Pakistan hasn’t emerged from India’s shadow to become the darling of (Western) investors – but yesterday at Lahore’s first blogger meet-up I really felt entrepreneurial spirit and the passion and will to do something. And the first step is made.
The meeting was organized by plan9, Pakistan’s first tech incubator. Together with some start-ups, based at the incubator, Umar Saif the founder and driving force behind plan9, Mohammad Momekh, a well-know Pakistani blogger, I had the honour to share some of my views regarding my best toy, the Internet. It was a good entry for me into Pakistan’s Internet scene and it also provided me insights from “behind the scenes” – why certain things aren’t working: corruption, lack of trust, lack of infrastructure, political instability, “cash” culture … just to name a few.
Generally speaking Pakistan isn’t offering an investment friendly climate.
View from the 17th floor of the Afra Software Technology Park, where the incubator is based. The highest spot in Lahore.
Today the Park is hosting 10 start-ups. I’d like to point two of them out: HOMETOWN shoes, the Pakistan version of zappos.com and groopic, an app which allows you to include the photographer in the picture. Funny thing with a huge market, I think. It was dfinitely the most used “product” last night during the event.
I’ve had the chance to talk for a while with Waqas Ali, one of the founders of HOMETOWN. I love his passion. And when you check out their website I won’t tell you a secret when I say he does admire Tony Hsieh, founder and CEO of zappos.com. As zappos great customer service is one of their biggest goals! And they do it professionally.
All HOMETOWN founders come from a rural village in Pakistan and what they’ve done is really something quite unusual for Pakistan: two young people with an entrepreneurial spirit and tech-savy – a woman and a man – are working together with a craftsman, a man with very old traditions and a rather “conservative” culture designing and making leather shoes. A model which certainly can be spread.
HOMETOWN is addressing the international market with its beautiful handmade shoes. Unfortunately so far only for men;-(
The event was a great experience for me!
So far I have seen Pakistan only from above, flying on my way to India. After a week here in Lahore –unfortunately I didn’t had the chance to travel the country – I can say: I am positively surprised in many ways:
- I love the food
- Lahore is clean
- roads are extremely good
- a beautiful mixture of modern and traditional culture
- Lahore has a soul, a thing I’ve been missing in many Indian cities
- and above all, people are extremely friendly and open-minded
So the picture of Pakistan, the Western media is providing us is NOT telling us (in the west) the truth – at least it’s NOT the truth about Lahore!
My takeaway is that there are many many challenges and it is not an easy country to live in and survive. Especially for young entrepreneurs and open-minded women (and men to a lesser extend). But it’s safe and worth going there …