Peshawar: A startup story featuring NIC

“This is the Louis Vuitton of Peshawari chappals,” says Muhammad Jahangir Ahmad, introducing ‘Bera’, his footwear manufacturing startup, at the National Incubation Center, Peshawar – a joint initiative of LMKT and PTCL, that is backed by the Ignite Fund. After his first operational year, Ahmed is already getting 60% of his revenue from returning customers and credits the NIC for teaching him how to scale his business.

Watch this video to learn more about the NIC’s methodology, the startups in action (00:54), the challenges they face (04:45), and how a concerned youth makes for a more promising future (06:06).

In the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa capital, there is intense local interest in being part of the startup ecosystem; which Bilal Farooq Khan, Marketing and Communications Lead, considers evident in the more than 350 applications received by the incubator for its first cohort, despite having advertised for 15-20 days.

According to Farhad Qayyum, Manager Incubation at NIC Peshawar, for an application to be accepted, the disruptiveness of the idea and the strength of the team are the most important factors taken into consideration. NIC then provides its incubatees with tailored mentorship, helps craft their startup story, and provides specific coaching sessions around areas such as personality development, design thinking, and leveraging the digital space.

Apart from Jahangir Ahmed, NIC Peshawar incubatees include Mohsin Rafiq, founder of Arpus Technologies – a startup manufacturing electrosurgical generators, used extensively in surgeries to cut tissue and seal blood vessels. Rafiq aims to improve the quality and aesthetics of his offering and looks up to NIC’s mentorship and industry linkages in helping him develop a medical grade product.

Another venture, Browns Uncensored, represents a community of bloggers co-founded by Zahra Azam and Syed Babar Shah, aimed at protecting emerging bloggers from industry exploitation, enabling them to better position themselves to negotiate with brands and PR agencies. Shah adds that hearing about Peshawar does cause some hesitation in brands based in larger urban centers, but movement to this region is imminent as the larger markets saturate, and Browns is poised to take advantage of this opportunity.

The team at NIC recalls having received an application from two children aged 7 and 10 years old, who were already running their own YouTube channel, raising awareness about the use of plastic bags. They wanted to be incubated because they wanted to develop an environmentally friendly alternative. Bilal Khan lauds such enthusiasm, and believes that “if these kids are thinking about these things at age 7 and 10, these are the guys that are going to grow up and innovate tomorrow from Pakistan, and we won’t have to look to Silicon Valley or elsewhere.”

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