The article (Tech In Pakistan 2014) in the reputable Pakistan newspaper, Dawn, makes good points lamenting the mind numbingly stupid, and self-destructive, policies and factors that make for such “tepid performance” in Pakistan. The author, Y. Brohi, points how one does not need an army of people to launch a startup. My personal experience proved that, indeed, even one person can start a revolution or entire industries for others to build on.
In the end of the 80s and early 1990s, I was fortunate and blessed to pioneer and launch Internet email service in Pakistan right from my home in Gulberg-III, Lahore, while I was studying for my MBA at Columbia University Graduate School of Business in New York City. Together we, my partner & friend Ashar Nisar and I, were able to launch the .PK ccTLD, literally putting Pakistan on the brave new digital world’s map.
I later also had the opportunity to make another, less known but also important, humble contribution to Pakistan’s economic progress, by bringing and launching global credit cards in Pakistan, starting with issuing the first MasterCard license to a Pakistani bank in the early 90s. The availability of credit to the middle class can be a major driver to drive economic activity and the creation of products, services and related jobs.
Both of those industries were launched with no government funding (actually, we succeeded despite resistance and other tactics of the authorities of that time that I will not mention), and without venture capital, which at that time was near impossible to get in Pakistan.
My reason for writing this is not to boast on past achievements but to exhort the dynamic and hard working Pakistani entrepreneurs to learn from what the article says and what my experience shows.
You, one person, can start anything you want. There is nothing stopping the next secure identity and privacy solution to be created in Pakistan. There is no reason that artificial intelligence or secure cloud computing methods cannot be pioneered by Pakistanis.
If there is one thing that I have been frustrated by, and feel is a core reason for Pakistanis not creating world changing new things, is the disregard for intellectual property rights and concepts. From people ripping DVD movies to kids ripping games without payment, to the shameless way so-called respectable newspapers (excluding Dawn) steal and reprint others’ creative output, theft of intellectual property is commonplace, and almost something people boast about.
How then can people think in terms of creating intellectual property if they are themselves busy stealing someone else’s? That attitude is embedded in our culture and needs to be addressed. Without that, all the creative capabilities of Pakistanis will continue to be wasted on copying or reverse engineering others’ work, not creating brave new IP to change the world.
I would love to see that topic get discussed at a national level. There are few nations that have so much creative entrepreneurial talent than Pakistan, as I have seen in my ~30 years of traveling the world.
Let us find ways to stimulate that and channel that and guide that for the greater good of the creators and the nation. That is why, in speaking to groups of Pakistani entrepreneurs and technology professionals, I say, “To Achieve Greatness In The Digital World, Respect Intellectual Property And Innovate With Your Own, Or Be Irrelevant!”