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Careful Incubation and Encouragement Must for Startups

by Manahil Zafar

A chat with leading IT expert Sajjad Kirmani.

CEO and Founder of Infogistic, Sajjad Kirmani has had 30 years of experience in Pakistan and the Middle East when it comes to the tech industry. MITTRPK had the chance to catch up with him during his recent visit to Plan9—Pakistan’s largest tech incubator—where he came to mentor startups on what they should be focusing on.

Sajjad talked about the growing ecosystem in Pakistan, government policies and some of the misconceptions surrounding the tech industry in the country.

When we think of outsourced IT we think of India and China. But Sajjad feels there is a difference when it comes to comparing our market. “The fundamental difference between India and countries like that, is that they started much earlier than we did. The Indian industry is 35 years old. But there is a key difference, since we are smaller in terms of size, so the focus of our industry is product based, and creating niche services.”

According to him we can achieve a lasting impact, through careful incubation, and encouragement.

“The area we need to work on now is investing in our ideas”, says Sajjad while adding “People are now more open to investing. It’s slowly beginning, and as we move on, we hope to see foreign funds.”

When asked if companies were really moving away, Sajjad Kirmani disagrees. He doesn’t feel there is a large shift, “maybe a few” he said, “and those too because of polices when it comes to tech companies and taxation”.

“Having your company based in Dubai, may save you on a couple of dollars, but it keeps you away from the growing ecosystem,” explains Sajjad.

Sajjad says the government has to create an enabling environment. He also notes the role of advocacy of the Pakistan Software Houses Association, and the Pakistan Software Export Board in helping the environment change.

“Our industry has taken off in the last 6 to 7 years and we’ve had a 25 percent to 30 percent growth year after year,” says Sajjad while disclosing that the 15 year tax holiday for software export is finally coming to an end on the 30th June this year.

“We need to sustain on policies, rather than withdrawing with incentives. A bit of support on tax, and of course the power sector needs to help out,” he further says.

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