COPAIR and GEN Pakistan hold joint Policy Dialogue on StartUP Pakistan


Strengthening Startup community through effective capacity building

A Policy Dialogue on Startup Pakistan brought together government organizations, technology firms, non-profit organizations, mainstream media and emerging entrepreneurs to discuss policy matters related to startups. The policy dialogue was jointly organized by Center of Pakistan and International Relations (COPAIR) in collaboration with Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Pakistan. On the Side lines of the policy dialogue, COPAIR launched its project, StartUp Pakistan which aims to provide an effective platform for the new startups and young entrepreneurs to grow their potential through result oriented capacity building.

The dialogue informed the participants regarding the current status of startups in Pakistan while highlighting major challenges that the startup businesses have to face. The panel of seasoned expert speakers spoke at the occasion which included President COPAIR and CEO StartUP Pakistan Ms. Amna Malik, Managing Director GEN Kashif Mohammad Khan, CEO IGNITE Yousaf Hussain, former Federal Secretary and Tax Ombudsman Chaudhary Abdul Rauf, Representative of United Nations Industrial Organization(UNIDO) Dr. Shaheena Waheed, Vice President Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry Masooma Sibtain, Secretary General Pakistan Software Houses Association Sheharyar Haydri (P@SHA) and Representative NUST Incubation Project Mr. Faisal. The audience comprised of IT experts, entrepreneurs, NGOs’ heads and youth representatives.

The panel provided detail insight into the ways of achieving economic success, enhancing entrepreneurial culture, acquiring capital and training the required human capital. The panel noted that some of the Pakistani startups have even left a mark at the international levels, but the country’s current progress towards startups is far below the potential as entrepreneurs are confronted with a number of challenges that hinder the startups to release smooth progression. The panelists said that we need digital training of our citizens especially youth, this is the world of innovation, we invite and encourage innovative ideas that we deem as feasible and workable before funding and supporting them.

Speaking at the occasion, the experts observed that startup ecosystem consists of a society of founders having ideas and skills, young companies with talent pool, incubators with mentors and capital, and the media. Entities link, interact and assist each other in strengthening the ecosystem while increasing their own worth in the ecosystem. Many Pakistani entrepreneurs have initiated startups that have attracted nationwide appeal while attracting international awards. Despite possessing all the required ingredients of success, Pakistan still lags behind many countries in establishing startups.

StartUp Pakistan is a project initiated for the same objective by Amna Malik, CEO of COPAIR which hosted the dialogue. The policy dialogue invited stakeholders from Public and Private sectors for policy discussion for StartUp Pakistan in particular and startups in general. Complete conformity was found among all the speakers that Government should formulate a policy to guide and fund the young entrepreneurs who intend to start up their own ventures.

The Center of Pakistan and International Relations (COPAIR), headed by Ms. Amna Malik, is a strategic think tank working on policy formulation and implementation of global issues including diplomacy, peace, interfaith harmony, environment, human rights, health, and education. COPAIR is a non-governmental, non-profit welfare organization with a key focus on women rights.

In her introductory speech, President COPAIR Amna Malik highlighted the youth and entrepreneurial initiatives introduced and managed by COPAIR along with positive outcomes and results brought about in the promotion of trade and investment activities in the country, especially among the young entrepreneurs. She also highlighted major achievements of her organization while sharing some success stories. She said that COPAIR has now partnered with GEN Pakistan’s programs for further promotion of initiatives to broaden the span of activities to bring more and more young entrepreneurs in the mainstream business sector.

While briefing the participants, she said that startups were business ventures that aimed to target the existing markets with latest trends and modern practices. The growing culture of entrepreneurial activities in Pakistan in the past few years is on a steady rise. With a massive population of youth, our nation has a great potential for growth and creativity. She said most of the present day big companies were startups 20 or 30 years ago. We focus startups as successful companies of the future. We are always ready to attract, encourage, fund and train our youth for start ups.

“The goal for any startup ecosystem is to develop a self-sustaining network of talent and resources that seek to cater to the problems affecting a wider community. Emerging startups are set to explore the market for product fitting under circumstances of tremendous ambiguity. Alternatively, mature startups are designed to look for cyclical and scalable business model and then move into bigger companies incorporated to operate under conditions of high certainty” she added.

Ms. Amna Malik told the participants that we are working on women empowerment as well. She referred to her project E-Women in which women are trained to sell their handicrafts through E-Business via online portals. She said that our youth initiative has been launched in consultation with Islamabad Chambers of Commerce and Industry and we work with Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises. She said that we are going to sign an agreement with SAARC Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Dec 2017. Ms. Malik said that startups lie close to our heart and we are here to extend any type of support for that purpose.

Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Pakistan is Pakistan Chapter of Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) USA which operates as platform of projects and programs in 170 countries aimed at making it easier for anyone, anywhere to start and scale a business.

Managing Director GEN Pakistan, Kashif M Khan talked about “Startup Nations,” an initiative of Global Entrepreneurship Network USA, which had more than 65 member countries and now startup Pakistan has linked to Startup Nations as a member. “By fostering deeper cross-border collaborations and initiatives between entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, policymakers and entrepreneurial support organizations, GEN works to fuel healthier start and scale ecosystems that create more jobs, educate individuals, accelerate innovation and strengthen economic growth. GEN helps celebrate, understand, support and connect entrepreneurs and those who champion them,” he added.

Managing Director GEN Pakistan, Kashif Mohammad Khan further said that Pakistan needs to be a member of “Startup Nations” Every year in November GEN hosts a world level activity on startups. This year, India is hosting an entrepreneurship summit in November. He further added that we are working on bringing this flagship event to Pakistan for which we need support from the Government. Pakistan needs policy formation by taking all stakeholders on board.

The introduction was followed by a moderated discussion on challenges, gaps and way forward on startup related policies and their implementation. A report based on recommendations from policy dialogue will be published by GEN Pakistan and COPAIR.

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About Dr. Lubna Umar 10 Articles
The author is the Editor of Mélange Intl. Magazine and The Asian Telegraph & Research Associate Center of Pakistan & International Relations (COPAIR).