Starting your own business in Pakistan is a tough undertaking, especially when the ventures entail technological know-how. And what can make matters even worse is if you happen to be a young entrepreneur with meagre funds. All this makes a recipe for a non-starter.

But, slowly it seems all that is changing at least in some parts of the country, thanks to the visionary leadership of Punjab Information Technology Board. In the bustling metropolis of Lahore – the heart of Pakistan, there exists a one-of-a-kind office overlooking the city’s developing skyline: Plan9. Housed on the ninth floor of Arfa Software Technology Park, Plan9 is Pakistan’s first largest nationwide technology incubator. A non-profit government program, it exists solely as a nursery for selected team of enthusiastic techies from all over the country, providing them with a platform to develop their products and to learn to stand on their own feet.

If brainstorming was anything like the actual meteorological affair, everything within a ten mile radius of the Park would be blown by a storm of ideas. Across the walls from the quiet corridors, the rooms are buzzing with innovative ideas and tech-talks and of course, a symphony of computer keystrokes. In every room, there are energetic young minds working on amazing ideas ranging for instance from making your home appliances intelligent enough to communicate with each other, to turning your smartphone into a Swiss army knife of amazing tools and utilities.

What the people at Plan9 really pride themselves in however, are the successful start-ups that they have managed to set sail to. Despite being a young establishment with only one graduated batch (the second cycle has just begun), Plan9 has quite a number of impressive achievements under its belt. It has set up Pakistan’s first angel investors’ club – a group of wealthy business owners who wish to give back to the community by supporting the youth. It has also been acknowledged by Silicon Valley venture capitalists as the primary breeding ground for tech entrepreneurship in Pakistan. Plan9 start-ups have been making waves of their own. Eyedeus, a company dealing in computer vision, built an ingenious mobile application called Groopic which cleverly stitches photographs together to ensure that the photographer himself is never left out of the memories. After representing Plan9 at Start up Asia in Singapore and gaining more than 7000 frequent users, Eyedeus is now well on its way to Blackbox Connect, a Google-supported two-week start up acceleration program that invites entrepreneurs from across the globe to be a part of its unique experience.

Another startup, Hybrid Signals, secured a substantial amount in funding and witnessed huge profits, receiving interest from multiple FMCG companies in the process. GoGhoomis one start-up which aims to boost the tourism and travel industry by integrating bookings for both services into one easy to use platform. It has already received pre-launch orders and has made contracts with around 1500 service providers in more than 200 locations.

This is the break techies all across the country had been waiting for. In a time when the young generation is furiously working on developing innovative technology while grown-up investors are still queasy about putting their money in the IT sector, Plan9 has brought those two ends together and emerged as a ray of hope for all those who wished to make their mark in the technology landscape, both here and abroad.

Samar Haider,

Lahore, June 30.