Private Equity and Venture Capital in Pakistan
US AID's Theodore Heisler said that co-investment was essential in bringing the size of each fund to a level where it can cover operating expenses. The funds will focus on investing in small and medium entrepreneurial companies which, the US Silicon Valley experience has demonstrated, are major drivers of innovation, economic growth and job creation.
History of VC and PE Funds:
In 2010, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) provided JSPE Private Equity Fund II $50 million with a target capitalization of $150 million.
Venture capital investing is not entirely new in Pakistan, according to Venture Beat. Silicon Valley insiders like Reid Hoffman, Mark Pincus and Joe Kraus, along with Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ) and EPlanet Ventures have already started. In 2003, Hoffman, Pincus and Kraus invested in Monis Rahman, a Pakistani-American who left Intel for entrepreneurship. Rahman had successfully launched and sold a start-up in the Bay Area, eDaycare.com.
There are several investment firms in Pakistan, such as BMA Capital, Indus Basin Holdings and JS Private Equity, that offer examples of professionally managed funds. In addition, there are Social Entrepreneurial Funds like Acumen Fund, Dawood Foundation and Kashf Foundation which are very active in the SME sector in Pakistan.
Opportunity in Pakistan:
Pakistan has the world’s sixth largest population, seventh largest diaspora and the ninth largest labor force. With rapidly declining fertility and aging populations in the industrialized world, Pakistan's growing talent pool is likely to play a much bigger role to satisfy global demand for workers in the 21st century and contribute to the well-being of Pakistan as well as other parts of the world.
With half the population below 20 years and 60 per cent below 30 years, Pakistan is well-positioned to reap what is often described as "demographic dividend", with its workforce growing at a faster rate than total population. This trend is estimated to accelerate over several decades. Contrary to the oft-repeated talk of doom and gloom, average Pakistanis are now taking education more seriously than ever. Youth literacy is about 70% and growing, and young people are spending more time in schools and colleges to graduate at higher rates than their Indian counterparts in 15+ age group, according to a report on educational achievement by Harvard University researchers Robert Barro and Jong-Wha Lee. Vocational training is also getting increased focus since 2006 under National Vocational Training Commission (NAVTEC) with help from Germany, Japan, South Korea and the Netherlands.
A 2012 World Bank report titled "More and Better Jobs in South Asia" shows that 63% of Pakistan's workforce is self-employed, including 13% high-end self-employed. Salaried and daily wage earners make up only 37% of the workforce. Even if one chooses to consider just the 13% who are high-end self-employed as entrepreneurs, it's still a significant population willing to take risks who can do better with greater availability of venture and private equity money.
A recent Pew Survey of 21 countries reported that 81% of Pakistanis believe in hard work to achieve material success. Americans are the second most optimistic with 77% sharing this belief followed by Tunisians (73%), Brazilians (69%), Indians (67%) and Mexicans (65%).
Promoting venture capital and private equity investments in Pakistan is a welcome initiative. It has the potential to unleash funding of new profitable ideas in small and medium size entrepreneurial businesses for significant returns to investors while also helping Pakistan achieve much needed economic stimulus with new jobs to lift more people out of poverty.
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