Saturday May 18, 2024

How to encourage entrepreneurship

Another advantage for Pakistan is the enhanced teledensity and internet penetration

By Kamran H Mushtaq
April 15, 2024
A representational image of a companys employees talking with customers at a call centre in Lahore, Pakistan. — AFP/File
 A representational image of a company's employees talking with customers at a call centre in Lahore, Pakistan. — AFP/File

Entrepreneurship is a unique skillset, artistic as well as scientific. It is the soul of development philosophy. Western countries which have witnessed a giant leap in technological transformation, especially in the 21st century, owe their triumph to their entrepreneurial capital.

Today, the production capacity of global unicorns is greater than that of several developing countries. This shows that countries now need technology entrepreneurship, which combines technology and capital for real productivity.

Policymakers in Pakistan must focus on the opportunities available in the market arena and encourage energetic and visionary entrepreneurs.

Pakistan has a huge consumer market for not only goods but also services. There is an enormous appetite available in the open market for an enterprising skillset. This is without prejudice to the fact that there are various globally recognized services which, due to certain social issues, do not qualify as services in our society.

For example, in Western economies, customer/supplier introduction is recognized as a valid service, and some firms and entities charge legal fees for introduction services to prospective suppliers and customers. In our country, these fields are still in their infancy and will need time and social acceptability.

The increasing rate of urbanization and the resultant lifestyle changes are opening avenues for a plethora of markets, which ultimately suggest enterprising opportunities. Urban governance and finance, as pointed out by Peter Ellis and Mark Roberts in their seminal work on Leveraging Urbanization in South Asia, are key avenues where there is an immense need for action.

The consistent focus of the corporate sector on the telecom and banking sectors and their collaboration has resulted in various startups and the birth of fintech in Pakistan. There is a vast opportunity for fintech here.

Pakistan’s geographical proximity to Central Asia and the Middle East on the one side and China on the other renders it a worthwhile option for to-be entrepreneurs. Pakistan lies at the centre of the world’s supply chain network. On the western side (the Middle East and Central Asia) is the supply side of oil, gas, natural resources, etc, and on the eastern side (China, South Asia and Southeast Asia) lies huge demand. Pakistan’s entrepreneurial resources will be pivotal in capitalizing on such opportunities.

The initiative of the Higher Education Commission for the establishment of business incubation centres in higher education institutes in Pakistan, providing basic infrastructure and allied facilities for young entrepreneurs in the development of early-stage business ventures, needs commendation. These centres provide mentoring and guidance to startups, including liaisons with industries.

Another advantage for Pakistan is the enhanced teledensity and internet penetration. According to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), there are currently more than 191 million mobile cellular users. This makes the mobile teledensity rate around 79.51 per cent and the mobile broadband penetration nearly 55 per cent. These figures are quite healthy as far as digital accessibility is concerned. The need for digital connectivity for freelancing, fintech, outsourcing and other business opportunities cannot be overemphasized.

Moreover, the English language comprehension capability is also a unique characteristic of the Pakistani population, making them acceptable for business opportunities worldwide. Proficiency and fluency aside, rudimentary knowledge of English is possessed by not less than 50 per cent of the population. This fact can be ascertained by the presence of large numbers of Pakistani natives in Middle Eastern and Western countries.

All of the aforementioned factors need comprehensive integration and the removal of bottlenecks in producing motivated and empowered entrepreneurs. This can be achieved by operating one-window business facilitation desks by the federal and provincial governments.

Simplified taxation, instead of multiple tax compliance requirements, the documentation of the economy, and contract enforcement mechanisms are the prerequisites for enabling startups to flourish.

A consistent focus on enabling entrepreneurs is the real driver of growth. It must be understood that tech centres like Shenzhen and Silicon Valley are not made in a day. An entire environment is first created to enable creative minds to polish their skills and then contribute to the economy. Once given a gestation period with proper facilitation, entrepreneurial minds will entirely transform the economic landscape of the country.

The writer, a chartered accountant, is a PAS/DMG officer in the civil service.