Author: Khan Babrak Yousafzai
Entrepreneurship, especially as regards the startup business, is fast becoming an important part of the global economy. In fact, entrepreneurship is so highly prized nowadays that policy makers are formulating new strategies around this concept. Developing countries are at the forefront of adopting this culture and Pakistan is not very far behind in the race. During the past one decade many incubation centres have been established in the country to make entrepreneurship attractive for the youth. But there is a dire need to integrate startup entrepreneurship into the Pakistani education system if we have to gain advantage from the billion dollar global industry that the startups collectively represent.
Entrepreneurship Culture in Pakistan – Past and Present
Even though the Pakistani government is now investing in entrepreneurship, the margin for improvement is still there. According to a report compiled by Global Entrepreneurship Monitor in 2011, a large number of people in Pakistan were not inclined towards entrepreneurship. The report also showed that the rate of new business ownership in Pakistan was just 1.78%, which was far less than the average of its peer countries.
Back then, the factors behind such a weak entrepreneurial culture in Pakistan bordered on high probability of failure owing to lack of funds, absence of government support, lack of entrepreneurial training programmes in the country, and lack of academic involvement towards supporting entrepreneurship education in schools, colleges and universities. Luckily, things are changing for the better now as Pakistan is waking up to countless opportunities presented by startups.
Presently, entrepreneurship is gaining roots in Pakistan, thus allowing the youth to step into the startup game. Similarly, a steady growth in the number of platforms in Pakistan that support entrepreneurship has been witnessed in the past three years. But the greatest support is coming from educational institutions that are introducing entrepreneurship in curriculum to give a head start to students looking to develop their analytical and business skills.
Catalyst for Entrepreneurship in Pakistan
In recent developments, the rise of new organisations and institutions in Pakistan to support entrepreneurial undertakings is finally taking the country in the right direction.
Today the local entrepreneurial ecosystem in Pakistan is taking firm roots with the establishment of business incubation centres, startup accelerators and other support systems. Two distinct platforms available in Pakistan in this connection include the likes of Plan9 (incubator) and PlanX (accelerator). These initiatives were launched by the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) in 2014.
Importance of Startup Entrepreneurship in Curriculum
There is a need to upgrade educational curriculum in Pakistan to make it relevant to the technological trends of modern times. By doing so students can be taught to sharpen their analytical skills and enable themselves to develop critical thinking.
Some educational institutions in Pakistan have taken the lead to promote entrepreneurship in all its glory.
Student-controlled entrepreneurship societies are emerging in Pakistani universities with the mission to promote entrepreneurial activity. For instance, the LUMS Entrepreneurial Society (LES) conducts the annual Young Leaders and Entrepreneurs Summit which receives competing teams from all over Pakistan. Now, Beaconhouse National University (BNU) has also made it to the list of universities that have independent entrepreneurship societies.
Apart from this, the culture of business incubation centres in Pakistani universities now stand on solid ground. Till now, twelve universities have established their incubation centres in Pakistan, according to Invest2Innovate statistics. Among these, four centres each are present in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad.
Off To An Early Start
In 2015, Lahore’s well-renowned startup incubator Plan9 had launched Whizkids Summer Camp Programme with the aim to impart technical knowledge to school-going children in connection with coding, graphic designing, mobile application development, marketing, entrepreneurship and leadership skills development, and videography.
This and other similar initiatives are essential to introduce students to entrepreneurship at an early stage in their education and allow kids to think in terms of technological advancement. Such initiatives will also boost the confidence of schools and help them include startup entrepreneurship in their curriculum in order to introduce future generations to this concept early on in life.
Indigenous Startup Success Stories
In the past few years Pakistani youth have successfully developed some of the most dynamic startups out there. One such initiative is Markhor that sells hand-made, premium-quality leather shoes.
Another noteworthy startup from Pakistan, namely Zameen.com. Just recently, Zameen received $29 million investment to further the cause of digitizing real estate dealings. It also has the honour of being Pakistan’s biggest property portal.
Patari is another startup from Pakistan which has the potential to grow into something big. It is a music streaming website that boasts of a large collection of Pakistani melodies – old and new. The startup secured $200,000 seed investment in December last year which will help the initiative expand further.
Another noteworthy indigenous startup is Wifigen, a startup that provides WiFi solutions for businesses in exchange for social media logins. At the moment the company is valued at $1 million.
After struggling to find a distinct relationship between entrepreneurial activity and the education industry, leaders belonging to the entrepreneurship club in Pakistan have managed to bring these two industries together. The overlapping of entrepreneurship with the education system has shifted the focus towards forming a mutually inclusive model which can further help develop the startup ecosystem in Pakistan and take it to new heights.
About The Author:
Khan Babrak Yousafzai is a journalist and a real estate analyst at Zameen.com. He has a keen eye for the UAE property market and occasionally writes travelogues of his adventures about less travelled places. He is writer by day and an avid reader by night.