The Entrepreneur that cant be

With chaos comes opportunity. But some times I wonder if there is just too much chaos in Pakistan for real opportunity to thrive. If there was real opportunity, industries in general would be booming. But we seem to be becoming a poor country with a lot of rich people and economic dis-parity growing every day. With the lack of mobility of resources, personal mobility, funds and access to clean un federated domestic markets the average person can surely dream of being an entrepreneur but the odds are stacked up against them.

Traditional entrepreneurship is dead. Or close to it, it doesn’t have the returns one would expect(any where else in the world), if it has in some way still survived. The only form of entrepreneurship that remains is the “how to beat the system” entrepreneurship. It is some thing that is being uniquely exploited by government officials in the form of “looking the other way when people of means want things done, against a quid pro quo system”

Let me illustrate, you are an importer of sorts, you import items to resell at your fashion jewelry outlet, but the import duties are X, since every one in the eco system is under invoicing the true value of the product and thus not paying full duty, surely you cant succeed if you paid full value of the tax/importation duties, so you work with a government entrepreneur other wise known as a customs official and you figure out a balance that suits your eventual retail prices. This entrepreneur charges a fee for his service, the exchequer looses duties but he makes money as do you( the retail sales professional) since your goods are now a viable product.

What this is doing is that its creating an economy of fast cash and high disposable incomes. Whilst depleting the economy and the system of valuable funds. Arguably if the funds did exist, those left in charge to administer would truly evolve some other entrepreneurial venture to ensure they didn’t get spend on public works or development projects.

There is a simple co relation between just societies and prosperity. When there is no rule of law, no economic crimes related prosecution and no fear of the reach of the system, nothing positive will happen. It wont happen for most of the people. There is no shortage of raw talent, what is missing is the guidance to transact truthfully and with ethics. A country where half the morning conversations with 50%+ of the young adult male working population is muted under the consumption of beetle nuts (aka ghutka) do we really for see change and change for the better, do we really for see entrepreneurs budding every where? We truly don’t, but we should.

We don’t have access to fair markets, legal system, we don’t even have a cyber crime bill let alone thinking about digital entrepreneurship and success in building digital entrepreneurs. The very basic elements of starting a business or registering one, poses a hurdle, every conversation starts with a “masla/problem” but ends with “hull/solution” with the exchange of some pictures of the founding father. How can people achieve true scale or flourish where the entire system is broken and there is no desire or accountability on any ones part to really fix this.

Do we really blame every second Pakistani who has the choice to immigrate or to find work over seas? We truly cant, they owe it to their kids to be able to play out side, go to the zoo, walk to their neighbors or have access to a park. Its not a big ask, but its some thing. The same people when they leave here, they have the skill set typically to end up being entrepreneurs some where else. It seems our system has failed them. They have it in them to succeed but the mechanisms to achieve that success is non existent here for the vast majority of individuals. Yet its interesting to note, its this broken system that teaches them perseverance and the street smarts to go else where and be successful. The whole nurturing part is missing here thus where they have social justice they go and succeed.

It would be great to be an entrepreneur in Pakistan, theoretically speaking. The labor arbitrage numbers are big the access to talent is high(due to high un employment or under employment) but in reality it some how just doesn’t pay off big time. We have some great success stories but you could them on your fingers, in a nation of over 180M if all we succeed in doing over the last 60 years is enable 10/15 people to make it big, then we have truly failed in doing any thing.

The adage, that money makes money cant be any truer in Pakistan. Wealth makes more wealth here, even those who try and get to some scale eventually get shot down by some bureaucracy or red tape, sooner rather than later after a certain scale, people either give up, or give in to the system. Either way, true entrepreneurial success is not achieved. May be monetary success is.

Its easy to be successful and to be an entrepreneur if you have the means to experiment and if you have the financial muscle to take a bad blow, but entrepreneurship as a mechanism for larger economic prosperity is completely missing in our country. A handful few ever make it, most of the rest are entrepreneurs that cant be.

3 thoughts on “The Entrepreneur that cant be”

  1. Valid point, if everyone has to work around the system to be competitive.. Can it be considered the exception or is it really the norm which everyone considers the only way to conduct their daily business dealings?

    Fair level playing field for all is required… Which goes hand in hand with a justly implemented rule of law that does not cherry pick who the recipients of swiftly delivered justice should be.

    There is a correlation between this and the entrepreneurial spirit. Whereby those who understand the intricacies of manipulating a poorly

  2. (Cont’d)

    Managed system of rules and regulations, are the most successful in wealth building. I have no doubt in the industriousness and talent of the people of Pakistan, but it should be true enterprise that our young and bright genetlration should be focusing in..not the many ways of “juicing” the system to get anything done. Otherwise as you have pointed out it is difficult to reverse the trend of you brain drain our country is suffering as home grown talents are accepted with open arms elsewhere

  3. Dear Faizan(Not bhai, or sir:), I love what you are churning out. I couldn’t agree more. I am entrepreneur, by choice and in spite of all the challenges you list. I was recently in attendance at the Tie event. Besides Veqar sb, who in his own right is a consummate professional and a source of inspiration to my self and many others, I was totally blown away by your responses during the Q&A. Keep this stuff coming- Super Like.

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