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. 

Lancet Population Projection For Top 5 Countries

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

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

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 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:



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.


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

Replying to

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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:

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?


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.


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?


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"



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


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


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


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.


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.


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?


Riaz Haq said...

Exit strategy post blitzscaling

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


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

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


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

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.


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 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.

Riaz Haq said...

#Fintech startup TAG valued at $100 million in #Pakistan's largest seed round of $12 million. Tag partners with public & private firms to offer their employees #banking services, including salary disbursement. #technology #startup https://tcrn.ch/39tCAxk via @techcrunch

Tag, a one-year-old startup that offers banking and financial services to users in Pakistan, has raised over $12 million in what is now the largest seed financing round in the South Asian market.

Liberty City Ventures, Canaan Partners, Addition, Mantis and Banana Capital and others financed the round, which brings YC-backed Tag’s to-date raise to over $17.5 million. This is the firm time many of these investors, including Lee Fixel’s Addition, have invested in a startup in Pakistan.

The round values Tag at $100 million, two people involved in the deal told TechCrunch. The new funding took just two weeks to close, Tag founder and chief executive Talal Gondal told TechCrunch in an interview. He declined to comment on the valuation.

The investor’s excitement to Tag comes as the startup builds one of the crucial railroads for users in Pakistan. “We are trying to become both Revolut and Paytm in Pakistan,” the 29-year-old founder said.

Tag partners with public and private firms to offer their employees banking services including getting their salaries on the Tag account and Visa-powered virtual and physical cards. Signing up on Tag — which includes some verification of an individual’s identity — just takes three minutes, he said.

It also provides a range of B2C offerings such as the ability to pay others online and top up utility bills that are available to any user in Pakistan who signs up to the platform.

“We eventually want to offer the complete set of banking and financial services to users in Pakistan,” he said.


A group of very young startups have made splashy funding announcements in recent weeks. Quick-commerce startup Airlift unveiled a record $85 million Series B last month, followed by business-to-business Bazaar’s record $30 million Series A round. Last week, the digital freight marketplace BridgeLinx announced a $10 million seed round, which at the time was the nation’s largest. Wednesday’s announcement also makes Tag one of the most valued firms from Y Combinator’s recent batches.

Gondal said startups are finally having a moment in the South Asian market. “Each country’s startup ecosystem goes through various waves. In India, we saw e-commerce firms like Flipkart flourish in the first wave. Firms like Ola, Zomato and Swiggy and fintech firms like PhonePe and Paytm made inroads in the waves after that,” he said, adding that he saw a similar trend in Berlin.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan’s #Fintech #startup Oraan raises $3M to increase #financialinclusion among #Pakistani women. #technology | TechCrunch

After working as an investment banker in Canada for a decade, Halima Iqbal moved back to Pakistan in 2017 and quickly realized how difficult it is for women to access financial services. “I had a really hard time opening up a basic bank account. It took me about three and a half months,” Iqbal told TechCrunch. She began researching how Pakistani women deal with money—for example, how do they save or take out credit?

Then she met product designer and entrepreneur Farwah Tapal, who had recently returned to Pakistan from Spain, and the two created Oraan in 2018 to help women access financial services. The startup announced today it has raised $3 million in funding, co-led by returning investor Zayn Capital and Wavemaker Partners, with participation from Resolution Ventures, i2i Ventures, Hustle Fund, Haitou Global, Plug and Play and angels like Claire Diaz-Ortiz, a former investing partner at Magma Partners and early Twitter employee.

Oraan has now raised just over $4 million in funding. Iqbal and Tapal said they are the first women entrepreneurs in Pakistan’s fintech space to raise a seed round.

“There was an opportunity, how can we understand the saving space and informal economy in Pakistan, and where can we capture that?” Iqbal said.

Oraan decided to start with ROSCAs (rotating credit and savings associations), or committees of people who contribute money to a pool that is distributed to a member each month. It will expand into more financial services, with plans to become a digital bank.

Based on Oraan’s research, only about 7% of Pakistani women are financially included, meaning they have at least a basic bank account. For many women, trying to access financial services means facing logistical and social barriers.

“When a woman goes into a bank, the first question we get asked is ‘why do you even need bank account?,’ especially if you’re a freelancer or micro-entrepreneur or unemployed homemaker,” Iqbal said, adding that women are often asked to provide their husband or a male relative’s information so they can serve as a guarantor. “These kinds of restrictions have hindered women from having the kind of financial mobility that they require to be able to contribute equally to the economic growth of the country.”

Traditionally, ROSCAs are formed within communities, for example among family members, friends or neighbors. Then each person puts in a set amount of money per month. Who gets each month’s pool of money is decided by the committee, sometimes by a vote or random draw.

Iqbal and Tapal decided to start with ROSCAs because almost everyone they know had participated in an informal one. Based on Oraan’s research, about 41% of the Pakistani population has participated in a ROSCA and $5 billion gets rotated through them on an annual basis.

“The scale of use and what it provided to the user was just so fascinating,” Iqbal said. “This is a goldmine to create something valuable for the end user, as well as a business opportunity.”

Oraan formalizes ROSCAs, offering five-month or ten-month plans. One of the main differences between Oraan’s ROSCAs and informal ones is that users can pick which month they want the pool of money, because the app’s treasury management backend forms committees based on members’ needs and ability to pay.

Riaz Haq said...

Digitization of Rotating Savings
and Credit Associations in


Executive Summary
This research investigates the scope for digitization of Rotating and Savings Credit Association in Pakistan on the rails of Digital
Financial Service and its potential to increase DFS uptake. 36% of the people in Pakistan save money, but only 4% of those save money
with a formal financial institution, while 33% save through saving clubs called Kamaitis, the local version of Rotating Savings and
Credit Associations (ROSCAs). Its digitization presents an opportunity to bring people to DFS by digitizing a behavior with which
they are familiar.
We follow a Human Centered Design process in 3 phases namely inspiration, ideation and implementation.
This phase consisted of semi-structured qualitative interviews with 80 participants including ROSCA organizers, members and nonmembers. The sample was varied across gender, locality and ROSCA size. The purpose of the qualitative research was to investigate
technology ownership and usage, understanding of and familiarity with mobile money and banking services, and how the overall
ROSCA structure works including motivations for joining ROSCA, problems faced in managing and participating in ROSCAs and
the functioning of ROSCAs.
We studied the functioning of and challenges encountered throughout the ROSCA cycle, which consists of motivation, group
formation, formalization, collection and disbursement and assignment, and exchanges.
Following are the main findings from inspiration phase:
• Social capital is an important element in the functioning of ROSCAs, from group formation stage to disbursements, and in
resolving problems which arise during ROSCA cycle.
• The main motivations for joining ROSCAs include forced saving (37.5%), purchasing durable goods (30%), buying or building
a house (27.5%), starting or expanding a business (22.5%), wedding expenses (20%), religious obligations (17.5%), and
educational expenses (15%).
• In group formation, organizer plays the key role and participants are recruited by the organizer. Social capital exists between
organizers and individual members, but not between members.
• Formalization through rules is more prevalent in large ROSCAs (which require legal documentation) than in small ROSCAs
(which rely on rules and verbal commitments).
There are two popular methods of pot allocation: lucky draw and need-based assignments. Lucky draws are more common in
small- and medium-sized ROSCAs, whereas large ROSCAs have need-based assignments. Turn exchange is a very common
phenomenon facilitated by the organizer.
• Collection and disbursement are done in physical cash mostly. Either the organizer has to go to submit the amount or the
organizer has to collect the amount. Collections take place daily or monthly. Women have problems in collection and
disbursement due to mobility issues.
• Record keeping is done by the organizer, and is one of the core functions in managing of ROSCAs, increasing in complexity
and sophistication with an increase in size of the group. Record keeping is challenging for the low literate organizers, who
often seek help from intermediaries, hence compromising the privacy of the group. Women are more avid record keepers.
• Delayed payments are commonly reported, but there is no standard mechanism to handle it. Different groups have devised
different penalties for delayed payments – monetary penalties proved to be dysfunctional due to the high social capital,
therefore, non-monetary penalties were employed by the organizers to deal with these issues.
• Frauds were not experienced personally by any of the participants, but they had heard about instances of fraud.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan’s record run of #IPOs is expected to accelerate in coming months. 7 companies raised an unprecedented PKR 17 billion (US$100 million) in the fiscal year ended June. Current year total will be “significantly higher,” says PSX CEO. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-09-27/record-ipo-wave-to-swell-significantly-pakistan-bourse-ceo-says via @markets

“There’s a full pipeline” of companies planning to list, Khan said in an interview this month. “IPOs happen because people need capital, so you need good things happening at the exchange level; that the exchange is functioning well, there’s ample liquidity, investors are available and the valuations are good.”

Khan pointed to the success of Air Link Communication Ltd. -- which started trading last week following the country’s largest private sector IPO -- and Octopus Digital’s offer that was oversubscribed within 30 minutes of opening its book building, as evidence that current weakness in the markets won’t deter potential applicants.

While Pakistan’s benchmark stock index has rebounded about 70% from its pandemic lows in March 2020, it’s up just 1.6% this year, underperforming most of its global peers. Pakistan’s KSE-100 Index dropped 1.5% as of 2:47 p.m. local time Monday.

Companies need money to invest as Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government targets the highest economic growth in four years, PSX’s Khan said. Drugmaker Searle Co. and internet services company Telecard Ltd. are among firms planning to list subsidiaries.

The Pakistan Stock Exchange, which is 40% owned by a consortium of Chinese bourses, is embedding a new trading platform acquired from its partner Shenzen Stock Exchange Co. that will allow new products to be launched in about two months.

The stock exchange is also working on a plan that will enable trading in sovereign bonds by the end of the year, said Khan, adding that index trading, derivatives or options trading will be launched between January-June after consultation with market players.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan’s buy-now, pay-later #startup QisstPay has raised $15 million in early stage investment, ahead of expanding to #SriLanka and #Bangladesh. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-09-29/pakistan-s-qisstpay-raises-funds-ahead-of-south-asia-expansion

MSA Capital led the round with participation including from Global Founders Capital, Fox Ventures and First Check Ventures. The Islamabad-based company wants to enter other South Asian markets within six months.

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...

Pakistan unveils an ambitious plan to become a tech powerhouse.
@Sana_Jamal's exclusive interview with @amerhashmi2, Chairman STZA.


Pakistan unveils ambitious plan to become a tech powerhouse
New tech authority chief reveals how 14 world-class zones will create thousands of jobs

Published: October 08, 2021 18:36
Sana Jamal, Correspondent

Gulf News exclusively spoke to Amer Ahmed Hashmi, the Chairman of Special Technology Zones Authority, Pakistan’s top organisation established in 2021 to oversee the country’s ambitious plans to develop a high-tech economy for rapid eco-nomic growth.


Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan's #Lahore-based #startup Colabs wants to build a community of 100,000 entrepreneurs and freelancers through its coworking spaces, business solutions, events, and educational programs. It currently has 700 members. #technology https://www.menabytes.com/colabs-pakistan/ via @MENAbytes

Colabs is a Lahore-based startup that aims to build Pakistan’s largest community of entrepreneurs and freelancers through its coworking spaces, business solutions, events, and educational programs. It was started in 2019 by twin brothers; Omar and Ali Shah, as a coworking company, and currently operates two spaces in Lahore, with a third on the way. On the surface, it seems like just another coworking operator but what sets it apart is its ambition to create the largest community of entrepreneurs and freelancers in the fifth largest country in the world.

“We want to knit together a community of 100,000 entrepreneurs and freelancers in Pakistan, starting with 5,000 seats within the next two years,” stated Colabs co-founder and CEO Omar Shah in a conversation with MENAbytes. He previously spent 7 years working in Dubai as private equity and venture capital investor in emerging markets including Mexico, UAE, Turkey, and Pakistan, before moving back home to Lahore in 2019, to establish Colabs. Ali Shah, Omar’s twin brother is a real estate developer in Lahore, who leads the family’s construction and development firm, Sabcon, which develops innovative and modern commercial buildings across Lahore in the past decade.

The startup currently has about 700 members who work from its spaces. It expects to add another 400 when it launches its third site early next year. But how can a coworking company in Pakistan with 700 seats build the capacity for 100,000 members over the next five to seven years, we asked Omar.

(For context, WeWork currently has a capacity of about 60,000 seats in India. It entered the market as a result of a joint venture with a local company in 2017 and has invested tens of millions of dollars to date.)

“As a family, we have been developing and managing properties in Lahore for many decades. Initially, it was traditional real estate but then Ali started Sabcon to do modern, innovative buildings a few years ago, so we understand the space very well. We can design our spaces for more efficient utilization than an average coworking operator and drive higher revenue per square foot at half the build cost. With all the learnings we have from our first two years, we’re ready to scale our spaces all over Pakistan. We’ve created a playbook that allows us to quickly turn buildings of different sizes into coworking spaces in a few months.”

When asked if there’s enough demand in Pakistan to sell 100,000 seats, he stated that the rate at which startup and freelance ecosystems of Pakistan are growing, they won’t have any issues in terms of demand, “It is more about creating the capacity to serve the demand.”

Colabs has been largely bootstrapped until now but to move forward with its expansion, it would need external money, “We had raised a small friend and family round when we started the company and didn’t have to raise any capital after that. We’re now considering raising a seed round as there’s a lot of inbound interest and we’re ready to scale our product.” said Omar, speaking to MENAbytes, without disclosing the details of how much they’re looking to raise. He said that the economics of the business are very strong and they’re profitable even today if they stop investing in growth.

Riaz Haq said...


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...

Razak vows to increase IT exports to $3.7bn in FY22


Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment, Abdul Razak Dawood on Friday said that there is a lot of scope to increase exports in Information Technology (IT) from non-traditional sector at present, announcing that the government has set a new target of $3.5 billion exports in this regard.

“The current annual $2.5 billion IT exports are very low. We now have an annual export target of $3.7 billion this year,” he said while addressing the Technology Roundtable to highlight Investment opportunities in the IT and Information Technology Enabled Services (ITES) sector organized by Board of Investment ( BOI).

“Today is the age of Information Technology and e-commerce, our youth can take full advantage of it,” he said, adding that Pakistan’s exports can now be boosted by focusing on some of the non-traditional sectors from the traditional export sector including textile.

Razak Dawood said that there was a need to promote export culture in the country at present and the government wanted to increase exports on priority basis.

During his address, he said that Pakistan’s economy has made significant progress reflecting a blend of stabilization and structural reforms despite being challenged at economic and geo political front and is moving on a positive growth trajectory.

He added that Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), that use e-Commerce platforms, are around five times more likely to export than those in the traditional economy and the policy aims to pave the way for holistic growth of e-Commerce in the country by creating an enabling environment in which enterprises have equal opportunity to grow steadily.

He stressed that the way forward for Pakistan on the economic front is to focus on exports, specifically IT related exports.

Chairman BOI said that government of Pakistan is making all out efforts to put the economy on the track of long-term and sustainable economic progress.

“IT Sector Policy of Pakistan offers a generous set of incentives to investors” he said.

He also apprised the participants on “Pakistan Regulatory Modernization Initiative” (PRMI), being led by BOI that was launched by the Honorable Prime Minister of Pakistan.

“Once rolled out, it shall transform the regulatory landscape across all tiers of government,’ he said.

He added that the IT sector also allows up to 100% foreign ownership and 100% repatriation of profits.

Secretary BOI, while highlighting IT sector specific reforms introduced in Pakistan shared that the payment limit for foreign vendors of digital services has been enhanced by SBP from $100,000 to $400,000 and the approval from SBP for payment above $100,000 has been waived off for digital services.

She further added that in order to facilitate IT businesses, 62 globally recognized companies have been notified requiring no approval from the State Bank and that the State Bank has allowed commercial banks to obtain the Cloud Outsourcing Services to meet their growing customers’ needs.

Elaborating on some incentives introduced for the Special Technology Zones, Secretary BOI mentioned income tax exemption for 10 years including on dividends and capital gains, exemption of custom duties and taxes on capital goods for 10 years, exemption from GST on import of plant, machinery, equipment and raw-materials and exemption from property tax for 10 years.

The Technology Roundtable was a successful feat in showcasing opportunities in Pakistan’s thriving IT sector and ended with a unanimous vote of re-assurance that all stakeholders will work in close collaboration with BOI to uplift the development of IT sector to ensure export led growth and quality FDI.

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...

#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.

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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

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Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Aminul Haq has announced the setting up of an IT park in Karachi and a piece of land costing Rs31 billion has been acquired from the Civil Aviation Authority near Karachi airport for the project.


“Plots will be available at much lower rates in the IT park to encourage maximum number of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) associated with IT services to establish their businesses, which will be fully equipped with state-of-the-art infrastructure and all IT-related facilities,” said the minister.

He was speaking at a meeting with traders during his visit to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI).

The move was welcomed by the financial and technology consultants.

“This will enable our SMEs to grow at a faster pace, which is the need of the hour, keeping in mind not just our current economic situation, but also the overall global situation,” said Saad Gadit, Co-founder Savyour.

“This step will help in creating an efficient ecosystem, which comes when likeminded individuals working with the same vision come together. It also helps in model and information sharing; hence the beneficiaries are significantly higher.”

“Although brick and mortar is not a roadblock to technological development and digitisation, it depends on how the piece of land is utilised to create an ecosystem where incentives are timely provided and technological hubs are created for not only tech businesses but also for all the SMEs backed by tech infrastructure, skill development and research and development (R&D),” said Khurram Schehzad, CEO of Alpha Beta Core.

“It comes as great news that Karachi has finally decided to go in the direction of an IT park as other provinces have already started work on similar spaces; it will prove to be a great opportunity for technological exploration in the region,” said Noman Ahmed Said, CEO of SI Global.

“Karachi already ranks higher in technological prowess and it will prove to be more beneficial to begin development in the city by working under one umbrella and generating more revenue.”

Said described IT parks as the areas with scores of facilities, where IT-related knowledge and service industries were attracted and facilitated through the provision of buildings, industry-specific infrastructure and business support services.

“The ultimate objective of an IT park is to provide an environment that will enable the localisation of tech-related companies.”

Moreover, IT parks attract investment, which gives a boost to the economy, while simultaneously creating room for more companies to establish or expand their operations, thereby leading to job creation, he said.

Start-up investment expert Kapeel Kumar remarked that it would be a great initiative for start-ups and SMEs to accelerate development work and would also encourage the youth to start business with ease and tax benefits.

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‘Pakistan fastest growing market for YouTube’


“Pakistan is one of the fastest growing markets for YouTube globally,” said Marc Lefkowitz, company’s director of partner development and management for Asia Pacific.


KARACHI: YouTube Pakistan brought out the big guns on Thursday evening for its maiden Brandcast — a loud show of song and dance with hundreds of young content creators gathered under one roof to dazzle the deep-pocketed advertisers of the country’s “No. 1 online video and music platform”.

Beginning with a short concert and effusive presentations by popular YouTubers, the event featured what seemed like sales pitches to advertisers by top YouTube officials.

“Pakistan is one of the fastest growing markets for YouTube globally,” said Marc Lefkowitz, company’s director of partner development and management for Asia Pacific.

As many as 62 per cent of online Pakistanis between the ages of 18 and 24 reported watching YouTube at least once a month, he said. Citing a study conducted by parent company Google and research firm Kantar, he said 78pc of internet users in Pakistan said YouTube was the video platform they went to when they wanted to watch shows and online content.

The same study showed 76pc of internet users believed YouTube helped them “learn something new”. Three-quarters of internet users claimed the video platform carried content that helped them “dig deeper into their interests”.

In a separate interaction with reporters after the event, Mr Lefkowitz said the number of YouTube channels making Rs1 million or more in revenue has gone up 110pc on a year-on-year basis. There’re currently more than 5,400 YouTube channels with more than 100,000 subscribers in Pakistan, up 35pc on an annual basis. More than 350 of these channels have more than a million subscribers.

In his presentation and subsequent talk with the press, Google Country Director Farhan Siddique Qureshi said YouTube has become the centre of modern life as it fulfils educational, professional and entertainment needs of ordinary people, he said.

He urged businesses to capitalise on the “deep connections” that YouTube users have built on the platform to remain at the “top of (their) minds” for achieving a “greater sales uplift”.

A case study shared with the press showed Nestle Fruita Vitals was experiencing low sales in a few cities. It decided to test which advertising channel — TV or YouTube — would yield “efficient results”. YouTube surpassed TV’s reach on the third day, the case study showed. The on-target reach of YouTube versus the TV campaign was three times higher while its cost was 70pc lower, it said.

PR minders of the firm kept hovering over the YouTube representatives during the press briefing in an apparent attempt to stop them from oversharing. Mr Qureshi didn’t state any numbers with respect to the size of YouTube’s business in Pakistan, its earnings, payments to local content creators or taxes.

In response to a question about the perception that local content creators don’t make as much money as their counterparts from other parts of the world, Mr Qureshi said advertising rates are auction-based, not fixed.

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5G technology to be launched next year


The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication is likely to launch 5G technology next year in the country to cope with the challenges of the digital world. The official of ministry of IT and telecommunication said that the provision of broadband services across the country was the topmost priority of the ministry of IT. He said that the ministry of IT through the Universal Service Fund (USF) had launched some 70 projects of optical fiber cable (OFC) and broadband infrastructure development in four provinces at a cost of Rs 65 billion. “All projects are underway in far-flung areas would be completed by June next year,” he added. “In the province of Sindh alone, 20 projects of NGBSD and OFC worth Rs16.3 billion have been started so far in 20 districts, including Tharparkar, Nawabshah, Khairpur, Larkana, Badin, Jacobabad, Shikarpur, Mirpurkhas, and Dadu,” the official said. He said that projects of connectivity of the un-served and underserved communities of Balochistan, Punjab, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provinces had also been launched. He said, through USF aimed to connect all the citizens of the country as digitalisation had become a priority for businesses and communities. Under its Next Generation Optic Fiber (NG-OF) Network and Services programme, USF had contracted over 16,000km of Optic Fiber Cable (OFC) to benefit 31.5 million populations across the country.

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#Starlink #Satellite #Broadband is Now Officially Registered in #Pakistan. It could potentially revolutionize Pakistan’s #telecommunications industry by providing faster and more affordable internet services, even in remote areas. https://propakistani.pk/2023/03/22/starlink-satellite-broadband-is-now-officially-registered-in-pakistan/


In a significant development for Pakistan’s IT and Telecommunication sector, Director of Global Licensing and Market Activation at SpaceX, Ryan Goodnight, called on the Federal Minister of Information Technology and Telecommunication, Syed Aminul Haq, to discuss the registration of SpaceX’s Starlink in Pakist

According to the Minister, Starlink has registered itself with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP).

The meeting was aimed at exploring how Starlink’s fastest and cheapest satellite internet services could pave the way for affordable broadband services in every corner of Pakistan.

The Minister expressed his optimism that Starlink’s services could significantly reduce the operational costs of telecom operators, even in remote areas where inactive mobile towers could be activated at low cost.

“Our main objective is to provide broadband services to every corner of Pakistan at affordable tariffs,” said the Minister, adding, “Starlink can play an important role in this regard.”

Ryan Goodnight thanked the Minister for his full cooperation and appreciated Pakistan’s progress in the IT and Telecommunication sector. “Basic steps are complete, and now we are ready to go fast,” Ryan added.

This development could potentially revolutionize Pakistan’s telecommunications industry by providing faster and more affordable internet services, even in remote areas. The successful implementation of Starlink’s services in Pakistan could be a significant step towards achieving the goal of a connected Pakistan.

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Article by Andrew Sharp Photos courtesy of Sabrin Beg May 05, 2023


Lerner College (University of Delware) professors explore how electronic devices impact classrooms in Pakistan

Developing countries like Pakistan are struggling to improve education, the researchers wrote, and their governments tend to use several strategies. One is to supply technology directly to students in an effort to make up for teachers’ shortcomings. The other is costly investment in teacher training, which may not be effective if governments don’t pour substantial resources into the design and support of the project.

This research has important implications for how to improve education in countries facing similar dilemmas.

“Every country, everywhere in the world, has a constrained budget, right?” Lucas said. “That’s why there are economists. And so this is just thinking about how to use those scarce education resources most effectively.”

That’s where the research comes in. The government of Punjab province in Pakistan developed digital teaching material featuring expert teachers, and wanted to know if it would be more effective to give preloaded tablets with the high quality material to each student, or to give one tablet to the teacher along with a display screen so the teacher could present the material. The digital lessons included explainer videos, review questions and more.

Through a connection of Beg’s in Pakistan, the UD pair was brought on board to conduct the study. They examined student performance among classrooms using a randomized controlled trial in which randomly selected schools used the two different kinds of digital lessons, while control schools operated as usual. The government of Punjab provided the technology.

One outcome that surprised Beg and Lucas was the magnitude of the effects. The study found a stark difference between the outcomes of the different approaches to delivering the digital material.

The eLearn classrooms — the ones focused on providing material to teachers — did improve student learning, with students outperforming the control group by a whopping 60%. They were also 5% more likely to pass the standardized test at the end of the academic year.

The students who each got tablets, but whose teachers could not display the content to the class, actually performed 95% worse than the control group.

“Basically, it’s like (these) students almost learned nothing … relative to the control students,” Lucas said.

When each student received a tablet, Beg said, there wasn’t a way for teachers to engage with the technology. “It made it actually maybe harder for the teachers to make it part of their regular classroom teaching, whereas the screens (eLearn Classrooms) did the opposite.”

In other words, “One of the more important takeaways was that teacher engagement seems to be an important ingredient in making technology successful in the classrooms,” Beg said. Also, “It’s not something that will solve all learning crises in developing countries, but that (technology) should be integrated into the classroom.” Appropriately, of course, to avoid the negative effects.

A lot of governments, she said, find technology very promising but don’t know exactly how to integrate it to make it useful.

There’s been a tendency, Lucas said, to bypass teachers using tech or after-school programs that basically create a parallel education system. “But … what this shows is no, these teachers are capable of delivering more learning to their students. And (in this case) the way that this happened was through technology.”