Leveraging Technology to Revolutionise Healthcare Services in Pakistan

Can entrepreneurs transform Pakistan’s healthcare system? Faisal Mushtaq, Senior Vice President Change Healthcare, certainly believes so. During his talk as part of the National Incubation Centre (NIC) Lahore’s ‘Entrepreneur in Conversation’ series on January 27, 2021, he shared that in today’s climate, a medical degree is not a prerequisite for entry.

“We are the fifth largest population in the world. Pakistani entrepreneurs can play a role in the global healthcare IT scene – and it doesn’t mean that we export doctors as talent,” Mr. Mushtaq shares. “Healthcare is so broad that it offers enormous career opportunities for lawyers, medical professionals, supply chain people, scientists, those involved in production of medication, or even user interface designers who understand how people want to engage with healthcare. There are immense opportunities that Pakistanis have of catching the next wave,” he adds.

Mr. Mushtaq speaks from personal experience. A computer programmer by education, he grew up programming telecom systems. When an opportunity for software development in healthcare came up, he realised it was something he wanted to do. He has now spent over two decades utilising technology across the healthcare delivery spectrum in the USA, starting out in the commercial side of the field and gradually transitioning to the clinical side. At Change Healthcare, he leads business lines focused on enabling clinical connectivity. Today, the firm is worth USD 13 billion.

Hamza Iqbal, Founder and CEO of Healthwire, and a graduate of NIC Lahore, also participated in the session and shared his perspectives. “The ecosystem in healthcare is very fragmented. It is waiting for technology to come in and solve the major problems. We need people coming into this industry to solve them.”

Pakistan can sidestep many of the prevalent issues in the US healthcare sector, believes Mr. Mushtaq. He shares that, on average, a hospital in the USA has 30 different software systems. From blood banks and billing, to dental, supply chain, electronic health records and many more – there seems to be a separate system for everything. “It doesn’t make sense but replacing everything will take a lot of time. Pakistan has an enormous opportunity to bypass all of this. You have to make sure these systems can at least talk to each other in a language that’s consistent and easy to integrate and then create a single virtual platform.”

Commenting on the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the field, Mr. Mushtaq notes that healthcare by nature, is a predominantly human centric field. Roles such as nurses or doctors cannot be replaced and play a key part in healthcare delivery. However, what can be done is mechanise or automate as much of the non-human aspects of healthcare. Diagnostic AI has already been adopted around the world, where, for instance, it can identify whether an x-ray indicates an issue or not. In the case of an issue, the chart is routed to a qualified physician for examination. As a result, one layer of processing is done without human interaction.  He encourages young Pakistani entrepreneurs to explore this area as barriers to entry are very low.

“The next wave of innovation at the global level lies in AI and healthcare. You don’t need a visa – science is available for everyone. It is something you can build in Pakistan and license to others. You can make a significant impact in the cost of delivering service. It’s an open territory right now,” explains Mr. Mushtaq.

In a market such as Pakistan, where majority of individuals are self-insured, portable health records would be of enormous value. Telemedicine as another high potential area for the country, given that access to care in rural areas is considerably low. “We can leapfrog brick and mortar infrastructure. Pakistan has a very large cell phone network – we can provide access to care to people where they are. From an infrastructure perspective, it’s a great opportunity for Pakistan,” he explains. He also points out that telemedicine may be particularly suitable for female doctors in the country who would otherwise not be able to travel to remote areas.

For budding entrepreneurs who are interested in disrupting and transforming the healthcare, Mr Mushtaq offers sage advice, “Healthcare is not a business. It is a mission. This is a business of compassion. It is about doing the right thing for a lot of people. Healthcare is one of the few places where you can build a legacy and people will remember you for what you did. The only currency you will have for the rest of your career is your integrity. If you have that, people will want to work with you, and work for you.”

To watch the full session, please click here.

Transforming the Education Sector Through Edtech

During NICL’s Entrepreneur in Conversation session held on January 13, Talha Munir Khan, CEO of Knowledge Platform Pakistan, made a passionate case for using digital technology to transform Pakistan’s education sector and enhance teaching and learning across the board.

“I think education is not just about transferring knowledge. Kids also go to school for a social experience. Just mastering the particular skills we’ve defined for each grade in our standardized education system isn’t everything. Teaching children 21st century skills, that’s very important in my opinion. The real skills are how to critically observe things and think about them.”

Mr. Khan is also CTO at Knowledge Platform Global, a Singapore-based company and one of Asia Pacific’s leading next-generation learning platforms that provides holistic learning solutions to clients in the form of strategy, content, technology, and support. In Pakistan, Mr. Khan and his team have set-up the country’s first cloud-based learning platform and are providing schools, teachers and students blended learning solutions that help enhance their academic experience.

Schools that use Knowledge Platform’s Learn Smart Classroom product are provided with everything including a laptop and projector, complete with access to top-quality content, assessments based on the national curriculum, gamified lessons and educational videos. The software also collects data in real time, giving teachers and principals valuable insight into what kind of learning is happening in the classrooms and where a particular student might be struggling and may need extra support.

Through its Teach Smart Pakistan product, Knowledge Platform also provides schools with a comprehensive teacher training programme that enables teachers to enhance their knowledge in their respective fields. Additionally, students can directly access thousands of dynamic lesson plans through a gamified learning platform called Learn Smart Pakistan. Content on most of these products is available offline as well, because Mr. Khan strongly believes it is important to provide solutions in a local context, and in Pakistan, internet and the appropriate bandwidth isn’t available in a lot of schools, both private and public.

Even though the response to their solutions has been overwhelmingly positive from both teachers and students, as well as administrators, the change in mindset towards digital solutions took some time. “I think it has been a step-by-step journey. When we started, we started with 10-15 schools. Then in 2015, we took the product to China as a joint venture. We started with one public school in Shanghai and now we have over 1000 schools and over 400,000 students there. When we came back in 2018, we found that people were more ready to accept that technology is changing the way we live and started realising that they cannot avoid the use of technology in education for long,” explains Mr. Khan.

He further acknowledged that behavioral change can be very hard for a lot of people, and is even more frustrating and overwhelming for teachers that have been teaching a certain way for decades now. However, providing them with guidance and support every step of the way can ease the transition and quickly turn them into believers of the technology. “Our team visits the school that is using our solution every month. They go and train new teachers, and also observe how the teachers are using the solution. We make WhatsApp groups with the schools. So, if a teacher faces an issue, they don’t have to wait, they get in touch with us through WhatsApp, and our team solves the issue for them, or if required, physically goes to the school.”

He also reassured that this solution is a blended learning model, not a complete transition to digital and in no way an attempt to make a teacher’s role obsolete. “We’re not replacing teachers, we’re empowering them. Technology helps with knowledge transfer but other things, like giving feedback, building student’s confidence, changing their behavior, there are a lot of things in a teacher’s role that technology cannot replace.”

COVID-19 made the necessity of digital solutions to learning even more apparent and Knowledge Platform was perfectly positioned to deliver. Mr. Khan shared that this last year has seen greater market penetration of their product. “Once COVID-19 came around our focus shifted to launch an online only version of this product to help schools set up their classes, called Virtual Campus. Since April, we have about 78,000 students. Before the pandemic we were just in the main cities because that was where our on-ground support was. But now we have schools in different parts of the country including Gilgit Baltistan, Quetta, and Bahawalpur.”

Mr. Khan also shared the success of Knowledge Platform’s collaboration with Jazz for their Smart School Project. Jazz took the project to different exhibitions abroad where it won 4 international awards. “The learning improvement was significant. We made a digital centre in each school, and more than a thousand teachers have used the platform. Not only teachers, we trained principles, and we trained area education officers, on how they can use the dashboard to monitor the classrooms on their phones. This has been a very successful example of large-scale blended learning implementation.”

Apart from the project with Jazz, it was initial funding from Ilm Ideas that gave their start-up the push it needed. One advice that Mr. Khan gives when talking about going for funding and support is to never give up and keep learning. “It was difficult to get money from donors but we didn’t lose heart. When we applied for one grant and failed, we went back to them, we asked them what we did wrong, what was wrong in our proposal, what were you expecting. Nobody does that. When you apply for a grant, you’re not selected, how many people go meet them and ask what we did wrong, what should we improve on. We applied twice or thrice after the first grant and then we were selected.”

However, there is still a long way to go to make technology a significant part of the educational landscape in Pakistan and there are many challenges that need to be addressed. Problems that Mr. Khan and his team are eager to solve, “We realized infrastructure is crucial for the solutions we are making. Our kids don’t have the devices or internet access, except for a small minority. Thus, we’re trying to launch an initiative where one device/tablet per family should be available on an installment basis. If we don’t address the problems for our client base, our product will not grow.”

The Q&A part of the session provided many interesting insights but one thing Mr. Khan strongly emphasized was the importance of not only focusing on the people you have on your team but also who you are as a person and leader. “As individuals and as team members, this is something you need to realize. How will you bring together people’s strengths, how will you complement the weaknesses, what people will be in what roles, what role will you play yourself. So, I think at a personal level, my advice would be to have faith in yourself first and second know yourself.”

To watch the session, click here.

Pioneering Digital Credit in Pakistan

Globally, the finance sector has been witnessing a dynamic shift towards digitization, inevitably revolutionizing the way business is conducted; but to what extent has that shift made its way to Pakistan? In a country with a population of over 210 million, only 20 per cent of the adult population is banked, and only 2-4 per cent have access to credit. Why are the penetration levels so low in a country that is quite digitally literate?

A veteran in the digital banking sector of the country, Qasif Shahid, CEO Finja, discussed many of these questions regarding digital credit, market penetration and opportunities for Fintech start-ups in Pakistan, during his talk as part of NIC’s ‘Entrepreneurs in Conversation’ series.

Equipped with over 20 years of experience in the industry, Mr. Shahid is revolutionizing the sector through Finja— a Fintech startup that is digitally disrupting and democratizing lending in a PKR 10 trillion Pakistani market by harnessing data and AI.

Recently, Finja reigned in hefty funding from blue chip investors who have invested in Pakistan for the first time. “This will also help us gain secondary investments as well, so it is now going to become easier for Pakistan to get more investments in the sector. We are super happy that Finja was able to make headway in this—for us and for everyone,” shares Mr. Shahid.

On its operating mechanism, Mr. Shahid explained that Finja is essentially a digital lending platform that brings together the disparate data bases of the buying and selling behavior of businesses and professionals. This data is then run through an algorithm to create a loan amount and uncover the optimal lending book.

He talked about how Finja is building a lending business by partnering with multiple incumbents and becoming a hybrid balance sheet lender. “So far Finja has gone out and deployed close to 10 million dollars of loan throughout, and almost all of that is Finja’s own money that we raised through equity”. Now, Finja has partners such as Meezan Bank, Faysal Bank, EasyPaisa and Pakistan Microfinance Investment Company (PMIC), which essentially means that when Finja gives out loans, over 80 per cent of it is covered by the partners, and the return is split 60/40.

Mr. Shahid then addressed a pressing concern for all financial minds: why are people with smartphones and internet connections paying bills in cash and moving money? Mr. Shahid believes that the exclusionary practices of the branch banking model are responsible for people not being banked in emerging markets. The less privileged are hesitant to go to banks owed to the condescension that it entails, along with piles upon piles of paperwork.

In current times, however, the branch banking model has been rendered quite ineffective. “The pandemic killed the branch and caused a shift towards the digital onboarding of business models. The preferable customer now does not need to have a lot of money, but conducts numerous transactions, generating data.”

Mr. Shahid explains that the paradigm can be shifted by creating digital onboarding processes and value proposition that is as strong as WhatsApp or Facebook. “The case for digital business is already made, and Pakistan is at the cusp of transformation. We may see a change in the next three years, one that’s even bigger than what we experienced from 2001 to 2010.” He states that in order to facilitate this change, it is up to fintech start-ups to serve as the glue between the businesses, customers and the incumbents. Adding that incumbents, in all industries, are like platforms; Fintech startups should direct their efforts to position themselves atop these platforms and provide them with solutions to their problems.

Furthermore, he advised FinTech and start-ups to not just partner with banks, but to partner with new age platforms because it makes the process incrementally easier. “The first platform that you have available is Finja. Once Finja has partnered with you, it will be easier for you to go out and partner with banks.”

Finja is the first Fintech to obtain two regulatory licenses, an EMI (Electronic Money Institutions) license under the ambit of the State Bank of Pakistan, and a fully function lending license for an NBFC (non-bank financial company) under the SECP. However, Mr. Shahid states that instead of just applying for a license and placing their destiny at the hands of the regulators, Fintech startups should try to create value credentials to enhance the regulators interest in the meantime.

Pakistan is one of the countries with the lowest numbers in terms of lending to our businesses, and Mr. Shahid believes that until these numbers do not rise, the economy will not swell. “If you want to transform the country, the first step is to provide small businesses with a combination of technology and credit, and there is a lot of gap to be filled in this area.”

Concluding the session, Mr. Shahid expressed his appreciation and gratitude to Saleem Ahmad, Chairman NIC, for his efforts to make NIC a platform that can generate high quality companies. He then assured the attendees that Finja is open for all sorts of communication, collaborations and internships. “We are a Pakistani Fintech and will play our part to help grow the economy. We are here—we are open.”

To watch the full session, please click here.

NIC Kicks-off ‘Entrepreneur in Conversation’ Series with Usman Javaid, CEO Ricult

National Incubation Centre Lahore’s (NICL) inaugural ‘Entrepreneur in Conversation’ series session with Usman Javaid, CEO of Ricult, honed in on the use of data analytics to support financial inclusion for the smallholder farmer in Pakistan and Thailand.

Through the ‘Entrepreneur in Conversation’ series, NICL is aiming to provide young entrepreneurs a platform to engage directly with industry leaders and learn firsthand from their start-up journeys. “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 entrepreneurs like Usman, and can learn from their failures, their challenges, and successes and move the country forward,” shared Mr. Saleem Ahmad, Chairman NICL.

Ricult is transforming the agriculture sector by helping farmers escape the cycle of poverty. “We exist to help the underprivileged, which is the farmers, to make a better living,” says Usman. “Hence, we qualify as a double bottom line company, where not only are we a for-profit organization but at the same time we are also creating positive social impact that helps people move up the socioeconomic ladder. The farmers we’ve worked with have seen an increase in revenue, increase in yield and an increase in their disposable income.”

A LUMS and MIT graduate, Usman worked with organizations like Engro, Nestle and Telenor, where he had the opportunity to closely interact with the farming community in Pakistan and understand their challenges. While working with the team that created EasyPaisa, he observed how basic technology could be used to create social impact for a large number of people. That led him to pursue a second MBA at MIT, where he met his co-founders, and thus Ricult was born.

The statistics are not very promising with regards to global food security. The world will have to produce 60% more food by 2050; the situation is even more dire for Pakistan, which is currently 76th out of 107 countries in the Global Food Security Index. With a growing population, and the inefficiencies that exist in the current supply chains, there is a need for AI/Machine Learning to provide actionable insights to multiple stakeholders to improve supply chain and productivity.

In a short amount of time, Ricult has partnered with leading names in the agriculture industry in Pakistan as well as Thailand, including Habib Bank, Bank Al Falah, Engro, Dupont, Jazz, and WWF. Currently the company is focused on helping farmers connect with mainstream services, and financial institutions so they can easily access more affordable credit. They also have a farmers app, and are working towards an IVR solution, which will help connect different stakeholders within the agriculture ecosystem and provide relevant insights, all through a mobile phone.

Usman also highlighted the importance of start-ups to pivot as soon as they think they need to. “When we started Ricult, we realized that 95% of transactions in the agricultural space happen on credit, and identified that the two key problems in the sector were access to affordable credit and access to information. So, we pivoted our company to try to address these problems.”

The QnA demonstrated the immense value interactions with leading entrepreneurs like Mr. Javaid can have. In response to a question by the NIC cohort, he pushed start-ups to focus on their business so that they can look at investors as strategic partners, “Put yourself in a situation where you don’t become desperate. You need to focus on the product and the users. If you have traction, you have users, so more investors will want to work with you. If you don’t have traction or a product, an investor or two might talk to you, but the terms they will give you will be skewed towards them, not you.”

He also suggested start-ups not to try doing it all on their own, but outsource the technology part of their product, if that’s not their forte, and build a strong advisory board which will provide them with guidance and support in different areas.

At the end of the session, Mr. Javaid urged young entrepreneurs to seriously consider the agriculture industry as a destination ripe for innovative products and services, “When I say that Pakistan is in real trouble when it comes to agriculture, I actually mean it. It’s not something we can brush under the carpet. So, my parting comments would be that I strongly encourage start-ups to focus on this and will repeat Ricult’s tagline; the people who feed us, need us.”

To watch the full session, please click here.

Revamped foundation program launched for Cohort 6 at NICL and Cohort 4 at NICQ

The orientation week for the next cohort of NIC Lahore’s revamped Foundation Programme began Monday, November 30, giving its new batch of innovators and problem solvers a taste of what they can expect from their incubation experience.

37 teams from nearly 400 applicants were selected through a rigorous process to make it to this stage. Welcoming them, Saleem Ahmad, Chairman NIC, spoke about NIC’s renewed focus on addressing the most pressing challenges facing Pakistan and inspiring and facilitating a new generation of problem solvers to tackle these through commercially viable solutions: “Over the next several months, you will embark on a transformative journey with members of your cohort, guided by committed mentorship of business leaders and instruction from LUMS faculty and international technical experts.  You will acquire skills necessary to transform your ideas into a thoughtful and investor-ready business plan.” A newly-inducted cohort of 20 startups at BUITEMS in Quetta also participated in the orientation week sessions and will be following a similar incubation plan held simultaneously to accommodate different linguistic and economic needs in Balochistan. To ensure that quality, commitment, and access to opportunities is uniform, the same LUMS faculty have been engaged to deliver similar content at both locations.

Following an introduction to the NIC Team, the newly-inducted startups were called upon to present brief introductions of themselves and their companies. The cohort presented a mix of services and products in an equally diverse set of industries with businesses ranging from Pakistan’s first shariah compliant buy-now-pay-later service; an automatic low-cost roti making appliance; cost-efficient prosthetics for amputees that utilise 3D scanning and printing technology; logistical solutions such as single wheel motorbike trailers to increase cargo capacity; a bio sensor chip to monitor and reduce toxins in crops and improve nutrition; identifying shoplifters in real time by using AI; an e-commerce aggregator for fashion brands that offers a curated and personalised shopping experience for buyers, and a food delivery service that empowers female entrepreneurs who prepare meals at home. As an ice-breaking activity, the teams had also been asked to share the biggest challenge they faced in running their enterprises. Some common and obvious themes emerged from their answers–market segmentation and marketing—but it was a new realisation to understand these in real time while sharing industry experience with others.

Day 2 of the week focused on operational matters and began with Haider Ali, NIC Manager Administration, establishing ground rules and etiquette for participating in the incubation programme to ensure everyone worked together to create a sense of community. Saima and Sahar from the curriculum and planning team then walked the startups through the structure of the programme and the modules that would be covered. Over the course of six months, a completely redesigned curriculum will be delivered by LUMS faculty and international technical experts and comprise six intensive bootcamps. The modules and some of the topics covered by this curriculum include:

1) Design thinking: problem validation, prototype testing, growth hacking

2) Strategy and business modelling: business model canvas, market research, product market fit, data analytics

3) Marketing, branding and sales: branding and identity, digital marketing, Customer Value Analysis, CRM strategy, pricing, sales, advertisements and messaging

4) Finance, accounting, valuation and equity management: accounting & bookkeeping, building financial plans, bootstrapping, understanding and modelling financial statements, projections, understanding valuations

5) Negotiations and legal aspects of entrepreneurship: business law, company incorporation, IP law, tax law, compliance, contract management, understanding key agreements

6) Presentation and communication skills: communication, team and conflict management, crises communication, interpersonal communication, negotiation, pitching

The emphasis is on applied academic programming, supplemented by bespoke workshops, a speaker series and mentorship by LUMS alumni, which will be instrumental in developing ideas into reality.

Adapting to the reality of COVID-19, the current Foundation Programme is taking place entirely online with the hope of adopting a hybrid model if the situation improves in the spring. Mindful of ‘Zoom fatigue,’ the team has ensured that all sessions are designed to incorporate best practices in pedagogical methods that are conducive to learning in online environments.

The second session of the day was led by Mahnoor Anwar, NIC Legal, to explain the contractual obligations and responsibilities of startups and NIC/LUMS.

 

The final day of orientation focused on entrepreneurial mindsets and began with Saima moderating a highly engaging interview with two NIC alumni. Usama Javed, CEO at SEO Drop, a wastewater treatment system that makes waste water reusable, and Faaiz Arbab, CEO at AYECo., a company manufacturing low-cost voice-assisted electric wheelchairs, shared their entrepreneurial journeys, highlighting the role NIC played in enabling them to refine their products, and reflecting on the personal lessons of grit, resilience, and being open to change that they learnt along the way.

The week closed off strong with an interactive session with Dr Alnoor Bhimani, NIC Interim Project Director, on unleashing the potential of entrepreneurship. Dr Bhimani reflected on the growth of tech-based companies in the last two decades, the importance of understanding finance as a tool to inform strategy, and the role of digital technologies and data in allowing rapid expansion. Fielding some insightful questions from the startups, Dr Bhimani ended on a note of positivity, reminding the audience that some of the biggest tech companies emerged during periods of global recession, much like the one we are currently experiencing, and encouraging them to uncover the opportunities that no one else can see.

New Cohort of Innovators and Problem Solvers Joins NIC

The National Incubation Centre (NIC) welcomed a fresh batch of innovators and problem solvers to its Foundation Programme at LUMS in Lahore and BUITEMS in Quetta. NIC aims to bolster the start-up ecosystem of Pakistan by incubating a greater percentage of businesses that scale to address a large commercial opportunity and attract investment capital for growth.

The cohorts were selected through a competitive selection process: only top 10% of a diverse pool of 500+ applicants have been invited to join the completely revamped, free-of-cost programme. Each application was reviewed by multiple members of NIC’s Foundation Council which includes founders of venture capital firms and successful start-ups including Bykea, Finja, Healthwire, 47 Ventures, Indus Valley Capital and Fatima Gobi Ventures.

NIC Lahore’s diverse pool of entrepreneurs hail from Bahawalpur, Faisalabad, Islamabad, Kasur and Lahore, and include Pakistan’s first shariah compliant buy-now-pay-later service; an automatic low-cost roti making appliance; cost-efficient prosthetics for amputees that utilise 3D scanning and printing technology; logistical solutions such as single wheel motorbike trailers to increase cargo capacity; a bio sensor chip to monitor and reduce toxins in crops and improve nutrition; identifying shoplifters in real time by using AI; an e-commerce aggregator for fashion brands that offers a curated and personalised shopping experience for buyers, and a food delivery service that empowers female entrepreneurs who prepare meals at home.  NIC Quetta’s expanded outreach resulted in recruitment of entrepreneurs not only from Quetta but also Gwadar, Kachi, Loralai, Mastung, Panjgoor, Pishin, Sibi, and Washuk.

Inaugurating the orientation week, Saleem Ahmad, Chairman NIC, spoke about NIC’s role in inspiring and facilitating problem solvers: “Over the next several months, you will embark on a transformative journey with members of your cohort, guided by committed mentorship of business leaders and instruction from LUMS faculty and international technical experts.  You will acquire skills necessary to transform your ideas into a thoughtful and investor-ready business plan.”

Over the course of six months, the completely revamped curriculum will be delivered by LUMS faculty and international technical experts and comprise six intensive bootcamps covering: 1) design thinking, 2) strategy and business modelling; 3) marketing, branding and sales; 4) finance, accounting, valuation and equity management; 5) negotiations and legal aspects of entrepreneurship; and 6) presentation and communication skills. The applied focus of academic programming, supplemented by bespoke workshops, a speaker series and mentorship by LUMS alumni, will be instrumental in developing ideas into reality.

Harnessing the entrepreneurial energy, imagination and talent of these dynamic individuals, a range of specialised support services will help them cultivate their ideas into compelling investment opportunities that will support economic development of Pakistan.

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.

GoCane Launch by AyeCo

Ayub Yaqoob Engineering Company (Ayeco.) was incubated at the LUMS National Incubation Center Lahore in their first cohort. Founded on July 5th 2017, the company is currently the only locally manufacturer for health tech assistive devices in Pakistan.

AyeCo launched the first ever Pakistani Produced Smart Wheelchair called GoBee. The company has gone on to modify their wheelchair for various impaired individuals. In 2019, they have returned with another refined product for the visually impaired. On July 25th they launched their Smart Guiding Assistive Walking Device, named Go-cane, for the blind community in Pakistan.

The company has already received more than 100 pre-orders prior to the launch.

Go-cane

This invention relates to a smart, rechargeable, battery-powered electronic device for the visually impaired, which instruct the individual to walk, maneuver themselves on the stairs, and warns a blind person of dangerous obstacles on the road. This device can be attached to any ordinary cane. It comes equipped with sensors that collectively give feedback in the form of vibrations to facilitate the user by detecting the height, direction and the orientation of the obstacle in their way. It also comes in both indoor and outdoor modes for better workability.

To launch this incredible product, the company organized an Assistive Tech Conference in collaboration with the National Incubation Center Lahore. The CEO of the company, Faaiz Arbab welcomed his guests and spoke to them in detail about the importance and scope of AT, its need in Pakistan, standardization and hallmarking, infrastructure Development, future Goals and a lot more.

Unveiling the GoCane®

The launch was attended by some of the most notable personalities that included Amjad Saqib from Akhuwat, Dr. Izhar Ul haque hashmi from PWTD (Punjab Welfare Trust for the Disabled), Amna Anees from US Counselette, Humara Bano from Special Education department, Punjab University, Dr Shaheen Pasha from Special Education department, University of Education, Farah Naaz from Christoffel-blindemission Christian Blind Mission e.V. (CBM), Hassan Tareen Assistive device specialist at Lums, Asim Kareem (Visual Impaired) Assistant Professor. Dr. Bakhtawer who is a dentist, Yousaf Saleem, a first Pakistani blind judge.

Dr Sarah Ikram from King Edward Medical University. Faisal Sherjan Director NIC.  Wajid Hussain from ROSP (Rights of Special Persons). Dr. Anees ur Rehman President Daikh Bhaal Organization shared their thoughts regarding this initiative in Pakistan.

Faaiz Arbab and AyeCo have also exceeded all expectations and proven that when one has a vision, there is no obstacle great enough to become a hindrance. Arbab has accomplished various milestones that have made him a notable and reliable name for all those who have suffered at the hands of their impairment. We wish AyeCo the very best of luck and are extremely proud to not just have been associated with their launch but to also have witnessed their growth as a company.

5 Legal Prerequisites Before Establishing a Company

Whenever an entrepreneur implements an idea in the form of a tangible business, legal prerequisites need to be taken into serious consideration in order to avoid trouble. Not considering legal fundamentals can prove to be costly and can hurt any business in the long run. Research is therefore imperative in order to fully comprehend what the government requires entrepreneurs to obtain before they invest their energy, time and money into establishing a business.

The paralegal team at NIC Lahore has made it fairly simple for all our incubated start-ups with the following listicle. If you’re an entrepreneur struggling to prioritize your pressing legal tasks, here are five things that need to be addressed immediately:

  1. Develop Your Co-Founder Agreement

A co-founder agreement is not necessarily a legally binding contract. However, it is an agreement between founders about key issues. This entails the co-founder relationships, their responsibilities to towards the company, structure of the company including, vesting schedules, exit strategies, ownership of intellectual property and such other matters integral to the running of the Company.

  1. Define your Company’s Legal Structure

The company’s structure defines how it is defined legally. Primarily, there are three main business types. These include a sole proprietorship, a partnership and corporation. In most parts of the world the core impressions and functions remain the same. In a sole proprietorship all consequences fall squarely on the founder making them personally liable for possible debts et cetera. A partnership entails a legal relationship and are formed through an agreement between individuals to run a business as co-owned. Lastly, a corporation is a separate entity from the promoters and shareholders of the Company therefore liabilities of the Company are the responsibility of the Company and has no bearing on the promoters or shareholders of the Company.

  1. Get your Permits and Licenses in Order

If your business requires a license, then delaying the task may be a bad idea. Required licenses based on the business are usually specified by the state based on what the business entails to begin with. Where some may require special licensing, others may only require an operating license; identifying the need should be one of the first steps. Additionally, permits allow the government to regulate businesses that may be in direct correlation to the public.

  1. Register Your Business

If you intend to convert your startup into a company recognized under law, then you must not delay registering your business. Registering your business can save a lot of trouble for everyone involved in a platitude of ways. Registering your business enables you to ensure no one else uses the business name and it becomes a separate legal entity thereby limiting the founder’s liability.  Add that they become more inevitable, enhances brand image etc.

  1. Be wary of Business Laws and Regulations

There are three main regulatory branches a business falls in; these are organizational, employment and taxation. Founders are required to immediately identify and define their structure. This means claiming whether their start-up runs on sole proprietorship or not. Additionally, the type of business one intends to run further defines tax laws for them and streamlines employer regulations and perquisites as well.

Therefore, starting a business and executing an idea is always exciting; but without the legal matters in place, the entire situation can go South as soon as it begins. Make sure the above 5 points are in place for your business and avoid possible damage at the hands of legal ignorance.