Sci-Tech
Saturday Nov 13 2021
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Digital Youth Summit 2021: Entrepreneurs, investors highlight potential in Pakistan's digital economy

A panel discussed the ways in which venture capital can boost economic growth in Pakistan. Photos Geo.tv
A panel discussed the ways in which venture capital can boost economic growth in Pakistan. Photos Geo.tv

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s two-day Digital Youth Summit 2021 (DYS ‘21), hosted in Peshawer, opened today for the public, with a large number of tech entrepreneurs, students, investors and enthusiasts flocking to the venue to hear some of the brightest minds in the local and global IT industry share their insights and experiences.

Attendees started turning up early for the event, braving Peshawar’s Saturday morning chill to book a space to hear speakers share their thoughts and to learn from trainers from global tech giants like Google and Meta (Facebook), who are hosting workshops on key skills for the digital age.

The DYS's main speaker sessions are being hosted at Pearl Continental, Peshawar's marquee, with workshops around specific skills organised simultaneously in different halls. A dedicated exhibit hall showcases products and services from both new and established tech companies.

The whos who of Pakistans IT industry are in attendance at the Digital Youth Summit 2021 being held in Peshawar on November 13 and 14.
The who's who of Pakistan's IT industry are in attendance at the Digital Youth Summit 2021 being held in Peshawar on November 13 and 14.

The summit kicked off with speeches from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Minister for IT, Science and Technology Atif Khan and Minister for Information and Higher Education Kamran Bangash, who outlined the provincial government’s vision for digital transformation and growth of the IT sector in the province.

Atif Khan’s address focused on the potential for transformation through information technology. He offered his services to support young entrepreneurs in the province, promising them that he will help them navigate legal and financial hurdles as they work to boost startup growth.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa IT Minister Atif Khan visits a start-ups stall to learn more about the venture.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa IT Minister Atif Khan visits a start-up's stall to learn more about the venture.

“The focus is on building a thriving ecosystem leveraging support from overseas Pakistanis,” he stressed.

Bangash spoke on the importance of digital governance and data analytics for transparent and effective policymaking.

He also noted that digital skills have brought immense growth and contribution to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa economy, and stressed on improving linkages between industry and academia.

Meanwhile, workshops on advertising effectively on Facebook, the secrets of freelancing and selling on Amazon were held in halls packed with young men and women eager to pick up skills that can help them turn their fortunes around in Pakistan’s nascent digital economy.

Back in the main marquee, entrepreneur William Bao Bean — who has invested in well known Pakistani startups like Price Oye Swagkicks, 247.pk, Digikhaata and others — shared his insights and advice with young entrepreneurs setting out on their own journey to actualize their dreams.

Bean said his goal is to invest in local startups that can engage with mom-and-pop stores, build linkages between communities and help create an ecosystem of startups that can work together to address the needs of millions of Pakistanis every day.

He assured the young audience that they do not need a foreign degree to qualify for investment from a major international investor – they just need the drive and ability to deliver. In fact, he told them that most of the investments he has made in Pakistan are in companies whose founders completed their studies within Pakistan.

Urging policymakers to find ways to engage with diaspora Pakistanis and provide them opportunities to bring their skills and talent back home, Bean underlined that it is important to find people who can mentor the next generation.

When asked how the government can encourage entrepreneurship and investment in Pakistan’s tech sector, Bean suggested that it eases the taxes imposed on the sector.

The workshop on freelancing saw a significant turnout with young men and women turning up to learn valuable skills.
The workshop on freelancing saw a significant turnout with young men and women turning up to learn valuable skills. 

“The value that venture capital firms bring [to the country] is not in the taxes you can raise from them, but in the jobs they create and the talent they bring with them to the country. You should be looking to raise taxes from the jobs – the local spending they will do. Tax the output, not the input,” he said.

Later, a group of Pakistani entrepreneurs discussed the challenges facing young founders and the role venture capital firms play.

Adnan Faisal, founder of ScaleX, stressed that people not take startups as a business opportunity, but as an opportunity to transform public behaviour.

“This requires a leadership mindset – not just a tech mindset,” Faisal stressed, adding that understanding of commercial knowledge and acting with light speed are also crucial skills.

Co-founder of Zayn Capital Faisal Aftab described Pakistan as “a very undervalued venture capital asset”.

Misbah Naqvi, the co-founder of i2i Ventures, noted that e-commerce and fintech go really well together, along with logistics.

“We will continue to see growth in these. E-commerce is a broad title and it covers various verticals. The ability to transact, access goods and pay online are the most opportune spaces [at the moment],” she explained.

Other areas she identified as having significant opportunities are the education technology space, credit for small and medium enterprises and health technologies.

The summit is scheduled to run from 8.30am to 8.00pm on Saturday, and from 8.30am to 5.40pm on Sunday at the hotel.