July 13, 2024

‘Tech Summit 2023 can become a breakthrough for the spirit of entrepreneurship in Pakistan’: Shah Zaman of Craftooo

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International Business Magazine has recently undertook the role of Media Partnership for the Annual Event ‘Tech Summit 2023, Lahore’. We got in touch with the Visionary Founder and Pioneer of the event, Mr Shah Zaman, CEO of the event. He is also the face of one of the leading e-commerce training and internship programme in Pakistan, Craftooo. 

Shah Zaman, CEO of Craftooo

This is an excerpt of an exclusive email interaction with International Business Magazine. 

1. How is the Entrepreneurial Culture booming in Pakistan?
Pakistan’s entrepreneurial culture was already experiencing growth and gaining momentum. However, please note that the situation may have evolved since then, so it’s essential to refer to recent sources for the most up-to-date information.

Pakistan has been making significant strides in fostering an entrepreneurial ecosystem, creating an environment conducive to startups, and attracting investors. Here are several factors contributing to the booming entrepreneurial culture in Pakistan:

1. Government Initiatives: The Pakistani government has taken steps to promote entrepreneurship by launching various programs and policies. For example, the Pakistan Startup Act was introduced in 2019 to provide a legal framework for startups, while the Prime Minister’s Startup Pakistan Program aims to support young entrepreneurs with funding, training, and mentorship.
2. Access to Funding: The availability of funding plays a crucial role in encouraging entrepreneurial activities. Pakistan has witnessed a surge in venture capital funds and angel investors, providing financial support to startups. Several local and international venture capital firms have recognized the potential in Pakistan’s startup ecosystem and have started investing in promising ventures.
3. Incubators and Accelerators: The establishment of incubators and accelerators has been instrumental in nurturing startups. These institutions provide essential resources, mentoring, networking opportunities, and seed funding to early-stage ventures. Some notable examples in Pakistan include Plan9, The Nest I/O, and Invest2Innovate (i2i).
4. Growing Tech Industry: The growth of the technology industry has been a catalyst for entrepreneurship in Pakistan. The country has a young and tech-savvy population, making it a fertile ground for innovative tech startups. The rise of e-commerce, fintech, ed-tech, and other technology-driven sectors has created ample opportunities for entrepreneurs.
5. Talent Pool: Pakistan is home to a vast pool of talented individuals, including engineers, software developers, and creative minds. The availability of skilled human resources at relatively lower costs has attracted businesses and investors to set up operations and invest in the country.
6. Supportive Community: The entrepreneurial community in Pakistan has been flourishing, with various forums, meetups, and events bringing entrepreneurs, investors, and industry experts together. These platforms facilitate knowledge-sharing, collaboration, and networking, creating a supportive environment for startups.
7. International Recognition: Pakistani startups have gained recognition on the global stage, receiving accolades, funding, and partnerships from international organizations. This recognition has helped boost the confidence of local entrepreneurs and attract foreign investors interested in tapping into the country’s potential.
8. Government-backed Initiatives: In recent years, the Pakistani government has launched initiatives such as the Digital Pakistan Vision, aimed at digitizing various sectors of the economy. This initiative includes the provision of digital infrastructure, expansion of broadband connectivity, and promotion of digital literacy, further fostering entrepreneurship.
9. Market Potential: Pakistan is the world’s fifth-most populous country, offering a substantial domestic market for startups to target. With a growing middle class and increasing internet penetration, there is a rising demand for innovative products and services, presenting a lucrative opportunity for entrepreneurs.
10. Cultural Shift: There has been a cultural shift in Pakistan, with a greater acceptance and support for entrepreneurship. As more success stories emerge, aspiring entrepreneurs are inspired to take risks and pursue their own ventures, creating a positive cycle of growth.

These factors combined have contributed to the boom in Pakistan’s entrepreneurial culture, making it an attractive destination for investors seeking promising opportunities.

2. Pakistan is considered as one of the most fertile economies in Asia. What kind of support does it require to harness the full potential?

Pakistan does indeed have significant potential for economic growth and development. To harness its full potential, the country requires support in several key areas:

1. Infrastructure Development: Adequate infrastructure is crucial for economic growth. Pakistan needs to invest in the development of transportation networks, including roads, railways, ports, and airports, to improve connectivity within the country and enhance trade links with neighbouring regions. Furthermore, investments in energy infrastructure, such as power generation and transmission systems, are essential to address the energy shortfall and ensure a reliable supply of electricity.
2. Education and Skills Development: Investing in education and skills development is vital for building a competitive workforce. Pakistan needs to focus on improving the quality of education at all levels, emphasising science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects. Additionally, vocational training programs should be expanded to equip individuals with the skills needed for various industries and to bridge the gap between academia and industry requirements.
3. Entrepreneurship and Innovation Support: Promoting entrepreneurship and innovation is crucial for economic diversification and job creation. Pakistan should continue to provide support to startups, such as access to funding, incubation and acceleration programs, and mentorship. Creating an enabling regulatory environment, simplifying business registration processes, and protecting intellectual property rights are also important to encourage entrepreneurial activities.
4. Access to Finance: Access to finance remains a significant challenge for businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Pakistan needs to develop and strengthen its financial sector, making it easier for businesses to access credit and investment. This can be achieved by promoting inclusive banking, fostering the growth of venture capital and private equity firms, and establishing alternative financing mechanisms, such as crowdfunding and angel investment networks.
5. Governance and Institutional Reforms: Strengthening governance and improving the efficiency and transparency of institutions are critical for attracting investments and fostering economic growth. Pakistan should focus on enhancing the rule of law, combating corruption, and streamlining bureaucratic processes. Additionally, ensuring policy stability and predictability is essential to build investor confidence and attract both domestic and foreign investment.
6. Regional Integration: Pakistan’s strategic geographical location provides an opportunity for increased regional trade and economic integration. Strengthening regional cooperation through initiatives like the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and expanding trade agreements with neighboring countries can open up new markets, boost exports, and attract foreign direct investment (FDI).
7. Social Sector Development: Investments in social sectors, such as healthcare, sanitation, and social welfare, are crucial for human development and poverty alleviation. Ensuring access to quality healthcare services, improving sanitation infrastructure, and implementing targeted social safety net programs will contribute to improving the overall well-being of the population and creating a healthier and more productive workforce.
8. Digital Transformation: Embracing digital technologies and promoting digital literacy can have a transformative impact on Pakistan’s economy. Expanding access to high-speed internet, encouraging e-commerce, and supporting the growth of the digital economy will enable businesses to leverage technology for efficiency, innovation, and market reach.

Addressing these areas of support will help Pakistan unlock its full economic potential, promote sustainable and inclusive growth, and improve the standard of living for its citizens. Collaboration between the government, private sector, civil society, and international partners is crucial in implementing these initiatives effectively.

3. What are the factors that Global VCs and investors could tap into from a promising working class of the country?

Pakistan’s promising working class offers several factors that can attract global venture capitalists (VCs) and investors:

1. Young and Growing Workforce: Pakistan has a large and young working-age population. According to the World Bank, over 60% of Pakistan’s population is below the age of 30. This demographic advantage provides a vast pool of talent and labor for businesses. The young workforce is often eager to learn, adapt to new technologies, and contribute to economic growth.
2. Cost-Effective Labor: Compared to many other countries, labor costs in Pakistan are relatively lower. This cost advantage can be attractive for businesses looking to optimize operational expenses, especially in labor-intensive industries. The availability of affordable labor can enhance profitability and competitiveness for companies operating in sectors such as manufacturing, textiles, and services.
3. Technical Skills and Specialization: Pakistan has a strong educational base, with numerous technical institutes, engineering universities, and IT academies producing a skilled workforce. The country has a reputation for producing talented software developers, engineers, and other professionals. The technical skills and specialization of the working class make them valuable assets for technology-based startups and companies seeking expertise in fields like software development, artificial intelligence, and data analytics.
4. English Proficiency: English is widely spoken and understood in Pakistan, particularly among the educated and working population. This language advantage allows seamless communication and collaboration with international businesses and investors. The working class’s English proficiency facilitates smoother integration into global markets and enables them to work effectively with international teams.
5. Entrepreneurial Spirit: Pakistan’s working class is increasingly embracing entrepreneurship and taking the initiative to start their own ventures. This entrepreneurial spirit is fueling the growth of startups across various sectors, including technology, e-commerce, fintech, and more. Global VCs and investors can tap into this entrepreneurial ecosystem by providing funding, mentorship, and market access to promising Pakistani startups.
6. Market Access: Pakistan’s large population and growing middle class present a significant consumer market. The working class forms a substantial portion of the consumer base, with rising disposable incomes and changing consumption patterns. Global investors can tap into this market potential by investing in consumer-oriented businesses, retail, e-commerce platforms, and consumer-focused services.
7. Diaspora Engagement: Pakistan has a substantial diaspora population living in various parts of the world. The Pakistani diaspora, particularly in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Middle East, maintains strong connections with their home country. This diaspora engagement can be leveraged by global VCs and investors to access networks, market insights, and potential investment opportunities in Pakistan.
8. Government Support: The Pakistani government has been actively promoting investment and business-friendly policies to attract global investors. Initiatives like the establishment of special economic zones, ease of doing business reforms, and investor-friendly regulations have been implemented to facilitate foreign direct investment (FDI). Government support and incentives can provide additional confidence and security to global VCs and investors exploring opportunities in Pakistan.

By tapping into the promising working class of Pakistan, global VCs and investors can benefit from the country’s talented workforce, cost advantages, entrepreneurial energy, and market potential. Collaborating with local entrepreneurs and startups can help unlock new opportunities, drive innovation, and contribute to the economic growth of Pakistan while generating returns for investors.

4. How can Tech Summit 2023 become a breakthrough for the spirit of entrepreneurship in Pakistan?

The Tech Summit 2023 has the potential to become a breakthrough for the spirit of entrepreneurship in Pakistan by creating a platform that fosters collaboration, innovation, and investment opportunities. Here are several ways in which the Tech Summit can contribute to the entrepreneurial ecosystem:

1. Showcasing Success Stories: The Tech Summit can feature successful entrepreneurs and startups from Pakistan and around the world. By highlighting their stories and achievements, the summit can inspire aspiring entrepreneurs, instilling a sense of possibility and motivation. Success stories can demonstrate that entrepreneurship is a viable and rewarding path, encouraging more individuals to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions.
2. Knowledge Sharing and Mentorship: The Tech Summit can organize panels, workshops, and keynote sessions where experienced entrepreneurs, industry experts, and investors share their insights, experiences, and expertise. This knowledge sharing can provide valuable guidance to budding entrepreneurs, offering practical advice on various aspects of starting and scaling a business. Additionally, the summit can facilitate mentorship programs, connecting experienced entrepreneurs with aspiring ones for personalized guidance and support.
3. Networking Opportunities: The Tech Summit can bring together entrepreneurs, investors, industry leaders, and policymakers from Pakistan and abroad. Networking sessions, matchmaking events, and interactive sessions can provide valuable opportunities for entrepreneurs to connect with potential investors, partners, and mentors. Building a strong network is crucial for entrepreneurs, as it can open doors to funding, partnerships, and collaboration.
4. Investor Engagement: The Tech Summit can attract global venture capitalists, angel investors, and corporate investment arms looking for promising opportunities in Pakistan. By showcasing the potential of the local startup ecosystem, the summit can create a platform for entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas and businesses to potential investors. The presence of investors can spur funding opportunities, leading to the growth and scalability of startups.
5. International Collaboration: The Tech Summit can serve as a catalyst for international collaboration between Pakistani startups and global companies, organizations, and research institutions. Partnerships and collaborations can provide startups with access to international markets, technology transfer, and knowledge exchange. Collaborative initiatives can help Pakistani entrepreneurs expand their reach and tap into global resources, expertise, and networks.
6. Policy Dialogue: The Tech Summit can host policy discussions and dialogues involving government representatives, industry leaders, and entrepreneurs. These discussions can focus on identifying policy barriers and suggesting reforms that can enhance the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The summit can provide a platform to discuss and address regulatory challenges, promote ease of doing business, and create an enabling environment for startups and entrepreneurs.
7. Startup Showcasing and Pitch Competitions: The Tech Summit can organize startup showcases and pitch competitions, allowing entrepreneurs to present their ideas and businesses to a broader audience. These platforms provide visibility and exposure to startups, helping them attract attention from investors, potential customers, and partners. Recognizing and rewarding the most promising startups can further motivate and incentivize entrepreneurship.
8. Access to Resources and Support: The Tech Summit can facilitate access to resources and support services for entrepreneurs. This can include providing information about incubators, accelerators, funding programs, mentorship networks, and other resources available for startups. By connecting entrepreneurs with these support systems, the summit can ensure that the spirit of entrepreneurship is nurtured beyond the event itself.

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By incorporating these elements, the Tech Summit 2023 can become a breakthrough for the spirit of entrepreneurship in Pakistan, creating an ecosystem that encourages innovation, collaboration, and investment. The summit has the potential to inspire, connect, and equip entrepreneurs with the tools and resources they need to succeed, ultimately contributing to the growth of the entrepreneurial culture in Pakistan.

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5. What are the challenges undertaken by Craftooo to boost the business sector in the region?

Certainly! Here are the challenges that Craftooo, as a hypothetical organization providing support and services to startups and entrepreneurs in the region, could undertake to boost the business sector:

1. Entrepreneurship Education and Training: Craftooo can focus on providing comprehensive education and training programs to aspiring entrepreneurs. This can include workshops, seminars, and courses covering various aspects of starting and running a business. By equipping entrepreneurs with the necessary knowledge and skills, Craftooo can help them navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship more effectively.
2. Access to Funding and Investment: Craftooo can play a crucial role in connecting startups with potential investors and facilitating access to funding. This can involve organizing pitch events, networking sessions, and investor meetups to create opportunities for startups to showcase their ideas and attract investment. Craftooo can also provide guidance and support in preparing business proposals and financial models to increase the chances of securing funding.
3. Mentorship and Guidance: Startups often benefit from guidance and mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs and industry experts. Craftooo can establish mentorship programs, matching startups with mentors who have relevant industry knowledge and expertise. These mentors can provide valuable insights, offer advice, and share their experiences to help startups navigate challenges and make informed decisions.
4. Market Access and Expansion: Craftooo can assist startups in accessing new markets and expanding their customer base. This can involve providing market research and analysis, identifying target markets, and offering strategic guidance on market entry and expansion strategies. Craftooo can also facilitate networking opportunities and partnerships to help startups establish connections and collaborations with potential customers and business partners.
5. Policy Advocacy: Craftooo can engage with policymakers and advocate for policies that promote a conducive business environment for startups. This can include addressing regulatory challenges, advocating for simplified bureaucratic processes, and recommending policy reforms that encourage entrepreneurship, innovation, and business growth.
6. Technology Adoption and Digital Transformation: Craftooo can focus on helping startups embrace technology and leverage digital transformation for their businesses. This can include providing training and support in areas such as e-commerce platforms, digital marketing, data analytics, and automation. By promoting the adoption of digital technologies, Craftooo can help startups enhance their competitiveness and access new growth opportunities.
7. Networking and Collaboration: Craftooo can foster a strong network and facilitate collaboration among entrepreneurs, investors, industry experts, and service providers. This can be achieved through organizing networking events, industry conferences, and collaborative platforms where stakeholders can connect, share knowledge, and explore potential synergies. By building a vibrant startup ecosystem, Craftooo can create an environment conducive to collaboration and collective growth.

It’s important to note that Craftooo is a hypothetical organization, and the specific challenges it would undertake may vary based on its focus and objectives. The challenges listed above provide a general framework for how an organization like Craftooo could support and boost the business sector in the region.

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