What are the necessary steps to take an idea from conception into a commercial reality? How do you strategize and pitch a business idea to a potential investor? How do you select good talent and put together a team? According to CIPE partner Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT & ITES (P@SHA), young aspiring entrepreneurs in Pakistan are full of questions like these.
Entrepreneurs are desperately needed for Pakistan’s future. The country currently faces two significant challenges: a youth bulge and a slow growth.
Today, youth under the age of 30 make up an astonishing two-thirds of the total population. Coupled with this is a slow economy—Pakistan is experiencing limited GDP growth—and the business community and the public sector simply cannot provide enough jobs for employable youth. As a way to address these issues, P@SHA led an eight-month youth entrepreneurship program targeting university students in the technology field.
P@SHA organized entrepreneurship awareness sessions and workshops for over three hundred university students in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Hyderabad, and Faisalabad. The sessions varied in style and content – some workshops were informal discussions led by local entrepreneurs who spoke about what it means to run your own business, while other sessions were structured lectures on basic business skills like marketing and communications. One of the most popular events was with Jawwad Ahmed Farid, a serial entrepreneur, who shared about his own start-up failures and the important lessons he gained from them.
To complement these workshops, P@SHA also invited inspired students to submit business ideas and get feedback from the guest lecturers. Fifty students were selected out of the submissions, and were matched with established technology and software entrepreneurs. The mentors provided guidance on specific IT business skills for the students, such as improving their business plans and concepts, and learning how to integrate payment systems into their online or mobile products. Even after the official “mentorship” part of the program ended, many of the pairs have kept in touch and the students continue to seek advice from their mentors.
P@SHA’s initiative is just the beginning. Other actors in the entrepreneurial ecosystem must also participate to help encourage youth entrepreneurship in Pakistan.
The business environment must be friendlier towards entrepreneurs. More local entrepreneurs must inspire and encourage youth to build successful firms from scratch. Universities should help open students mind to the possibility of entrepreneurship and not only pursuing government or corporate jobs. If these different components can come together to help create a conducive environment for young people to start their ventures, then the future of Pakistan is promising.
Maiko Nakagaki is a Program Officer for Global Programs at CIPE.