Startups Grow Economies

In today’s changing times where technology is complementing or replacing human labor, economies like Pakistan struggle to achieve stability. It is a constant challenge for fresh graduates to find suitable, sustainable jobs that pay well and enhance growth potential.

With hundreds of thousands of graduates entering the job market each year, it is an unrealistic expectation for the economy to accommodate every new entrant. Look at the IT industry alone – an estimated 1.5 million young people enter the workforce each year. There simply aren’t enough opportunities in the market to absorb this number. However, if you encourage youngsters to set up their own businesses, that will have a cyclical impact of, amongst other things, creating meaningful job opportunities. The challenge isn’t that there are too many graduates; it is more that there aren’t enough businesses to provide jobs.

The top layer of graduates from renowned law, medical, engineering, business and media schools find gainful employment at the multinationals and big enterprises. Those who remain, struggle to find a job to sustain themselves in the highly inflated economy.

There has to be a change in the planning and thinking.

The Startup Trend

In previous years, the dream was to get a decent education in Engineering or Business, Medicine, find a job and stick to it until the end of time. People were content with owning one motorbike and a menial savings account. In today’s competitive and global environment, there are greater aspiration for luxury cars, houses, maintain multiple bank accounts. They have a diverse inflow of ideas, resources, opportunities and strategies. Combined, these create an explosive multiplier effect in their lives and the economy. The mindset of people is shifting from working ‘jobbing’ to startups.

This sudden surge in the Startup trend explains the need among people to create a better life for themselves where they are more in control of their destiny and the pace of life. This is Generation Z stuck in a slow-moving economy. Starting up a business is their solution to cope with the unavailability of jobs.

The Upward Moving Trend

The Startup trend gained support in the 90s when a need to enhance the skills of the workforce was felt. Various incubation centers came into being including Nest I/O, DotZero, Jumpstart, Plan9 and Plan10 at PITB and more recently, the National Incubation Centers across the country. The technology and infrastructure available to support cutting edge ideas was quite primitive compared to what it is today with 3G, 4G and LTE illuminating a major part of the populated area of Pakistan.

This whole concept of the Shared Economy is very recent, allowing young startups to shed the additional weight and baggage involved in a business, and focus on delivering quality and competitive price. Payment challenges were overcome like EasyPaisa (and continue to do so) and the B2C model which thrives on volume business, began to grow.

The proliferation of telecoms and connectivity across the country enabled more people to connect to the future they wanted for themselves. Graduates have started to return to Pakistan from foreign lands armed with the exposure and experience of what promise technology holds. Concepts such as Angel investors and VCs to support promising entrepreneurs, are now taking root, more stringently than before. Even USAID has pitched in to create a fund for viable startups and in a recent event in Islamabad, each qualified team won grants to move their ideas and businesses forward.

But what gives me hope is those young businesses who apply themselves to bring their dreams come to life. In Islamabad alone, over three dozen startup eateries have sprouted up and led by owners who are engineers, MBAs and doctors by profession. These professions would, in another lifetime, stick to their career but I see an increasing number of such professionals applying their skill, education, ability to think critically and expertise to service market trends and create successful startups. Startups such as Naan Stop, KhokhaKhola that have opened in Islamabad, give me hope that the young people are not waiting for the manna to fall from the heavens!

As such, the face of startup trends is also changing because people are now entering businesses which were previously frowned upon.

The Future of Startup Trend

Through Startups, the self-employed’ are creating job opportunities for others and actually become employers instead of looking for jobs! This spans all kinds of industries including handcraft, eateries, home-based food services, accessories, technology and non-technology.

The Startup trend has gained popularity due to the mobility of resources which is readily available in Pakistan, thanks to the power of tech. Pakistan’s tech ecosystem is fast developing and is likely to gain more traction in the coming years. Startups are open to collaborate with existing businesses as they can help in integrating various services into one to give an enhanced experience to its customers.

So while the fresh entrepreneurs learn through trial and error attempts in the future we will have an increasing number of success stories which will pave the way for Incubation centers to produce more young startups. These startups could an answer to the reversal of the brain drain that plague economies.

A huge credit for all this goes to a lot of people, including the likes of former Minister for IT & Telecom, Anusha Rehman and IGNITE CEO, Yusuf Hussain – with large teams of people and organizations collaborating together, there is a lot being done.

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