Meeting bright young people is always such a pleasure
I am glad I was able to make the trip to Rawalpindi on April 4 to co-host SI # 8 with NIIT and Atif Mumtaz of Brightspyre. This is the second time that an SI session has been held at an Academic institution. The last one was SI # 6 at LUMS in Lahore. The NIIT team, headed by Dr. Arshad Ali, did a fantastic job of making all the arrangements.
There had been some pre-event jitters with a few people wondering whether holding it at a university would dilute the purpose of SI. I really wish the negativity would cease. We need to be realistic but upbeat nonetheless. SI is just a name. The purpose is to provide a networking platform for the support, mentoring and coaching of young entrepreneurs and wanna-be entrepreneurs. This was missing and the gap needed to be filled. People got together. It is the collaboration, the selfless giving up of time on the part of busy entrepreneurs, to help build an ecosystem, that is making these events successful, in addition to the young people themselves who are the key.
They are the ones with the passion, with the innovative ideas, with the zest to move ahead and change the world. We are only the guides, the sounding boards who may or may not always have the right answers but whose intent is to be there for them and provide whatever it is of value that they need from us.
There have been suggestions that perhaps it would make sense to split up these events into SI and SI Junior because the needs and requirements of the two segments does vary. This is worth thinking about and we would appreciate everyone’s input on this.
Now back to SI 8. A roomful of maybe 75 participants – mostly students, some young alumni and a dozen or so entrepreneurs – some startups, others more seasoned. As usual, the evening started off with introductions. It is always important to know who’s who and what they do – to put a face to a name. Then there was a barrage of questions from the youngsters present. All the questions were answered honestly and openly.
Atif and I then had a brief pow-wow and we decided, that as had been done in Karachi at SI # 7, we should split the kids up into smaller groups with one mentor each to thrash out ideas. Very quickly teams were formed and Rashid Khan of Ultimus, Amir Jahangir of CSF, Vickram Crishna of Radiophony, Atif Mumtaz of Brightspyre, Osama Hashmi of CDF Software, Adnan Shaukat of Capital Radio, Nadeem Sahab from the Jang Group/GEO CSR Initiative were surrounded by enthusiastic young people.
When the representatives of each group came back, they were all raring to go. One after another they came up and shared their ideas and the input they had received. The audience, the entrepreneurs and the students fired questions, made suggestions, agreed or disagreed and discussed possible business models. There were even a couple of offers of “come and see me and we will assist you in making it happen.” There were also suggested tie-ups between a couple of teams whose ideas appeared to have synergy. All in all, a real buzz was created.
I have moderated most of the SI sessions in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad – and I must admit that I continue to be amazed and heartened, both at the contribution made in terms of time, thoughts, ideas and advice by entrepreneurs but also by the innovative ideas and the enthusiasm that the young people exude. The fact that some of these young people are also looking at using technology to provide solutions for social and operational problems, warms my heart.
SI sessions will continue in all 3 cities and there is some thought that we should take them to other cities – Peshawar, Quetta, Multan, Sukkur. I look forward to continuing to work with various people and organizations on the SI initiative. There will be shortcomings, as there usually are when things are evolving. As long as all of us continue to do our bit, we can overcome all these challenges.
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