2021: A Banner Year For Pakistani Tech Startup Investments

The year 2021 is turning out to be a banner year for Pakistani tech startups. At the end of the third quarter of the current year, technology startups have already raised $278 million, twice the funding raised in the previous 5 years combined. In per capita terms, this is still just over $1 per person, a lot less compared to neighboring India where startups attracted $20 per person

Venture Capital Investment in Pakistan. Source: Kalsoom Lakhani, i2...

The third quarter (July-Sept 2021) alone has seen startup companies raise $172.6 in 17 deals closed in the three-month period, according to data compiled by Kalsoom Lakhani of i2i ventures. The top deals closed in the third quarter were: 1. Airlift $85 million series B 2. Bazaar $30 million in series A and 3. QisstPay $15 million seed round. 

Source: Kalsoom Lakhani, i2i Ventures

The lion's share of the ,money ($117 million) went to E-commerce startups followed by Fintech ($35 million) and trucking platforms ($13.6 million). Male-founded startups got 46.5% while female-founded companies received 1.7% with the rest of the money going to startups whose founding teams include both male and female founders. 

Venture Funding in Pakistan Lowest Among Most Populous Nations. Sou...

In per capita terms, startup investment in Pakistan is still just over $1 per person, a lot less compared to neighboring India where startups attracted $20 per person. As expected, the startups in the United States dwarfed all other countries in both per capita terms ($808) and in total size ($269 billion) of venture capital investments. 

Largest Global Market For Venture Funding. Source: Crunchbase

Pakistan's technology sector is in the midst of an unprecedented boom. It is being fueled by the country's growing human capital and rising investments in technology startups. A recent tweet by Swedish fund manager Mattias Martinsson captured it well when he wrote, "Have followed Pakistan for 15 years. Can't recall any time time when VC activity was anywhere near we've seen in the last few months. Impact of reforms kicking in?".  New laws have made it easier to create startups and offered greater protection to investors.  Digital infrastructure has expanded with over 100 million smartphones and an equal number of broadband subscriptions. 

With expanding Internet infrastructure and rapidly growing user base, Pakistan is now seeing robust growth in venture money pouring into technology startups. Pakistani startups have already attracted more than $278 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 a 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 and telecommunications deregulation and investments starting in the year 2001 on President Musharraf's watch. With a 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.      
Please watch the following video presentation for more details on Pakistan's technology startup ecosystem:
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Comment by Riaz Haq on November 28, 2021 at 9:48am

KASBIT, STZA signs MoU to develop a special tech zones


KASB Institute of Technology Private Limited has taken the initiative to construct KASB Altitude Special Technology Zone, which is a thirty-five floor building located in Clifton, Karachi with modern high-tech technological infrastructure providing futuristic entrepreneurship opportunities in Pakistan. It would be the first zone developed in Karachi for the said purpose.


KASB altitude tower 32 Storey which was onhold since 10 years, now it is under construction once again with huge tower crane on it.


Comment by Riaz Haq on November 29, 2021 at 7:40am

#Pakistani #ecommerce #startup PostEX raises $8.6 million in early stage #VC funding. The latest tranche was led by Global Founders Capital, and also included first-time investments by FJ Labs and RTP Global in #Pakistan. #technology https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-11-29/postex-completes...

Pakistan’s e-commerce seen growing to $10 billion before 2025
Nation’s startups have seen record amounts of funding in 2021

Pakistan startup PostEx, a provider of courier and financing to e-commerce companies, completed one of the country’s largest early-stage funding to help with its expansion plans.

The Lahore-based startup raised $8.6 million through multiple tranches in its seed funding, according to its founder Muhammad Omer Khan. The latest tranche was led by Global Founders Capital, and also included first-time investments by FJ Labs and RTP Global in Pakistan.
PostEx, a Pakistani fintech and logistics startup, announced on Monday that it has raised an additional $7.1 million to extend its seed round after raising $1.5m last month.


"This brings the total capital secured by the company at seed to $8.6m, making it the second largest investment at this stage in Pakistan," a statement issued by the startup said.

It added that the extension round was led by Global Founders Capital (GFC) along with participation from FJ Labs — an investor in companies such as Alibaba and Ant Financial — Russian venture capital (VC) firm ru-NET, Alma Capital, Zayn Capital, MSA Capital, Shorooq Partners and Swvl Chief Financial Officer Youssef Salem.

With the influx of new funds, the startup aims to increase its vertical lending.

"Our focus from the very beginning has been to become the go-to growth platform for merchants looking to realise their potential. We are at the forefront of innovative technology solutions that bridge merchants’ logistics needs with their capital requirements," the statement quoted founder Muhammad Omer Khan as saying.

He said PostEx was the "differentiator" that helped merchants grow faster and more economically with its range of customised financial products compared to traditional financial providers that underserved the segment.

Tito Cost of GFC said that the startup offered a "unique product" to e-commerce players in Pakistan's ecosystem that would allow them to access the capital required for growth. "We are excited to back the team as they build out their suite of financial and fulfilment products," the statement quoted him as saying.

FJ Labs Founding Partner Fabrice Grinda said they were "thrilled" to partner with PostEx for their "first-ever investment" in Pakistan. He pointed out that Pakistan was one of the "largest untapped frontier markets going through digital transformation".

Services like PostEx's technology and financial products would form the "backbone of this future" by supporting local merchants to grow faster, Grinda added.

Kirill Kozhevnikov, a partner with ru-Net, also expressed excitement over the deal. "We see tremendous potential in emerging markets such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and MENA (Middle East and North Africa). Big and growing market, disruptive business model and exceptional entrepreneurial talent — our must-haves criteria for portfolio companies — were matched in the 20th minute of the first meeting," the statement quoted him as saying.

The startup's statement pointed out that the wider e-commerce logistics space has picked up steam recently and seen increasing interest from local and foreign investors.

"Other than PostEx, Rider has also secured foreign VC-led investment worth $2.3m while BlueEx went the other way and listed itself on the Growth and Enterprise Market board of the Pakistan Stock Exchange, raising around $2.5m," the statement added.

Comment by Riaz Haq on December 7, 2021 at 5:57pm

Quality higher education
By Atta-ur-Rahman December 08, 2021


The landscape of higher education changed dramatically between 2002 and 2008 so much so that Pakistan not only caught up with India but also overtook it in the year 2018. This is no small achievement as India had been investing in higher education since its very birth – this includes the visionary policies of Nehru who established the IITs and other good quality higher education institutions in the 1950s and 60s.

The single most important element that determines the quality of higher education is the quality of faculty. For this reason, when the HEC was set up in 2002 under my chairmanship, the highest priority was given to the training and recruitment of high-quality faculty in our universities.

After a rigorous screening process, some 11,000 students were sent to the world’s leading universities, and to attract them back on completion of their doctorate degrees, several important initiatives were introduced. First, a new contractual salary structure was introduced with the salaries of professors several times higher than that of federal ministers in the government. Second, students completing their PhD degrees could apply for research grants of up to $100,000 – one year before completion of their work.

Third, graduates would have jobs on arrival with the HEC paying the salary. Fourth, an excellent digital library was set up that provided free access to 65,000 journals and 25,000 textbooks through the Pakistan Educational Research Network (PERN) that connected all universities with high-speed internet. Fifth, free access to sophisticated instruments was provided. Sixth, grants were made available through a liberal research grants scheme – National Research Projects for Universities (NRPU) – to help young academics to win sizeable research funding. These and other such measures led to a 97.5 percent return rate of scholars.

To control plagiarism, specialised software was introduced, which controlled this problem to a great extent. However, this issue persists – to a small extent – both in India and Pakistan and other countries. According to an article published in 2019 in ‘Nature India’, 980 papers published by top Indian institutions, including those from the IITs, between 2000 and 2017, were fraudulent or plagiarised and had to be retracted. Between 2005 and 2021, 254 publications were also retracted from Pakistan. This is an average of 15 papers per year (about 0.1 percent to 0.3 percent retractions annually).

To promote blended education, a mirror website of the MIT Open Courseware was set up in 2005 when I was the HEC chairman, and many undergraduate computer science courses were downloaded, copied on CDs, and distributed to all universities. An exciting scheme for live distance education was also introduced by us with top professors delivering daily lectures which were listened to live and interactively across Pakistan. A major programme was initiated to attract our highly qualified Pakistan diaspora back to the country.

Some 600 eminent academicians returned and played a valuable role in uplifting the quality of higher education in the country. Split PhD programmes were introduced so that PhD students in Pakistan could do a split PhD with a part of their time being spent in good foreign universities under the supervision of eminent foreign scholars. Pakistan was soon recognised internationally for these efforts, and glowing tributes were paid in numerous articles written by the world’s leading educational authorities as well as by neutral experts of the British Council, World Bank, USAID, and UN. I was conferred the highest prize for institution-building by the World Academy of Sciences (Italy) and by the Austrian and Chinese governments.

Comment by Riaz Haq on December 9, 2021 at 6:43am

#UAE’s Tricap invests $2.3 million in pres-series A round in #Pakistani #ecommerce #startup Clicky https://www.wamda.com/2021/12/uae-tricap-invests-pakistans-clicky via @wamdame

UAE-based Tricap Investments has participated in the $2.3 million pre-Series A round of the Pakistan-based e-commerce Clicky. Former Souq CFO Asif Keshodia, UAE-based CSHL, Careem executives and a few other angel investors in the UAE also participated in the round.

Founded in 2016 by Muhammad Khalid and Syed Shahzad, Clicky offers fast fashion products with a focus on apparel, footwear, and accessories, provided by local manufacturers, international brands, and white labels.

The new funding will help Clicky add more categories and SKUs to its online store, and bring international fashion trends to its customers in Pakistan.

Press release:

Lahore-based fashion e-commerce retail & marketplace Clicky has raised $2.3 million in a pre-Series A round, led by early-stage investors in UAE and Pakistan. Notable among them are Tricap Investments, Asif Keshodia, UAE based CSHL, Careem executives and a few other angel investors in the UAE.

Founded in 2016 by Muhammad Khalid & Syed Shahzad, Clicky offers trending fast fashion products with a focus on apparel, footwear, and accessories. The e-commerce platform works with diverse local manufacturers, international brands, and white labels.

Fatima Ventures and Souq - acquired by Amazon in 2017 - have also invested in earlier rounds of Clicky. This recent investment adds up to the previous funding of $700,000 raised by the startup in December 2020. Since then, the company has been experiencing growth of over 20 per cent month-on-month and has grown the business 4x in less than a year. This growth has been driven by their private labels and curated fashion retailers.

Clicky has launched over five private labels across footwear and apparel, directly working with 20+ manufacturers. With this new funding, it aims to scale these labels, through working tightly with manufacturers and fashion designers. The vision is to serve ultra-fast fashion, where 1000+ designs are launched every day. With the post-pandemic challenges and the uncertainty of dollar value, building a sustainable local supply chain has massive value.

Clicky will be introducing more categories, adding 3000-5000 new SKUs per month, bringing a vast selection of designs to its customer base. It aspires to bring the customer experience and design assortment of online fashion destinations launched in other markets such as Asos in the UK, Net-A-Porter in France, Zalando in Germany, and Namshi in the Middle East to its customers in Pakistan.

Sharing his support for the startup, Partner, Tricap Investments - Suleman Soorani shared, “We are happy to become part of Clicky’s journey to create Pakistan’s largest fashion e-commerce platform. We are particularly impressed with Khalid and Shahzad’s perseverance, ambition, grit, and eagerness to learn and believe they have all the qualities to make Clicky one of the largest technology success stories out of Pakistan and a major disruptive force in the fashion retail and e-commerce space”

Comment by Riaz Haq on December 10, 2021 at 5:36pm

#Pakistani #startups high on global investors’ radar, drawing more than $300 million in 2021. The travel/ ticketing startup ‘Bookme’ and beauty/ fashion startup ‘Bagallery’ have just attracted a combined $12 million in advanced round of fund raising.

Bookme, “the largest online travel and ticketing platform in the country”, has raised $7.5 million in its Series A round, according to its founder Faizan Aslam, Bloomberg reported on Thursday.

Bagallery separately raised $4.5 million in a similar round, its Co-Founder Salman Sattar told the international media outlet.

Both rounds were co-led by Zayn Capital, Lakson Venture Capital and Hayaat Group.

Global investment in Pakistani startups has reached $310 million this year, crossing the $300 million level.

“It is a record high investment. It is more than what the country has attracted cumulatively over the past six years.”

Pakistan has a huge potential to attract foreign funding since it has largely remained untapped. The country has adopted technology-driven solutions at an accelerated pace during the pandemic.

The combined international funding of around $310 million in local startups was more than what companies raised at the Pakistan Stock Exchange this year, it was learnt.

Many global venture capital firms have invested for the first time in the current wave including Kleiner Perkins, an early investor in Google and Amazon.com Inc.

“Pakistan’s e-commerce industry is just picking up with online retail accounting for about 2% of gross domestic product (GDP), compared with 20% in Indonesia,” Bloomberg said.

Alibaba Group Holding’s Daraz Group is expected to double its retail volume every year over the next five years, sustaining the pace of the past four years.

Read Pakistan enjoys rapid digital evolution

Earlier, around 52 startups raised over $300 million in the sector including transport and mobility, logistics, e-commerce, fintech, healthcare and freight in the first nine months of 2021, according to Alpha Beta Core (ABC).

“Average deal size increased five times to $5.9 million in the first nine months (Jan-Sept) of 2021 compared to $1.2 million in 2020 with foreign participation growing massively.”

Among the prominent ones were Airlift and Bazaar, which fetched $85 million and $30 million respectively in advanced-level Series B and Series A fund raising, according to Arif Habib Limited.

Besides, QisstPay, TAG and Oraan got $15 million, $12 million and $3 million respectively in initial-level seed financing.

Startup financing increased in the backdrop of Covid-19, as they presented technology-based business models to facilitate people amid lockdowns.

The startups would continue to fetch significant financing, as there was ample liquidity available with global investors, while interest rates had remained low in advanced countries, ABC CEO Khurram Schehzad said.

“Pakistan being a highly untapped market will remain in their focus with the regulatory regime becoming accommodative (in the country),” he added.

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) have relaxed rules for attracting investment in technology-based business solutions, he underlined.

They have allowed Pakistanis to set up holding companies abroad and attract investment through those companies into the country, he pointed out.

Comment by Riaz Haq on December 14, 2021 at 9:47pm

#Karachi-based #Pakistani #grocery #startup Krave Mart, which promises 10-minute delivery, raised $6 million in its pre-seed funding round, which was led by MSA Capital, ru-Net, Global Founders Capital and Zayn Capital. #technology #VentureCapital https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-12-15/grocery-startup-...

A funding frenzy in Pakistan’s startup scene this year has seen investments cross $300 million after two e-commerce companies raised fresh funds.

Bookme, the largest online travel and ticketing platform in the country, raised $7.5 million in its Series A round, according to its founder Faizan Aslam. Bagallery, a beauty and fashion startup, separately raised $4.5 million in a similar round, co-founder Salman Sattar said. Both rounds were co-led by Zayn Capital, Lakson Venture Capital and Hayaat Global.

Comment by Riaz Haq on December 16, 2021 at 5:00pm

#Pakistan #fintech #startup raises $11 million pre-seed round led by Tiger Capital. Firstminute Capital, Banana Capital, VentureSouq, Ratio Ventures and i2i Ventures, as well as angel investors Sriram Krishnan and Julian Shapiro also participating. #tech https://techcrunch.com/2021/12/16/tiger-global-backs-fintech-credit...

“We started the research and began experimentations in late 2019,” said Iman Jamall, co-founder of CreditBook, in an interview with TechCrunch. “I was working as a service designer on a project for one of the largest Pakistani banks at the time and was observing different persona types to understand why financial inclusion is low at the level that it was at the time.”

The challenges that Jamall, one of the few female founders in the country, identified were cash flow, the role of credit and the social relationships around it, and the over reliance on “paper for everything essentially,” she said.

The over reliance on paper to maintain ledger and the always-running low cash flow is a challenge that merchants in many markets in South Asia and Southeast Asia share. As we previously covered, often these small businesses run on informal credit and rely on money they secure from selling their existing inventory to buy their next batch. The customers buy things for weeks and sometimes months before they clear the tab.

These shortcomings are hurting these small businesses and mom and pop stores and impeding their growth at a time when large e-commerce giants are attempting to court customers.

CreditBook today offers a bookkeeping app to merchants, enabling them to digitize the handwritten ledger that they have traditionally used to keep track of daily accounts.

The eponymous mobile app has amassed merchants in over 400 towns and cities, the startup said. CreditBook declined to reveal the number of merchants who are using the service, but said that the number of transacting users has increased by 10 times since last year.

Digital bookkeeping is the startup’s marquee offering today, but Jamall said CreditBook is working on building and testing financial products on top of it. It’s too early to unveil precisely what those financial products would look like, she said. (But it’s definitely not e-commerce, she said.)

Jamall offered some context around the areas CreditBook is exploring. “In Pakistan, what you do is that there is a huge whitespace in payments. But mobile money has started to gain traction, especially amid the pandemic,” she said, adding that the local regulator has also made a push in recent years to accelerate the adoption of mobile payments and is focusing on building an instant payments infrastructure. (Similar to India’s UPI, which in recent years has become the most popular way users transact online.)

It’s a massive opportunity. CreditBook estimates that there’s a $45 billion unmet financing gap for small businesses. Pakistan, home of over 220 million people, 60% of whom is under the age of 30.

“We are excited to partner with CreditBook and make Tiger Global’s first investment into Pakistan,” said John Curtius, a Partner at Tiger Global, in a statement. “The investment is a testament to the incredible traction and vision demonstrated by the team.”

Friday’s announcement builds on what has been a watershed year for Pakistan’s fast-growing startup ecosystem as several global investors, including Kleiner Perkins, Addition, 20VC and Buckley Ventures make their first bets in the country. Startups in Pakistan have raised over $300 million this year, more than previous six years combined. Grocery delivery startup Krave Mart announced earlier this week it had raised $6 million in its pre-seed funding round.

Comment by Riaz Haq on December 17, 2021 at 10:41am

Tiger Global Joins Rush for Pakistan Startups With Fintech Bet
By Faseeh Mangi


Pakistan’s CreditBook, a firm that offers digital bookkeeping solutions to small businesses, has raised funds that marks the first investment by Tiger Global Management LLC in the nation’s booming startup space.

CreditBook has raised $11 million investment led by Tiger Global and Firstminute Capital LLP, according to a statement. Previous investors Better Tomorrow Ventures LLC, VentureSouq, Ratio Ventures Ltd. and i2i Ventures also participated in the current funding round.

The South Asian nation has seen funding in excess of $300 million this year into its nascent technology sector, more than in the previous six years combined. Pakistan has seen a wave of investments from many global venture capital firms, including Kleiner Perkins -- an early investor in Google and Amazon.com Inc.

“We have been studying the country and understand the country is at an inflection point seen before in other emerging markets,” said Sam Endacott, a partner at Firstminute.

Startup Fever Grips Pakistan, World’s Last Big Untapped Nation

Small businesses in Pakistan mostly operate using a manual register and handwritten entries in a nation that is mostly cash-based but startups are looking to change that. The nation is home to as many as 30 million micro-, small- and medium-enterprises that operate manually and deal in cash. Udhaar Book, a Pakistani cashflow management services provider for small businesses, also raised $6 million in early funding last month.

Pakistan’s central bank will pause interest-rate increases to preserve economic recovery after delivering Asia’s boldest hikes since September, Governor Reza Baqir said.

“We are going to take a pause to first look at the effects of the tightening we have already done,” Baqir told Bloomberg Television’s Rishaad Salamat and Yvonne Man. “Fiscal policy has been very complementary and is also withdrawing stimulus so a coordinated macroeconomic response, we think, will be number one to sustain recovery and keep inflation broadly in check.”

Comment by Riaz Haq on December 23, 2021 at 6:41pm


Shorooq Partners, a leading VC firm headquartered in the UAE and with offices across Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain,has been granted approval by Special Technology Zones Authority (STZA) for a Zone Enterprise license and will be opening their first office in Pakistan in theIslamabad Special Technology Zone.

Shorooq Partners is the leading technology investor across emerging markets, partnering with startups, and building enduring businesses through seed stage equity and debt funding with afocus on the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan.

Earlier this year, Shorooq Partners signed a MoU with the STZA to support efforts to build Pakistan’s technology ecosystem in the presence of the Honorable President of Pakistan Dr.ArifAlvi.Shorooq Partners was keen to establish a physical presence in Pakistan to support local founders and other local investors through a series of ecosystem initiatives.

As part of its new office, Shorooq Partners intends to invest and extend its one-of-a-kind value-creation arm to its portfolio companies in Pakistan and give them a real competitive advantage in the market.

Shorooq Partners was early in investing in Pakistan and have done more than 10 investments incompanies such as Airlift, PostEx, DigiKhata, Retailo, KTrade Securities and Tazah Technologies.

Chairman of STZA, Amer Hashmi, reinforced the government’s commitment to facilitating global venture capital firms in the Special Technology Zones.

“The presence of a VC firm like Shorooq Partners will be significant for Pakistan as it will bring global best practices that will enable Pakistani tech entrepreneurs and investors to forge connections on a global level, tap into other markets, and learn from top-tier founders and investors.”

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 6, 2022 at 10:17am

Pakistan's Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication has drafted “National Broadband Policy-2021” targeting the contribution of digital/broadband development to the economy to the tune of $5 billion investment and $20 billion revenue by 2025.


The draft policy also envisages up to eight percent contribution towards the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from digital/broadband development in the next four years.

One of the objectives of the draft policy is to ensure that 100 percent population living in tier-2/3 cities should have access to high-speed internet, an average per user internet speeds of 50Mbps in major cities and facilitate 75 percent of the internet users with digital bank accounts by 2025.

The draft policy aims at addressing some of the specific challenges; (i) the need for affordable access to broadband for all; (ii) to address the challenges concerning digital divide especially in unserved and underserved areas nationwide; (iii) overcoming the challenges in rolling out the required digital infrastructure and related financing models including extensive fiberization and efficient spectrum management; (iv) harmonization of existing tax regime on telecommunication services; (v) stimulating the development of local and relevant content and services; (vi) the need for improved and consistent broadband quality of service; (vii) urging the importance digital trust over telecommunication networks to promote wider use of digital technologies in all spheres of life; (viii) understanding the impact of internet in terms of socio-cultural developments, economic growth, and environmental sustainability; (x) lowering barriers for investments applied on existing licensees and for new investors in telecom sector and promoting public-private partnerships; and (xi) challenges vis-à-vis accelerated evolution towards adoption of Xth Generation technologies and fiberization, necessary for improving the state of broadband infrastructure.

The policy envisaged for furthering the initiative of “Digital Pakistan”; it is pivotal to craft a policy vision which is user-centric, market-oriented, simple to govern and all-inclusive in nature, laying a strong foundation to address outstanding issues expediently and exploring new opportunities in the most agile manner.

The National Broadband Policy–2021 aims to “revitalise the state of telecommunication by accelerating the efforts for digital inclusion of every citizen in any corner of the country to gain universal access to high speed affordable internet, enhance the use of digital space by providing equal opportunity for socio-economic wellbeing in a safe, responsible and healthy environment through evolving policy and regulatory measures required for timely and sustainable adoption of cutting edge technologies and digital infrastructure”.


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