Digital startups and women entrepreneurs – This is how far we have come

Another side of 70 years of Independence

 

 

A person visiting Pakistan after a decade or two would not be able to believe it is the same country since everything has changed so drastically, owing to the increased digital market and emerging startups making their way to every household

 

 

 

It’s been 70 years since Pakistan came into being. Passing through the thick and thin, the rough and the smooth, it has somehow managed to make its mark in the world. Although Pakistan still needs to work on a lot of segments, including poverty, education, and healthcare, etc, and the country is still struggling for better democracy, judicial system and legislation, it has come a long way from what was given as a mere piece of land, which cannot and should not go uncredited.

Pakistan is the country that has produced people like philanthropist Abdul Sattar Eidhi, fighter pilot Mariam Mukhtar, youngest Microsoft certified Arfa Karim, Oscar winner Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, Nobel prize winner Malala Yousafzai, cyclist Sabia Abbat, footballer Raheela Zarmeen, actors like Mahira Khan, Saba Qamar and Fawad Khan, singers like Ali Zafar and Atif Aslam, scientists like Umar Saif and Dr Nawal I Syed and students like Ali Moeen Nawazish and Hunain Zia who aced O/A levels.

A person visiting Pakistan after a decade or two would not be able to believe it is the same country since everything has changed so drastically, owing to the increased digital market and emerging startups making their way to every household. Pakistan does lag behind the world in terms of digital tools and emerging technologies, nonetheless it has brought a huge change in the country and has utterly changed the needs and lifestyle of the society.

For this Independence Day, DNA reached out to various people and entrepreneurs who are actually contributing to the growth and image of Pakistan with their innovative ideas and startups.

 

Monis Rahman, an internet entrepreneur and founder of Naseeb Networks and Pakistan’s first job portal Rozee.pk, while talking about the digital success, said, “There is a rapid adoption of smartphone usage, digital product acceptance and mobile payments and this is poised to continue growing very fast in the coming year. As an entrepreneur, there has never been a better time to be in Pakistan. We have seen a large scale adoption of smartphones with mobile broadband, increasing the reach of our products to new consumers who are much more engaged.”

“It is an exciting time to be at the centre of all of these and witnesses a historic shift in Pakistan to digital. Innovation is in the air.” Rahman added.

 

 

 

 

Since music had always been dear to the people of Pakistan and we own some great singers like NusratFateh Ali Khan, Nazia Hassan, Junaid Jamshed, Javed Bashir and many others, Patari came into being in 2015 to preserve this music and has become the largest music streaming service in Pakistan.

Humayun Haroon, co-founder of Patari, recounts this achievement as, “We started Patari because of our love for Pakistani music on which we grew up, and we want our future generations to be able to experience it as well. Music is an inherent part of a country’s culture and ours was getting lost, especially with no central place where you could discover new content or reliably find existing songs. More importantly, artists did not have any way to monetise their content, which is crucial for them to be able to keep making more music. This is where Patari stepped in, as a platform for people to discover great new content and artists to be able to generate revenue off of their music.”

“We realise the need to actively catalyse the music eco-system and actively invest into it as well, to bring out newer talent and help them get their music out to their audience. The future looks bright for the local music industry and we at Patari will be doing as much as we can to promote and be a part of it,” Haroon added.

 

Along with these digital startups, women entrepreneurs have also stepped up in this presentage and are setting up businesses and launching their products that have been making rounds. The gender disparity is talked about now and women are supported by the society for their work, which can be hailed as an achievement.

One cannot talk about women achievers of Pakistan without mentioning Masarrat Misbah, an entrepreneur, cosmetologist and philanthropist. She is the one to first launch the idea of professional beauty salons in Pakistan.Not only that, she has also introduced her own makeup line to add to the beauty of womenand an NGO for those who lost it.

While, talking to DNA about her achievements, Misbah said, “Wherever I am today, I think I could only achieve this in Pakistan. After coming this far in life, I feel old, wise and mature now.”

 

Just like Misbah, there are a lot of other young women who have set up their businesses and are making a name for themselves and the country. Sarrak pe Karrak is a roadside Dhabba-like restaurant owned by Noor Zehra aimed at providing a unique experience to its customers

 

 

As for this country, she added, “None of the nations can touch the sky in 50 or 70 years but inspite of all the adversities, we still have come a long way. We cannot pose a hopeless attitude towards this country. I am very hopeful there is a bright future for our coming generations. We just need the right people and right leadership.The experiences and problems this generationis facing will surely make this country achieve new milestones.”

We have already witnessed a lot of progress with the help of education and new technology but some important values that are lost somewhere in between the process also need to be brought back, she noted.

 

 

 

 

Just like Misbah, there are a lot of other young women who have set up their businesses and are making a name for themselves and the country. Sarrak pe Karrak is a roadside Dhabba-like restaurant owned by Noor Zehra aimed at providing a unique experience to its customers.

Zehra, while talking to DNA, described the experience as: “Owning a restaurant has been the most liberating and empowering experience of my life. The acceptability of such ideas is increasing but there is still a long way to go. Women must step out of their comfort zones and should definitely stop falling prey to societal pressures and notions of what a woman cannot achieve. More power to all the female entrepreneurs busting gender notions.”

While politicians are busy playing their dirty politics, such people and projects are the actual pride of Pakistan and have a long way to go. After 70 years of independence, we can somehow say that the people have begun to think freely and are coming up with ideas that challenge the orthodox and conformist attitudes of society.Hopefully, Pakistan isnot too far from when it would be a much better place to live and breathe in.

Mahnoor Sheikh

The writer is a media student. She tweets at @mahnoorsheikh03



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