Lahore, Pakistan’s Next IT Hub and Frontier for Innovation & competition

The pace of IT sector development has been more rapid in Lahore as compared to other cities and while Karachi is viewed as a business hub of Pakistan, Lahore is growing as the IT hub of the country.

Owing to its geo-strategic and historical importance, Karachi was primarily seen as the metropolitan city where apart from commercial sector development, IT sector development was also aimed at. P@SHA was established to provide for a focal point of representation for outside agencies and to devise ways to tackle issues by confronting the concerned authorities to achieve desirable gains for the organisation’s members.

Photo: Uzair Aziz

However, we see that Lahore is seen as a more attractive metropolis to establish and expand the IT sector, owing to the large pool of graduates and a relatively stable socio-political situation. Islamabad, having little or no commercial activity isn’t a desirable sight for such a mass-scale IT sector development hence the government is more focused on Lahore.

The most prominent example of this is the Arfa Software Technology Park that was established in May 2012. It offers businesses operating within the technology park with state-of-the-art business facilities like Tier III Data Center, high tech security and integrated managerial systems. Various universities like the notable Lahore University of Management Sciences and Lahore School of Economics have the capacity to further specialize in science and technology.

A cluster of emerging privately-owned and managed IT businesses. The landscape is largely dominated by one large company, Netsol that sits at the center of IT sector emergence. Last year in August the Punjab Provincial Development Working Party approved development scheme of IT Sector with an estimated cost of Rs.13.717 billion. The approved development scheme includes Punjab Police Integrated Command, Control and Communication (PPIC-3) Centre, Lahore at the cost of Rs. 13.717 billion (revised).

People of Lahore have free WIFI access at some hotspots available at about 115 public places all around the city. This accentuates government’s previous attempts at making Lahore the epicenter of IT sector.

Hence it is easy to assume that because of government’s attempts to strengthen the IT sector the use of this technology has increased, especially in Lahore.  It wasn’t until recently that various startups have started spurring around Pakistan. All these are reshaping and completely revolutionizing how Pakistanis work and utilise the services that had remain largely untapped.

Of these, the most prominent one is Plan 9, a revolutionary platform that transforms the business dreams of talented young ‘technoprenuers’ into a reality. Since 2012 Plan 9 has successfully incubated 32 technology startups out of which 20 have reached their completion.

Startups Based in Lahore:

  1. Hometown: This project is an online platform that provides international exposure to our talented craftsmen by selling handmade leather products to consumers all over the world.
  2. Zameen.com: Tech company that helps you figure out all things real estate. You can buy a house, sell a plot or find your new rental. Use the website or go for the app – the whole process is super easy and can help you connect with people all over the country. What I love about Zameen.com is that they don’t stop at helping people connect, they actually have near stuff like the Index [Pakistan’s first property index] which lets you check out the trends in the market before you make real estate decisions.
  3. Ges-Drive: This creates a gaming experience for special children. These children can play video games through it via simple gestures. It is a proven fact that video games relieve chronic stress. Ges-Drive aims to tap recreational centers like Sindbad, Wonderland in Lahore, and Arena in Karachi.
  4. ShaadiBox:  Provides an online marketplace that connects you with wedding vendors. It aims to lessen the hassle of booking banquet halls and salons, and that too, on a discount.
  5. Home Foodies: Aspires to be a platform to enable housewives to set up their own food businesses from within the comfort of their homes. It has a strict quality assurance system where the owners of Home Foodies personally go and visit each kitchen before signing up a client. It plans to take over the Lahore market within the next six months.
  6. Chimera: Offers users a unique virtual dressing room experience. The website uses a 3D model, which allows its customers to rotate an image fully and see how a certain item (shoes/clothes) looks on them. It earns revenue via a deployment fee and is expected to reach break-even within a year. Virtual dressing rooms are already a big hit on the international retail scene, and Chimera will be a forerunner in bringing the technology to Pakistan.
  7. Beauty Hooked: This allows you to find and book salons and parlours near your location and avail exclusive discounts for their services. The website currently offers discounts in over 30 salons in Lahore and plans to sign up a lot more in the next few months. Labelled a beauty with brains, Sahr Said, the CEO of Beauty Hooked, aimed to create an online platform for Pakistani women to compare the services of various beauty salons.
  8. Mango Baaz: Is the BuzzFeed of Pakistan. It is an online channel for news, information and entertainment that highlights stories for Pakistani youth that are not picked up by mainstream media. It portrays a very lively, and fun-loving image of Pakistanis to the international audience. The website also plans to redefine digital advertising in the country by analysing user data, and using it to generate stories that are more meaningful and connect brands with an engaged audience.
  9. Patari: Is a hub for the local music scene. This is where Patari comes in. It boasts of more than 50,000 registered users with 750,000 tracks streamed per month. Its mobile app has been downloaded by 20,000 people already. Khalid Bajwa, the founder of Patari, claims to have created the most viral campaign in Pakistan for his mobile app by using innovative social media engagement techniques.
  10. EasyTickets: This lets you buy movie tickets in your favorite cinema in the simplest, easiest and the smartest way without the unnecessary hassle.

With these developments it comes as no surprise that Lahore is rapidly reaping the benefits of its IT sector strengthening and will in no time be considered the IT hub of the entire country.

Written by: Remshay Ahmed

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