Globally, startup culture has matured. However, for Pakistan, only the past few years have seen significant growth in the trend as various ventures raised significant funds to help the industry flourish. In 2020 alone, Pakistani startups raised $65 million, further encouraging the youngsters to step up on the entrepreneurial path, however difficult it may be.
Despite earlier ground realities such as the lack of entrepreneurial scope amongst the youth, the last decade saw young minds seeking to ‘start up’ something of their own. To support such young entrepreneurs, Pakistan has launched more than a dozen incubation centres, numerous accelerator programmes and investment platforms where entrepreneurial minds are trained, harnessed and given their first boost.
While undoubtedly our country has an abundance of talented and innovative minds, with optimistic cash flow now rolling in, the question of why this brilliance never reaches full potential comes up far too much.
Evidently, the reason why many startups crash before reaching the cultivation period is due to the approach of the entrepreneurs themselves. Many enter this sector thinking it will give them easy and fast cash since they will be earning on their own. In reality, the initial years are all about hard work, passion and dedication. After a few bumps in the road, many entrepreneurs retreat to stable income jobs and develop a fear of failure as their confidence is shaken.
Failure is a word that is hushed and brushed under the carpet in our conservative society as it negates success and growth. A failed idea, individual or startup is often met with humiliation and frowns and this massively discourages entrepreneurs from taking the first few steps, let alone trying again from scratch if they fail. Parents should be pushing their children towards creativity and thinking outside the box instead of promoting safe and risk free plans.
Outside of this inherent problem, there seems to be a serious lack of funding available for start-ups which prevents them from growing into established businesses. It is pivotal for entrepreneurs to attract enough investments to see their business take full flight. Unfortunately, despite having investment platforms, the raised funds are mostly not enough to help the business itself for the long term.
To top it up, well established companies in the corporate sector are always hesitant to invest their money in a new venture. A well-known reason behind this is the poorly strategised startup plans. A strong framework that has a smooth exit strategy at its maturity is a sound startup plan for large investors. Unfortunately, this is not the case with many infant businesses.
Planet N Group, Invest2Innovate, Techstars Ventures, Abraaj Group and Frontier Digital Ventures are amongst the few daring corporations that are taking steps to create a startup ecosystem. Two more big names known for their vision and innovative approach are Arpatech and DotZero, both of which have been at the back of some significantly successful startups.
Another notable name to highlight is the application, Careem. Belonging to humble beginnings itself, Careem now takes pride in cultivating entrepreneurial ideas amongst its employees, some of which have successfully managed to launch their own ventures.
While these corporations are working for the entrepreneurial journey, the education sector also needs to step up. The addition of entrepreneurship courses at an early stage of the academic curriculum, accurate training on how to set up a business and encouraging entrepreneurial ideas are some of the steps that can help youth kickoff startup plans.
When setting up a strong foundation in any sector, it is essential to rise above mediocrity and safe zones. Young entrepreneurs must have apt knowledge and evaluations tactics to step strongly into the market, and the education sector has a role to play as well. This is the point in history where Pakistan shifts its focus towards 55 percent of its under-19 population and cashes in on their potential. It is time we accept that we require new economic patterns and earning trends if the wish to compete in this fast-changing global environment.