Pakistan is gradually emerging as a hub of technological
innovation. Every day, I come across more companies that
are developing innovative products and compelling consumer internet
services for the global market and fewer that are chasing local or
international customers for outsourced work.
The country has never been short of talent and skills, nor do the people lack entrepreneurial spirit. So what has changed today? There’s no one clear answer, but several recent developments have combined to create a perfect storm of innovation:
1) the internet is facilitating more entrepreneurial meritocracy
2) new business incubators in the country are preventing the premature demise of infant ventures
3) techie and business-savvy diaspora are returning to mentor young entrepreneurs
4) startup costs are relatively lower, and
5) local and international investors are gradually opening up their wallets to invest in Pakistan’s tech ventures.
All are driving Pakistan’s transition into a knowledge-based economy home to technological and scientific innovation.
It's also causing a mindset shift; most outsourcing and consulting companies are linear-scale businesses and don’t provide the leverage that product-based businesses do, and Pakistani entrepreneurs are finally understanding this.
Here are a few leading the pack:
International media is still abuzz with recently launched Groopic, a cool group photo-taking app developed by Pakistan-based developer Eyedeus Labs. The company and their product have been featured on CNN, CNET, TechCrunch and Gizmodo, among others. But Pakistani innovation doesn’t stop there; below are profiles of three more young innovative tech-based companies that are earning some good local recognition and are second to none when it comes to technological innovation.
The first, iTrak, is working on a hands-free, human computer interaction product to make computing accessible and useful for the over 20 million people in the world who have either lost their hands or are unable to control a computer mouse.
The young engineers from one of Pakistan’s leading science and technology universities have developed a low-cost way to interact with a computer using only eye movements, which are read by a camera mounted on tailor-made head gear, sort of like Google Glass. Here is a video of a field trial as well as one of the engineers using the product to tweet, watch a video, and play games on a Windows computer:
The second company, One Step Solutions, has developed xGear – a small device that plugs into pretty much any car’s OBD port (located under the dashboard) to collect a wealth of information about the car’s health, performance and real-time information and then transfers this data to your PC or smartphone.
Aside from analyzing data and extracting and sharing insights with the car owner to improve driving habits, save on fuel, and extend the life of the car, the company is working to develop a social gaming experience on top of the technology. One Step Solutions recently won the best in Green & Sustainable IT Applications award at the country’s leading annual ICT awards competition for xGear.
The third, Center for Advanced Research and Engineering (CARE), is developing a high-resolution ECG machine that has the ability to monitor a patient, conduct Artificial Intelligence-based self-diagnostics, and supports sharing the ECG data through various communication channels to enable remote diagnostics and support for patients. This is just one of the company’s many innovations furthering the field of telemedicine. CARE also aims to support the development of a National Cardiac grid in the country.
These aren’t the only examples of Pakistani innovation, but they certainly set a strong example of product-based innovation rather than the typical outsourcing services. For those who seek more proof, check out Pakistani cloud-based workspace startup Convo which recently raised $5 million from Morgenthaler to expand operations.