KARACHI: Tech start-ups have brought a revolution in Pakistan in the year 2019.
Making some major innovations, they have introduced an early cancer-detecting device, are helping the agriculture sector double its production with half of the required water consumption, helping the deaf to communicate with people in real time and improving the quality of education.
Many of the start-ups have got seed money to go commercial while some have bagged international awards. These all have the potential to accelerate the fourth industrial revolution in Pakistan, which is gradually switching to a cashless payment system.
In this regard, the recent launch of the National Payment System Strategy by the State Bank of Pakistan is expected to give a big push to the national economy. Under the system, the country will see the installation of about one million digital access points over the next three years compared to a few hundred thousand at present.
Overall, Pakistan’s ecosystem has grown a great deal. In 2012, just two major business incubators and accelerators were working in the country, with almost no investors and funding sources. By the end of 2019, there are over 24 incubators and accelerators, 80 co-working spaces and approximately 20 formal investors, according to the Pakistan Start-up Ecosystem Report 2019 by Invest to Innovate (i2i). Here are some of the startups that have succeeded in growing their business this year.
It is an artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled tool, which helps radiologists in early diagnosis of breast cancer 30+% more accurately than existing systems and that too in 10 times less time.
The start-up has so far created 10 jobs and has won seven awards including Pakistan Software Houses Association’s ([email protected]) 2018 award in big data category. It is also a winner of Takeoff Istanbul in the start-up category and has been selected for the Entrepreneurship Investment Hub in Bahrain.
Aqua Agro is an agri-tech start-up and a ray of hope for the fast declining agriculture sector of Pakistan, which has thus far relied on obsolete farm practices.
The start-up aims to provide solutions for maximising farm yields and profit margins of farmers while consuming 50% less water. It deploys Internet of Things (IOT) or AI-enabled sensor devices on agricultural fields to provide crop-specific information and monitor access for the farmers through a centralised cloud and mobile app service. The company plans to empower farmers and help them increase their income, save water resources and increase food production and exports. The start-up, with two employees, has generated a revenue of Rs300,000 this year and has entered into a joint venture with a UAE company.
It is a digital platform that aims to bridge the communication gap between the deaf and the general public in real time via a sign language interpreter.
Apparently catering to a small customer base, the start-up has generated relatively more jobs, with 48 employees, and earned Rs5.8 million in revenue. Investors have committed to pour Rs41 million into the platform.
Doso is manufacturing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) robotics kits in Quetta. These kits help children learn science, technology, engineering and mathematics in an interesting way with deeper understanding of different concepts.
The start-up employs nine people and has earned Rs170,000. Investors have agreed to invest Rs1.2 million in it.
It won a grant of Rs100,000 under the Balochistan Youth Innovation Challenge Cup 2019 from the UNDP and was selected as a finalist in the Pakistan Start-up Cup 2019 after competing with 2,000 start-ups.
Sehat Kahani is a female healthcare network based on a telemedicine mobile application.
In Pakistan, a majority of the population cannot get access to basic primary healthcare services as the country’s doctor-patient ratio is only one doctor for every 1,200 patients, though thousands of doctors graduate every year.
The start-up spreads healthcare services by using a network of qualified female doctors with the help of the telemedicine app, under which patients can see and take advice from doctors remotely.
Pakistan is also among those countries where doctors take the help of technology for undertaking surgeries. However, such devices are entirely imported and most of the time they are refurbished and are expensive. APRUS is aiming to provide Pakistan-made electrosurgical devices at lower costs. The start-up has created eight jobs and earned revenue of Rs1.76 million.
Investors have committed to inject Rs130.5 million in the start-up, which was the second runner-up in Pakistan Start-up Cup 2019 and won two [email protected] awards - one in healthcare and the other in start-up category.
Imagine if someone can see his/her home while observing a map of a newly designed society on barren land. It will help the person choose and buy a plot.
Augmented Reality (AR)-based mimAR is just doing that as it aids the real estate marketing industry in visualising to-be-constructed buildings and structures. The start-up has generated revenue of Rs2.5 million with just two employees.
It is venturing into the gaming world, robotics and tourism with applications taking help from AR and Virtual Reality.
It is creating motion platforms which are used in motion simulators. These platforms have a great application in the gaming industry as well as robotics and tourism.
The start-up has generated eight jobs and earned revenue of Rs420,000 with investment commitment of Rs8 million. It was the winner of Pakistan Start-up Cup 2019.
SE Drop (Save Every Drop) manufactures a small and efficient plant that recycles waste water and rids it of high amounts of arsenic, fluorides, nitrites, etc. This can help the country, which is in a dilemma as its shores are being polluted and the conventional treatment systems are so expensive that businesses are not willing to cooperate with the government to tackle the problem.
It has created 13 jobs and made revenue of Rs7.5 million.
Safe drinking water for the public is a big challenge for the government. PakVitae can prove to be of great help in solving the drinking water problem in the country.
It has developed a water purification technology at much cheaper prices. It has created 10 jobs and earned revenue of Rs50.7 million so far. Investors are willing to pour Rs2.6 billion in the start-up considering its big scope.
Despite all these improvements where start-ups are introducing new technologies and bringing solutions to every-day troubles, the country has a long way to go.
Pakistan’s annual IT exports stand at just $3 billion while neighbouring India exports over $100 billion worth of IT services and products. The two countries have a population ratio of 1:7 while the IT export ratio is around 1:33.
The writer is a staff correspondent
Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2019.
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