The Institute of Business Administration (IBA) Karachi organized a discourse on ‘Startup Landscape in Pakistan – Tales of Failures and Successes’ on its main campus.

This was the third session conducted under the dialogue series ‘CEO Forum’. The discussion was moderated by Assistant Professor and Director QEC Dr Saima Husain who was in conversation with founders and corporate leaders including Daraz Managing Director Ehsan Saya, CEO and Co-Founder of Oraan Halima Iqbal, Co-Founder and Director Telemart Hamza Rauf, and Co-founder, Airlift Ahmed Ayub.

Initiating the dialogue, Dr Saima Husain inquired about e-commerce, its relevance, significance in the local ecosystem, and its evolution over time.

Rauf provided insights into his journey, his early start due to family circumstances, and his understanding of e-commerce holding a minuscule share locally and as compared to other countries. He said that e-commerce cannot grow in isolation and that all systems, infrastructures and technologies must make it easier to operate.

Ayub voiced that there was no concept of e-commerce back in the day. He mentioned that e-commerce flourished during Covid. He reflected on the Karachi market and how different it is, there are problems that need solutions across the board. He stated that if we are not bogged down by setbacks and have the determination to do something to create mass level impact, then there are a lot of things that can be done.

Dr Saima Husain asked whether the underserved in society refer to the female segment, to which Ms. Iqbal pointed out the disparity in banking use between the genders. She added that this is due to the socio-cultural factors and widespread mistrust of the formal economy. Her organization spent months trying to figure out what problems their target audience was facing to be able to help them through digitization.

Saya highlighted the wealth of knowledge and investment that Alibaba has obtained through the acquisition of Daraz. He pointed out that their business is data-driven and quick to assess and analyze failures and offset them in a timely manner.

The unanimous opinion was that startups not only help to channel money to the country, but that they fuel hope and bring change to the local ecosystem. The panelists collectively opined that students need to focus on learning, reading, and learning when looking for a job instead of focusing on the initial pay cheque and their next promotions. The dialogue concluded with a Q&A session between the speakers and the audience.

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Author

Arshad Yousafzai is a Karachi-based journalist covering Education and Human Rights. He can be reached on Twitter @Arshadyousafzay

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