The start-up boom took root in Pakistan in 2012 (The startup culture in Pakistan – Daily Times), after which we have witnessed the mushrooming of a number of start-ups. New companies have taken over many fields of business, including but not limited to, retail services, technology, and education.
Start-ups have boosted the creativity and innovative abilities of the millennials and Gen-Z’s by providing them with new avenues to explore and achieve financial independence. With the help of government initiatives such as Ignite National Fund and country-wide incubator set-ups (National Incubation Centers), entrepreneurs have gained a lot of support in nurturing a conducive environment for start-ups.
Despite Pakistan’s tumultuous economy and uncertain socio-political scenario, the start-up sector has continued to grow at a rapid pace. According to a report published by Al-Jazeera, in the year 2021, 83 start-ups managed to raise a whopping $350 million. At the start of 2022, the community raised $136 million to achieve a higher target than the previous year.
The National Incubation Center (NIC) has funded more than 200 start-ups by now. With the country’s dominating, vibrant youth population, we have tremendous potential to excel in the startup scene compared to MENA countries (Pakistan’s startups take center stage | Infographic | Al Jazeera).
The Future of the Startup Ecosystem
Aatif Awan, the founder of Indus Valley Capital, sheds light on many factors in one of his articles about how Pakistani start-ups are fast becoming the next big thing. The most important of those was that the country’s technology base is diverse and growing daily, with more than 360,000 tech professionals in the field. One of Al Jazeera’s articles on Pakistani start-ups mentions that Faisal Aftab, founder of Zayn Capital, also foresees a bright future for Pakistani start-ups. He believes that considering the current growth rate, Pakistani start-ups will be worth more than $50 billion by 2030 (Pakistan’s startups take center stage | Infographic | Al Jazeera).
Considering the bright future of the start-up industry in Pakistan, now more than ever, there is an increasing need for readily available and reliable office spaces. People newly launching their businesses are primarily in a crunch for capital and prefer to save money in as many ways as possible.
Here is where co-working spaces come into play. Being a start-up themselves, day in and day out, they are striving to provide a safe space for entrepreneurs to prosper and flourish without having to bear the unnecessary burden of managing a separate, rented-out office and taking care of administrative tasks and responsibilities.
COLABS is one such leading co-working space in Pakistan, launched out of Lahore in 2019 and expanding country-wide (this year), with its enterprises in Islamabad and Karachi launching soon. They provide their community members with an efficient work environment, along with the availability of all kinds of amenities and necessities.
“We founded COLABS to help accelerate the Pakistani startup ecosystem, and we’re very proud of what we have achieved in a little over three years. Even though we’re mainly seen as co-working operators, we have built a solid foundation to make it easy for freelancers, start-ups, and even international companies entering Pakistan to start and manage their businesses. Today anyone looking to start a company in Pakistan could use COLABS not only as a place where they work but also as a partner that manages their different back-office functions.”
Omar Shah – CEO, COLABS
COLABS provides its community members with a space to operate and allows them to collaborate and innovate in an environment that boosts their creativity and ambition for excelling in their professional journey. The dedicated and driven team of COLABS takes care of every little detail, which helps the community (their clientele) perform better and excel in their professional journey. COLABS is home to many noteworthy start-ups, such as; OMD, Ailaaj, Dastgyr, and more.
“The first time I visited COLABS, I found the community and energy to be a microcosm of the fast-growing Pakistani tech ecosystem. We’re thrilled to partner with the COLABS team to help them build the leading platform and community that will power the growth of Pakistani tech across start-ups, freelancers, and global companies expanding into Pakistan.”
Aatif Awan – Founder, Indus Valley Capital
Currently, we have numerous start-ups flourishing in the generic fields of retail and IT, and a lot of new avenues still remain untapped. However, it is encouraging to know that entrepreneurs are thinking out of the box with start-ups like Farmdar and Agriculture Republic, which are focusing on revolutionizing traditional farming practices and are encouraging farmers in adopting conscious farming techniques.
Nonetheless, establishing and sustaining a start-up is a demanding job with countless hurdles. They demand relentless nurturing to flourish and reach their full potential. Although we still have a long way to go and a lot of hurdles to overcome, it is encouraging to know that many local start-ups are bringing in foreign venture capital funds, boosting the economy along with their businesses.
Co-working spaces similar to COLABS are playing their part in providing start-ups in Pakistan with support, networking opportunities, and necessary mentorship by experienced and established individuals from the start-up culture in the country.
With the right amount of dedication from all stakeholders involved, I, as a young Pakistani, imagine us achieving tremendous success that will put Pakistani companies and products on the global stage in the years to come.