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.

How Pakistan’s startups are rewriting their country’s new story

While the Indian and Pakistani governments were bickering last week about who sets the agenda for NSA talks between the two nations, it so happened that we were having a heart-to-heart chat with some of the stakeholders in the Pakistani startup ecosystem to get an inkling of what is driving the young entrepreneurs there.

What started off as a curious urge to find a startup with Pakistani and Indian co-founders to feature on Independence Day, soon turned into a treasure hunt of sorts with the discovery of one startup after another poised for takeoff.

We found seasoned entrepreneurs who are putting their money where their mouth is by seed funding young startups because no one else will do it. We found a school dropout who is an auto and travel enthusiast and is now instrumental in building the startup community from ground up. We found MBAs from top schools in Pakistan preferring to remain in the country and make a difference, to Cornell graduates who have come back to their country to startup. We found four prodigious talents who have taken the ‘dhaba style’ business and modernised it into a money-spinner. We also met some mentors and leaders, convinced that this is just the beginning of a new Pakistan story.

Says Sahr Said, Founder of BeautyHooked, “I believe Pakistan’s e-commerce sphere is going to create a huge opportunity for tech disruption. There is growth in our Internet penetration, online payment initiatives are mushrooming, and there is growing trust in the online storefronts. It is estimated that by 2017, the size of our e-commerce market will reach over $600 million from its current size of $30 million spent on online purchases annually. So now is the right time to build tech products that solve problems because opportunities are endless if ideas are executed right.”

Looking beyond the threat lens

“We are at a tipping point,” says Khurram Zafar, entrepreneurship evangelist, and Executive Director of the LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship at the prestigious LUMS University, over a late night Skype call from Lahore. He says, “I see it happen sooner than later. We have 120 to 130 million people on mobile, 3G growth is remarkable, and the smartphone population is expanding. The girl, who works in our house, had downloaded Viber on her phone so she could talk to her brother in the village. Today, a lot of vendors are selling smartphones on installments, making it easy for people to own one.”

He points me to his recent blog on why investing in the local economy makes sense. Khurram writes, “This is a great time to enter Pakistan. Equity in technology companies is relatively cheap, assets are portable (predominantly intellectual property) in case one gives too much weight to country risk, operations are already on cloud platforms outside of Pakistan for many, and exit opportunities exist globally. The fundamentals of the on-ground businesses are already very strong. The Karachi Stock Market index has been growing north of 40% for the past few years (30%+ in $ terms) and broke the highest ever 32,000 KSE 100 index points barrier a few days ago. Most of that is driven by foreign investment into rock solid businesses by investors who can see past the FOX news propaganda and realize that the nation, that is often deemed to be on the brink of extinction since its founding in 1947, is as resilient as it is resourceful!”

According to Muhammad Raza Saeed, a seasoned entrepreneur, and Co-founder of PakWheels, which raised the highest funding in its day of $3.5 million, “For the ecosystem to develop you, of course, need to have entrepreneurs with ideas, you need to have capital, and you need to see exits to complete the circle so that when people see more exits more people come in with money and ideas and the ecosystem gets stronger. Interestingly, when we raised this funding, it was the largest disclosed funding round in any Pakistani startup! Yes, $3.5 million was the largest round! And now compare that to India where $100 million was poured in auto portals in a span of a few months!”

Likening the Pakistani startup ecosystem scenario to the one in India in 2010/2011, Raza feels Pakistan is on the same trajectory. Says Raza,

In India, most of the global VCs have set up shop. Softbank and Tiger Global are investing heavily there. But in Pakistan, there is no single VC firm. The scenario can change overnight if the Sequoias, Accels and other venture funds were to open offices here as well.

Raza says that if he were to recall how many Internet startups have raised more than 10 million dollars, his answer will be zero. “If you ask how many have raised more than a million dollars, the answer will be in the range of 10 to 20 startups, the number is still small.”

A techie with a CS degree, Raza, who runs a 300+ people services company, Confiz, in parallel to PakWheels.com, has been helping young entrepreneurs with seed funding. “I had a few exit offers, so one of the options was to take up an early exit and set up a couple of million dollar fund. But I think I am young enough to run for myself a bit now and am not in the mood for retirement, but yes at some point of time if I get some liquidity I would do this because there is so much excitement and opportunity here. In India, it is getting so competitive. There are many startups in the same space be it real estate, auto, e-commerce, food, travel, and other niche players. Compared to that, Pakistan has a green field.”

Raza, who loves visiting India for Nasscom and other networking events, is in constant touch with some entrepreneurs here. Says Raza,

Given the raging tempers on both sides, one thing that an entrepreneur craves is an ecosystem. You feed off other people’s energy. In India, there is a lot of inspiration around which you need when you hit a wall. I have been in touch with many in India, especially Mohit, CEO of Carwale, who really helped us close the funding round. I have met Quickr CEO as well and I find it extremely helpful to seek help from India.

Ripe for investment

In May, Standard and Poor upgraded Pakistan’s credit rating from stable to positive. Moody’s Investors Service upgraded Pakistan’s sovereign credit ratings for the first time since 2008, citing improving foreign-exchange reserves and the government’s economic overhaul under an IMF program.

In an article in ‘Forbes’ in August this year, title: ‘Pakistan: The next Colombia success story’, writer Daniel Runde says, “Pakistan is the world’s 26th largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity. Its national economic growth plan, Vision2025, aims much higher. With 90 percent

of the country employed through SMEs, Pakistan has one of the most entrepreneurial economies in the world. Complete foreign equity is permitted in the infrastructure and manufacturing sectors, helping drive FDI to $1.45 billion in 2013, a 76 percent increase over the previous year but still far too small for such a big country.”

Being the sixth most populous country (200 million population) , Pakistan’s startups’ obvious focus in on consumer based products and services, education, healthcare, job portals, and real estate as opposed to enterprise solutions.

There are startups like interaCta, a startup incubated at the LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship, Lahore, which has developed tech to make all TV and radio broadcast interactive without the need of additional hardware, just requiring smartphones. Eyedeus Labs, another team of LUMS students, recently raised money from Kima Ventures. They are looking to disrupt online video advertisement market by introducing non-intrusive advertisement methods in the videos that do not distract the viewer. Then there is Savaree, BizClout, JewelryDesignPro, P for Plan, King Kashmiri Tea, BeautyHooked.com, RepairDesk and many more. All of these are great investment opportunities seeking capital.

Some growth indicators, according to Khurram

Fast Internet adoption at present estimated to be 25 million Internet users and 15 million mobile Internet users.
Cheap smartphone devices costing under $50.
Growth of 3G and 4G.
Massive amounts of marketing and media spend by companies like Rocket Internet, Schibsted, and Naspers that’s targeted to make Pakistani consumers comfortable transacting online.
Slow but steady investments flowing into startups at seed (e.g. Kima Ventures investment into Eyedeus Labs) and early stage (Frontier Digital Venture’s US 3.5 million investment into PakWheels) from local and foreign angels as well as early-stage funds.
Some exits happening in the tech space are gradually building investor confidence. Although service companies, TRG, NETSOL and most recently Systems Limited have had local IPOs. Product companies like Mixit and Gameview Studios have provided exits to their investors and founders through global acquisitions. GenITeam and Tapinator provided exits to investors through OTC trades.
Development of incubators like The Foundation at LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship, Nest/IO, and Plan9 that are supporting passionate entrepreneurs during their formative years.

Lahore leading from the front

The conversation with Raza digresses to topics related to food, TV serials and films (how can one avoid these while chatting with a Pakistani!). Coming back to the topic, Raza points out that the IT professionals who came back to Pakistan from the US around 2007-2008 and laid the foundation for the new tech startups, mostly returned to Lahore. Hence, Lahore has a better ecosystem in place today with the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) the focal point of most tech disruption. Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan, is more of a trading hub with traditional businesses and banks.

The LUMS Centre of Entrepreneurship that Khurram runs, was established in March 2014 and offers four-and-a-half month programme. In the past two cohorts, 14 companies have graduated. Points out Khurram, “Once you get in you have to earn your right to graduate. It is quite competitive.” Of the 14 startups, 13 are still running and have generated close to 500 direct or indirect jobs, together they have annualised revenue (based on last month’s numbers) of $400,000, have raised $600,000, and have a combined valuation $5 million dollars. “It is small, and nowhere close to what is happening in India, but a healthy start,” says Khurram.

“Most people are coming back for family reasons — either their parents have become old or their daughters are getting older. One of my friends, who runs an e-commerce platform Shopistan, is the man to watch out for. He was with eBay and could well be building Pakistan’s Snapdeal, who knows. He has raised a few hundred dollars in funding and will be raising his next round soon,” says Raza.

Ali Aziz, who runs Shopistan, is oblivious of such a burden bestowed upon him, but is certainly the man VCs should be watching. A graduate of Lahore University in Computer Science, he has worked around the globe from Belgium to Arizona when he was in Amazon and got insight into the e-commerce business, to the UK with eBay where he received the global innovation award.
ShopistanTeam

He came back to Pakistan in Oct-Nov 2012, against the wishes of his British wife, to set up an e-commerce business. “It was a difficult decision. I would talk to large retailers and set up e-commerce sites for them. Simultaneously, we were pitching to VCs also, and we got France-based angel investors Kima Ventures to fund us. Because of the foreign funding, we were able to convince the largest retailers to also put in money on the same terms as Kima.”
Challenging time

According to Ali, there are rumours that Alibaba and Naspers will invest in the e-commerce space in Pakistan. He says,

If politics between India and Pakistan were better, the best capital sourcing could have been from Indian VCs.

The other challenge facing the tech entrepreneurs is finding experienced people to help build the business as the Internet industry is nascent and there are very few people who have gone through the full cycle like in the US or other well-established markets. Says Raza, “Most of the Internet companies in Pakistan are in the early stages. There are no InfoEdges (Naukri) or JustDials or Flipkarts or Housing companies in Pakistan that have really “made” it.”

Ali feels hiring is very difficult. People do not understand the startup culture; they are only looking at higher salary. Ownership is generally missing and so is the entrepreneurial mindset. “We are now looking for follow-on funding and have noticed that people are happy to put money only if someone else is putting in. On the other hand, international VCs ask who our local investors are. It is a chicken and egg problem.”

According to Usman Butt, Founder of RepairDesk, the major challenge he faces right now is people’ resistance to change. They want to stick to their old ways and resist coming out of their comfort zone to try something new and extraordinary. “Many of the clients that are introduced to my services just resist the change it brings despite realizing the change will be for their betterment.”

Jehan Ara, President of Karachi-based P@sha (Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT and ITES) India’s equivalent of Nasscom, and its incubation centre NestIO, tells me, “I am very excited about the startup scenario in Pakistan. Recently, we had 15 startups graduating from our first batch. Out of these, two to three startups are in their final stages of funding negotiations all of them within Pakistan from people who are themselves IT entrepreneurs. The risk capital has to come from them. With investment must come expertise, mentoring and opening up opportunities for them.”

Though several banks have started payment gateways, in the absence of biggies like PayPal, young people are looking at Bitcoins to handle payments.

Kids are not going to wait till the system sorts itself out,

says Jehan Ara.

She says the aspiring young tech entrepreneurs today want to make money but also want to do some social good, adding that many of them meet their counterparts in India online and collaborate.

So even as political tempers flare across the border scuttling any dialogue between the two countries, it is the power of the Internet that is helping create conversations that will hopefully stick.

PROPAKISTANI: Mobilink Launches Make Your Mark as its Flagship CSR Initiative

Mobilink has launched its flagship Corporate Responsibility initiative – Make Your Mark. The ‘Make Your Mark’ initiative is a key element of VimpelCom’s corporate responsibility strategy, with the objective of ‘Helping young people shape their future’.

‘Make Your Mark’ recognizes the challenges that today’s young people face regarding issues such as poverty, youth unemployment, inadequate healthcare and education, food security, resource scarcity and climate change – reinforced by a rapidly growing population.

It aims to provide young people with technology tools, support and mentoring, and in some cases access to basic education, to help them tackle these challenges at an individual, community and national level – to shape their future.

Jeffrey Hedberg, President & CEO Mobilink, commenting on the launch of Make Your Mark said, “Make Your Mark is a unique initiative that feeds directly into Mobilink’s corporate responsibility strategy and aims at helping young people in Pakistan through technology, expertise and knowledge. The initiatives planned under the program will offer support to a variety of beneficiaries to tackle the socio-economic challenges in Pakistan.

The ultimate aim of MYM is enabling a generation of educated and tech-literate young people. We have partnered with three global organizations LUMS, DFID and GuarantCo for Make Your Mark. I am confident that Make Your Mark will contribute significantly in shaping the future of our youth by equipping them with the latest technology.”

Anusha Rehman, Minister for IT, speaking at the launch said, “The Government of Pakistan is committed towards implementing the latest technology to enable the youth of Pakistan. Make Your make is an encouraging step from Mobilink and will go a long way in supporting the Government’s strategy of enabling the young generation of Pakistan through technological advancements.”

Under the Make Your Mark umbrella Mobilink has partnered with LUMS Center of Entrepreneurship, Institute of Social and Policy Sciences, GuarantCo and Pakistan Center for Philanthropy (PCP) and is working on setting up an incubator for budding entrepreneurs, expanding its mLiteracy program to reach out to an additional 3750 rural females and establishing 6 state-of-the-art ICT labs at schools adopted by NGOs.

Mobilink has also developed Mobilink Guardian; an android based app working with a young startup Virtual Proz. Mobilink Guardian Service notifies your loved ones of your location. Currently being offered on Android Handsets, the service when trigged uses GSM and GPS to transmit prompter’s location to up to 5 user-listed contacts via customizable SMS alerts. This service can be prompted by simply pressing power button thrice.

PROPAKISTANI: LUMS CES and City of Austin Collaborate to Launch ATX+PAK Startup Showcase

Pursuant to a recent collaboration between LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship and the City of Austin in United States, the two launched ATX+PAK Startup Showcase today in a collaboration with Capital Factory. The objective of the event was to showcase Pakistani startups to mentors and investors in Austin and engage in a cross cultural to promote entrepreneurship.

The event started off with a welcome note by Kerry O’Connor, Chief Innovation Officer at City of Austin and JD Weinstein, Venture Associate at Capital Factory, followed by an Austin based startup sharing secrets to the art of crafting a winning pitch/proposal for investors.

Five startups from LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship presented their ideas to US based Venture Capitalists including

  • Autogenie: a virtual maintenance portal enabling every motorist (car owner) to explore for the nearby workshops, vendors and fix an appointment
  • Jewelry Design Pro: a virtual global marketplace for trading any digital downloadable jewelry design
  • Fictive Lab, that develops Interact which brings your home on your fingertips through a single smart app
  • Savaree, a trust-based, ride share social network that allows drivers to monetize the free passenger seats in their cars by posting routes and connecting with riders that share that route
  • GrabDeals, an app that connects SMEs with their customers by offering value through hyper local, location based deals & coupons and offline access via SMS

Talking about the event, Alicia Dean, ATX+PAK program creator, Senior Public Information Specialist, City of Austin said

“We’re excited to provide a platform, in partnership with LUMS, that will connect members Austin’s vibrant startup scene to the exceptional creative talent driving Pakistan’s growing Entrepreneurial Eco-system,”

Success stories from both the regions were also shared which gave a lot of encouragement to the startups. Sharing Conrad Labs as an Austin to Pakistan success story, their CEO Abbas Yousafzai said,

“We have closely worked with Austin based startups. The reason these startups trust us with their products engineering is that we bring to the table exceptional talent with repeatable and measurable success.”

The event also included a panel discussion called, Cross-Cultural Conversation:  Exploring the start-up scenes & ecosystems in Austin and Pakistan. The panelists for this discussion included Khurram Zafar, Executive Director LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship, Abbas Yousafzai, CEO Cornard Labs, investors and entrepreneurs from Capital Factory and representatives from the City of Austin Office of Innovation and Economic Development.

The conversation focused on emerging trends in entrepreneurship, respective challenges or improvement opportunities in both countries and how the diversity of eco system in Pakistan and Austin can benefit from one another etc.

PROPAKISTANI: LCE Incubates $5 Million Worth of Startups in One year

LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship, one of Pakistan’s leading university’s flagship experiential development platform, has turned one year old.

An exclusive ceremony was held at LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship (LCE) where the center alumni and current startups, leading entrepreneurs, successful businessmen, LUMS management and faculty joined the LCE management team to honor the achievements of the center and to appreciate the astounding efforts made by its startups, who are working tirelessly to uplift the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the country.

Here’s a rundown of all the Center has achieved in the last one year.

  • 80 entrepreneurs have been mentored and groomed
  • The startup businesses have created a total of over 120 direct and 350+ indirect jobs
  • Combined annualized revenues of the startups based on last month’s figures is approaching $250,000
  • Startups have raised nearly $600,000 in investment from local and foreign investors
  • Combined valuation of the businesses at which these startups have raised money at, or have had investor termsheets offered, is over $5 Million

unnamedTalking about the past 12 months since inception, Khurram Zafar, Executive Director LCE said:

It has been an amazing ride! The incredible success our startups have enjoyed is a testament to the amazing talent and entrepreneurial passion of our country’s youth. By August, the center would have contributed over 28 high-growth potential businesses to the Pakistani economy.

Hopefully many will keep growing and create additional jobs and wealth creation opportunities for its founders, employees and investors while solving real, local problems.

During the ceremony, Maaz Kamal, Founder and CEO Interacta, an LCE alumni from the first batch announced that Interacta has secured $220K seed funding from a local investor. This news was welcomed with a jubilant applause. Interacta is the third startup from LCE to have secured funding.

Addressing the guests, Vice Chancellor of LUMS, Dr. Sohail Naqvi said:

About a year ago, we jumped into the unknown and launched LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship. It was a true entrepreneurial venture. We were passionate but a little scared of how it will roll out.

Today, it’s suffice to say that LCE is a phenomenal success. My heartiest congratulations to the management of the center and all our well-wishers for their support and encouragement.

The third and current cohort of startups at LUMS Center for Entrepreneurshipconsists of 16 startups, more than double the size of the previous cohorts and is scheduled to graduate in August.

PROPAKISTANI: Applications Now Open for LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship

LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship is now accepting applications for its third batch at The Foundation. If you have a brilliant idea and the strength to take it forward, applyhere and be a part of Pakistan’s most comprehensive experiential development platform for budding entrepreneurs.

Usually, the program at LCE follows a weekly theme of topics, objectives and activities. For the first two weeks, the startups complete an intense Entrepreneurship Development Program which gives them a much-needed initial boost. Following this, the regular program starts with weekly milestones, sessions by mentors and other activities.

Previously incubated startups include Fictive Labs, H&O Solutions, Appify Systems and A.H Paper Products. The second batch of inductees is due to graduate in February, 2015 with a coinciding investors summit.

Pak Wired: After Startup Weekend What’s Next for Beauty Box?

After Startup Weekend What’s Next for Beauty Box

I reached out to Sahr Said, the CEO & Founder of the winning start-up to learn just that.

The big win at Lahore Startup Weekend created steam, which the team at Beauty Box is using to push forward while it’s still hot. Beauty Box recently secured a spot for incubation at the LUMS Center of Entrepreneurship. The team has decided to stay together and is

currently working hard to get their beauty services marketplace launched.

The short term plan is to launch a platform as a community for beauty products & service users to share tips, reviews and suggestions. Based on the traction and customer data gathered, either an iOS or Android app for Beauty Box would follow. Search filters would allow users to filter beauty services by service, price, location, or peer ratings, while service providers will be given a dashboard to manage their own listings. Users will also be able to book services instantly right from the Beauty Box platform.

Sahr Said led the winning presentation at Startup Weekend in Lahore.

“We plan to follow an aggressive strategy that relies on a fast roll-out and quick expansion. Our goal is to connect our customers with the beauty services they need, anytime, anyplace, anywhere, and scale Beauty Box into a market leading online company.”

The idea shares similarities with Style Seat, in its approach towards creating value with customers. With the prevalence of female centric groups on social networks in Facebook around salons, spa’s and recreational matters, the biggest challenge will be replicating that trust and social network appeal on the Beauty Box site, as well as re-targeting users withcontextual relevance.  In the (paraphrased) words of Muhammad Nasrullah, one of the judges at Lahore Startup Weekend:

“It’s about execution, business modelling and customer development. Beauty Box did a great job on all three fronts.”

We’ll check back in a month and update you soon enough :)

PROPAKISTANI: Planning a Tech Startup? Here are the Top Segments to Get Into

It doesn’t matter whether you are an arts, business or an engineering graduate, there is no time like now to invest your time and energies into a startup. Pakistan is undergoing an entrepreneurship revolution and more people than ever are hoping to make their dreams turn into reality by utilizing the variety of opportunities being presented.

To put things into perspective for those willing to take the leap, here are a few industries where business is great, in no particular order.

Internet of Things

A fast growing industry quickly moving to shape the lives of people across the globe, internet of things is attracting not only major players from the cellular, appliances and fitness industries but tech startups across the globe are also working towards making our lives simpler (while generating revenues, of course) by connecting things of our everyday use. Pakistani internet of things tech startup XGearis already making waves globally.

Education Technology

The literacy figures for Pakistan are abysmal and this is one area of opportunity for local tech startups to focus on. Public schools and privately run schools alike can also benefit a great deal from online tutorials, classes and exam prep materials etc. Quite a few youngsters have based their tech startups on education tech and SMAC factoryfrom Plan 9 and teachus.pk from LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship are two such initiatives.

Mobile Apps

With global spending expected to hit $35 billion in 2015, the market for apps, games and smartphone/tablet tools is red hot right now. Pakistani mobile game developersare already making their mark in the industry with games such as Fruit Ninja which was a very popular game coded by Lahore based CaramelTech for an Australian studio. While we’re talking about mobile apps, How can we forget the amazing photography app developed by students from LUMS, Groopic?

Wearable Tech

From smart watches to virtual reality glasses, wearable tech is another exciting industry for startups. The industry is growing at a rapid pace with major players like Apple, Microsoft and Samsung stepping into the field alongside small tech startups, which are doing equally exciting stuff. Pakistanis are also stepping into the wearable space and one interesting initiative is the Hajj Guider.

Business Apps

Mobile devices are quickly over taking laptops as the tools of choice for business across the globe. Applications that allow busy corporate managers to work on the go and remotely connect with their co-workers are now generating more revenues than ever.

While these are the 5 major sectors that are globally attracting brilliant brains to try their luck at doing something for themselves and for those around them, there are also other avenues which can be explored.

Honorable Mentions from Pakistan:

Two brilliant tech startups from Pakistan that did not fit into the above categories but definitely deserve a mention are Transparent Hands and Patari.

Transparent Hands is a brilliant crowdfunding platform for donors to support medical treatment for needy patients who are recommended by participating hospitals.

Patari is a novelty music portal that caters exclusively to Pakistani music and their collection of Pakistani music is hands down the best. They generated a huge buzz on social media with their launch and are currently giving exclusive beta access through invites.

Though starting a business is a daunting task, do not ever be deterred by the fear of failure. It’s important that you try, give it your best and if it works (keep in mind that it will take a few failures, no one ever succeeds the first time) then the sky is the limit.

Pak Wired: Beauty Box Wins Lahore Startup Weekend

beautybox1

After 54 hours of brainstorming, building and pitching, Beauty Box was crowned the winner of Startup Weekend in Lahore this past Sunday. Sahr Said, the CEO of Beauty Box, impressed the event’s judges, which included Saad Zaeem, CEO of Caramel Tech Studios and Ahmed Shuja, the Founder of Obscure UX, with her pitch for a beauty products and services platform, for customers to rate, rank and book their visits. Shahi Sawari, the Uber for rickshaws took second, while MentMe a social media platform for those offering and those seeking mentorship took third.

Sahr Said (Beauty Box)

We learned that the primary reason for the Beauty Box win was the

value proposition and the customer insight. According to the CEO, when women are looking to find a new parlor or searching service prices, they will spend hours calling friends, calling parlors, searching various blogs and Facebook pages.

“This,” she says, “wastes time, is inconvenient and painful.”

And apparently, booking appointments is another pain point being addressed.

“There is no booking service available online, and bookings need to be done over the phone. Most receptionists at salons are too busy multitasking, so lots of back and fourth results, wasting more time.”

The winning idea has been offered a slot with LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship and will be finalized an investment or incubation partner soon.

Pak Wired: H&O Services: Seeking and Retaining Blue Collar Workers Has Never Been Easier

 

We have all had this grey period in our lives when our household staff quits suddenly. One day you are sitting in the lounge sipping tea, and keeping an eye on the maid as she sweeps the floor and the next day she disappears. Or the driver suddenly falls sick to never return back to work? For all most all men and women, the period of no-maid is horrible, too grey to even imagine.

What if we tell you that those days are now over. A startup from LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship, H&O Services is the answer to all your blue collar worker woes. H&O Services, a blue collar worker’s placement business entity resolves the issue of unemployment, non-reliability and security which exists in the Pakistani blue collar market regarding workers in the different areas.

It has just been disclosed that they secured the seed funding from two Middle East based investors. Although the exact terms of the have not been revealed yet but it has been confirmed that the investment values the company, a recent graduate of LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship, in a six figure US dollars.

H&O Services intends to use their seed capital firstly for field marketing activities, strengthening its team and infrastructure to support the increased demand from both, the side of the workers and the employers, secondly for targeting more workers through “registration drives” and by creating jobs in posh localities to reach to the domestic and commercial employers. Thirdly, from this investment they also plan to provide soft skill training’s to the workers so they could perform better on jobs.

The investor​s Hamza Irfan Baig and Ali Baig,​who originate from Pakistan but are based in Riadh, Saudi Arabia are very excited about this investment, “It is a pleasure to invest in H&O Services and be part of it. The enthusiasm, motivation and vision of Muddasar really impressed us and we decided to invest by just seeing what they want to accomplish. ​We’ve always wanted to help Pakistani start-ups and think of it as a way of giving back to our society and our country. ​We wish very best of luck to Muddasar and his team and hope that they’ll work even harder to solve this huge issue prevalent in our society.”

Muhammad Muddasar Sharif, CEO of H&O Services and a recent LUMS graduate, said, “We’re excited to procure this funding at such a crucial stage and it is undoubtedly a huge achievement for our team. I now realize that the actual work will begin from this instant onwards as there are a lot of challenges ahead of us. At present our goal is to increase the graph of number of workers, the clients and the placements exponential. From this funding, I’m looking at a very bright future for everyone involved in H&O and for those who’ll join us in future.”

The company’s crew aims at bringing new kinds of innovative services which have previously never been offered in Pakistan.

The Marketing Manager at H&O, Maham Ejaz, aims to convey this message to everyone that they’re seeking to expand their team and are looking for both energetic co-founders and employees. She said “We need innovative, creative and hardworking individuals who want to change the blue collar market with innovation and strategy. We want people to join us on our vision and not on what we offer to them”.