In light of this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Week theme: “Bring Your Business Idea to Life”, we brought together eco-entrepreneurs supported by the Pakistan Private Sector Energy Project who have successfully transformed a vision into an impactful reality helping create employment and livelihoods while sustainably solving some of Pakistan’s key energy, transportation and waste problems. We partnered with TIE Islamabad (The Indus Entrepreneurs) for this webinar as they are one of the leaders in inspiring and supporting budding entrepreneurs in South Asia and have helped launch thousands of startups and SMEs from dream to reality.
A senior representative from USAID Pakistan took the virtual stage to share how they are actively supporting ventures and startups. They also elaborated on USAID’s collaboration with Pakistan in promoting science and technology park structures within prestigious institutions such as LUMS and NUST.
USAID has unveiled a guarantee-scheme specifically designed for SMEs and has extended long-term loans to clean energy projects, thereby demonstrating their commitment to sustainable development in Pakistan. In these challenging economic times, such initiatives and projects like PPSE play a critical role by providing crucial support to project developers and SMEs. This assistance encourages investors to finance these projects, offering a beacon of hope in otherwise difficult circumstances.”
– Stephen Berlinguette, Director, Climate and Sustainable Growth Office, USAID Pakistan
PPSE Chief of Party kicked off the webinar with a presentation about the project and PFAN’s value proposition to investment facilitation in the clean-tech space.
Currently, the PPSE project is supporting 48 projects in various sectors such as clean energy, electric vehicles, and the circular economy, in such we are trying to reach and impact all technology sectors that will build climate adaptation and mitigation. Clean-tech is now one of the fastest-growing industries in Pakistan, embodying the country’s commitment to a greener future.”
– Ahmed Ammar Yasser, CoP, PPSE
Since its inception in 2008 in Islamabad, TiE has launched numerous initiatives, including the StartUp Cup Pakistan which has spanned a decade.
TiE Islamabad has extended its collaboration to over 10,000 enterprises. Now, with the substantial impact of climate change on Pakistan, we can turn this challenge into an opportunity by initiating climate-smart and clean energy projects.”
– Sumera Abassi, Executive Director, TiE Islamabad
Electric Mobility Entrepreneurs Driving the Clean Energy Transition
Following the opening remarks, the panel discussions with the eco-entrepreneurs began starting with focus on Electric Mobility as an integral driver towards the clean energy transition and catalyst to meet Pakistan’s growing transportation demands. Eco-entrepreneurs discussed the nitty-gritties of what makes a strong business model, prototype and team.
Ezbike is the first company to establish 40 battery-swapping stations in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. However, merely establishing battery swapping stations is not sufficient for the growth of the EV sector; there is a need to increase trust and awareness for sustainable clean transportation.”
– Yumna Ahmed, CBO, ezBike
Our team was recently honoured with the Young Innovative Solution Award at the International Vienna Energy & Climate Forum. The fact that we were able to win from participants from 26 SMEs who were nominated for this prestigious award, shows that Pakistan has a unique and internationally-competitive chance at making space in EVs, especially 2-wheelers.”
– Shah Talha Sohail, CEO and Founder, Mode Mobility
As a female Electrical Engineer myself, I perceive numerous opportunities for female engineers and product developers in the EV and energy industry. There are new opportunities in leadership and management for women who are graduating from engineering especially as more technical solutions to climate issues are needed.”
– Rabail Khan, Product Manager, Zyp Technologies
Circularity: Realizing the Net-Zero Potential and Promise
Despite low global emissions, Pakistan has a huge waste management problem due to lack of segregation, collection and management infrastructure. Young entrepreneurs such as the ones in the PPSE Accelerator pipeline are taking matters in to their own hands and coming up with innovative solutions to realize net-zero targets.
We are operating within the consulting circular economy, addressing the gap between technical knowledge and practical work. Our focus lies in both the formal and informal sectors. Our initiatives create employment opportunities, and we have successfully employed 80 women in semi-urban areas.”
– Ali Syed, CEO, Ouroboros
There is a significant gap between academia and practical research. The academia should focus on practical research and explore how student research can benefit the circularity industry and contribute to the development of a robust business model.”
– Dr. Zilly Mariam, CEO, ISP Solutions
Our company specialises in green innovation, converting plastic waste into LPG. So our company is trying to help solve Pakistan’s waste problem as well provide affordable energy in the energy crisis.”
– Saad Bin Aziz, CEO, Greenovation
Renewable Energy: Powering a Sustainable Future
Pakistan is witnessing acute energy crisis. It has been observed that the electricity shortfall widened to 7,500 megawatts which subsequently results in 10-18 hours of load-shedding. This means the current supply is about 18,000 megawatts and the required supply is 25,000-25,500MW. Furthermore, Pakistan’s energy cost doubled in the last 9 months; it now stands at 15 billion USD. Renewable energy is an environment and energy solution to many of the country’s woes and dedicated entrepreneurs are making strides in this arena.
Upon thorough research, we identified three primary needs in rural areas: lighting, mobile phone charging, and fans. We also collaborated with microfinance institutions to offer loans to impoverished individuals, enabling them to purchase solar systems from Harness Energy. We have also developed our own efficient solar fans.”
– Muhammad Shehryar, CEO, Harness Energy
As the COO, I have worked diligently to restructure the organization, increase sales, and improve profitability. I achieved this by engaging at the field level, negotiating with vendors, suppliers, customers, and other stakeholders.”
– Farheen Irfan, COO, ACT Engineering
Following the panel discussion was a talk by seasoned journalist covering all things entrepreneurship. He jumped in to the: “The Success Factor: What Makes Companies Grow Fast”
Traditionally, Pakistan has lacked risk capital when it comes to building solutions related to climate. But lately, there’s been a change and one of the leading VCs is now raising a dedicated climate fund.”
– Mutaher Khan, CEO, Data Darbar
The webinar ended with a lively and engaging Q&A with the panelists and audience. Some key takeaways from the discussion were:
Entrepreneurial initiatives, especially those funded by donors, should focus on how to inculcate Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Centers in their planning as for many young people from middle to low-income strata, these are the most readily accessible upskilling centers.
To bring greater societal change towards Pakistan’s waste economy and problem, startups and SMEs would do well by adding a citizen educational component especially targeting school-children about waste segregation so the parallel economy of waste-pickers in Pakistan can further streamline their work with the formal economy. Currently, most SMEs in this sector are focused on the product end-cycle.
As multiple facets of EV infrastructure are being worked on, aspiring entrepreneurs have an expansive array of specialties they can experiment with. Companies don’t have to only be bound by making electric vehicles but can look at granular parts of the supply chain and prototype modelling/parts.
Accessing private sector and consumer data for market research of new companies is becoming increasingly important as the digital economy is growing and becoming increasingly competitive. Data analytics from social media can be a great tool.
For startups and SMEs today it is also important to focus on the software at offer and make sure it is integrated to customer experience, whether its a B2B or B2C company. Venture Capitalists often look at UI/UX strength and how stand-out a brand is.
Rather than working in silos, ecosystem players need to work in tandem to give the entrepreneurs a resurgence. They were peaks of entrepreneurship and innovation in the country in 2016 and 2021, but due to the economic downturn, there has been a lull in investment. By forging strong partnerships and networks, institutions such as USAID Pakistan, UNIDO, TiE, etc. can have much stronger impact and outreach. This webinar was touted as an important step towards more collaborative ecosystem building.