LAHORE: The Lahore University of Management and Sciences (Lums) National Incubation Centre Lahore (NICL) on Monday organised the ‘Entrepreneur in Conversation’ series with some of Pakistan’s brightest entrepreneurial minds discussing their innovative solutions to combat the challenges in the country.

Speaking on the occasion, NICL Chairman Saleem Ahmad said these informal and interactive sessions would serve as an opportunity to learn from entrepreneurs who were solving Pakistan’s big problems and creating lasting impact.

He hoped to inspire a generation of young problem-solvers who could learn from these entrepreneurs’ path-breaking journeys.

He said the NICL was aiming to provide young entrepreneurs with a platform to engage directly with industry leaders and learn first-hand from their start-up journeys through these series.

Other speakers highlighted their failures and successes and how they had overcome challenges to create enduring success. Co-Founder and CEO of Ricult Inc. Usman Javaid inaugurated the first session and talked about his journey of establishing an agriculture technology start-up.

Mr Javaid is transforming the agriculture sector by helping farmers escape the cycle of poverty through the use of data analytics, which supports financial inclusion for small farmers in Pakistan and Thailand.

The second talk was on the experiences of an artificial intelligence expert and NICL advisory board member and Co-Founder and CEO of ADDO AI Dr Ayesha Khanna who spoke about Pakistan’s opportunity for advancement with AI and passionately advocated for gender parity in technology.

CEO and Co-founder of Finja, a fintech start-up and member, NICL Foundation Council Qasif Shahid attended the third talk and shared how his company was digitally disrupting and democratising lending in a PKR 10 trillion Pakistani market with very low penetration levels.

He said Finja’s successful US$9m rose from blue chip fintech funds invested in Pakistan for the first time.

Additionally, the NICL has further strengthened its Foundation Council (FC) with experts in agriculture, financial inclusion, e-commerce, and venture investment. The new members include Faisal Aftab, managing partner and executive director of Lakson Venture Capital who had over 15 years of investment experience, and is a limited partner of 500 start-ups, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital fund, and a board member of many Pakistan based start-ups, including Bookme.pk, MandiExpress.pk, KnowledgePlatform.com, Bagallery.com and Roomy.pk.

The Foundation Council and the NICL advisory board will provide guidance to the foundation programme by helping coach, mentor and train its sixth cohort of aspiring entrepreneurs.

At present, 37 start-ups from Lahore and 20 at BUITEMS in Quetta have been inducted to NICL’s Foundation Programme, which comprises a redesigned curriculum.

Published in Dawn, Jannuary 5th, 2021

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