A Bastion of Light In Pakistan!
When I speak to young students or professionals in Pakistan, they impart this urgency to "escape", as if Pakistan is an insane asylum. When you take a macro view of the circumstances, it's not hard to understand why they feel that way.
Rapidly rising costs, embarrassingly corrupt politicians, and the prospect of a bleak future is galvanizing these people to seek opportunities abroad. The issue is that once they're gone, they almost never return to build the future of their country.
It's in this milieu that I decided to attend Endeavor's "Chasing Impact" Event at Colabs in Gulberg. It was essentially an assembly of entrepreneurs, startups and investors where the focus was on scaling one's business.
The talks and fireside chats painted a picture of practical optimism of the current entrepreneurial ecosystem. Ali Samir Oosman's initial talk was refreshing as he explicitly mapped out the issues plaguing Pakistan, but he said something which struck me.
Ali giving his talk
"You have to be a little mad to be an entrepreneur". What I take that to mean is that you can't be bounded by traditional restraints. You really have to think outside the box, and if you can do that, then you can have a strong business in Pakistan.
Below are a couple of people whom I found particularly interesting from the conference.
Sarwar Ali Khan
I've experienced this directly. Outside of a few strongholds of privilege, like DHA and Gulberg, there really isn't a formal address system in Pakistan. When we travel to meet friends or family, we inevitably have to navigate through landmarks as Google Maps hasn't figured this issue out yet. If we order something for delivery, it usually takes an additional 5-10 minutes extra on top of the ETA, because we have to guide the driver through back and forth exchanges on the phone. 5-10 minutes may not seem like a lot to you, but when that piping hot pizza needs to be delivered fresh, every second counts!
Not all heroes wear capes
Sarwar and his team's solution to this problem is utilizing hyper local data. This data is fine tuned to manage the nuances of the local landscape very well. We can get into a whole technical discussion on this, but it's best to reach out to Sarwar if you want the details.
But what I was most moved by is Sarwar's devotion to staying in Pakistan and building the future of the country! His intensity and energy were palpable as he talked about taking his company to the next level, and I wish him and his team the best of luck!
Sarwar and I having a quick chat
Ali Samir Oosman
I already mentioned how I enjoyed Ali's talk during the initial portion of the event, now I wanted to ask him a question that some may find antagonistic.
As the managing director of Endeavor Pakistan, I wanted his input on local talent retention. When I visited LUMS last year, every other student had an admission letter from a US or European University, beckoning them to formally enroll and enjoy the advantages of the West.
"Ali, how do you and endeavor plan to retain the best and the best brightest in Pakistan?"
Without missing a beat, he responded "What we offer is that we'll provide them the best training and environment for them to thrive in. That way, they'll want to stay and build their country for the future".
This is a compelling reason. The attitude that most employers in Pakistan have is to use and abuse their employees. Ali clearly articulated that his focus was on helping employees thrive and when they feel like they're thriving, they can perform excellent work for the company.
Colabs performed an excellent job of hosting the event, and I finally got to meet to see Omar Shah, its CEO. I've been to Colabs several times before and I was never able to see that guy, which had me thinking he was an AI construct. Fear not the guy isn't an AI construct and he's actually very cool.
I'm thrilled that Endeavor sees the potential that Pakistan has to offer. The common thread that ran through the conference, as I sensed it, was hope. You have super smart, intense people building things for the betterment of Pakistan and they're doing at a pace that's unthinkable. Endeavor sees this and I hope y'all have seen it to.