In Conversation with the Project Director NIC Peshawar: Murtaza Zaidi

KPK has some amazing ideas when it comes to technology and innovation. Where there are ideas and talent, there is an essential need for enablers to nurture and polish that talent. That is exactly what National Incubation Center Peshawar does. While having a detailed conversation with the project director of NIC Peshawar, here are some of the highlights on the vision behind setting up the whole program and how his backgrounds aids in making the process easier.

What was the vision behind setting up NIC Peshawar and taking in the first few cohorts?

NIC Peshawar is the first-of-its-kind facility in KP funded by Ignite Fund, Ministry of IT and Telecom, driven by LMKT in collaboration with PTCL. Since the very first day we knew that there isn’t an active entrepreneurial ecosystem in Peshawar and while there are startups, they’re not being nurtured and are not getting the right guidance and support.

During my experience with Peshawar’s entrepreneurs while doing Pakistan Startup Cup and other initiatives in the past, I knew, that the entire entrepreneurial landscape, needs to be built as ideas were quite raw and the entrepreneurs were in need of capacity building. Peshawar is a historic city where people have tremendous experience of doing business and trade, we knew that people have great business acumen, but when it comes to tech startups, there was not much to offer.

There are a lot of universities in the region that are bringing out amazing tech professionals who are offering their services in other cities of Pakistan, thus we came up with the theme ‘Ignite the Spark’ to spread awareness and create excitement across Peshawar to establish a thriving entrepreneurial landscape. With this vision, we have started initiatives with all the relevant stakeholders – from academia and corporates to government. As compared to the past, now there is more encouragement for the youth to start entrepreneurial ventures. We want to create an impact throughout the province to strengthen the startups so that more quality, tech-based startups emerge. This is our vision, which we have also kept in mind while taking in the first few cohorts.

Being an entrepreneur yourself, how do you think it assists with your interactions with startups?

Being an entrepreneur, I remember the hardships associated with my journey. So, when we’re designing the NIC offerings, I recognize very well that their pain points should be catered to; the kind of coaching and mentoring they should get; how we can improve their business models; support them in their business functions and how we can expose them to the right kind of network that will help them scale. I stared my entrepreneurial journey at a relatively young age. I learned many things the hard way; on many occasions I had to take decisions without having background knowledge and exposure of those things, experienced the experience of having no experience at all.

I’m very passionate about this cause because I’ve seen the times when I had to face a lot of challenges and I wouldn’t want our startups to go through the same challenges – that is something which drives me to bring better results and provide value. At the end of the day, every incubator should do one thing – provide value for startups. That is why I keep questioning myself, my team and our partners whether we are providing true value to startups – keeping a constant check on all this and making sure that we’re not wasting their time. Only if we give our 100% to this will we be able to truly add value for startups and help them transition them into big businesses.

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