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May 26, 2015

Young innovators jumpstart tech in Pakistan

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Tech entrepreneurs are working to make the city of Karachi, Pakistan’s commercial capital, a new hub of innovation by supporting young talent.

After graduating from college in Ohio in 2000, Umair Aziz worked at a Boston tech firm. But after a few years, he decided to found a startup in Karachi. “I knew there were hundreds and thousands of people like me who could join my organization. It was a risk, but I was betting on the talent,” he said.

Aziz has worked with American clients such as Sears, Amazon and Microsoft. But many potential clients associate Pakistan only with terrorism and violence, bringing a negative stigma to companies that work there, he said.

“There’s a world outside of…everything that they hear on CNN and BBC all the time,” he said.

Aziz and others entrepreneurs are working to change that image by supporting young people who want to work in the tech sector. Pakistan has no shortage of talent, he said; the country’s population numbers 200 million people, 70 percent of whom are younger than 30.

Business owners are also trying to create opportunities for women and girls in the primarily religious and conservative culture. Startup owner Rumaisa Mughal said, “progress, sadly, is slow, but definitely more women are coming in this field.”

This mission is also important to tech entrepreneur Jehan Ara, president of The Nest. Her business serves as an “incubator” that provides entrepreneurs with resources like power, broadband and hardware to help them develop business models.

The Nest receives financial support from several donors, including Google, Samsung and the U.S. government. But the business community in Pakistan has been slow to fund the venture and others like it, Ara said.


Warm up questions
  1. What is a startup company?
  2. Do you use any products or services from startup companies?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Why is the presence of tech startups in Pakistan significant?
  2. Why would a company based in Pakistan want to hide their location from potential business partners?
  3. How can other tech businesses contribute to Pakistan’s new startup environment?
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