Reshaping Pakistan’s entrepreneurial future

September 20, 2020

How Umar Farooq is promoting IT growth in KP

Umar Farooq, entrepreneur, manager and technology enthusiast, had achieved a lot in his long career in the United States and Canada. He had the opportunity now to watch his business grow and live a luxurious life. However, his love for the country of his birth brought him back home.

“Despite having lived in the US for many years, my heart was always in Pakistan. I spent years thinking of how I could serve my country from thousands of miles away. I did charity, donations, disaster response drives, prayers and what not to convince myself that I was doing enough,” Farooq says.

“Finally one day, I realized that if I wanted to really change my country, I would have to give up my career and comfortable life and go back to Pakistan and actually work myself to create the change. With that thought I packed my bags and took a flight back,” he says.

He returned to Pakistan and started utilizing his entrepreneurship and management skills and expertise and started working in a remote region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Farooq wants to see his region as well as the country flourish.

“They are the people in most dire need of development that new businesses and startups can provide. So, promoting entrepreneurial culture in such towns will not only benefit the entrepreneur but also the town,” Farooq says.

His company Tech Valley Pakistan has become a country partner of Google for Education, G Suite and Google Cloud.

He wants other tech giants to open up their offices in Pakistan too so that the country starts thriving.

For him, entrepreneurship is the next big thing in Pakistan. The job market is small and very few jobs are fulfilling. Youngsters, particularly, are thus moving more and more towards entrepreneurship.

“The Covid pandemic showed how much we need technology based solutions in our lives and how important it is to adopt the latest versions. This emerging need will continue to highlight even after the pandemic subsides,” says Farooq.

“In my 4-5 years of entrepreneurship, I have faced a lot of challenges. Initially people were not aware of the updated solutions or how those could change their lives; you can say that there was market ignorance. Besides that, we had a shortage of skilled work force; even if we managed to spot some talent, it was hard to retain them because of the brain drain out of the small town and towards the bigger cities.”

“Big and developed cities have more facilities; small towns or tier-two cities are the ones with the problems and unfulfilled needs. These small towns offer enormous opportunities for budding entrepreneurs. They have fresh ground for creativity and innovation.”

“They are the ones in most dire need of development which new businesses and startups can provide. So promoting entrepreneurial culture in such towns will not only benefit the entrepreneur but also the whole town,” he says.

“The Covid pandemic proved how much we need technology-based solutions in our lives and how important it is to adopt the latest versions. This emerging need will continue to highlight even after the pandemic,” says entrepreneur Umar Farooq.

“So far, we have produced 12 startups generating Rs 9,959,694 in revenue and creating more than 150 direct and indirect jobs altogether. Our project, Durshal Abbottabad, that provides incubation services, makes sure that women are empowered and more of them come forward to materialize their ideas.”

“For this purpose, we provide gender-inclusive space so that they can work productively in a comfortable environment. Due to such efforts, in the second cohort, we had three women-led startups and over 60 percent female participation in all startups combined”, Farooq says.

“Foreign exposure plays a crucial role for an individual if he/she wants to be successful. It also tells us how things work around the globe and how we can learn from the examples or mistakes that have already been made,” says Farooq.

“Determination, resilience and consistency are the characteristics that determine a person’s odds to become a successful entrepreneur. First of all, you should be determined to achieve your goal. If the will to achieve is powerful and honest, you will naturally develop that determination and dedication.”

“In spite of setbacks, or barriers, or limited resources, you need to pour blood, sweat and tears, that’s where resilience comes from. And then the most important thing is consistency. Even though you are your own boss, you need to work consistently, without any breaks, despite failures, and with strong motivation to achieve what you want,” he says.

“According to a research study titled GEM-Pakistan Report 2011 compiled by IBA-CED Karachi, higher levels of entrepreneurial aspirations such as for firm growth and job creation are likely to lead to positive results, which implies that efforts intended to increase growth aspirations and associated abilities will most likely succeed.”

The study reveals that in KP and Balochistan, the number of people expected to start a business was higher as compared to Punjab and Sindh. However, it said the Punjab had an interesting picture of entrepreneurial activity as it had the highest number of established business owners and the highest early stage business survival rate and a lower business closure rate.

Balochistan reports the highest nascent entrepreneurial activity and new business manager rate but a very high business closure rate while KP reports the lowest business closure rate.

The most opportunity-based entrepreneurship is taking place in KP followed by Sindh and Balochistan and the highest necessity-based entrepreneurial activity is taking place in Balochistan followed by Sindh.

“At world level, Pakistan and Iran have the highest percentage of early-stage entrepreneurial activity and equitable business opportunity with more than 25 percent of their customers outside the country among the efficiency driven economies,” he says.

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Islamabad and PhD aspirant. She tweets @shizrehman

Reshaping Pakistan’s entrepreneurial future