While talking to the Project Director of National Incubation Center Peshawar, Murtaza Zaidi talked a great deal about the entrepreneurial landscape of Peshawar and how it is different from any other city.
How has your experience been working with startups in Peshawar?
My experience in Peshawar has been phenomenal. I’ve worked with startups all over Pakistan, but I find startups in Peshawar to be very special – the genuineness, humility and hard work I’ve seen in them, I’ve rarely found in other areas. Regarding startups of Peshawar, my experience says that they’ve had less exposure than startups in other areas, for example Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad where there is a lot of exposure. Their willingness to listen and adapt is incredible, it gives me great satisfaction to see them grow and scale because of all the effort they have put in.
In your opinion, what differentiating factor have you observed among the startups and ecosystem in Peshawar?
We have to realize that Peshawar has gone through a very rough patch in the last 10-15 years because of the bad law and order situation. There has been a major brain drain because people who could send their children to other areas to study and work did that. Due to this, Peshawar hasn’t been able to develop at the pace at which other cities did. In spite of all this, I’ve noticed the people are very resilient, passionate and dedicated. They know that they need to leave the past behind – they have an attitude towards changing and growing as a community for the better.
The startups have a great spirit; in the first cohort, there have been a few startups that have experienced more than 500% growth in revenue by benefitting from all that NIC Peshawar had to offer. I saw great coach-ability, dedication, and humility among these startups compared to other cities. I find the startups in Peshawar to be a pure joy to work with.
During the short span of time since NIC Peshawar has been operational, in your consideration, what have been some of the major milestones?
We started incubation and acceleration ten months back, 5 of the startups have already raised funding while two more are in the pipeline, Bera has been valued at USD 1 million, which is the first million dollar valuation of any startup out of KP, 4 of our startups experienced 500% plus revenue growth and we have created over 165+ jobs already. We have been declared as the Think Tank for KP’s entrepreneurial ecosystem by Mr. Taimur Jhagra, the Finance Minister for KP.
The credit for all these successes and milestones goes to the great pool of our mentors, especially Ahmad Masud, my colleagues Farhad and Hira who work with startups and manage incubation and acceleration track; Bilal, who works on the outreach has made sure that NIC becomes a well-known brand throughout KP; Mahvish who keeps track of all the startups and makes sure everyone is meeting their targets along with Faiza who keeps the center super functional!
I must say that we receive great support and guidance from Jawad Azfer, Umer Akram and in fact everyone from Ignite Fund; we are proud to be a major player in the growing economy of Pakistan by ensuring that our startups thrive, go global and create jobs; a vision jointly shared with Ignite Fund and our partners.
I would like to especially mention Atif Rais Khan, CEO LMKT & LMKR as a remarkable mentor to NIC Peshawar and an inspiration for the tech startups. He is a great force and an example for our startups and they have benefitted immensely from the direction provided by him.
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