Nothing disruptive about this one

July 03, 2022

The premier edition of +92Disrupt, held recently in Lahore, brought the movers and shakers from the world of technology, innovation and lifestyle together

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Entrepreneurs had the chance to share notes and ideas about their businesses. — Images: Supplied


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t was a star-studded affair bringing together Pakistan’s most dynamic movers and shakers from the world of technology, innovation and lifestyle at a two-day event recently, in Lahore.

Planned and executed by the renowned entrepreneur, Jehan Ara, and her team at Katalyst Labs, a technology accelerator and innovation hub located in Karachi, the +92Disrupt conference saw the likes of filmmaker Sarmad Khoosat who gave the opening speech on day one to kick off the event; Samina Rizwan, the Code for Pakistan country head; Kalsoom Lakhani, the i2i Ventures co-founder; Abrar Bajwa, the Tazah Technologies co-founder; Fatima Mazhar, the COLABS COO; stars from the field of music such as Zeb Bangash, Natasha Noorani and Abdullah Siddiqui; and content creators like Momina Sibtain and Huma Mobin.

The conference took place at Ramada Hotel in Gulberg, but some sessions comprising office hours and in-depth workshops targetted at smaller audiences, were held at the COLABS.

While the weather remained sizzling hot, the participants found COLABS’s shuttle rides from one venue to the other, efficient.

At the hotel hall, the vibe was a mix of excitement and networking. Perhaps, that’s the best part about events like this — they encourage camaraderie in Pakistan’s thrilling and ever-expanding entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Sarmad Khoosat.

“This was the first iteration of +92Disrupt. We started off with Lahore because there is a lot happening in the city’s ecosystem, especially in the mobile gaming and agritech as well as the investment space,” said Jehan Ara, the Katalyst Labs founder. “Holding a conference away from your home turf is always a little difficult because one doesn’t know what to expect. Curating the event was key. We made sure that topics like Mobile Gaming, which is growing at a phenomenal pace, were covered. We were fortunate that Babar Ahmed, the founder of Mindstorm Studios, a guru of gaming in Pakistan, was in the city. His experience and knowhow made the discussion rich and practical. The panel spoke about the challenges the industry is facing despite its enormous growth potential. The Hot Seat segment where one had quick chats with five innovators to give the audience an insight about people who are shaking up the ecosystem was particularly enjoyable.

“All in all, the conference was so fulfilling because of the engagement both in and outside the hall. I would do it again at the drop of a hat — maybe next time it can be even bigger,” she added.

Speaking with TNS, Kalsoom Lakhani said, “There’s a book, titled Startup Communities, in which [the author] says that a healthy startup ecosystem is also one that creates opportunities for serendipitous connections and that conferences are truly an opportunity for that. Bringing together the entire startup community of Pakistan through events like +92Disrupt allows for serendipitous connections. We’re a country that lacks public space. Conferences like these create that space. It’s vitally important not just for the present, but also the future of the startup ecosystem.”

The session on gaming had panellists discussing the challenges the industry is facing despite the enormous growth potential.

“Events like +92Disrupt allow us to bring together a thriving ecosystem. We experienced this first-hand last weekend,” said Kashaf Jamal, programme manager at Katalyst Labs. “The conversations happening off stage were as important as the discussions taking place on stage.

“A very interesting aspect of the conference was the office hours that allowed some of the young and upcoming entrepreneurs to get their first meetings with potential investors and mentors.”

Annum Sadiq, the co-founder of the ed-tech startup, EDKASA, stated that she was thrilled to be a part of +92Disrupt. “It was a great event,” she said. “I got a chance to reconnect with my peers, friends, mentors and investors. The conference was a one-of-a-kind platform that gave like-minded entrepreneurs a space and the chance to share notes and ideas about their businesses.”

Fatima Mazhar of COLABS.

Mubariz Siddiqui, an independent legal practitioner known for his work with local startups, spoke particularly of the events Jehan Ara had spearheaded. “She puts extra thought into small aspects such as making sure more people interact with each other and more diverse voices are heard and that the panels are interesting. I got to meet so many people in these two days and really enjoyed the event. The reason why I chose to work in the startup space was because the entrepreneurs carry with them a common, naïve optimism — they all share this combined belief that the world is malleable and that they can change something in it. It’s refreshing.”

Fatima Mazhar, the COLABS COO, said the collaboration between +92Disrupt and COLABS couldn’t have been better, given the vast networks they were able to tap into and bring together in perfect synergy. “One of our biggest missions is to create and enable an ecosystem that has all the support and mentorship that we can provide,” she said. “I believe the next few months will be all about sustainability, but that will only happen if startups merge, or some of the more successful players in the ecosystem take the new startups under their wings.

“Events like +92Disrupt are important because a lot of local startups don’t have access to investors and opportunities to learn from them. At this conference I saw founders from different, competing startups sit down and chat together, I saw investors talking to young entrepreneurs… It was wonderful.”

“We started off with Lahore because there is a lot happening in the city’s ecosystem, especially in the mobile gaming and agritech as well as the investment space,” said Jehan Ara, the Founder of Katalyst Labs.

Paddy issues

— Photo by Rahat Dar





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