Open Karachi’s 4th Annual Conference, ECon 2017 was held at the Institute of Business Management (IoBM) on Saturday, January 14, 2017. The theme of this Conference was ‘Scaling through Investment’ which primarily focused on identifying and creating investment opportunities for startup ventures in Pakistan. It was largely attended by IoBM students, faculty and management.
Invited at the Econ 2017 were Dr. Zakiuddin Ahmed, President, OPEN Karachi; Dr. Farhan Essa Abdullah, Director Operations, Dr. Essa’s Laboratory and Diagnostic Centre and Conference Chairman, Econ 2017; Mr. Muhammad Ali Tabba, CEO, Yunus Brother Pakistan Limited; Mr. Nadeem Hussain, Founder and Coach, Planet ‘N’ Group of Companies; Mr. Com Mirza, CEO, Mirza Holdings and Mirza Ventures; Ms. Kulsoom Lakhani, Founder and CEO, Invest2Innovate; Mr. Saif Akhtar, Co-Founder and CEO, 10xC Startup Accelerator and Seed Fund; Mr. Ather Imran Nawaz, CEO, Sybrid (Pvt) Limited and President, OPEN Islamabad; Mr. Mir Muhammad Ali Khan, Co-Chairman, AMZ MAK Capital Limited; Mr. Naeem Zamindar, Country Director, Acumen Pakistan; Ms. Sadaf Mehmood, Enterprise Development Strategist, Social, Entrepreneurship and Equity Development (SEED); Mr. Veqar Islam, CEO and Director, Jaffer Business Systems; Mr. Imran Moinuddin, CEO, NexDegree; Mr. Khurram Zafar, Executive Director, LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship and Mr. Sohail Munir, ICT Entrepreneur and Consultant, Uffaq Technologies.
In his Welcome Speech, Dr. Farhan Essa Abdullah regarded this Conference as a revolutionary step and expected it will bring a positive change in the entrepreneurial mindsets of Pakistan. Mr. Talib Karim, Rector IoBM and Chairman, OPEN Karachi, in his address emphasized upon the state-of-the-art incubation center being setup at IoBM to assist students lacking resources in pursuing their business ideas. He also mentioned about IoBM Outreach Program and its aim of targeting the less-privileged sector of Sindh in this regard. While giving the overview of the Conference, Dr. Zakiuddin Ahmed, President, OPEN Karachi, informed the audience about the history of OPEN and mentioned that OPEN Karachi was the organization’s first chapter outside of the US. Dr. Zakiuddin said that the mission of OPEN Karachi is ‘to develop the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Pakistan’ which is why this Chapter has been focusing its activities around students, women entrepreneurship and microfinance projects.
During his Keynote Speech, Mr. Nadeem Hussain explained five challenges facing the startup companies in Pakistan which are: to generate awareness about entrepreneurship, to invite capital from incubators and accelerators to fund startup projects, to include in Company Law the rules and regulations of running a startup, to implement tax relief laws for startups and to create a white paper for the startup industry of Pakistan under the supervision of investors, incubators and accelerators. Mr. Com Mirza, a UAE-based entrepreneur and investor, stressed upon the need for entrepreneurs to reinvest in businesses, learn from failures, develop ethical work standards for professional growth and to create a sustainable business model to solve a problem and generate profit.
While speaking at the occasion, Mr. Mir Muhammad Ali Khan said that incubators, accelerators and investors should plan and lobby for the creation of the SME stock exchange where startups and SMEs could sell their shares for revenue generation. Mr. Saif Akhtar emphasized on Pakistan’s immense resource potential and that incubators can help startup companies turn their raw ideas into marketable products and services. Mr. Ather Imran Nawaz elucidated upon the need to create a culture of startup companies in Pakistan so the investors and the young minds running these businesses can bring a societal change in the country. Imran Moinuddin opined that the cost of collaboration in Pakistan is high, therefore; the incubators should create a strategy of how to reduce these costs to facilitate young entrepreneurs. Mr. Khurram Zafar accentuated that business management institutes across Pakistan must encourage ‘design thinking’ among students to teach them how to design a product along with imparting them with the ability to identify a problem and provide practical solutions through the development of a product or service.