Pakistan’s information technology industry was pretty nascent five years ago, with the concept of ‘online business’ alien talk to many. There were a mere eight internet users per 100 people and of a total 100 million cellular service subscribers, only 14.4 million were using mobile internet.
But the country has come a long way from that and a thriving technology industry is not only winning the trust of consumers, but also attracting international attention.
Though slowly, the idea of taking the business online is becoming an evident realisation and companies are scrambling to develop online platforms that help their businesses grow. Consumers are taking to the idea and ease of shopping online, although there remains a massive room for improvement (and hence window of opportunity) in the quality of services up on offer.
Still the country’s tech scene has its knights. Companies like Rozee.com, Pakwheels.com and Zameen.com have not only made a name for themselves for being the pioneers in their respective fields, they have also upped the antes time and again by reinvigorating their portals and providing improved facilities to their users over and over again.
Though start-ups in Pakistan have been on and about their tasks for several years now, it was 2015 that really put them on the venture-capital-funding map. In 2014, Pakistani start-ups managed to raise a mere $4 million, but the funding jumped to $23 million in 2015. Despite the fact many firms who secured funding chose not to disclose their numbers, the collective $23 million still represented close to 600% increase in investment.
Analysing the prevalent trends, the buzz and hype around online businesses, one can expect a bright future for Pakistan’s technology industry and international companies and investors have started noticing the advancement.
Efforts of The Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) have also been quite instrumental in Pakistan’s technology industry’s growth in 2015. Apart from raising awareness regarding the uses of IT among the public and automation of the Boards of Intermediate and Secondary Education and the Citizen Feedback Monitoring Program, PITB also laid strong foundations for tech-entrepreneurship by establishing Plan9, the largest technology incubator in Pakistan distinguished by its zero-equity model.
Since its inception in 2012, Plan9 has graduated 66 start-ups, created roughly 500 jobs and over $2 million in funding. Commenting on Pakistani start-ups, Blackbox.vc Founder & CEO Fadi Bishara said Pakistani start-ups were more hard-core tech than Silicon Valley start-ups.
Currently, academic institutions are also playing a supportive role in increasing awareness about online entrepreneurship. LUMS Centre of Entrepreneurship, Information Technology University and National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences are now offering courses on entrepreneurship. While these courses are merely theoretical, they provide students with the much needed confidence to pursue unexplored professions.
With Pakistan’s technology sector becoming more vibrant than ever, one can expect the current year to be bring even gladder tidings for the country’s tech-preneurs, as well as the start-ups mushrooming across the country. Here’s to another year of change and progress.
*Sualiha Nazar is a freelance journalist who also contributes in The Diplomat and The Foreign Policy.