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Over 17 organisations come together with Jazz to discuss digitisation trends and opportunities in Pakistan

The 'Digital Opportunities' conference discussed ideas to overcome challenges for sustainable entrepreneurship.
Updated Jul 17, 2019 04:54pm

As a recognised thought leader in the area, Jazz recently conducted a 'Digital Opportunities' round-table conference with industry leaders and media personnel belonging to over 17 different organisations.

The conference discussed the digital ecosystem of Pakistan; it placed special emphasis on identifying opportunities for entrepreneurs tailored to local needs, sustainable entrepreneurship and digitisation of existing businesses.

Recommendations to facilitate entrepreneurship included creating a profound digital ecosystem; establishing incubation centers, overcoming legal challenges and gaining the support of regulators.

Here's a quick comment by Ursula Burns, Chairperson and CEO, VEON:

Conference highlights

Here are few aspects on digital challenges that were discussed in the conference:

Opportunities

In Pakistan, 60% of start-ups die within the first 5 years mainly due to high costs and low revenues. This is primarily due to the fact that Pakistan’s digital ecosystem is still not conducive for innovation.

Luckily, the round-table identified some opportunities for profit maximisation.

Identifying and addressing local needs

With the Pakistani start-up market still growing, there is great opportunity for businesses to ‘remix and re-sell’ existing ideas. Many entrepreneurs should take the chance to identify existing ideas (which may have been implemented in other countries), and tailor them to match the needs of the target market.

Such ‘copy-cat’ start-ups can help the local market catch up to global technological progress.

A good example of this is Uber. In 2011 Uber – the ride-hailing app – was launched in North America, with Careem doing the same in the Middle East, 3 years later.

Focus on sustainable entrepreneurship

As a developing country, Pakistan falls behind on several of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Therefore, entrepreneurs should focus on ideas that can create a positive social impact, and ultimately improve the economic landscape of the country.

The Bakhabar Kissan app is one such example; the app provides online weather forecasts to farmers and also has an e-store allowing for easy access to quality products. Similarly, in the education sector, there is the potential to work on creating more online digital educational platforms in local languages.

Digitise existing businesses

With every sphere of our lives now digitised, businesses that have been operating manually need to reinvent themselves and jump on the digital bandwagon.

Simple measures like having an active online presence and setting e-commerce shopfronts and digital payment systems can go a long way.

E-commerce platforms such as Daraz.pk – an online market place app that allows users to sell their products online – have redefined the relationship between supplier and consumer by ensuring easy access and transparency in transactions.

Recommendations

Here are few noteworthy recommendations made in the conference:

1. Create a supportive, digital environment

Local start-ups can only thrive in a supportive environment.

Following are some recommendations to improve the digital ecosystem:

While international giants such as PayPal have shown little interest in entering the market, local ventures have the ability to plug in that void.

Digital Financial Service providers can encourage entrepreneurs to set up their businesses online by providing them with digital payment gateways.The government can also play a key role in digitizing its payment mechanisms by moving its Government-to-Person (G2P) transactions online.

The digital ecosystem operates on a smartphone and internet access.

The number of smartphone users in the country should improve in order to make progressive health businesses accessible; one such project is Sehat Kahani that allows users to acquire health consultation with a female doctor over the phone.

Such access is imperative for growth. The government can help the situation by reducing duties and taxes on devices and data packages.

Open data platforms could be introduced to schools and universities to aid digital awareness.

2. Establish incubation centers

Incubation centers like the National Incubation Centre (NIC) can engage new entrepreneurs in a learning experience from the birth of an idea to commercialising the product and facilitating it.

Venture capital funds are also necessary to assist entrepreneurs and scale-up start-ups from avoiding the trap of the 'Valley of Death'.

3. Overcome legal challenges

With legal and regulatory challenges most pronounced in the digital areas of Pakistan, most start-ups never see the light of day. Media start-ups, for example, have to endure multiple checks, elaborate procedures and heavy censorship.

As a result, there are no exceptionally successful media start-ups in Pakistan. Affordable legal counselors are needed to assist entrepreneurs in handling legal matters.

4. Gain support of regulators

To gain cooperation of regulators, entrepreneurs can provide proof of concept and display revenue generation. This is the strategy followed by the start-up Finja, for its digital mobile wallet SimSim, to gain the state’s support.

5. Remarks by industry leaders

Here's what industry professionals have to say:

Next steps

Digitisation is the key to achieving an ecosystem where start-ups can thrive and create value for consumers, and Jazz has identified a viable solution; round-table discussions which are crucial for digital growth and equips individuals with knowledge to confront challenges of the new world.

Jazz aims to hold more of these conferences in the future, with the next round-table scheduled for June/July 2019.

Participants of the conference

Here's a list of all industry leaders who attended the conference:


This content is produced in paid partnership with Jazz and is not associated with or necessarily reflective of the views of Dawn.com and its editorial staff.