NIC Hyderabad sparks startup success

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KARACHI:

The National Incubation Centre (NIC) of Hyderabad has successfully incubated over 100 startups in less than two years across four cohorts, garnering international acclaim while encompassing various tech businesses.

Cohorts, often referred to as batches, are selected through rigorous competition every six months and receive free-of-cost training funded by the state-owned enterprise Ignite of the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT). This training, conducted at a state-of-the-art centre, aims to produce skilled IT professionals while providing full support to startups and new businesses.

Ignite has established eight NICs in Islamabad, Lahore, Quetta, Karachi, Peshawar, and Hyderabad, along with two specialised incubators in Faisalabad (for agritech) and Rawalpindi (for aerospace technologies).

Project Director of NIC Hyderabad, Syed Azfar Hussain, stated, “NIC Hyderabad has successfully incubated 102 startups within 19 months since its launch in September 2022. All eight NICs operate under public-private partnerships, with NIC Hyderabad being managed by PTCL and LMKT, funded by Ignite and MoITT.”

He mentioned that two cohorts have completed their training, while two more are currently undergoing training. Applications for cohort-5 are expected to open in May/June, with the new cohort anticipated to start by August 2024.

Startups, typically comprising four to five founders, face no age limit barrier as long as they possess an innovative idea, he said. They receive assistance, workspace, a laptop, training, mentorship, and opportunities for local and international exhibitions from NIC Hyderabad. Additionally, if a startup generates Rs500,000 in revenue through its services, MoITT provides Rs100,000 as an incentive for encouragement.

Two of many such successful startup stories include those of Ghar Bethe Mangwai (GBM) and Mixeal.

Mohsin Mubarak, the Founder of GBM, explained that his startup idea, “delivery services for rural areas,” was implemented in December 2023. Customers can order various products and groceries, and receive them within one hour in cities like Hyderabad, Badin, Sanghar, Tando Mohammad Khan, Umerkot, Tharparkar, Mithi, Sukkur, and even Karachi in Sindh.

“A customer can approach us through our website, our app GBM on the Google Playstore and an AI-connected (artificial intelligence) WhatsApp number speaking in four languages Urdu, English, Sindhi and Punjab for any demand,” he said.

Another notable startup, Mixeal, founded by twin brothers Hallar Azad and Walhar Gohar, has developed the second most played virtual reality cricket game globally, after India.

Hallar Azad mentioned, “Enthusiasts can purchase the game software for $20 or utilise compatible devices like Meta Quest 2 & 3. The game, named Final Overs VR Cricket, is the first-ever cricket game built for the Meta Quest platform. It currently boasts thousands of users worldwide, offering both solo and multiplayer modes. Our mission is to establish the best virtual reality company in the country, aiding global companies with immersive solutions.”

IT Expert and CEO of SI Global Solutions, Dr Noman Said explained the importance of National Incubation Centres (NICs) in nurturing Pakistan’s startup ecosystem. These centres provide crucial resources such as mentorship, technical support, and funding opportunities, helping early-stage tech businesses overcome initial challenges and scale effectively, he said. He stressed their role in accelerating innovation and creating employment opportunities within the technology sector, positioning Pakistan as a significant player in the global tech industry.

Regarding the planned launch of a new NIC for gaming and animation, he highlighted that this specialised NIC could significantly enhance Pakistan’s IT startup landscape. The gaming and animation sector is rapidly growing globally, with a high demand for creative and technical talent. By focusing on this niche market, the NIC can attract vital talent, providing the necessary skills, infrastructure, and industry connections to foster innovation and entrepreneurship.

To further elevate NICs, he suggested a multi-faceted approach, including enhancing collaboration between academia, industry leaders, and startups, increasing access to international markets, and implementing continuous learning and development programmes within NICs to ensure entrepreneurs stay relevant and proactive in an ever-evolving market.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 2nd, 2024.

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