trust remained a huge issue; they wanted to buy from people they knew – or at least not from large and faceless corporations.

Khan and his co-founders, Fawad Hussain, Sameel Hayat and Umair Aslam, all of whom had worked in technology businesses in Pakistan and internationally, began looking into this phenomenon. They discovered a growing community of entrepreneurial traders who were buying goods from wholesalers and then reselling them to consumers via social media. These were small-scale businesses – often women looking to make extra money to support families, or to pay their way through education – but they had spotted a big opportunity.

Pakistan's retail market is worth $170 billion a year, but only 2-3% of that is online, Markaz points out. And while the rapid penetration of smartphones promises to drive that figure up rapidly, consumers are cautious. "People in Pakistan don't buy from shops, they buy from shopkeepers," says Khan. When moving online, they want to maintain that human interaction, he argues

Against that backdrop, Markaz is the founders’ solution to many of the problems that these resellers face as they seek to exploit the opportunity and grow their businesses. Often, sourcing high-quality products is difficult, with suppliers operating in different ways and visibility lacking. Cashflow can also be a problem, with resellers having to pay for inventory upfront even if they’re not selling it immediately. Logistics issues, including delivering to customers, make for additional headaches.

Markaz bypasses these difficulties by providing a platform on which multiple suppliers and resellers can connect. Resellers check out what is available, offer the goods for sale to their own customers, and then place their orders as and when they need to. Markaz takes care of the delivery, shipping the goods straight from the supplier to the reseller’s customer, and also manages payments.

Riaz Haq said…
Who will be #Pakistan’s first #unicorn? As neighboring #India produced its 100th #startup unicorn this month, many in the Pakistani #tech startup community are waiting with bated breath for a local company to touch the aspirational $1 billion valuation https://restofworld.org/2022/pakistans-first-unicorn/

The Pakistani tech startup industry witnessed many highs in the last couple of years — record-breaking funding rounds, debuts by marquee global investors, and the emergence of founder “mafias,” among others. If all goes well, the world’s fifth-most populous country might bag another win soon: its first home-grown tech unicorn.

As neighboring India produced its 100th startup unicorn this month, many in the Pakistani tech startup community are waiting with bated breath for a local company to touch the aspirational $1 billion valuation. Local investors say that having a unicorn will validate Pakistan’s potential and cement its place as a startup destination.

“Right now, there’s no proof that the market is a destination; there are the inklings of it and it’s really exciting… But unicorn valuations, whether or not they actually matter, are important for signaling,” Kalsoom Lakhani, co-founder and general partner at Pakistan-focused early-stage fund i2i Ventures, told Rest of World earlier this year.

A unicorn could go a long way in convincing global investors who might be sitting on the fence, given the country’s uncertain political environment, Faisal Aftab, co-founder and managing partner of Pakistani venture capital fund Zayn Capital, told Rest of World. “It will solidify that Pakistan is here on the map to stay.”

Lakhani, who is hopeful that Pakistan could produce two unicorns this year, believes the first billion-dollar company in the country will be in the business-to-business (B2B) retail space. These businesses need huge amounts of money, which will compel them to raise more rounds. Just this year, Pakistani startups have raised over $163 million, $130 million of which has gone to e-commerce companies.

“Having two startups cross the unicorn threshold in such a short period of time will draw in a lot of later-stage investors to the market and also attract a lot more founders to start something in Pakistan,” said Aatif Awan, founder of Pakistan-focused early-stage VC fund Indus Valley Capital, which is an investor in two companies that are touted to be the frontrunners in the race to reach unicorn valuation: Bazaar Technologies and Airlift.

Bazaar Technologies, a marketplace that connects retailers directly with wholesalers and manufacturers, raised $70 million in a series B round led by Tiger Global and Dragoneer at a valuation of over $100 million in March. Tiger Global also participated in the first pre-seed investment round of Zaraye, a B2B supplies platform for the construction industry, in April. Retailo Technologies, a B2B app digitizing retail supply chains, raised $36 million in a series A led by Graphene. There are rumors afloat about B2B marketplace Dastgyr Technologies raising $45 million in its series A round at a valuation of over $100 million.

--------------

Despite the exuberance of the last two years, experts also warn that Pakistan might have to wait for its first unicorn sighting for some time, given signs of “cooling off” in funding later in the year. This month, the U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates – the largest interest rate hike in over two decades – which will impact the liquidity coming to emerging markets like Pakistan. “Lots of Pakistani founders are young and haven’t seen liquidity cycles as yet,” Aftab of Zayn Capital said. “It takes multiple liquidity cycles before you are able to stay and survive to get that unicorn status. Young founders who haven’t gone through a liquidity squeeze like 2008 are also going to see that money won’t be readily available.” Aftab believes that “the likelihood of a couple of busts here and there is higher over the next 18 months, than a bunch of unicorns popping up.”
Riaz Haq said…
ZoodPay, a Switzerland-headquartered buy now pay later platform that operates in different Middle Eastern and Central Asian markets has acquired Pakistani consumer lending fintech Tez, it announced in a statement today. The financial details of transaction were not disclosed but the statement noted that it is the first M&A deal in Pakistan’s young fintech space.

https://www.menabytes.com/zoodpay-tez/

Founded in 2016 by Naureen Hyat and Humza Hussain, Tez offers nano-loans to unbanked and underbanked population across Pakistan through its digital platform. According to its website, it offers personal loans of up to PKR 10,000 ($50) that the users can pay back in installments. Tez has a fixed one-time fee for these loans, ranging between 10 to 20 percent depending on the loan amount and customer profile.

Backed by Accion, Flourish Ventures (Omidyar Network), Planet N, the startup had become the first licensed Non-Bank Financial Company (NBFC) in Pakistan in 2018, it said in a statement. It had raised over $1 million to date in financing. The Karachi-headquartered fintech had also won $100,000 in Visa Everywhere Initiative for Women competition, in 2019.

Commenting on the acqusition, co-founders of Tez said, “We started Tez with an ambition to make access to finance for the masses as easy as access to a mobile phone. We are humbled and thrilled by the confidence shown in our business model by larger regional players and look forward to the next level of development for Tez where our learnings in crafting the digital lending journey and managing risk can serve as a foundation for delivering consumer-centric lending solutions at scale, while creating credit histories for the masses.”

ZoodPay which currently operates in Joran, Iraq, Lebanon, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan has raised close to $50 million from Zain Ventures and Sturgeon Capital. With the acquisition of Tez, ZoodPay would expand its offerings to Pakistan.

“The company’s lending strategy is fortified by three integral elements of digital infrastructure including, (i) Acquisition of consumers and merchants via its diverse distribution channels including its own e-commerce marketplace and network of retailers and partners, (ii) Deriving rich transactional data from its internal universe of fintech, e-commerce marketplace and logistics, and (iii) Leveraging its proprietary credit scoring algorithms to assess credit risk and extend credit to both consumers and merchants,” stated the fintech in a statement.

It is not immediately clear if ZoodPay plans to launch its BNPL product in Pakistan.

Michael Khoi, CEO of ZoodPay said, “Pakistan is a market brimming with potential given the number of people seeking access to credit facilities. We’re confident that by combining ZoodPay’s unique ecosystem and experience operating in frontier markets with Tez’s local know-how, strong team and ecosystem partnerships, we’ll be able to positively impact the life of Pakistani people and empower them by giving them access to easy, affordable and reliable digital financial services.”

Nadeem Hussain, Chairman of Tez said, “The Pakistani startup ecosystem has hit its inflection point. In addition to sizable fundraises, acquisitions of local players by international players are starting to take place. This further validates the global value Pakistani startups are creating. Planet N was one of the first in the market to invest in startups. We are now seeing the first-mover advantage.”

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