Youth Skills

COPAIR and GEN Pakistan held 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, nonprofit 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 policy dialogue, COPAIR launched its StartUp Pakistan project 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 include 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 was comprised 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 start-ups have even left a mark at the international levels, but the country’s current progress towards start-ups is far below the potential as entrepreneurs are confronted with a number of challenges that hinder the startups to release smooth progression.

Speaking at the occasion, the experts observed that startups ecosystem consists of a society of founders having ideas and skills, young companies with talent pool, incubators with mentors and capital, and the media. These elements or 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,C.E.O 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 and implementation of global issues including diplomacy, peace, interfaith harmony, environment, human rights, health, and education. The 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 aligned with GEN Pakistan’s programs for the 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, the nation has a great potential for growth and creativity.

“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 Entrepreneurs. She said that we are signing an agreement with SAARC Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Dec 2017. Ms. Malik said that startup touches 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 a 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.

President G.E.N, Kashif Mohammad Khan further said that Pakistan needs to be a member of startup nations which has 65 countries as its members. 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 published by GEN Pakistan and COPAIR.

Yousaf Hussain,CEO IGNITE briefed the participants about the steps their institution has taken so far. He said that there are 43 Million internet users in Pakistan. IGNITE is working on setting up local internet station in Pakistan so that our internet traffic will not have to travel to other country. He threw light on the launch of incubation centers throughout Pakistan by his department. He said that one incubation center has been launched in Islamabad. Karachi and Lahore will get these centers in the next year.

He said that we need digital training of our citizens especially youth. About startups, Yousaf Hussain said that this is the world of innovation, we invite and encourage innovative ideas that we examine as feasible and workable before funding and supporting them. He said most of the big companies of present day were startups 20 or 30 years ago. We focus startups as the possible successful company of the future. We are always ready to attract, encourage, fund and train our youth for start ups.

Former Federal Secretary and Tax Ombudsman, Chaudhary Abdul Rauf enlightened the participants about tax issues in the new businesses. He recommended early refunds for the development of new businesses as they are in dire need of funds. He said that when he assumed charge of Federal Tax Ombudsman the refund cases of approximately 250 Billion were pending since long. He pointed out that we have to evolve and agree upon one definition of business. Our authorities are not completely autonomous and different policies are in force on federal and provincial levels.

Dr Shaheena Waheed, Representative of United Nations Industrial Organization (UNIDO) said that our organization seeks innovative ideas from the youth of Pakistan on clean energy technology every year. The winners receive awards and visit Silicon Valley for further information and knowledge. She said that there is no clean energy technology in Pakistan. Therefore we support innovative ideas in this field. For startups, she recommended to establish SME centers where government can provide consultancy and training. She said that UNIDO will start SME awards and will set up Renewable Energy Fund. She appreciated IGNITE’s endeavors for supporting the youth entrepreneurs.

Vice President Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce, Masooma Sibtain presented the state of affairs in southern Punjab and Multan region as she hails from the area. She said that 20% of handicrafts of Pakistan are manufactured in this area. The first woman chamber of commerce was established in Multan in 2008. More than 50% women are in startups. Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority formulated a policy in 2007 but it contained nothing for women. Only a small portion can be found in present policy but that is about jewelery sector only. Women run Small and Medium Enterprises are totally ignored. She assured full support for startups from FPCCI.

Sheharyar Haydri, Secretary General Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA) said that Pakistan has enormous talents in software and IT sector. Our organization has shifted our headquarters from Karachi to Islamabad for betterment of these sectors and to reach out to more talent and policy makers. He said our youth can not do business in an environment where they are surrounded by corrupt bureaucracy and tax officials. Our pool of entrepreneurs is ready to be registered in tax net but harassment cannot be endured.

Mr Faisal from NUST Incubation Project apprised the stakeholders about the preparation of young students for future challenges. The participants emphasized upon the concerned authorities, the federal and provincial governments of Pakistan to look into the arrangements of training, funding, supporting and securing the startup sector if we intend to give our youth a bright future that will also bring peace and economic stability in the country.