Keeping the Startup Dream Afloat

On one hand, the global start-up ecosystem has been influenced by Silicon Valley’s cosmic success and its tech startups. On the other, however, western venture capitalists are increasingly shifting their focus to markets like Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines mostly due to one factor: sustainable operations.

It is common knowledge that Southeast Asian economies offer Western businesses enormous opportunities for growth. Equally important, however, is to keep in mind that global economies have expressed a keen interest in Pakistan’s rapidly booming digital and tech industries, supported by a burgeoning young population which stands at 64%.

Startup Ecosystem in Pakistan

The country’s startups and tech sector achieved unprecedented growth during the last two years. 2021 witnessed record-breaking achievements.

For instance, tech startups raised USD 350 million, while USD 227 million was raised in the first half of 2022. However, the pace slowed down with the second quarter raising only USD 102 million of funding, while the third quarter saw its lowest funding since Q1 2021, with only USD 55 million raised to close the year.

The underwhelming inflow of funding took shape due to the global economy slowing down since the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and because of domestic political turmoil that moved masses across the country.

Several startups that had started off with great promise, such as Swvl, Retailo, Truck It In, and Airlift began to scale back their operations and lay people off on a large scale.

Furthermore, a promising fintech startup was criticized for fraud, causing disruptive spillovers for the entire startup ecosystem and increasing the country’s risk premium.

Building a Sturdy Foundation

Programs like Telenor Pakistan’s Velocity offer startups the perfect platform to not just make a difference in the local landscape but to go global as well.

Since its inception in 2016, Telenor Velocity has hosted eight batches, offering them exclusive access to the network’s extensive retail network, important analytics, and customer insights along with access to Telenor Pakistan’s IoT cloud platform.

Telenor Velocity has made significant contributions to the nation’s growing startup ecosystem; it recognizes the untapped potential of Pakistan’s young tech sector and continues to stimulate growth by providing initiatives for young people that were previously not available.

Through its digital assets, Velocity scaled Pak Agri Market, a startup working in the Agritech space, to 120 tehsils in Central Punjab. This resulted in an increase of startup revenue by 120x growth.

Similarly, Sehat Kahani’s customer acquisition cost was reduced by 33% through a rigorous digital marketing campaign run by Velocity. Now their app is integrated within My Telenor App – Telenor Pakistan’s super app.

Digikhata a bookkeeping app, one of the best fintech use cases showed a 50% month-on-month incremental revenue increase since it has been integrated with Telenor Pakistan’s Apollo app – an app for retailers.

Creating New Paths to Progress

In addition to boosting entrepreneurship through Velocity, Telenor Pakistan also guides businesses of all sizes and at any stage of their journey, in exploring new ideas and opportunities through its “Create” Program.

Offering services like persona mapping, prototyping, user testing, and interviews, and problem framing, to name a few, Telenor Create helps businesses reduce risks in a short time and accelerates their progress significantly.

Telenor Velocity offers startups equity-free support during the growth stage along with exclusive access to a customer base of more than 47 million, coaching from domain experts, data analytics and product development support, access to Telenor Pakistan’s global partner and mentor network, and scaling opportunities on the network and Telenor Bank’s digital assets.

Lessons for Startups

This year has been nothing short of a lesson for startup founders to work consistently on innovation and maintaining high standards of quality through the right tech and good business practices.

This is the only way to remain profitable in the ever-changing business environment while attracting foreign funding. Founders have learned this year to develop business models based on scalability beyond borders.

Startup founders are increasingly aligning their visions to the new normal to get the most out of their hard work and weather the storm that has come with the end of this year. Some businesses are expected to emerge stronger while others may struggle to remain afloat during next year.

The younger generation of founders understands the true scale of opportunity that lies in Pakistan’s startup ecosystem and holds the potential to reach great heights, under the right guidance.

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