Pakistan: More than just drones, blasts and terrorism

Published: January 17, 2013

The next time a story is told about the problems in Pakistan the world must also know, that to the same land belong some of the best, battle-tested and inventive entrepreneurs working on shaping the future of the world! PHOTO: AFP

A recent article in Wired, Danger Room highlighted the resurgence of the US drone campaign in Pakistan. While it focuses on the war, a lot was left untold about the nation’s story that is as heartening as it is heartrending, and as inspiring as it is seemingly dismaying.

The story needs to be told in its entirety so the world can see that Pakistan is not just a war front country; so that they can discover for themselves that despite the 46 drone strikes, 652 bomb blasts, and over 1351 terrorism related casualties in 2012, the Pakistani people still continue to persevere, adapt, innovate and thrive!

The complete story is the tale, at one end, of 100 public listed Pakistani companies that provided investors with over 49% capital gain in 2012; and on the other end, of a young fruit vendor who collects orders for fruits via SMS and makes same-day-home deliveries. And then somewhere along this spectrum lie dozens of new businesses led by dynamic entrepreneurs that are developing innovative solutions for the local and global markets instead of whining in their drawing rooms about the problems of the country.

The story of four of these start-ups, that launched in 2012 speak volumes about the resilience, commitment and resourcefulness of its founders.

The first is Vital Agri Nutrients, a young, agricultural Research and Development focused company that is working on developing innovative products for farmers. It has had some recent breakthroughs with their micro-nutrients and soil amendments which are currently in field trials. Given the expected shortage of water and growing prices of fertilisers world-wide, the company and its products present a promising opportunity for small and large farmers to improve the crop yield and lower their input cost per acre by employing soil amendments that help with more efficient use of fertilisers and water in plants.

Next, four young entrepreneurs at Eyedeus, aided by decades of joint research in computer vision, have developed technology that enables mobile devices to have eyes and intelligently process real-world imagery using an increasingly powerful mobile processors. Unlike the cameras on mobile devices that just allow ‘dumb’ recording of images or videos, Eyedeus technology allows developers to augment the reality around users. The company’s first product, called ‘Groopic’ (beta available on the AppStore) is already getting rave reviews. Groopic allows group pictures to be taken in a way never before possible. The person taking the picture can now be part of the group picture, go figure!

Eyedeus, by the way, is part of a full-service technology incubator called Plan 9, that’s a visionary initiative of the government of Punjab, and it hosts at least a dozen other start-ups alongside Eyedeus, working on equally innovative products and services.

Similarly, Invest2Innovate is another accelerator that is supporting at least five entrepreneurial ventures focused on businesses with a large social impact.

Third is a new age production house called JugnooMedia, developing interactive, digital musical toys for mobile devices with an aim of providing toddlers and young children new avenues of learning that are more fun and effective than the traditional, classroom teaching. The demos of their first title are very impressive and the company has announced that it will be released on the Apple AppStore and Android Marketplace soon.

And finally, there is BLISS – a social venture that is aimed at improving the livelihood of women in Pakistan alongside educating them. BLISS has already done a pilot program in a small village of Pakistan where women were taught embroidery skills alongside formal school education in the first phase. In the second phase, BLISS provided the same women an opportunity to co-op with the company and develop handbags designed by professional designers which were then marketed by BLISS through its online store as well as an impressive list of global brand ambassadors. The women who made the bags got the lion’s share of the revenue from those sales and the rest of the money is being used to sustain the operations of the organisation and scale the program.

There must be dozens, if not hundreds, similar tales of entrepreneurship that can be told to match the intimidating figures of drone strikes, bomb blasts and deaths in Pakistan. The point in highlighting these four is just to tell the world that for the fearless, committed and innovative entrepreneurs, there is no holding back, whether in the Silicon Valley or Pakistan.

The next time a story is told about the problems Pakistan is having with the political instability, corruption, energy shortage and terrorism the world must know, that to the same land belong some of the best, battle-tested and inventive entrepreneurs working on shaping the future of the world!

khurram.zafar

Khurram Zafar

Is currently a Director at Punjab Government's Plan9 business incubator and teaches entrepreneurship at Information Technology University. Previously he was CIO at Lahore Stock Exchange and prior to that, a technology entrepreneur & adviser to Fortune 500 companies. He tweets at @kayzafar twitter.com/kayzafar

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://syedaabidabokhari.wordpress.com The Only Normal Person Here.

    BRILLIANT WRITE UP AND MUCH NEEDED. This should have been an op-ed. Felt educated. thumbs up. Pakistan Zindabad.Recommend

  • islam

    Pakistan is an islamic state and should not concern itself with these activities. We have to offer true Islam to every one of out people or face Allah.Recommend

  • Iyaz Ali

    U have no idea the extent and range and level of innovation in India.Recommend

  • Islam, pls

    @islam:
    And as long as it is an Islamic state, it will continue its descent into a cesspool of chaos, ignorance and hate.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    @Iyaz Ali:
    The writer has not tried to compare Pakistan with India – he is merely pointing out certain signs of hope that exist along with the gloomy situation in the country. I like the tone of the article, not unrealistically buoyant but enthusiastic all the same.Recommend

  • Aijaz Haider

    Very informative and inspiring indeed!Recommend

  • ss

    @Iyaz Ali:
    good for you and indiansRecommend

  • danmax

    @Iyaz Ali:
    where did india came from?Recommend

  • Disgusted in US

    @islam:
    Your comments have left me shaking my head in disbelief and more so in amazement that a person could be so misguided.

    You have no idea what is Islam. Let me give you a wake up call – Pakistan is not a representative of Islam. You want to see Islam then come to the Western countries.

    Unlike you the West understands that Aqamat us Salaat means to establish a system of goodness. Whereas you think that it means to perform Namaz (a majoosi term for worship).

    You celebrate the day of sacrifice by killing animals when Quran does not order you to do so.

    You pick up books written by Persian Zoroastrians and use them as guidance when Quran tells you not to do that – Yes I am talking about those books of Hadith. Go do some research if you don’t believe me. The proof is in Quran.

    It is people like you that give Islam a bad name. Your comments leaves us to believe that no wonder Pakistan is so lost.Recommend

  • antanu g

    @Iyaz Ali:
    why you have to bring India in everything? obviously any positive news about Pakistan is a bad news for antagonist.Recommend

  • antanu g

    @islam:
    your comment is in bad taste and showcase your bias against a great religion… fine you are not happy with a positive news about our neighbours but this should not compel you to display your idiotic sensesRecommend

  • antanu g

    @khurram
    in fact media in your country is responsible for it’s such horrible imageRecommend

  • Aitchisonian

    Good job Cayzee!Recommend

  • http://www.riazhaq.com Riaz Haq

    Unfortunately, the worst 5% of the Pakistan story gets 95% of the media coverage.What often kept secret is the fact that Pakistan is the most urbanized and the most middle class country in South Asia. It has higher graduation rates and offers greater economic mobility than the region…even higher mobility than US ad China.

    http://www.riazhaq.com/2012/12/are-muslims-worse-off-in-jinnahs.htmlRecommend

  • Parvez

    That was not only different but was informative as well.
    @islam ………….appreciate your sense of humour.Recommend

  • gp65

    @Iyaz Ali: Not sure why the comparison to India was relevant. This was an upbeat blog about some Pakistani successes and it was good to read.Recommend

  • Hamza

    Snakes, they are not just poison and fangs. They also make very good parents and take care of their young.

    Seriously, when people talk ill of Pakistan they are really talking about the net impact Pakistan has on them (or their country). And that is usually something to do with islamic terrorism – whether it is the Times square bomber (Shehzad) or Mumbai (Kasab) or Daniel Pearl’s killer or the Bangladesh massacre. That is very different from Pakistanis doing well for themselves or their country.

    A person’s view will always be centered around themselves first, and that is human psychology.Recommend

  • gp65

    @antanu g: “@Iyaz Ali:
    why you have to bring India in everything?”

    Did not think the day would ever come when I could actually agree with you. But on this one I find myself in agreement with you.Recommend

  • http://asadpiracha.blogspot.com Asad Ur Rehman

    I owe you Bundle of thanks. You really made my day special. Thank you once again and keep us and world informed.Recommend

  • Khurram Zafar

    Folks, thank you for the amazing feedback to the post which was merely intended to shed some light on the positive things going on in Pakistan despite the difficult times we are facing as a nation. I am not quite sure where and how India and Islam got roped into the post, but please know that it wasn’t my intention to do that. In fact, I am still a bit confused why both these topics are being discussed in the comments. Recommend

  • gp65

    @Khurram Zafar: “In fact, I am still a bit confused why both these topics are being discussed in the comments.”

    One person brought up India and 3 Indians including me questioned that because it was unnecessary. One person brought up Islam and most people disagreed with it. SO most of the references to India and Islam actually support your point of view that your blog had nothing to do with either.

    Great blog by the way and very informative.Recommend

  • http://flickr.com/sibzz sibzz

    @Disgusted in US:

    chilax this guy is just trolling around.Recommend

  • Khurram Zafar

    @gp65:
    Thank you gp65. And for the record, I do think there is indeed a lot of innovation going on in India and I have been a small part of at least two Indian technology ventures also :) Unfortunately, in the case of Pakistan, a lot of the good news gets buried under the hyped up piles of a few negative stories. Hence this effort.Recommend

  • socko

    Your article was inspiring and made me feel that some sort of humanity still survives in pakistan. I would like to add couple of points to ur narration. I think you missed some more inspiring stories, that I think is more imp.

    Ahmedis have not taken up violence to retaliate against pakisytani ppl who believe that ahmedis are subhumans and they are wajib-e-qatal, despire the mass media propagating against them since last 50o years.
    Shias chose to.protest peacefully even after being mercilessly targeted one after another killings and even after 3000+ ppl killed.
    Hindus and christians and sikhs have chosen to live in their home land even afyer the masses of pak muslims do not consider them pakisrtanis, though many of them will flock to comment they are equal citizens but will not protest for their rights.
    Recommend

  • socko

    Your article was inspiring and made me feel that some sort of humanity still survives in pakistan. I would like to add couple of points to ur narration. I think you missed some more inspiring stories, that I think is more imp.

    1. Ahmedis have not taken up violence to retaliate against pakisytani ppl who believe that ahmedis are subhumans and they are wajib-e-qatal, despire the mass media propagating against them since last 50o years.
    2. Shias chose to.protest peacefully even after being mercilessly targeted one after another killings and even after 3000+ ppl killed.
    3. Hindus and christians and sikhs have chosen to live in their home land even afyer the masses of pak muslims do not consider them pakisrtanis, though many of them will flock to comment they are equal citizens but will not protest for their rights.Recommend

  • http://www.lse.com.pk Muhammad Ali

    Its a big sigh of relief that somewhere in the woods, someone is thinking optimistic and positive about the country and its strengths. A definite ray of hope for a little struggling and cornered nation. Very well done.Recommend

  • Nobody

    @Iyaz Ali:
    And your point is? Why bring India up when no one is comparing the two. Childish. Even when Indians and Pakistanis aren’t arguing about something people can’t rest in peace. Love throwing fuel to the fire.

    Refreshing read. Quite a change from the bad news. Keep it up!Recommend

  • Khurram Zafar

    @socko:
    Thank you socko. As I said in the article, there must be 100s more positive stories that I am not privy to and which are equally inspiring and heart warming. You should write about some of the issues/matters you believe represent the strength and maturity of the nation.Recommend

  • http://farazhasan.wordpress.com Faraz H

    Very informative blog and a great read!
    Don’t know why people have to relate every article about Pakistan to either Islam or India or both. Recommend

  • Desi

    @Khurram: This article is a pleasant change from otherwise string of bad news from Pakistan. I would prefer Indians and Pakistanis compete and collaborate in technology rather than compete in arms race. Ignore the pessimistic comment and people who divert from topic and keep up the good work. If you ever think of starting up a group of innovators from both countries, sign me up :)Recommend

  • Surya

    @antanu g:

    “@islam:
    your comment is in bad taste and showcase your bias against a great religion… fine you are not happy with a positive news about our neighbours but this should not compel you to display your idiotic senses”

    “@khurram
    in fact media in your country is responsible for it’s such horrible image”

    Actually which country do you belong to??Recommend

  • Insaan

    @islam: Pakistan is an islamic state and should not concern itself with these activities. We have to offer true Islam to every one of out people or face Allah.

    In which Muslim country Muslims follow true Islam?
    Do you think talibans or moulvis in Pakistan follow true Islam?Recommend

  • Guest

    @Khurram Zafar: “Unfortunately, in the case of Pakistan, a lot of the good news gets buried under the hyped up piles of a few negative stories. Hence this effort.” What a slap in the face to the Shia who are being massacred, the victims of wani, the people suffering because of Taliban brutality, citizens who sit in the dark because of load shedding. A few negative stories? Your misplaced nationalism is showing.Recommend