To someone who has been used to think of Pakistan as a place swamped by Mullahs and Taliban (read terrorists) and where there is corruption at all levels of administration, with a currency that is at its lowest rate in terms of US dollar, the very idea of investing money to set up business in Pakistan might sound a big joke. But believe me; you cannot be farther from truth if you believe in all these stories that are archetypal of Pakistan courtesy media around the world.
Pakistan has been the favorite whipping boy of the media for all the mishaps and terrorist activities that are going on in all parts of the world. Critics conveniently forget that Pakistan happens to be the 6th most populous state of the world with endless opportunities to make money by starting a business. In fact, if ever there was a time to start a business in Pakistan, this is it. Yes, there is corruption, and there is illiteracy, and there are blackouts that are more frequent than times when there is electricity, but there are also opportunities abound with cheap labor that is hard working and a growing middle class that is modern and spends much more than the previous generation. Incomes and salaries are rising, and so are the ambitions of the young generation of Pakistanis that is hardworking and determined to succeed despite all the obstacles inherent in the system.
There may have been over 600 bomb blasts in Pakistan last year (a price that Pakistan continues to pay for being a part of the war on terror) and more than 40 drone strikes leading to more than 1500 casualties (see more about drones and their effects at Guardian.co.uk), the stock exchange in Karachi tells the whole story of the state of economy of Pakistan. There are 100 companies listed in this stock exchange and these companies have provided the investors with a 49% capital gain in a single year in 2012. There are also dozens of stories of entrepreneurial success in 2012 alone that reflect the fighting spirit of the innovative and battle hardened business class of Pakistan.
Pakistan is a country of contrasts, at least when it comes to its economy. Pakistan tries to solve severe problems such as electrical supplying, terrorist threats and those if human rights, which make it hard for an investor to come here. On the other hand, the cheap labor forces, the determination of Pakistani people to work and build their future, along with the high level of qualification obtained by College graduates make this country a golden mine for major companies from US and Europe.
With such many worries, and when the main salvation in Pakistan is considered foreign investing, it is hard for the young native entrepreneurs to be helped and noticed. A young ambitious professional has to get over many obstacles before starting a new company, and here is a guide that might be helpful:
1. The bureaucracy in Pakistan is a burden
Prepare yourself with patience, as you will lose much time waiting in lines at Governmental and Local institutions to get the necessary documents. Many young entrepreneurs prefer to start their business online, where the government is incapable of legislating, as the costs here are smaller, and the investors can conduct their businesses in a relative quiet place. If you want to take the legal way, you will need to complete about 11 documents with five different institutions.
IT, engineering and internet remain the main directions of the Pakistani economy. Even if there are governmental facilities offered, the procedure of obtaining those approvals is hard. Some banks are willing to offer Startup credits. However, only solid business plans with perspective are chosen. Less is available for creative experiments! More about getting your startup financed.
3. Team Building
For employing the starting team, you can choose young professionals from colleges. Those are usually dedicated, and with proper guidance, they can deliver solid results.
As said before, the workforce in Pakistan is relatively cheap compared with other countries, and the level of qualification is high. Freelancing and outsourcing are some of the most important industries here, and any young entrepreneur can think about hiring freelancers for the less important and for the sporadic tasks needed to be accomplished. Outsourcing is another idea, especially for accounting, HR services and Customer Support.
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