‘OPTIMIZE – The Finance, Technology and Entrepreneurship Forum’ was a two-day conference organized by KITE and EduEnrich on June 7-8 at the Karachi Sheraton Hotel & Towers. P@SHA supported the conference.
OPTIMIZE essentially explored the nexus between finance, technology and entrepreneurship along with the abundance of opportunities that exist within these fields. The speakers included some of Pakistan’s most eminent personalities from the banking, technology and business sectors who discussed their vision regarding the evolution in the landscape of the financial and tech industries.
The two-day conference was divided into three sessions:
Session 1: Financing your startup
Session 2: The current landscape in finance and technology
Session 3: Fin-techs and the future of finance
Day 1 of the conference kicked off with Afaque Ahmed (Chairman KITE, P@SHA CEC Member) giving his opening remarks on OPTIMIZE after which a panel discussion was initiated with Jehan Ara (President P@SHA) as the moderator on a discourse on ‘How do startups finance themselves and scale up?’ The panelists included entrepreneurs such as Faizan Leghari(Texualy & Miniventures), Farzal Dojki (NextGeneration Innovation & Dot-Zero), Hamaad Ravda (Shopistan) and Afaque Ahmed who shared their personal success stories as well as the many challenges that they faced in terms of financing, scaling up/down and the prevailing eco-system barriers within the industry.
The second panel discussion ‘Lending to small industries’ had Yasin Altaf (angel investor) and Isfandiyar Shaheen(private equity firm representative) as the panelists who talked about the financing options available for startups.
Session 2 began on Day 2 of the conference with an insightful speaker session on ‘Laws that govern tech startups: cyber laws and financial laws’ by Barrister Zahid Jamil. He talked about the legal frameworks governing tech companies as he touched upon the legal side of idea registration, teaming/financing, establishment, licensing/regulatory aspects, hiring, deliveries, payments, cyber trouble-shooting, cross-border privacy and internet governance.
Next up was a panel discussion, ‘Developing effective payment systems’ which included panelists Mr. Syed Irfan Ali (State Bank of Pakistan), Mohsin Tirmizi (Monet), Faisal Khan and Ali Aziz with Zahid Jamil as the moderator. The interesting mix of panelists with a regulator on one end and the entrepreneurs at the other end led to an exciting discussion on the payments system for online vendors and the many hurdles that lie in the way of creating an effective payments system in the Pakistani market. During the discussion, Syed Irfan Ali clarified that SBP is currently processing two applications for e-commerce gateways, while Faisal Khan informed the audience that a localized PayPal version is coming to Pakistan in the near future.
Another interesting discourse on ‘Crowdfunding: scope and legal frameworks’ with Nida Farid, Zahid Jamil and Hamaad Ravda as the panelists was quite enlightening for the audience. Nida Farid opened the discussion with a presentation on crowdfunding and the panelists talked about the possibilities/future of crowdfunding taking off in Pakistan.
In the latter half of the day, Session 3 of the conference kicked off with Dr. Farooq Pasha (SBP) speaking about the changing face of the banking sector. His brief but factual session backed by stats was very illuminating.
One of the most informative panel discussions was ‘Bitcoin and digital currencies: bubble or boom’ with Nida Farid, Dr. Farooq Pasha and Hasan Karahan (who joined from Turkey via Skype) as the panelists. Hasan Karahan started the session with a presentation on ‘Bitcoin – Cryptocurrency’ followed by a Q&A session regarding the future and skepticism revolving around Bitcoins.
A discourse on ‘The future of finance and fin-techs in Pakistan’ was a good way to conclude the conference as panelists Shahid Mustafa (founder of Tameer Bank), Hamaad Ravda and Afaque Ahmed threw light on the future of the financial sector of Pakistan, keeping in mind the pace of technological innovation and the opportunities that lie ahead for the future entrepreneurs of the country.
The two-day OPTIMIZE Conference closed with the participants gathering fundamental information about areas that are hardly touched upon in our professional or academic arenas locally in such great detail. The students, entrepreneurs and future tech professionals of Pakistan who attended the conference got the opportunity to learn much and network with experts from Pakistan’s business/tech/corporate industry directly.
*P@SHA has published the following presentations from the OPTIMIZE Conference on its website for the benefit of those who are interested: