NIC LUMS Initiates ‘Entrepreneur in Conversation’ series; Strengthens Foundation Council

DECEMBER 30: The National Incubation Centre Lahore (NICL) at LUMS is on a renewed mission to contribute to Pakistan’s economic development by promoting innovation and entrepreneurship. Its latest initiative, the ‘Entrepreneur in Conversation’ series, features some of Pakistan’s brightest entrepreneurial minds discussing their innovative solutions to combat the country’s many challenges.

The talks are helmed by Saleem Ahmad, Chairman NICL. “We hope that these informal and interactive sessions will serve as an opportunity to learn from entrepreneurs who are solving Pakistan’s big problems, and thereby creating lasting impact. In the process, we hope to inspire a generation of young problem-solvers who can learn from these entrepreneurs’ path-breaking journeys,” Mr. Ahmad commented.

Through this series, NICL is aiming to provide young entrepreneurs a platform to engage directly with industry leaders and learn first-hand from their start-up journeys. The speaker series highlights their failures and successes, and more importantly, how they overcame challenges to create enduring success. These innovators, disruptors, and visionaries have succeeded in impacting industries, and have built companies that are positively changing the way society operates. These talks are available on NICL’s Facebook page and websites.

The inaugural session, held on December 22, featured Usman Javaid, Co-Founder and CEO of Ricult Inc., who talked about his journey of establishing an agriculture technology start-up. This LUMS and MIT-educated innovator is transforming the agriculture sector by helping farmers escape the cycle of poverty, through the use of data analytics, which supports financial inclusion for smallholder farmers in Pakistan and Thailand.

The second talk on December 28, showcased the experiences of an artificial intelligence expert and NICL Advisory Board member, Dr. Ayesha Khanna, Co-Founder and CEO of ADDO AI. Named one of South East Asia’s groundbreaking female entrepreneurs, Dr. Khanna is not only a strategic advisor on artificial intelligence, smart cities and fintech to leading corporations and governments, but also a published author and a featured speaker at major financial and technology conferences. She spoke about Pakistan’s opportunity for advancement with AI and passionately advocated for gender parity in technology.

The third talk, held on December 30, with Qasif Shahid, CEO and Co-founder of Finja, a fintech start-up and member, NICL Foundation Council, had Mr. Shahid share how his company is digitally disrupting and democratising lending in a PKR 10 trillion Pakistani market with very low penetration levels. He broke the news about Finja’s successful US$9 million raise from bluechip fintech funds who have invested in Pakistan for the first time.

Upcoming sessions feature Suneel Sarfraz Munj, Co-Founder of PakWheels.com, on January 1, and Shabahat Ali Shah, CEO, National Information Technology Board on January 4.

Additionally, NICL has further strengthened its Foundation Council (FC) with experts in agriculture, financial inclusion, e-commerce, and venture investment. The new members include Faisal Aftab, Managing Partner and Executive Director of Lakson Venture Capital, who has over 15 years of investment experience, and is a limited partner of 500 Startups, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital fund, and a Board Member of many Pakistan based start-ups, including Bookme.pk, MandiExpress.pk, KnowledgePlatform.com, Bagallery.com and Roomy.pk.

LUMS alum, Usman Javaid, Co-Founder and CEO of Ricult Inc., has also joined the FC. Mr. Javaid has extensive corporate experience in Pakistan with Engro, Nestle and Telenor, where he was part of the team that launched EasyPaisa.

Badar Khushnood, Co-Founder of Fishry.com, a B2C and DTC e-commerce platform empowering businesses and artisans across Pakistan, will also strengthen the FC, with his experience of co-founding Bramerz, a leading full-service digital media and marketing company. He was also the first domestic consultant to global technology companies including Google, Facebook and Twitter, and serves as an Executive-in-Residence (EIR) at LUMS where he is helping curate the MS in Technology Management & Entrepreneurship programme.

The Foundation Council, together with the NIC Advisory Board, will provide guidance to the Foundation Programme by helping coach, mentor and train its sixth cohort of aspiring entrepreneurs. At present 37 start-ups from Lahore and 20 at BUITEMS in Quetta have been inducted to NICL’s Foundation Programme, which comprises a redesigned curriculum delivered by LUMS faculty and international technical experts across six intensive bootcamps.

Funded by Ignite, the Foundation is an immersive six-month long programme designed to help young Pakistani entrepreneurs develop their ideas into an investor-ready business plan and benefit from a network of experts and business leaders, culminating in a capstone Investor Summit.

LUMS Appoints NIC’s Foundation Council

Furthering its mission of training a generation of future business leaders, the National Incubation Centre (NIC) at LUMS is delighted to appoint a new Foundation Council (FC), comprising of leadership of some of the most successful Pakistani start-ups. “NIC is thrilled to elicit support from Pakistani role model entrepreneurs for our future generation of problem solvers. I’m confident that our continued efforts to connect ideas with people and capital will yield positive outcomes for Pakistan”, said Saleem Ahmad, Chairman, NIC Advisory Board, speaking of the formation of the Council.

Making up the Council, are dynamic Pakistani entrepreneurs and investors including: Aatif Awan, Founder and Managing Partner of Indus Valley Capital, a Pakistan-focused early stage Venture Capital fund that has led investment rounds for Atoms, Airlift, Aimfit and Bazaar; Saba Gul, Founder and CEO of Popinjay, an ethical e-commerce retailer with a supply chain spanning Pakistan, Vietnam and China. MIT-educated engineer turned entrepreneur, she was most recently a Director of Product at VentureDive, a technology studio in Karachi; Hamza Iqbal, Founder of Healthwire, a health-tech start-up incubated at NIC LUMS (formerly LCE) which has raised US$700,000 from 47 Ventures; Junaid Iqbal, former Managing Director of Careem Pakistan and Careem Pay, is an investor and partner at Mentors Fund, and Chairman of Salt Arts, a music, art and entertainment agency; Muneeb Maayr, Founder at Bykea, the largest network of motorbikes serving on-demand transport, logistics and payment services in Pakistan. Previously, Maayr was Co-Founder and CEO at Daraz.pk, Pakistan’s leading ecommerce platform, acquired by Alibaba Group, and Qasif Shahid, CEO and Co-Founder of Finja, a fintech start-up focused on providing accessible financial services to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and their stakeholders. The Council will be joined by NIC Advisory Board members Saleem Ahmad, Zehra Hyder Ali and Ali Mukhtar.

The Foundation Council, together with the NIC Advisory Board, will provide guidance to the Foundation programme by selecting its sixth cohort of aspiring entrepreneurs from a large and diverse pool of applicants; and coaching, mentoring and connecting them for success. Funded by Ignite, the Foundation is an immersive six-months long programme designed to help young Pakistani entrepreneurs develop their ideas into an investor-ready business plan, benefit from a network of experts and business leaders, culminating in a capstone Investor Summit.

The renewed vision for NIC is focused on problem solving in high impact areas for Pakistan—agriculture, education, environment, health, financial inclusion and applications using machine learning and artificial intelligence—with success determined as fundraising for growth. “Raising capital from investors is incontrovertible evidence of commercial viability and conviction in the entrepreneur team, and our new FC embodies just that”, commented Saleem Ahmad, about the choice of council members. Dr. Alnoor Bhimani, Dean, School of Business, LUMS, added, “Our start-up community has a lot to learn from the successes and mistakes of our FC members in navigating to great success; while FC members will have a gratifying engagement with the next generation of innovators and an opportunity to contribute to their success.”

NIC Lahore aims to build a comprehensive entrepreneurial ecosystem, with LUMS at its epicentre, and support of Ignite, Ministry of Information, Technology and Telecom, and Fatima Ventures, to help maximize the growth potential of Pakistani entrepreneurs. NIC’s renewed vision expands upon the LUMS ‘Learning without Borders’ agenda that aims to create an environment of inclusion, unity, and boundless knowledge to develop innovators, leaders and change-makers who can contribute to the community and economic development of Pakistan.

NIC Announces Appointment of Advisory Board

The National Incubation Centre (NIC) at LUMS is pleased to announce the appointment of its Advisory Board, chaired by Mr. Saleem Ahmad, Senior Advisor at Afiniti, world’s largest applied artificial intelligence company. He, along with a strong team, will bring extensive leadership and expertise in entrepreneurship to both NIC Lahore and NIC Quetta.

Mr. Ahmad is an alumnus of LUMS, LSE and Wharton and brings over 25 years of experience in investing and managing private equity, hedge and venture funds globally. Other members of the Board include Dr. Ayesha Khanna, Co-founder and CEO of ADDO AI; Ms. Zehra Hyder Ali, Founder and CEO Ghonsla; Mr. Ali Mukhtar, Founder and CEO Fatima Ventures; and Mr. Ahmed Hussain, Director and Chief Strategy Officer at Service Sales Corporation. Dr. Alnoor Bhimani, Dean Suleman Dawood School of Business, LUMS, will continue to provide oversight as NIC’s Interim Director.

The NIC offers incubation and acceleration programmes for innovative businesses. The Centre’s vision encompasses the creation of stronger linkages with LUMS’ Centres, academic programmes, faculty and students; the incubation of start-ups with strong potential for growth and impact; and enabling entrepreneurs to enter partnerships with domestic and international organisations. The renewed vision for NIC focuses on developing high impact solutions for Pakistan in the areas of agriculture, education, environment, financial inclusion, health, and applications based on artificial intelligence and machine learning.

NIC’s on-going recruitment campaign for its sixth cohort of start-ups also aims to highlight these opportunities for future incubation (for details please see: www.niclahore.com/apply).

NIC will engage participation in programmes to power the formation of innovative and dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystems in Pakistan. It will be establishing its footprint as the leading incubator, accelerator and entrepreneurial hub in the nation. The Advisory Board and its emergent strategies for NIC will strengthen the LUMS community, help the country’s entrepreneurial space, and boost its economy and global stature. NIC looks forward to opportunities for collaboration within LUMS and beyond.

About NIC
The National Incubation Centre (NIC) is contributing to the economic development of Pakistan by promoting entrepreneurship, especially among youth and low-income communities at the risk of social and financial exclusion. Launched under the partnership of Ministry of Information and Technology and Telecom, Ignite, Fatima Ventures and LUMS, the NIC Lahore regularly conducts training workshops to kindle the spirit of entrepreneurship in the youth of Pakistan. The centres both at Lahore and Quetta foster creativity, design and encourage selected incubatees to develop companies that have high growth potential.

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