Islamabad – 19 October 2020: The Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs Silicon Valley featured Aamir Ibrahim, CEO, Jazz in its webinar titled ‘Realities of Investing in Pakistan’. Aamir spoke at length about the perils of investing in Pakistan; the country’s scorecard in terms of ease of doing business, and the need for integrated technology to allow analytics to make sense of cluttered data. He also spoke of the predictability of the loan industry based on knowing your customer. On the country’s digital roadmap, Aamir reiterated Jazz’s commitment to connecting the 20% unconnected population and increasing 4G penetration, so the masses could benefit from an increasingly digitalized economy.
The interactive session was moderated by Asif Aslam, Managing Partner, Arbitrium Technology. When asked about the telecom sector’s contribution during the COVID-19 pandemic, Aamir said that Jazz was well prepared to handle the increase in data demand during the lockdown, and supported the government’s smart lockdown system in Test, Trace and Quarantine (TTQ). Jazz also supported local EdTech needs by offering subsidized data bundles and creating an app called Parho.
Talking about opportunities, Aamir mentioned that the most exciting sectors are linked to the national challenges: economy; transparency, and better education. “Every industry has a tech suffix, so if we do digital better, we will do everything better. The best thing to focus on payments and building that SME digital ecosystem,” he added. Nonetheless, he said there is still a broken e-commerce layer and that Pakistan really needs a strong digital infrastructure – not a luxury but an essential service. His views also included the need to focus on not just international investment, but local investors and local innovation too. “We cannot just wait around for Pay Pal to enter to solve our issues.”
About the National Incubation Centre (NIC), Aamir says that in Pakistan it is important to team up with experts and the government. “There may not be many unicorn startups, but we have to work within our challenging environment.” There may be a market for a domestic VC fund, he said but it will be a leap of faith for a lot of the investors to really jump in despite there not being a VC vocabulary. “Our ideation and UI/UX is better but we still have a challenging ecosystem,” he said.
Aamir also answered the following questions from representatives of Pakistan and California’s Silicon Valley: the failure rates of startups, the possibility of large E-commerce platforms, private sector vs public sector, Pakistan’s unique advantages, Jazz’s ambition to be a world-class company, Pakistan’s starting point is low and how that creates a great opportunity, the possible Indian model of the reciprocating telco partnership package, Pakistan’s low tariff rates and high tax environment; energy crisis in Pakistan prohibiting investment and the possibility of production increasing and how patriotism in Pakistani Americans can be channeled into enabling local solutions.
Aamir added, “If you bleed green, then there is no place for pessimism. You have to give back by being unreasonably optimistic.” He suggested NIC startups are looking for mentorship from Pakistani Americans in the Valley.
The complete session is available here.