Top graduates of leading universities prefer to go abroad to join global firms

Published: January 4, 2016
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PHOTO: WASEEM NAZIR/EXPRESS

PHOTO: WASEEM NAZIR/EXPRESS

PHOTO: WASEEM NAZIR/EXPRESS PHOTO: AFP

KARACHI: Some of the current giants in the global corporate sector that have led to product and technology innovations had a very humble beginning where young students turned their ideas into viable businesses by initiating ventures while working from their dormitories. Some of such companies include Google, Apple and Microsoft.

The idea of Google originally came in 1995 from two Stanford students who initiated a research programme to develop mathematical knowledge for worldwide web. They started their project in the student dormitory and now Google is a global technology giant and is in the list of world’s most valuable brands.

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The current market capitalisation of Google is $360 billion which is more than the GDP of Pakistan.

Similarly, Apple was established by Steve Jobs in 1976 in his parent’s garage. Today Apple tops the list of world’s most valuable brands with market capitalisation at $750 billion. There are quite a few other such examples.

With the success of young entrepreneurs, there is a realisation in policy circles to harness their energies for leading innovation and new business ventures. This has led to the proliferation of business and technology incubators for mentoring and nurturing the ideas of students and young entrepreneurs for business start-ups.

Developments overseas

In the US, there are more than 300 such incubators that attract the best and brightest to try their luck with entrepreneurship.

The incubators provide a host of services that include capacity building, legal and sectorial services, office space and equipment, especially for technology entrepreneurs. These incubators are also linked with venture capitals for funding needs of the start-ups.

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The EU is also catching up with the US with more focus on technology incubators and developing linkages between universities and industries.

The business and technology incubators are now indispensable tools in the EU’s entrepreneur and innovation policy. The EU has been very successful in transferring the R&D through public funds to general use through the business incubators that has facilitated scientists to commercialise their innovations through business ventures.

India is also facilitating business and technology incubators, especially in the IT sector. Its government has established IT incubators in 34 cities where entrepreneurs are being offered a wide variety of support in the form of seed money, shared office space and capacity building.

Brain drain from Pakistan

The idea of business incubators is also gaining popularity in Pakistan where 30 such facilities provide shared office space, mentorship and capacity building to help entrepreneurs kick-start business projects.

Despite these initiatives, top graduates from leading universities still prefer to go abroad in the hope of joining global firms. This has led to brain drain which has serious consequences for socio-economic development of the country.

For policy-makers in Pakistan though the brain drain leads to a considerable loss of skilled and qualified professionals to global marketplace, it brings valuable foreign exchange through worker remittances. Last fiscal year, Pakistanis working abroad remitted $18.4 billion which provided a lifeline to the balance of payments position of the country.

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There is an increasing realisation in policy circles to strike a balance between addressing the brain drain and tapping the remittances of Pakistanis working abroad.

Some of the educational institutions in Pakistan are producing outstanding professionals. Limited opportunities in the domestic market and limited space for entrepreneurship compel them to seek employment opportunities abroad.

Here the technology and business incubators can play a meaningful role in supporting the fresh graduates with innovative ideas for business ventures.

Funds are also a must

Experts believe in an economy like Pakistan with limited funding options for business start-ups, the establishment of incubators may not be sufficient to spur entrepreneurship. It would also require equity and venture capital to take risk and fund innovative and risky ideas.

The other important element in the success of technology incubator is the R&D capacity of the academic institutions. The business incubators attached with science and technology institutions have helped scientists commercialise their research and innovation and has been a motivating factor for them.

With the launch of 3G mobile connectivity, there is optimism about the prospects of e-commerce and e-business in Pakistan. A number of firms have taken the initiative and are gaining popularity especially in the business to consumer marketplace.

Pakistan is at a point where the US and Western Europe were in the late 90s when the internet and e-commerce were gaining popularity.

The policy-makers should contemplate measures that can facilitate Pakistani tech entrepreneurs in nurturing their business ideas into viable businesses. One of the viable options could be the availability of seed money through public resources. This is a popular policy option in a number of countries where public funds are provided through business plan competition.

The successful applicants are then provided options to join one of the designated business incubators for a specific time period where they can nurture their ideas into viable businesses.

Entrepreneurship can stimulate economic growth and employment generation. The technology and business incubators have an important role in developing entrepreneurship.

The writer is a development professional with over 20 years of experience in public and development sectors

Published in The Express Tribune, January 4th, 2016.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • Lolzzzz
    Jan 4, 2016 - 10:29AM

    Dear writer, a case study, with facts and figures would have been a better piece of writing. Recommend

  • Haji Atiya
    Jan 4, 2016 - 10:32AM

    But why go overseas when there are world class institutions in the country doing cutting-edge research, such as: Preston, Greenwich and Hamdard universities ?Recommend

  • Saad
    Jan 4, 2016 - 11:26AM

    Very, very few Pakistanis go to the US and work with leading tech companies. Recommend

  • agusta westland
    Jan 4, 2016 - 1:07PM

    Microsoft and Google CEO’s must not allow a country epicenter of IT…Recommend

  • Usman
    Jan 4, 2016 - 4:04PM

    Politics is the answer, as unless the HEC is reformed, poor quality research will pervail and so will poor quality staff at universities.Recommend

  • curious2
    Jan 4, 2016 - 7:15PM

    If you had the choice of getting a PHD from an American or European University vs Pakistan University — which would you chose? If you got a job offer from Microsoft in the USA would you turn it down? Pakistan isn’t unique in facing “brain drain” issues – it’s common to most 3rd World countries.Recommend

  • ah
    Jan 4, 2016 - 8:54PM

    fix your policies first.Recommend

  • Murtaza
    Jan 4, 2016 - 9:26PM

    Entrepreneurs in Pakistan tend to come from the less educated lot because they have to take a risk in order to earn a living. The well educated ones play it safe in 9-5 jobs. This is why trying to convince the high academic achievers is a waste of time as is looking for high academic credentials in those you offer your loans to.

    “Pakistan is at a point where the US
    and Western Europe were in the late
    90s when the internet and e-commerce
    were gaining popularity.”

    Amazon and the like were fairly big by the late 90s. Pakistan is more like the mid 90s.Recommend

  • Sameer
    Jan 4, 2016 - 10:00PM

    @Haji Atiya

    You seem to have forgotten to mention Iqra.Recommend

  • Real
    Jan 5, 2016 - 3:14AM

    For Pakistan-:IT stands for International Terrorism.
    For Indians-:IT stands for International tourism Recommend

  • Raw is War
    Jan 5, 2016 - 7:39AM

    @Real:

    good one,Recommend

  • Raw is War
    Jan 5, 2016 - 7:43AM

    “Last fiscal year, Pakistanis working abroad remitted $18.4 billion which provided a lifeline to the balance of payments position of the country.”

    The remittences Pakistan receives is mostly in the form of black money/drug money from abroad coming back “white washed”.Recommend

  • Murtaza
    Jan 5, 2016 - 11:00AM

    @Real:
    Wrong on both counts. IT stands for income tax in Pakistan and ICT for Islamabad Capital Territory. Outside of Pakistan those two acronyms stand for Information Technology and Information and Communications Technology respectively.Recommend

  • Nouman
    Jan 5, 2016 - 1:22PM

    @Haji Atiya:
    Or maybe LUMS, IBA, GIKI, NUST?Recommend

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