Digital evangelist and CEO of DEMO, Saad Hamid recently returned from Beijing, where he was attending the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions. We briefly chat with him about the experience, his reflections and how he’s going to implement what he learned now that he’s back home.
Was this your first time in China? How was the experience?
China was very different from the image that I had in my head – everything is better than what we see on media. When it comes to technology and innovation, there is no doubt that China is the next big economy, which is clear in everything they do.
Top 5 things you learned that you would like to convey to entrepreneurs/startups in Pakistan.
- Have a Vision: I have noticed that here, entrepreneurs and startups lack the understanding of having a long term vision, as a result of which they do short term activities instead of a long term sustainable business. A key takeaway has been the importance of having a long-term vision.
- Build Partnerships: Another trend I’ve observed from my experience is the lack of openness towards partnerships. – I’ve very rarely seen partnerships. What I learned at WEF is that the world runs on partnerships and startups should be more open to them.
- The team: Hiring cheap resources and interns is another practice among entrepreneurs. In China, I’ve experienced that you need to hire the best people and make sure that they do great work to implement your vision. Another important thing is to create opportunities for team members so that they are motivated to grow.
- Learning and Listening: One of the questions asked from Jack Ma was about what superpower he would like to have. He said learning. Our startups don’t have the tendency to learn and to listen. When given feedback and critique, they don’t listen and learn, but rather make excuses.
- Long-term Approach for Ecosystem: People in our ecosystem don’t take steps for the long-term benefit of the ecosystem. It is important to realize that when the ecosystem flourishes, businesses would also flourish. It’s simple Systems Thinking – if the system works, your business will work.
You’ve been quite vocal about innovation being the new face of Pakistan. Any happenings in Beijing to reinforce that point of view?
Everything you see in China speaks about innovation being at the heart of how China is moving towards the world – from food, entrepreneurship, AI, Robotics to the way they communicate (WeChat is a brilliant example), the way they organize the Olympics and their sports. A misconception is that innovation is only related to technology. In Pakistan, innovation needs to be decentralized. Unless we actually believe and embrace it, it wont be the face of Pakistan.
How do you plan to implement your takeaways from the trip in the work/projects you do?
This is very crucial because a major thing in any trip for me is the call to action and the takeaways. I’m going to bring back the learning and connections to DEMO. WEF recently launched Uplink for entrepreneurs – we are trying to look at the possibility of creating linkages for Pakistani startups to be able to register on the platform. We’re running an entrepreneurship and innovation boot camp in KPK with UNDP and KPITB. We want to change the narrative around entrepreneurship and link innovation and entrepreneurship together because it’s much needed. You will see us propagating this narrative with local partners in our network and through our programs in the future.