Startups in Pakistan? Oh No!

For the past couple of years, new ‘Startups‘ are popping up everywhere in Pakistan. Everyone seems to know someone who has recently started a new ‘e-commerce‘ store which will revolutionize the industry in Pakistan.

To be honest, I’m starting to get fed-up with this constant stream of ‘entrepreneurs‘ who setup a website, put some products on it and call it a startup and Pakistan’s best online shopping store. I mean how far can we be from reality? Why do we think starting a regular e-commerce store with Woocommerce or Opencart without anything different from the 1000 competitors we are still considering a startup? Yes, you can call it a business but is it really a startup?

According to Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, a startup is defined as:

A startup is a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.

Now starting up a regular e-commerce store or copying a business model followed by 100s of other people isn’t exactly delivering a new product or service. So the first thing that should be done if we want the true startup culture to thrive in Pakistan is to understand the difference and stop claiming every other e-commerce store as a startup.

I’d like to mention here that I’m definitely not against calling an e-commerce venture that really does something new and offers something different as a startup. The only criteria to be considered a startup is to bring something new and innovative to any industry and unfortunately in Pakistan its a very slow process because most of our ‘entrepreneurs’ are focused in copying already running concepts only. Even the different incubators across Pakistan are focused on a few verticals and pushing ventures in those verticals only. It’s time our entrepreneurs, mentors and professionals start finding solutions for real problems. I’m positive though as under the noise created by these ‘non-startups‘ some really good startups are being born in Pakistan where the founders are really looking to make a difference and tackle issues. Some of these that recently came to my attention are:

Nutright – Nutright is tackling a growing obesity problem in Pakistan and developing Mobile solutions to help people lose weight safely by following professional nutritionists and trainers.

Fori Mazdoori – Labour is an industry that’s regularly exploited and taken for granted. Fori Mazdoori is bringing technology to the Mazdoori industry by connecting Professionals in various laborer tasks with people who are looking for these services.

DoctHERs – 50% medical graduates are female and only 13% go on to pursue medical careers due to social and cultural issues. DoctHers is bringing those medical professionals back to the workforce by connecting these doctors with patients through the concept of Telemedicine.

EcoEnergy – EcoEnergy is bringing clean and renewable energy solutions to the grassroots. Connecting underserved areas and localities by low-cost small energy solutions.

Some other startups that I didn’t mention in this article can be viewed in this article by Dawn here

These are just a few startups I have read about recently that are definitely solving problems and bringing innovative solutions to Pakistan. It’s time we started giving  startups like these the airtime they need and help them push innovation forward.

I know my post might hurt many who consider their e-commerce store as a startup. I too have some e-commerce projects going on, but I do understand the difference between what’s a startup and what’s a regular business. Unfortunately most ‘e-commerce startups‘ are just regular businesses.

Do let me know what you think about my article in the comments below.


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