Why entrepreneurship in engineering is important for Pakistan?

Lest not forget, entrepreneurship is a fundamental ingredient in recipe of economic development. Successful entrepreneurial ventures lead to establish SMEs – basic building block of economy, and later LSE – large scale enterprises, that generate massive economic activity and employment. Although, history of entrepreneurship is as old as history of mankind; entrepreneurial skills are ingrained in human DNA. However, our natural entrepreneurship abilities have gradually shadowed, because of education system, shortsightedness, career focused approach, unstable political and economic environment.

Pakistan’s geographical position and strategic partnership with China on China Pakistan Economic Corridor known as CPEC – a part of one road one belt project offers million of new opportunities for global, regional and local investors. Are we ready for CPEC? How much Pakistani citizens will capitalise from CPEC investment is a subjective question, but as a patriotic citizen, in my humble opinion we have much larger issues to address to achieve sustained and progressive real economic growth, that will change the lives of people on ground in reality (high per capita income, standard of living etc).

Income inequality, young population bulge and lack of innovative culture are the three main issues which needs to be addressed and resolved soonest to avoid massive socio-economic problems in future. I strongly believe that Engineers can help solve these issues if we encourage them to take the leadership role in positively contributing to society and economy.

Challenge #1: Income and Wealth Inequality

Economic development policies in Pakistan since beginning excluded mass employment, middle and under privileged socio-economic classes from development equation when compared to India, China and other emerging economies.  The policies always favoured the upper socio-economic class resulting in consolidation of national wealth among 22 families in 1960s and 2,000 families in 2016.

Income and Wealth inequality gap has considerably increased over past few decade as a result of corruption, nepotism, lawlessness and flawed economic policies developed by the people in absolute power.

We need to take steps to reduce the income and wealth inequality gap by providing opportunities to talented youth to avoid movement of our middle and lower socio-economic class to chronic poverty levels where they become helpless to improve their standard of living by any means i.e., they become NINJAs (people with no income, no job, no asset).

Challenge #2: Pakistan’s Youth Bulge

According to available statistics on population, 60% of population in Pakistan comprise of youth (between 15 to 35 years age), out of which 50% is urban youth (35 million). Lack of long term strategic vision, weak governance and education infrastructure resulted in ranking Pakistan on 147th position in the world based on Human Resource Development Index by United Nations.

Now we have a tougher challenge to manage unskilled, illiterate, unproductive millions of young human resources rising at the rate of 2% on average per annum. If we fail to find amicable solution to productively and progressively engage them, then this youth will push us to unstable political, economic and social environment which are considered to be key drivers for economic growth and foreign direct investment.

Sneak peek in to Social Progress Index can help you understand future challenges and some food for thought:

Challenge #3: High Tech and Innovation

Recently, Pakistan’s was ranked at the bottom in Global Innovation Index (source: tribune.com) despite of the fact that we have very talented human resources. It’s indeed a shame and we immediately need take appropriate measures to improve our status as global innovators.

Countries in sub-continent missed development opportunity offered by industrial revolution I (pre World War I) due to colonisation. Pakistan after independence lost another opportunity offered by industrial revolution II (post Word War II) because of economic policies. The government at that time focused on the development of light engineering industry and functional inequality, where as India and China focused on developing heavy engineering, technology sectors and technology experts. Labor force was employed in large numbers which resulted in sustained and progressive growth in economy and per capita income in those countries. We also failed to capitalise the opportunity provided the third industrial revolution named as IT Revolution. Pakistan’s IT Exports were just USD 453 million as reported by PSEB, whereas India exported USD 99 Billion and China exported USD 493 Billion of IT products and services to the world.

With massive availability of young and talented population, now we have an other development opportunity in Technology/High Tech sector i.e., catch the wave of high tech revolution by streamlining policies and providing basic infrastructure to support the tech innovation ecosystem. It’s very challenging to compete in light and heavy engineering sectors with other countries as it requires time (10-15 years), massive investment in infrastructure, persistent and consistent effort to support development of world-class, competitive light and heavy engineering sector.

Comparatively, technology sectors requires qualified human resources, capital and encouragement and ability to take risks to achieve high growth rate and fast RoI in very short period of time.

Solution: Why Engineering Entrepreneurship?

Engineers prove to be the fundamental pillar in economic development of any region in the world because they have the knowledge, skills and ability to transform ideas to products. Universities in Pakistan produce talented human resources since decades. Now, is the right time to capitalise on our existing and upcoming engineering community by encouraging them to establish startups focused on technology, innovation, training young human capital and generating employment for masses to address core issues highlighted above (income and wealth inequality, youth bulge) by streamlining resources (human resources and capital) to achieve exponential economic growth through export of technology solutions and services.

Pakistan doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel, we just need to implement with sincerity, established successful models (Silicon Valley by Stanford USA, MIT Labs, Launch Box, Tech Stars etc), and provide legal and regulatory framework (bankruptcy laws, intellectual property rights, venture capital firms etc).

Despite of all the challenges, there are 18+ incubators already established and successfully operating in the country and many more are coming up. Tech Pakistan – Where Technology Meets Money, a recently established technology forum, with its non-profit objectives, committed and dedicated members from technology domain is taking startups an it’s ecosystem to next level.

Lets join hands and work towards encouraging (ideas, mentorship and capital) our young and talented engineering professionals to take initiatives and be successful for themselves and country in general. I’m sure, not everyone will succeed but those who will, be the ones to establish multibillion dollar companies in future like Google, Facebook, Amazon in Pakistan.

Thanks for reading.