Lahore—the capital city of the Pakistani state of Punjab—has in recent years seen its tech startup ecosystem develop into a formidable force on the global tech startup stage. A myriad of digital offerings in the form of mobile apps, enterprise software solutions, networking products, and e-commerce offerings have originated from the country’s second largest city; additionally, the country’s largest tech accelerator Plan9 is headquartered in the city.
For these reasons and a host of others, you can expect more creative entrepreneurship and digital innovation coming out of this region in the coming months and years. The following are 11 reasons why the city of Lahore is poised to be the next Silicon Valley.
11. A fast growing tech startup ecosystem.
Again, Plan9—Pakistan’s largest tech incubator—is based in Lahore. Due to an abundance of local tech activity, technology investments and outside interest in local companies is at an all-time high. A new wave of tech accelerators, incubators, and university programs are helping to cultivate new ideas and innovation, and nearly 3 dozen incubators—backed by universities, government and private industry—are currently in existence.
10. Ample government support and supervision over new entrepreneurship.
The Government of Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) is an active proponent of local tech innovation and entrepreneurship; in fact, it was the main government body responsible for launching Plan 9. Since its launch, the accelerator has graduated nearly two dozen companies, with more on the way.
9. Ample investment opportunities and benefits.
Tech incubators and accelerators such as Plan9 and Invest 2 Innovate regularly connect local companies with angel investors and funding/business opportunities worldwide. Even global tech giants are getting in on the action—for example, Google recently chose Eyedeus Labs to participate in an immersion program for startups at its headquarters in Silicon Valley last summer. China has also announced plans to invest $20 billion in the country’s energy infrastructure, an pledge that is certain to create a plethora of new tech jobs and opportunities.
8. A fast rate of technology adoption, especially amongst mobile and internet users.
Pakistan is home to one of the fastest growing online populations in the world: there are over 30 million internet users in Pakistan, many of which are under 30 years of age. Half of these their mobile devices to consume online content—in fact, the country is estimated to be the fifth-largest mobile market in Asia, and—according to a recent report—internet penetration in Pakistan has reached 16%.
7. An international city full of well-respected, academic institutions.
Lahore’s universities, software development firms, IT shops, entrepreneurs, and tech startup ecosystem are working together to boost the city’s dominance in technology. For example, Lahore University of Management Sciences. University of the Punjab, and the University of Engineering and Technology are leading feeders to local IT firms seeking new talent; local universities produce over 20,000 qualified computer science majors for the job market yearly.
6. A large pool of IT and business talent.
The outsourcing industry in Pakistan is renowned globally, but still on the rise—international firms continue to look to the country for top-rated job candidates. The IT industry in Pakistan employees over 100,000 employees, with leading firms such as Techlogix, TRG, Systems Ltd., LMKR, and TPS hiring from Lahore’s IT talent pool on a regular basis. Over 2,500 registered IT organizations operate in the country, accounting for $2.8 billion of global IT sales—$1.6 billion of which accounts for Pakistan’s exports of software/IT services.
5. A reputation for tech startup success.
Many of Pakistan’s tech startups have been met with critical success—for example, Yayvo is a popular online retailer of computers, mobile phones, home/kitchen appliances, and automobile accessories, while LABELS estore—a high-end online fashion retailer—caters to fashion designers and consumers across the country.
4. Increasing interest in Lahore by major tech firms and organizations.
Pakistan is one of the hottest emerging markets on the planet for new digital products and services—the city of Lahore is home to over 7 million by itself. Recently, prominent angel investor and philanthropist Asha Jadeja Motwani, as well as Khurram Jamali—Industry Head for Google Asia Pacific—spoke to the opportunities and growing market trends in Lahore.
3. A place carved out amongst global tech startup winners.
Pakistani startups and entrepreneurs have gone on to win a myriad of global tech startup competitions and events. For example, Pakistani startups competing in different categories took home 2 Gold and 3 Silver awards at the 2014’s APICTA event in Jakarta; at the 2016 APICTA event, Pakistani startups also won multiple awards.
2. A tech startup friendly business/operating environment.
Pakistan’s business laws are geared for entrepreneurship and significant tax incentives exist for qualifying services/businesses. The country boasts Asia’s best-performing stock market, and over 25 tech incubators, accelerators, and co-working spaces to support the local tech startup scene.
1. A trend-setter in the global tech ecosystem.
Local startup incubators like Plan9, SEED, and The Nest I/O are setting standards and trends globally when it comes to tech startup innovation. Again, even global tech giants like Google are taking interest: last year, it partnered with Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) to bring the Pakistan Startup Summit 2016 to Singapore.
In short, Lahore is an up-and-coming digital hub of tech innovation set to go head-to-head with leading startup hubs like Silicon Valley and Berlin; be sure to keep this dynamic city on your radar in the days and years to come.