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The startup culture in Pakistan
By: Asif Javed
The eco-system required for start-ups was developed in most modern countries over a long time, while in Pakistan this development has been made in the last ten years or so. Back in 2006the country had zero incubation centres, yet now there are twelve, along with five accelerator programs and nine investment platforms
The rise of start-ups began a few years back, and now the trend has spread all across the world. Pakistan observed a start-up boom in 2012, after which an exponential growth has been observed in a number of start-ups in the country. We can observe new initiatives, ranging from technology to education and health services. These start-ups have changed the conventional pattern of thinking amongst the youth, and provided them with new inspiration for development, where they can earn on their own and do not need to remain dependent on jobs or the support of their parents for survival.
The eco-system required for start-ups was developed in most modern countries over the course of 25-30 years. However, in Pakistan this development has been made in the last ten years or so, and can primarily be seen since 2006. Back then, the country had zero incubation centres, yet now there are twelve, along with five accelerator programs and nine investment platforms. Keeping this trend in mind, even better prospects can be imagined for the coming future.
After the 18th amendment, provincial authority has increased, which is good development with regards to start-ups. This is because provinces compete with each other when it comes to their performances in different sectors, and if one has enjoyed success with a specific policy than others will replicate it as well, improving the state of affairs across the country as a whole. These developments can prove to be helpful for producing a conducive environment for start-ups as well.
At the moment, it is mostly the youth from urban areas of our country that are taking advantage of the benefits of the platforms and opportunities for start-ups, whereas those from the rural areas do not have the same chances. Gender parity is also quite a lot higher in Lahore and Karachi.
The network of incubation centres and investment platforms should also be expanded to rural areas so that new initiatives from deprived areas can also be linked with major markets. This will also ensure the involvement of more women from micro level enterprises, which will help in decreasing gender imbalances
If we look into the problems that hinder start-ups and the factors that lead to their success, then there are several things that need to be taken in to account. These include poor execution of ideas and a lack of branding, as well as funding for specific projects. Another problem is a lack of coordination, as most start-ups prefer to work alone, without looking for advice or direction in their early stages. Lack of access to quality, early stage capital, payments and flow of cash can be a huge impediment for successful start-ups, while diversification amongst start-ups can also pose problems. At the moment, most start-ups are in the field of information technology, education and health, and there needs to be greater diversity for this sector to truly flourish.
There are external challenges as well, that can affect the success of start-ups, including legal issues pertaining to the lack of enforcement of intellectual property rights. Government subsidies are also not available for start-ups, whereas policy measures are quite weak as well, and in most of the cases, even absent altogether. We see that India provides extensive packages for start-ups in its country as compared to Pakistan.
Effective product launching is another area which is missing from the focus of majority start-ups. The start-ups are not able to reach the required customer network, increasing their chances for failure and making it difficult for them to hire highly skilled and experienced labour, which might prefer to work for well established firms instead.
For a start-ups to truly enjoy success, it needs innovation, branding and effective funding. Building fruitful partnerships is also important, especially in the early stages, and there is also a need to minimize the risk for start-ups to enter into the mainframe. In this regard, it is required to ease the barriers for payments, along with a simplification of the registration process, so that more start-ups can be registered. The requirement of a skilled labour force is essential for enhancing the success rate of start-ups, for which training institutes can play a vital role. The taxation policy for start-ups also needs improvement to ease the financial burden on these initiatives.
The network of incubation centres and investment platforms should also be expanded to rural areas so that the new initiatives from deprived areas can also be linked with major markets. This will also ensure the involvement of more women from micro level enterprises, which will help in decreasing gender imbalances.
Pakistan needs such initiatives to be successful, as the number of jobs being created every year is not compatible with the increasing labour force. This will also help the new government in completing their promise to deliver employment to an increasing workforce, and satiate the already large population of unemployed individuals in the country today.

Source: https://dailytimes.com.pk/295049/the-startup-culture-in-pakistan/

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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.