Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Unprecedented Boom in Pakistan's Technology Sector

Pakistan's technology sector is in the midst of an unprecedented boom. It is being fueled by the country's growing human capital and rising investments in technology startups. A recent tweet by Swedish fund manager Mattias Martinsson captured it well when he wrote, "Have followed Pakistan for 15 years. Can't recall any time time when VC activity was anywhere near we've seen in the last few months. Impact of reforms kicking in?".  New laws have made it easier to create startups and offered greater protection to investors.  Digital infrastructure has expanded with over 100 million smartphones and an equal number of broadband subscriptions. 

Source: Twitter


Pakistan is churning out more than 30,000 information technology graduates every year. Over three-quarters of Pakistanis in the top three metros of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad are regularly using the internet. Technology startups are on track to attract more than $230 million in venture capital investments this year, almost 5 times greater than vc investments last year. Technology exports are increasing by double digits every year, reaching $2.1 billion in the fiscal year that ended in June 2021.  Pakistani freelancers' revenue grew 47% last year, the highest growth in Asia and the fourth highest in the world. 

Over Half of All Pakistanis Are Connected to the Internet. Source: Google-Kantar

Pakistan has seen a phenomenal growth of 3500% in broadband subscriptions over the last 8 years . Pakistanis now own more than 103 million smartphones with mobile broadband subscriptions. In a Youtube presentation of the report, Faraz Azhar, Industry Head, Performance, South Asia Frontier Markets, Google said: “With half of its population on the internet - Pakistan is now online!"  

Pakistan's Middle Class Growth Among World's Fastest

Google Search and YouTube are the most popular Internet applications in Pakistan, according to the study. YouTube is used by nearly 90% of all internet users in Pakistan for streaming music and watching video/TV, and 38% of Pakistan's internet users go to YouTube in the research phase of their shopping journey. 

Pakistan has also experienced an e-commerce boom in the midst of the COVID pandemic. 71% of Pakistani shoppers find purchasing products or services online easy, while 66% find it convenient. Another 54%  find that online shopping websites or apps give personalized product recommendations, which answer common questions. Two-thirds of consumers believe that online shopping is the way forward. They say they will continue to buy products or services online after the COVID-19 pandemic.    

Faraz Azhar, Industry Head, Performance, South Asia Frontier Markets, Google said: “With half of its population on the internet - Pakistan is now online! This is the first time Google and Kantar released a study to understand more about Pakistan’s internet population. But it’s not only about people getting online, this research has uncovered new insights and behaviors that show how COVID is impacting online behaviour and the digital opportunities waiting to be unlocked.” 

Global Investors of Pakistani Startups. Source: Google-Kantar


"More people are coming online in Pakistan, creating a great opportunity for eCommerce businesses - if they are ready to seize it. As we see more exploration of the internet beyond social, e-retailers can capture natural cross-category purchasing on its rise, but only if they have first established themselves and their product offering in an online marketplace," he said.

Pakistan Startup Funding. Source: Google-Kantar


With expanding Internet infrastructure and rapidly growing user base, Pakistan is now seeing robust growth in venture money pouring into technology startups. Pakistani startups are on track to attract more than $230 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 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

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is very good news for Pakistan. Pakistan must integrate markets with China at a faster pace. Pak Army budget should be increased to ensure that there is no spillover from Afghanistan.

Saqi said...

The only thing that halted the development of Pakistan was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 70's and it's associated aftermath, and continued instability.

It seems Pakistan has learnt to move on, and deal with the neighbourhood separately, hopefully this continuous journey will provide the desired results.

Your insights are extremely pleasing, and hopefully we will continue to hear good news.

Riaz Haq said...

Bangladeshi startup companies have raised a total of $317 million in the last 10 years with 95 per cent of the funds coming from the foreign investors, according to a recent study.

https://www.daily-sun.com/post/538966/Bangladeshi-startups-raise-317m-in-10yrs-

Some 78 Bangladeshi companies have fetched investments through 146 funding deals of which 80 are disclosed so far till February 2021, according to research think tank Light Castle Partners.

According to the study report, some 50.58 per cent of investment came to startups in financial technology, followed by logistic and mobility (20.2 per cent), e-commerce (11.92 per cent) and consumer service (6.02 per cent).

Riaz Haq said...

Reply from Dr. Mohammad Ali Mohammad, Director (Policy, Research and Market Intelligence) at Special Technology Zones Authority

@Dr_M_Ali_M
Replying to
@haqsmusings
and
@YouTube
@haqsmusings

The VC figure for Pak is around USD 258 Million for 8-mo-CY-21, bringing per capita VC accessibility of USD 1.2. This is greater than combined figures of 2016-2020.

https://twitter.com/Dr_M_Ali_M/status/1433075661392994304

Riaz Haq said...

There are about 10 million college graduates in Pakistan in 2020, according to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.

About 7 million have a bachelor's degree and another 3 million have master's or PhDs.

https://www.pbs.gov.pk/sites/default/files//tables/EDUCATED%20POPULATION%20BY%20LEVEL%20OF%20EDUCATION.pdf

Ahmed said...


Dear Sir Riaz

Thanks for your comments, their are 7 million students in Pakistan who have bachelors degree but Sir, do you think this is enough for a country which has over 200 million population? How many young people are their in Pakistan in millions?

Can you pls share the data?

Riaz Haq said...

Ahmad: "their are 7 million students in Pakistan who have bachelors degree but Sir, do you think this is enough for a country which has over 200 million population? How many young people are their in Pakistan in millions?"


It's not 7 million; it's 10 million including master's and PhDs.

The median age in Pakistan is about 22 years....meaning 50% of Pakistanis make up the denominator to calculate the percentage of college graduates in the country.

That means there are 10 million college grads in a little over 100 million population. The percentage of colege grads in the country works out to a little less than 10%.

The figure of 10% college grads is in the same ballpark as India's 8.15% population with college degrees.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/only-815-of-indians-are-graduates-census-data-show/article7496655.ece

Despite a big increase in college attendance, especially among women, fewer than one out of every 10 Indians is a graduate, new Census data show.

Over the weekend, the office of the Census Commissioner and Registrar-General of India released new numbers on the level of education achieved by Indians as of 2011.

They show that with 6.8 crore graduates and above, India still has more than six times as many illiterates.

Riaz Haq said...

About 2 million Americans graduated from colleges in 2018.

Half of them (1.01 million) had two-year degree called Associate degree.

0.82 million got 4 year degrees while 0.18 million got master's and PhDs.

https://educationdata.org/number-of-college-graduates

Nearly 94 million, or 42%, of Americans ages 25 and over have a college degree of some type.

Nearly 94 million Americans ages 25 and over, which is about 42% of the total U.S. population in that age demographic, had an associate, bachelor's, graduate, or professional degree, according to U.S. Census Bureau's most recent data.

https://www.bestcolleges.com/news/analysis/2021/07/01/how-many-americans-have-college-degrees/

Riaz Haq said...

Only 4.5% Population in India is Graduate or Above: Census

https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/only-4-5-population-in-india-is-graduate-or-above-census-1240996


Only 4.5 per cent of the population in the country is educated up to the level of graduate or above while a majority of 32.6 per cent population is not even educated up to the primary school level.

According to the census data for 2011 on literacy, workers and educational levels, released by the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India, literate population who are presently attending any educational institution in the country, below primary occupies the major share of 32.6 per cent.

It was followed by primary (25.2 per cent), middle (15.7 per cent), matric (11.1 per cent), higher secondary (8.6 per cent) and Graduate and above (4.5 per cent).

During the decade 2001-11, improvement is observed at middle and above educational levels and decline in percentage share at lower levels (below-primary and primary).

The improvements at higher educational levels are indication of educational advancement in the country during the decade 2001-11.

The data on workers by five categories of literates namely literate but below matric/secondary, matric/secondary but below graduate, technical diploma or certificate not equal to degree, graduate and above other than technical degree and technical degree or diploma equal to degree or post-graduate degree have also been released.

The data that distributes the population, main workers, marginal workers, non-workers, marginal and non-workers seeking/available for work by literacy status and educational levels separately for total, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes population is also released.

The data reveals that during the decade 2001-2011, there is an overall improvement in literacy status and educational levels of various types of workers and non-workers among total and SC/ST population.

Census 2011 has further exhibited that out of about 55.5 million Marginal workers seeking/available for work in India, the majority of 21.9 million (39.4 per cent) are illiterates followed by 20.9 million (37.6 per cent) literates but below matric/secondary and 8.0 million (14.5 per cent) matric/secondary but below graduate.

Ahmed said...


Dear Sir Riaz

Thank you for sharing such useful information, I hope you remember I asked you some questions.
Can you pls answer that question? My question was that according to some reports the total IT enabled and software exports of India are worth 150 Billion US$. Sir you said that a huge chunk of that amount is actually added into the total IT enabled and software exports by taking the total salaries(pays) of those Indian IT professionals who are working in America on H 1B visas. Sir can you pls tell how much is the share from the total salaries(pays) of these American based Indian IT professionals is added to the total exports of IT enabled services and softwares of India?

Looking forward to your answer.

Thanks

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan's educational attainment progress from 2010 to 2020:

Education Attainment 2010 to 2020

No schooling 16.3% to 21.75%

Below Primary 38% to 18.3%

Primary 19.3% to 30.14%

Secondary 22.5% to 23.85%

College 3.9% to 5.96%



Sources:

Barro-Lee Educational Achievement Dataset

http://www.barrolee.com/

Pakistan Bureau of Statistics

https://www.pbs.gov.pk/sites/default/files//tables/EDUCATED%20POPULATION%20BY%20LEVEL%20OF%20EDUCATION.pdf

Riaz Haq said...

Ahmad: "Sir can you pls tell how much is the share from the total salaries(pays) of these American based Indian IT professionals is added to the total exports of IT enabled services and softwares of India?"



The US immigration agency said there were an estimated 583,420 H-1B authorized work permit holders in the United States as of September 2019.


Read more at:
https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/nri/visa-and-immigration/us-has-just-over-580000-h-1b-visa-holders-says-uscis/articleshow/76676250.cms

At least 70% of these 583,420 H1-B workers in America are from India. That number is 408,394 Indian H1-B visa holders in the United States.


Assuming median compensation of $100,000 per H1B worker, the total H1-B wages of Indians add up to over $40 billion a year. This is just in the United States.

There are hundreds of thousands of Indians on temporary work visas placed by Indian body shops in the rest of the world.

These body shops not only place H1B in the US but also funnel work worth billions of US$ into India.

Ahmed said...


Dear Sir Riaz

I have some important question, I actually met a student of Phd in Pakistan, he says and I know that the students of Phds normally do research level work and their entire education is based on research.

He said that when it comes to results or effect of the research, then Pakistanis are better than Indians. He said that it is the "IMPACT FACTOR" of the research which shows how effective and efficient the research of the student is. When it comes to "IMPACT FACTOR" , Pakistanis have a better ranking than Indians.

Can you pls throw some light on this?

Thanks

Riaz Haq said...

Ahmad: "When it comes to "IMPACT FACTOR" , Pakistanis have a better ranking than Indians. Can you pls throw some light on this?"

India (11) ranks higher than Pakistan (40) in terms of quality adjusted scientific output.

Pakistan's quality-adjusted scientific output (Weighted Functional Count) as reported in Nature Index has doubled from 18.03 in 2013 to 37.28 in 2017. Pakistan's global ranking has improved from 53 in 2013 to 40 in 2017. In the same period, India's WFC has increased from 850.97 in 2013 to 935.44 in 2017. India's global ranking has improved from 13 in 2013 to 11 in 2017.

Pakistan ranks 40 among 161 countries for quality adjusted scientific output for year 2017 as reported by Nature Index 2018. Pakistan ranks 40 with quality-adjusted scientific output of 37.28. India ranks 11 with 935. Malaysia ranks 61 with 6.73 and Indonesia ranks 63 with 6.41. Bangladesh ranks 100 with 0.81. Sri Lanka ranks 84 with 1.36. US leads with almost 15,800, followed by China's 7,500, Germany 3,800, UK 3,100 and Japan 2,700.

https://www.riazhaq.com/2018/12/pakistans-research-output-growth-among.html

Ahmed said...


Dear Sir Riaz

Thank you for your reply, Sir you have used the word "funnel" , do you mean that these Indians who are working in America actually illegally outsource these IT related projects of softwares to Indian IT companies?

Thanks

Riaz Haq said...

Ahmad: "Sir you have used the word "funnel" , do you mean that these Indians who are working in America actually illegally outsource these IT related projects of softwares to Indian IT companies?"

There is a lot of resentment among American IT workers. Please check out the following:

"Indian IT Mafia Taking US Jobs"

https://www.saitj.org/assets/the-indian-it-mafia-and-h-1b-f-1-opt-l-1-corruption.pdf


https://www.brightworkresearch.com/how-indians-planned-the-takeover-of-the-us-it-market/

Riaz Haq said...

MENA's largest digital freight firm TruKKer buys #Pakistan's #startup TruckSher. It raised seed investment from VC firm Sarmayacar, and has grown healthily in the domestic Pakistan long haul #freight #transport sector. https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/menas-largest-digital-freight-firm-trukker-buys-pakistans-trucksher-2021-09-08/

TruKKer, the largest digital freight network in the Middle East and North African markets, said on Wednesday it had acquired Pakistan's TruckSher, as part of its expansion plans into the South Asian country.

TruckSher, which commenced operations in Pakistan earlier in 2021, raised seed investment from VC firm Sarmayacar, and has grown healthily in the domestic Pakistan long haul sector, TruKKer said in a statement, but did not disclose the financial details of the deal.

It has presence in Karachi and Lahore, with planned expansion across major industrial zones and ports in Pakistan.

TruKKer, which currently operates a fleet of 35,000+ trucks across its primary markets of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and other gulf economies, is backed by Saudi Arabia's STV and Riyad Taqnia fund, IFC and sovereign funds of Abu Dhabi, among others.

Riaz Haq said...

#India's #RSS criticism of Infosys, Tata worries #businesses. A #VC executive said criticism was "harassment" of businesses & risks souring investor sentiment. Another biz exec said "everyone is scared" as businesses don't want to run foul of #Modi govt https://sg.news.yahoo.com/indias-criticism-infosys-tata-worries-084520802.html?soc_src=social-sh&soc_trk=tw&tsrc=twtr


INDIA INC LARGELY SILENT

So far, Modi's government has not commented on the backlash on social media and from politicians. None of the sources who spoke to Reuters wanted to be identified as they fear a reprisal from the government and no Indian industry lobby groups has come out and spoken against government or RSS.

The Indian Express said in an editorial it was "time for India Inc to stand up", saying business leaders had maintained "a studied - and perhaps strategic - silence about the vitriol that has been seeping into the public discourse."

The Infosys controversy is related to the government's new income tax filing website launched on June 7. But there were many glitches which Infosys could not fix, despite assurances.

When the Infosys CEO was summoned in August, the finance minister conveyed "deep disappointment and concerns," giving the company until Sept. 15 to fix things.

The magazine Panchjanya said the company was making the same mistakes over and over again, creating doubts about its motives. "There are allegations that the management of Infosys is deliberately trying to destabilize the Indian economy," it said.

After the furore over the article, Sunil Ambekar, the joint head of the RSS publicity wing, sought to distance the organisation from the contents and said Infosys had made a seminal contribution to the country.

But concerns remain others may be targeted, too.

A mutual fund manager with Infosys and Tata investments said he was worried as it indicated "the government was not pro-business", and there were fears other companies can face such backlash for lapses.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan: #NADRA launches #smartphone app for biometric #ID verification. The mobile app helps capture #biometrics and scan doc­u­ments digitally by using #smartphone camera. #DigitalPakistan #technology #fintech #productivity #economy https://www.dawn.com/news/1643738

Keeping pace with technological adv­a­nce­ments, the National Dat­abase and Registration Auth­ority (Nadra) on Tues­day introduced an innovative application enabling pe­o­­ple to use their smartphones for biometric verification.

Talking to Dawn, Nadra chairman Tariq Malik said that by introducing the app, Pakistan has accelerated mo­v­ing towards the digital identity lifecycle. “It is a game-changer as it helps create trust in a variety of transactions between people, ide­n­tity providers, and public and private sector,” he said.

Prime Minister Imran Khan launched Nadra’s Pak-ID mobile application to facilitate applicants of National ID card using Pak-ID portal.

“Inaugurated PAK-ID Mobile App by NADRA. A revolutionary step in providing convenience, especially to Overseas Pakis­tanis,” he tweeted. “Applicants of http://id.nadra.gov.pk can now capture fingerprints, photograph and documents using mobile phone. Great initiative by Tariq Malik & NADRA team.”


The mobile app helps capture biometrics and scan doc­u­ments digitally by using the camera of smartphones.

The prime minister lau­ded Nadra Chairman Tariq Malik’s innovative idea of mobile app which he said was a step towards impleme­nting his vision of inclusive registration and digital Pakistan.

Pakistan becomes trailblazer in ID Management Industry by launching a mobile app which captures biometrics- fingerprints, facial recognition and scan documents needed for processing citizens’ ID cards and documents.

By using the digital app on smart phones, all citizens including expatriates will be able to digitally capture fingerprints, photographs and documents. This is a leap forward putting an end to conventional method of using specialised equipment or physical paper for processing ID documents in Nadra.

Nadra Chairman Tariq Malik said: “The innovation will revolutionise the National ID Eco System in Pakistan by providing public convenience.”

He said the digital dividends of such technology innovation would yield positive results in financial inclusion, ease of doing business and e-governance initiatives by offering remote identification and e-KYC.

The Nadra chairman said that it would open new vistas for businesses allowing them to be rapidly onboard users and provide modern password-less authentication.

This app Pak Identity can be downloaded from Google Play Store (Android) and Apple Store (iOS).

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan Raises $279 Million in Airwaves Sale With Single Bidder - Bloomberg


https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-09-11/pakistan-raises-279-million-in-airwaves-sale-with-single-bidder

Pakistan raised $279 million in a sale of telecom spectrum at the base price, with Pakistan Telecommunications Mobile Ltd. the sole bidder in an auction that was snubbed by the country’s three other major phone operators.

Pakistan Telecom’s unit Ufone won nine megahertz in the 1,800 megahertz band, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority said in a statement late Friday. Pakistan Telecom will pay half the bid amount within 15 days and the rest over five years, according to the statement. The total value of both bands of spectrum on offer was $832 million at base price, the regulator said, adding that no offer was made for the 2,100 megahertz band.

Jazz, a unit of Veon Ltd., China Mobile Ltd.’s Zong and Telenor Pakistan -- which are all in a legal battle with the regulator over renewal of their existing spectrum fees -- didn’t take part in the process, the first such auction since Prime Minister Imran Khan came to power three years ago. Veon Chief Executive Officer Kaan Terzioglu earlier this month said Pakistan’s telecom spectrum should be priced in rupees rather than dollars as the pricing is not sustainable.

The spectrum policy, pricing and rollout obligations deterred Telenor from participating in the airwaves sale, spokesman Saad Warriach said after the bidding was closed Thursday. “The existing circumstances did not present the economic viability to invest in the spectrum during this year’s auction,” he said.

Pakistan’s mobile subscriber’s base has reached 84.4% of the country’s 220 million population, according to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority data.

Riaz Haq said...

36 Pakistani varsities feature in Times Higher Education ranking

https://www.geo.tv/latest/368489-36-pakistani-varsities-feature-in-times-higher-education-ranking

Two universities featured in the 301-400, five in the 401-600, nine in the 601-800, ten in the 801-1,000 and nine in the 1,001+ rank band.
Pakistan is one of the world’s fastest-improving nations on key metrics for universities, says Shafqat Mahmood.
The overall ranking includes 1,117 universities from 94 countries and regions.

Thirty-six public and private sector universities of Pakistan were featured in Times Higher Education Ranking 2021, marking a significant improvement in the global standing of the country's varsities.

One university featured in the 201-300 rank band, two in the 301-400, five in the 401-600, nine in the 601-800, ten in the 801-1,000 and nine in the 1,001+ rank band.

Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood shared the news regarding Pakistani varsities making it to the global ranking.

Mahmood tweeted: “Last three years have seen a greatest upward movement of Pakistani universities in global rankings. We still have ways to go, but the direction is right, the pace is good. Credit to PTI government and the universities that made us proud.”

Sharing a link to the report on Twitter, the education minister said: “Pakistan is one of the world’s fastest-improving nations on key metrics for universities. We are among the top five nations for improvements in research citations and industry links.”

According to the global ranking, the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) featured in the 300 rank band, while the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, and COMSATS University Islamabad featured in the 400 rank band.

The University of Lahore and NED University of Engineering and Technology were in the 401-600 rank band, while Fatima Jinnah Women University, Jinnah Sindh Medical University and the University of Sargodha were in the 601-800 rank band. The Iqra University, Dow University of Health Sciences and Quaid-e-Azam University were in the 801-1,000 rank band.

The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings is the global performance index that assess universities against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The assessments are done across four broad areas — research, stewardship, outreach and teaching.

The 2021 Impact Rankings is the third edition and the overall ranking includes 1,117 universities from 94 countries and regions.


https://www.timeshighereducation.com/rankings/impact/2021/overall#!/page/0/length/100/locations/PK/sort_by/rank/sort_order/asc/cols/undefined

Riaz Haq said...

Big Tech wants to build the ‘metaverse.’ What on Earth does that mean?
Microsoft, Facebook and other tech companies claim a virtual reality universe is the future of the Internet.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/08/30/what-is-the-metaverse/


What is the metaverse?
The term was coined by writer Neal Stephenson in the 1992 dystopian novel “Snow Crash.” In it, the metaverse refers to an immersive digital environment where people interact as avatars. The prefix “meta” means beyond and “verse” refers to the universe. Tech companies use the word to describe what comes after the Internet, which may or may not be reliant on VR glasses.

Think of it as an embodied Internet that you’re inside of rather than looking at. This digital realm wouldn’t be limited to devices: Avatars could walk around in cyberspace similar to how people maneuver the physical world, allowing users to interact with people on the other side of the planet as if they’re in the same room.

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

The 2018 sci-fi film “Ready Player One” offers a glimpse of what many technology companies prophesy is the Internet’s next big thing.

Inspired by a 2011 Ernest Cline novel, the film’s orphaned teenage hero flees his bleak real-world existence by immersing in a dazzling virtual reality fantasy. The boy straps on his headset, reminiscent of a pair of VR goggles, and escapes into a trippy virtual universe, dubbed “OASIS.”

“People come to the OASIS for all the things they can do, but they stay for all the things they can be,” the main character says in the trailer.

A number of sci-fi-inspired tech CEOs say that one day soon, we will all be hanging out in an interactive virtual reality world, complete with games, adventures, shopping and otherworldly offerings, just like the characters in the movie.

Instead of OASIS, they call it the metaverse.

The metaverse is different from today’s virtual reality, where clunky headsets offer siloed experiences and few chances to cross-play with people who own other gadgets. Instead, the metaverse would be a massive communal cyberspace, linking augmented reality and virtual reality together, enabling avatars to hop seamlessly from one activity to the next.

It’s a huge undertaking that would require standardization and cooperation among tech giants, who are not prone to collaborating with competitors — though it hasn’t stopped many from saying the metaverse is just around the corner.

Facebook should be known as a “metaverse company,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in July on an earnings call. The goal, he said, is to populate this virtual world by enticing new users with cheap headsets. Eventually, Zuckerberg hinted, this robust user base would prove an adverting boon: “hundreds of millions of people” in the metaverse “compounds the size of the digital economy inside it.”

Facebook moved closer to this vision in recent weeks, revealing a virtual reality workspace for remote workers. The company is also working on a smart wristband and VR goggles that project the wearer’s eyes. The company is investing billions of dollars into the effort.

The metaverse doesn’t exist today, and there’s no clear date for its arrival. Augmented reality and virtual reality have yet to woo the masses and remain a niche interest, despite Zuckerberg’s pledge in 2017 to bring a billion people onto Oculus headsets.

Ahmed said...


Dear Sir Riaz

Thank you for sharing such useful and informative post about the performance of Pakistani Universities . Sir, is QS ranking more important than Times Higher Education ranking?

Thanks

Riaz Haq said...

Exit strategy post blitzscaling

Access to capital has become easier as we are seeing many foreign VCs showing interest in Pakistan

https://www.dawn.com/news/1646134

Some might deem this conversation to be a little premature but as more and more Venture Capital (VC) money is coming into Pakistani startups and at higher valuations, one has to ask: how do they plan on making returns? Most of these well-funded companies are being built on the premise of blitzscaling, which involves a high cash burn and (supposedly temporary) disregard for profitability to focus on top-line growth. That basically leaves two ways for financiers to make money on the deals. The first is to take the entity public and sell the stake. Alternatively, dilution through mergers and acquisitions (M&A).

Let’s take the first one: very few tech companies to this date have considered listing on the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) as clear from the particularly small number of scrips in the sector, let alone direct-to-consumer or product-based startups. There is obviously a good reason for that since most of these young organisations require lots of risky money which is the domain of venture capital firms, who are often willing to accord head-scratching valuations otherwise unlikely to be perceived the same way by the general public. Just take Airlift’s latest $85 million Series B which put the grocery deliverer at $275m barely a year into operations and a fleet that takes some effort to spot on Karachi’s roads at least. In comparison, Airlink, the mobile distributor and manufacturer, raised $39m in its initial public offering after over a decade of business and a healthy bottom line.

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


That still leaves with the second option, M&A, to investors to make a return. However, there again, Pakistan hasn’t been the hottest market in any sector, forget tech. One glimpse of hope has come from the Middle East where VC-funded startups with lots of cash are eyeing for regional expansion to help them raise subsequent investment rounds and are on the lookout to eat up smaller players in their sectors.

Riaz Haq said...

Digital freight marketplace BridgeLinx raises $10 million in #Pakistan's largest seed funding.This is 20 VC & Buckley Ventures’ 2nd lead #investment in Pakistan in recent weeks after an $85 million round in quick-commerce startup Airlift. https://tcrn.ch/3EikHzo via @techcrunch


BridgeLinx, a 9-month-old Lahore-headquartered startup that operates a digital freight marketplace, said on Tuesday it has raised $10 million in what is the largest seed financing round in Pakistan.

Harry Stebbings’ 20 VC, Josh Buckley’s Buckley Ventures and Indus Valley Capital co-led the startup’s financing round, which Salman Gul, co-founder and chief executive of BridgeLinx, told TechCrunch completed within weeks.

This is 20 VC and Buckley Ventures’ second lead investment in Pakistan in recent weeks following an $85 million round in quick-commerce startup Airlift. Indus Valley Capital, which recently also backed business-to-business marketplace Bazaar, has invested in all three of the recent high-profile investments in the South Asian country.

Wavemaker Partners, Quiet Capital, TrueSight Ventures, Soma Capital, Flexport, Magnus Rausing’s UNTITLED and founders of Convoy and Bazaar also participated in the round.

BridgeLinx is building a digital freight marketplace. The platform connects shippers — such as manufacturing companies, cement factories, textile companies — with truckers and private fleets.

It also provides its tech solutions to ensure documents validation on both ends, timely pickups, port operations and safety of cargo, said Gul, who previously worked at consultancy firm KPMG in Canada.

BridgeLinx has already onboarded thousands of carriers and is moving thousands of freight-loads each week for many large customers, he said.

As is true in India, Pakistan’s trucking system has a big inefficiency problem that continues to drag the economy.

One of the biggest problems faced by truckers is that once they have made a delivery, they have no work left during the return journey. So a truck delivering something to Lahore from Islamabad is likely not carrying something on its way back to the nation’s capital. This decades-old inefficiency continues to cost every stakeholder.

Startups like BridgeLinx are attempting to find ways to make this system more efficient, said Gul, who added that he has closely studied how Convoy, and India’s BlackBuck and Rivigo have expanded their businesses in the recent years.

BridgeLinx, like BlackBuck, currently operates on an asset-lite model — that is, it doesn’t own any vehicles. But Gul said there is benefit in replicating something from Rivigo, which owns its fleets. By having some trucks of its own, BridgeLinx will be able to ensure that vehicles on its platform are operating round the clock by having multiple drivers working in shifts.

“We will eventually have a hybrid of what BlackBuck and Rivigo offer,” he said.

The startup will deploy the fresh capital to expand to more verticals and broaden its tech offerings. It is also working on hiring more talent, he said.

“BridgeLinx has cracked the code for making end-to-end freight work in a hassle free manner and therefore signed up some of the top businesses in Pakistan,” said Aatif Awan, Managing Partner at Indus Valley Capital, in a statement.

“We believe this team is well on its way to bring unprecedented efficiencies to the country’s economy and are really excited to partner with them.”

On a side note, it’s fascinating to see Stebbings and Buckley emerge as the earliest investors to back startups in Pakistan at a time when several high-profile venture funds in Asia — including Sequoia Capital India, Accel, and Lightspeed — are yet to make any move in the country. Arguably, it’s the best time to back startups in Pakistan. The internet penetration has grown considerably in the country in the past decade and scores of startups are beginning to build the railroads for commerce, logistics, and payments.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan’s #Technology #exports surge 80.6% in August 2021. Exports of information and communication technology increased 46 percent to $420 million in the first two months of the current fiscal year 2021-22.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/893229-technology-exports-surge-80-6pc-in-august

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’ technology exports have increased by 80.6 percent in August 2021 over the same month last year, the Ministry of Commerce said on Friday.

During the month under review, technology exports recorded at $224 million against $124 million in August 2020.

Similarly, the exports of information and communication technology increased 46 percent to $420 million in the two months of the current fiscal year, according to central bank figures. Last fiscal, the exports were $287 million.


The government has focused on technology and IT sector to boost the exports. For this purpose, different incentives are being offered to freelancers. The startups in Pakistan have also made remarkable progress during recent months.

According to the International Labour Organization Flagship Report 2021, Pakistan has been ranked as the 2nd largest supplier of online labour in software development and technology.

Federal Minister for IT and Telecommunication Syed Amin Ul Haque the other day inaugurated portal for online registration of freelancers at Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB).

Minister said the Pakistani freelancers had fuelled the growth of the gig economy in the country. The growth of Pakistani freelancers would enhance the country’s export earnings.

He also said that the National Freelancing Facilitation Policy has been developed after significant consultation and was focused on accelerating and sustaining the development of the freelancer industry in Pakistan.

Freelancers would be allowed to open a special dollar account to receive payments for their individual IT exports.

The government has been working to introduce Special Technology Zones (STZs) all over the country to further boost the IT industry.

IT exports could jump to $4 billion in a year if the package for the IT and telecom sector announced by the government gets implemented, according to experts.

Last month, the government announced to establish a Rs10 billion fund for providing cash rewards to IT companies against their exports. The government is also set to offer a five percent rebate on these exports.

The higher growth in the country’s technology product and services exports was due to the coronavirus pandemic related rise in freelancing activities.

Telecommunications, computer and information services are the major items of services exports.

Riaz Haq said...

THE RISE OF PAKISTANI TECH

https://www.dawn.com/news/1647193


The last one year has seen an exponential rise in Pakistani start-up companies, as more and more tech-savvy entrepreneurs attempt to solve longstanding business issues with the help of technology. Backed by investment, pitches are finally moving from mere buzzwords to reality. Eos profiles some of the most prominent of these new companies and the people behind them…

n a Wednesday night, thousands show up to attend an online event titled ‘Pakistani Start-ups: The Next Big Thing’. Before the conference begins, the timer ticks on screen and dramatic music plays in the background. The comments section is already brimming with excitement.

“Hello from Rawalpindi,” one comment reads. “Hello from Los Angeles,” says another. And in a sea of hellos from Pakistan and around the world, one jokester says, hello from Wakanda — referring to a fictional country that is very technologically advanced, from Marvel comics and films.

The event has been organised by Paklaunch, a community aiming to connect start-ups with mentors, advisers and investors. Clearly, many in the virtual audience are looking for connections and mentorship. The comments section continues to populate with young individuals, working in tech, introducing themselves.

Pakistani start-ups have thus far secured at least 240 million dollars in investment in 2021 alone.

The countdown ends and makes way for a promotional video that declares that, in Pakistan, you’ll find the “drive, grit and ambition characteristic of the early days in Silicon Valley.” “The venture-backed start-up transformation that happened in the US, China, India and Indonesia is now taking off in Pakistan,” the voice-over continues, over imagery of tech being used across the country.

Soon, President Dr Arif Alvi is on the screen. “Pakistan is catapulting itself in the new digital era,” he says. After welcoming the participants and investors from around the world, he opens the conference by saying, “Pakistan Zindabad!”

***
The Pakistani tech industry and start-ups have been a frequent talking point over the past year. “Pakistan has huge potential and we are open for business,” tweeted Prime Minister Imran Khan last month when Airlift — a Lahore-based tech start-up — secured 85 million dollars in ‘Series B’ financing. Less than a week later, it was announced that Bazaar — a Karachi-based tech start-up — had secured 30 million dollars in ‘Series A’ funding. This prompted federal minister Asad Umar to tweet, “Time for the Pakistani tech sector has arrived.”

Indeed, the Pakistani tech sector seems to have arrived in a big way. Good news about this boom has continued to mount over the past year. Pakistani start-ups have thus far secured at least 240 million dollars in investment in 2021 alone. For comparison, 66 million dollars were raised in all of last year.

News reports of these triumphs are often published with images of young men and women, usually dressed in business-casual attire or even t-shirts and jeans, smilingly looking into the camera. Surely, they have something to smile about. They see and are a part of a future not everyone can envision just yet.

While the technologically challenged and those without much business savvy may not understand what Series A and Series B funding are, or what terms such as ‘FinTech’ mean, it is clear for all to see that the young minds behind tech start-ups understand international and local funds, and the needs of Pakistan.

(Cheat sheet: Pre-seed-funding is the earliest stage of funding, while seed-funding is the first official funding stage, according to Investopedia, a publication that aims to simplify complex financial information. Series A, B and C the next are funding rounds. Series B financing is the second round of funding for a company that has met certain milestones. Another Investopedia article says that the term ‘FinTech’ refers to the integration of technology into offerings by financial services companies, in order to improve their use and delivery to consumers).

Riaz Haq said...

#Karachi-based #Pakistani #edtech #startup Maqsad gets $2.1M pre-seed #Investment to make #education more accessible. Maqsad's goal is “to make education more accessible to 100 million Pakistani students.” #technology #Pakistan https://tcrn.ch/3EIQNVw via @techcrunch

The COVID-19 pandemic reshaped the education industry, heating up the global edtech startups that made online education more accessible for a wider population, for example in countries like India and Indonesia, Aziz mentioned.

The education market size in Pakistan is estimated at $12 billion and is projected to increase to $30 billion by 2030, according to Aziz.

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

Taha Ahmed and Rooshan Aziz left their jobs in strategy consulting and investment banking in London earlier this year in order to found a mobile-only education platform startup, Maqsad, in Pakistan, with a goal “to make education more accessible to 100 million Pakistani students.”

Having grown up in Karachi, childhood friends Ahmed and Aziz are aware of the challenges about the Pakistani education system, which is notably worse for those not living in large urban areas (the nation’s student-teacher ratio is 44:1). Pakistani children are less likely to go to school for each kilometer of distance between school and their home — with girls being four times affected, Maqsad co-founder Aziz said.

Maqsad announced today its $2.1 million pre-seed round to enhance its content platform growth and invest in R&D.

The pre-seed round, which was completed in just three weeks via virtual meetings, was led by Indus Valley Capital, with participation from Alter Global, Fatima Gobi Ventures and several angel investors from Pakistan, the Middle East and Europe.

Maqsad will use the proceeds for developing in-house content, such as production studio, academics and animators, as well as bolstering R&D and engineering, Aziz told TechCrunch. The company will focus on the K-12 education in Pakistan, including 11th and 12th grade math, with plans to expand into other STEM subjects for the next one-two years, Aziz said.

Maqsad’s platform, which provides a one-stop shop for after-school academic content in a mix of English and Urdu, will be supplemented by quizzes and other gamified features that will come together to offer a personalized education to individuals. Its platform features include adaptive testing that alter a question’s level of difficulty depending on users’ responses, Aziz explained.

The word “maqsad” means purpose in Urdu.