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Murtaza Zaidi: Building a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem for youth in Pakistan

Posted: 27 June 2019

Pakistan, Impact,

Today (27 June 2019) marks the United Nations’ Micro-,Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSME) Day, in recognition of MSMEs’ work in local and global economies. MSMEs play a key role in developing countries and are the backbone of economies worldwide.

To mark the day, we reflect on the work of Australia Awards alumnus Murtaza Zaidi, a mentor for young entrepreneurs in Pakistan.

Australia Awards alumnus Murtaza Zaidi is dedicated to creating a better environment for young and aspiring entrepreneurs in Pakistan. As the Project Director of National Incubation Center (NIC) in Peshawar, he is working towards building a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and is a mentor for innovative product-based tech start-ups. He was a participant of the Australia Awards the Role of Government in Private Sector Development Short Course in 2017, which he says was an “eye-opening experience”.

“During the Short Course, understanding the economic impact of Public-Private Partnership models in developed countries was a particularly valuable experience for me. Australia Awards changed my outlook, and since then I have been able to form joint initiatives to support the ecosystem in the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa region specifically,” Murtaza says.

In 2018, Murtaza partnered with LMKT and Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited to launch NIC in Peshawar and Karachi. NIC is an initiative funded by Ignite National Technology Fund and the Pakistan Ministry of Information Technology with the aim of building a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and supporting the creation of disruptive, innovative product-based tech start-ups. It provides start-ups with the resources and tools they need to establish themselves as successful entrepreneurs. Murtaza is also on the Steering Board of NIC Karachi.

“I see great potential in the entrepreneurial landscape of Pakistan,” says Murtaza. “It is the right time to launch your own start-up, invest in disruptive tech-driven ideas and support the country for wealth and job creation. I will be doing my bit to support such ventures which affect the communities and change the way we live, work or play!”

Over the years, Murtaza has had the opportunity to interact with many of Peshawar’s entrepreneurs through supporting initiatives such as the Pakistan StartUp Cup, which promotes inclusive entrepreneurship empowerment. Supporting initiatives such as this has allowed him to identify learning opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs and has helped him see the potential for capacity building in Pakistan’s entrepreneurial landscape.

“Entrepreneurs in Peshawar possess the vigour and passion for developing scalable, impact-oriented solutions; I have seen their authenticity and ability to go to the market and demonstrate the practicality of their ideas,” says Murtaza.

He has been instrumental in organising five rounds of Pakistan StartUp Cup, the biggest start-up competition in Pakistan. The competition is an inclusive, grassroots-driven entrepreneurship empowerment program to grow businesses, entrepreneurs and the ecosystems that support entrepreneurs. It focuses on the progress and business model refinement of start-ups. StartUp Cup has received more than 3000 entries since 2013 from all across Pakistan, 50% of which have been initiatives led by women.

Australia Awards alumnus Murtaza Zaidi

Murtaza is also a strong supporter of women-led start-ups and ensuring safe workplaces for women. Feeling a “profound responsibility” to create and promote an enabling environment for female entrepreneurs in Pakistan, he established and leads WECREATE, which serves as an entrepreneurial community centre for women interested in starting a business or expanding an existing one. It provides mentoring, business connections, specialised training, connections to the community, media attention, and access to markets and capital, along with the technical tools and resources necessary for taking any business to the next level. Additionally, Murtaza has established and leads the women’s entrepreneurship development incubation and co-working space.

“Ensuring a women-friendly working environment is vital. There are many factors to ensure gender inclusion at the workplace, including some basic necessities such as safety, mobility, and separate resting areas and praying zones, as well as childcare considerations”.

“WECREATE has demonstrated how workplaces making these adjustments and considerations can enable women to launch their own businesses and grow,” says Murtaza.

An entrepreneur himself, Murtaza established CyberVision International (a technology development company based out of Pakistan offering scalable IT solutions) in 2003. The company specialises in enterprise resource planning, ed-tech, agri-tech, and application and infrastructure solutions in its pursuit to support the country’s fast-growing information age needs and requirements.

Driven by a passion to ensure that innovative entrepreneurs thrive in his country, Murtaza plans to continue to implement efforts that support entrepreneurs and promote an indigenous start-up culture, which will respond to local challenges to create solutions that benefit Pakistani society.