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Tell us about yourself and your background. While growing up, my mother was an inspiration to me. She was a senior executive at the Ministry of Science and Technology. I admired the confidence and the aura she carried when she sat behind that big desk. I always imagined myself doing the same. I remember I used to mimic her behavior at home, while playing make-belief games (this one called office o office), where I acted the part of a big boss, ordering away my younger siblings (and they did exactly what I told them to do!). My mother always instructed that hard work and perseverance are the most important ingredients to any kind of success. While working at easypaisa back in 2010, I got an opportunity to create innovative financial products and services. I witnessed a revolutionizing impact and empowering people through technologically driven and low cost financial services. The customer journey of the product was a major innovation. This inspired me to further learn about disruptive innovation and entrepreneurship. I disrupt applied for a Fulbright Scholarship. Taking the GRE exam seemed like a nightmare, but eventually I made it. During my two-year stay in the U.S, I was first exposed to the startup culture. It was an exhilarating experience to learn from entrepreneurs, investors and industry experts. I also worked wor as a coach to health related startups. Upon my return to Pakistan, I wanted to fill the gaps and build an effective entrepreneurial ecosystem. I joined an educational institute and established Takhleeq, a state-of-the-art incubation facility, where startups solve Pakistan’s local problems by devising innovative technological solutions. At the same time, I co-founded DEMO, along with my partner, where we provided consultancy, training services and research in impact-driven verticals such as innovation, entrepreneurship, skills development technology and communications. Currently I am heading Corporate Innovation at Telenor Pakistan, where I look after the Digital Accelerator, Velocity, and I am also spearheading an initiative whereby we foster otut-of-the-box thinking by setting up programs to jumpstart creativity amongst employees.

Having worked in the entrepreneurial ecosystem for a while, what are your thoughts on the current landscape? The entrepreneurial ecosystem in Pakistan was given a tremendous boost a few years ago with the emergence of National Incubation Centers, across the country. There are 22 incubators and accelerators educating, supporting and guiding entrepreneurs. Private institutions, giving exposure and institution networking opportunities, hold many startup events and competitions. Over the past few years, an increase in smartphone usage and Internet penetration has opened up tremendous opportunities for startups. A decade ago, an average Pakistani wouldn’t have thought of using an app to order food or making an online purchase on a Nokia device. The increase in digital penetration assures achieving scalability for a startup, which is a critical component for an investor to examine before making an investment. be The demographics of our country play an instrumental role in economic growth. 61.4% of Pakistan’s 200 million population falls in the working age group, and about half of this group is below 30 years of age. Many students and fresh graduates are pursuing startups of their own, hence considering entrepreneurship ent as a viable career option. I have always believed that the word problem is synonymous with opportunity when it comes to startups. That said, there is an immense opportunity in the agriculture sector, where startups can offer innovative solutions to the problems Pakistan is facing.

Profile for Startup Guide

Startup Guide Issue 6  

In our sixth issue, we talk to the master brand builder, Khadijah Shah of Élan and Zaha. The serial entrepreneur was behind turning around S...

Startup Guide Issue 6  

In our sixth issue, we talk to the master brand builder, Khadijah Shah of Élan and Zaha. The serial entrepreneur was behind turning around S...