Pakistan’s most startup friendly cities

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TATA-NEN Hottest Startup Awards has created a map of cities based on the number of nominations they got. This has given way to a virtual ranking of cities with the best infrastructure and business environment that can boost the growth of new companies.

While we don’t have such awards in Pakistan nor any reliable data to base our premise but we can take some liberty to come up with not-so-naive ideas. Startups or IT startups to be more precise are extensively covered on our portal. While the startup culture is not very strong here (given our size and economic and political conditions) but we do have a vibrant scene.

We can determine the startup friendliness of a city by the number of such ventures based in that location coupled with the output of these entities. Other important factors include costs of doing business, property prices and most importantly the quality and quantity of professionals available there.

This post is solely based on my personal opinion and some questions I asked around plus some historical facts. I would like our readers to give their insight on the issue.

Karachi:

Let’s start with Karachi. Property prices in Karachi have seen a rapid skyward growth. Commercial office space at a prime location like Shahrah-e-Faisal runs into thousands of Rupees per square feet. Taking into consideration the fact that most startups are housed in residential areas; speaking of which, a 1000 sq. yards house at a central location like PECHS or Gulshan will cost you around 30k -80k PKR a month. The uninterrupted power supply (or the lack of it?) is a major issue in Karachi (though Lahore and Islamabad are now competing for the slot) hence the cost of generators and fuel increases the cost of business manifolds. Last but not the least, political instability and rioting is the biggest factor which mars the investments in Karachi and startups are a direct ‘beneficiary’ of this factor.

Though Karachi has the highest number of IT professionals and a good infrastructure, it has somehow failed to be ranked as the best place in Pakistan for startup companies. It’s the case since early 90’s when the so-called operation clean up was launched and foreign as well as local investors fled the cosmopolitan hub of Pakistan. Things are changing but Karachi has a lot to do to regain the status of Pakistan’s most investors friendly city.

Islamabad:

Of late, we’ve seen a significant growth of startups in Islamabad. Rawalpindi-Islamabad metropolitan area constitutes the third largest populace of Pakistan. Add to this the presence of dozens of technical colleges/universities (including the top-rankers) and the equation is balanced. The cost of doing business, however, is quit high given the magnanimous property rates and the overall inflation (higher than the national average). Load-shedding has also become a recent problem. Once known for its serenity and sense of exalted security, the city suffered from terrorist attacks but it is still the safest city in Pakistan. Foreign investors are more ready to invest in ventures based out of Islamabad as compared to Karachi.

Lahore:

Lahore is taking the lead in this so-called clash of the titans. The city has the right number of professionals, technical and educational base and most importantly the number of startup ventures present. Property prices are at par with Islamabad and Karachi but on an aggregate scale; it’s still economical to do business here. Security issue is there but not as huge as compared to Karachi nor it is as vulnerable as is Islamabad.

So all in all, it can be considered as the best city to start a new venture.

This is an open debate so shoot your comments.

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5 Comments

  • I guess, I will prefer Islamabad or Lahore anytime for my next startup.

    About security issues in Islamabad, you don’t have to be in Red-Zone to be starting that business (and actually not many startups can ever afford to be there!).

    In Islamabad, one should look towards, E/F/G-11 sectors, or I-10/9/8 sectors…are strategic, and with lower expenses. “I” sectors come with a benefit of being right in the middle of Islamabad and Rawalpindi so a startup can attract relatively affordable employees from Rawalpindi that way.

    Another advantage for Islamabadi startups can be if they take a look at graduates coming from NWFP. These people are often very hardworking, even sometimes with MSC degrees they have no practical experience. So they might have read all but would most probably not even know how to set attributes in .net environment. If you can risk 2 months, hire them as Internee, put them under an experienced senior programmer and then you can have them ready to work as Junior programmers for several months (possibly an year, until you can retain them later). With them you can save money and get good hardworking coders (I am sorry it is indeed exploitation but it works good for both sides and much better than those graduates from institutes of Islamabad who often are just looking for a higher pay, but an office job which requires only talk).

    *Just few things based on my few years of entrepreneurship –

  • though we are in islamabad, i still think that in my personal opinion Lahore is a better place to start but then again i have not done it there so some body from lahore would be a better person to comment on it

  • for some reason I thought this article would attract a lot more debate – data points such as #graduates per year in each city/territory, market saturation, experience pool, access to mentors and finance, access to customers, etc.

  • There are so many place in Pakistani which must be visited, if you are looking for peace of mind that Hunza, Maree, Nathia Gali, Kura Karam and the best Jheel Saif-al-Maluk…

    See the preview here, how beautiful place this is, http://www.pakreel.com/view/1176/pakistan-adventure-hunza-valley/

  • Karachi,anytime for anything,the most cosmopolitan and most business friendly.why do they have all the major banks and multinational based in karachi.the city all has the advantage of being a seaport,close to the energy corridor and above all more connected with the world,both physically and mentaly.crime always get better.lahore and islamabad are asdangerous now as karachi,plus they are provencial

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