Digital Transformation: Pakistan is Now Online!

Pakistan's digital transformation is in full swing. Over three-quarters of Pakistanis living in the top three metros of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad are connected to the Internet, according to a report titled "Journey to Digital" produced by global tech giant Google and Kantara consultants. Researchers found that two-thirds of urban and nearly half of rural Pakistanis regularly use the Internet in the South Asian country of 220 million, the 5th most populous nation in the world. It has a young population with the median age of 22.8 years. 46% of Pakistanis access the Internet everyday.  They use the Internet for education, entertainment, shopping and to search for information.

Over Half of All Pakistanis Are Connected to the Internet. Source: Google-Kantar

Pakistan has seen a phenomenal growth of 3500% in broadband subscriptions over the last 8 years . Pakistanis now own more than 103 million smartphones with mobile broadband subscriptions. In a Youtube presentation of the report, Faraz Azhar, Industry Head, Performance, South Asia Frontier Markets, Google said: “With half of its population on the internet - Pakistan is now online!"  

Google Search and YouTube are the most popular Internet applications in Pakistan, according to the study. YouTube is used by nearly 90% of all internet users in Pakistan for streaming music and watching video/TV, and 38% of Pakistan's internet users go to YouTube in the research phase of their shopping journey. 

Pakistan has also experienced an e-commerce boom in the midst of the COVID pandemic. 71% of Pakistani shoppers find purchasing products or services online easy, while 66% find it convenient. Another 54%  find that online shopping websites or apps give personalized product recommendations, which answer common questions. Two-thirds of consumers believe that online shopping is the way forward. They say they will continue to buy products or services online after the COVID-19 pandemic.    

Faraz Azhar, Industry Head, Performance, South Asia Frontier Markets, Google said: “With half of its population on the internet - Pakistan is now online! This is the first time Google and Kantar released a study to understand more about Pakistan’s internet population. But it’s not only about people getting online, this research has uncovered new insights and behaviors that show how COVID is impacting online behaviour and the digital opportunities waiting to be unlocked.” 

Global Investors of Pakistani Startups. Source: Google-Kantar

"More people are coming online in Pakistan, creating a great opportunity for eCommerce businesses - if they are ready to seize it. As we see more exploration of the internet beyond social, e-retailers can capture natural cross-category purchasing on its rise, but only if they have first established themselves and their product offering in an online marketplace," he said.
Pakistan Startup Funding. Source: Google-Kantar

With expanding Internet infrastructure and rapidly growing user base, Pakistan is now seeing robust growth in venture money pouring into technology startups. Pakistani startups are on track to attract more than $230 million in funding in 2021, more funds than all the money raised by Pakistani startups in their entire history. A recent example is Kleiner Perkins, a top Silicon Valley venture capital investment firm, that led series A round of $17 million investment into Pakistani start-up Tajir. The startup operates an online marketplace for small store merchants in Pakistan. The announcement came via a tweet by Mamoon Hamid, a Pakistani-American Managing Partner at Kleiner Perkins who led the investment. Last year, Tajir raised a $1.8 million seed round.  The company's revenue has increased by 10x since its seed round. 
Pakistan Technology Exports Trend 2007-2021. Source: Arif Habib

Pakistan's technology exports are experiencing rapid growth in double digits over the last decade. Total technology exports jumped 47% to $2.1 billion in fiscal year 2020-21. 
Pakistan University Enrollment Growth. Source: Encyclopedia of High...
The foundation for Pakistan's digital transformation was laid with the higher education reform starting in the year 2001 on President Musharraf's watch. With huge increase in higher education funding, Higher Education Commission Chairman Dr. Ata ur Rehman succeeded in establishing 51 new universities during 2002-2008. As a result, university enrollment (which had reached only 275,000  from 1947 to 2003) soared to about 800,000 in 2008. This helped build a significant human capital that drove the IT revolution in Pakistan.      
Here's a video presentation of Pakistan's "Journey to Digital":

Views: 103

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 29, 2021 at 4:50pm

The Ordinance provides 100% tax credit and an exemption for startups.

100% Tax Credit Against Income Tax Liablity of the Startup
Profits and gains of startups were exempt from income tax up till promulgation of Tax Laws (Second Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 on March 22, 2021.

Effective from March 22, 2021, income of a startup is not exempt from income tax; instead, startups have been allowed a 100% tax credit against their income tax liability.

There are SIX conditions attached to eligibility for 100% tax credit. These conditions are enumerated below:

The startup is required to be certified by the Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB).
100% tax credit is available in the year of certification by PSEB and the next following two years.
The startup has filed the income tax return.
Tax required to be deducted or collected has been deducted or collected and paid by the startup. In other words, the startup has discharged its duty as a withholding agent. For further details on withholding of taxes, read this article.
The startup has filed with FBR the withholding tax statements for the immediately preceding tax year.
The startup has filed the sales tax returns for the tax periods corresponding to the relevant tax year. Therefore, relevant sales tax registration (PRA, SRB, BRA, KPRA, FBR) is also must.
The startups are eligible for 100% tax credit regarding tax payable under any provisions of ITO, 2001 including minimum tax and final tax. However, the startup can be subjected to audit proceedings u/s 177 and 214C.

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 31, 2021 at 5:37pm

In the first two months of the year, start-ups elicited $23.74 million in contrast to the $37.1 million received in 2020.

The funding in 2018 and 2019 make up almost two-thirds of the total disclosed funding worth $317 million in the start-up segment over the past decade, according to the LightCastle Partners study.

Not all the start-up fundings are disclosed and therefore the actual funding may be higher, the report said.

A total of 78 companies got funding through 146 deals, of which 80 deals were disclosed.

Half of the total fund of $317 million was invested in the fintech start-ups while a third in the logistic and e-commerce businesses.

“It is a very promising time for start-ups as there is a lot of overall interest for investing in Bangladesh, especially from abroad,” said Rahat Ahmed, chief executive officer and founding partner of Anchorless Bangladesh, a New York-based venture capital firm focused on fostering the start-up ecosystem of Bangladesh.


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