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Pakistani startup market is Asia’s next big thing

Pakistan is the next big market in Asia for technology-based companies, Deutsche Welle, a Berlin-based news agency reported on Wednesday.

The report cites various examples of entrepreneurs, including overseas Pakistanis, and global venture capital firms that have turned to Pakistan in recent years to tap into the country’s growing middle class that is creating opportunities for tech firms.

The DW report says McKinsey & Co has named Pakistan as one of the fastest growing economies in Asia with as many as 720 startups created since 2010. Of these more than two-thirds are still functioning, including 100 that have successfully raised funding from global investors.

Among the most prominent ones is Lahore’s Airlift, which secured $12 million last August in Series A funding from First Round Capital, a notable American VC firm. It is the company’s first investment in Asia in more than 10 years.

Some of the world’s well-known startups have roots in Pakistan, the report said referring to Careem, which was acquired by Uber for $3.1 billion. In another case, the Chinese e-commerce giant acquired Pakistan’s for $200 million.

The report says Pakistani startups have collectively raised $18.8 million in funding just last year and more capital is expected to flow this year.

Uber has been in Pakistan for some years now, but recently Egyptian firm Swvl also entered the country’s growing market for tech startups and pledged $25 million investment over the next couple of years to fund startups and create 10,000 jobs.

Last year, the government appointed former Google executive Tania Aidrus to head its Digital Pakistan, a government initiative geared towards digital transformation.

The country’s tech ecosystem already has a large pool of young and tech-savvy population with 164 million broadband users. Quoting Aidrus, the report said she wants to increase access and connectivity, enhance digital education, and introduce a new era of e-government.

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