The tech conference +92D is being held in Karachi, Pakistan on November 11 and 12, 2023. Given the current economic environment, it was heartening to see the conference bring together some of the leading minds in the tech industry to discuss the latest trends, technologies and VC investments in start-ups.
The event kicked off on a highly optimistic note with an address from the one and only Jehan Ara, Founder & CEO, Katalyst Labs, the woman behind the +92D event. Her vision to disrupt and bring a positive change to the tech industry was what led to the annual event where many start-ups have found the encouragement, funding and the road to the infrastructure required to incubate and prosper.
The Keynote address was followed by a ‘10 minutes, 10 Questions’ presentation by Jawwad Farid, Professor of Practice, IBA, in which he talked about the potential of the tech industry as a whole and areas where we could focus as a country.
Babar Ahmed, Co-Founder & CEO, Mindstorm Studios was up next with a fascinating look at the potential of gaming in Pakistan. I found it encouraging to see so many young CEOs at a single conference; only technology has the potential to empower such a young cadre of entrepreneurs and propel them to such success.
Throughout the day, there were several panel discussions and fireside chats on attracting global investments for the Pakistan tech start-up industry. The conference gathered an excellent pool of investors, thinkers, entrepreneurs and tech professionals to discuss ways in which we can put Pakistan in a positive light to bring in the kind of funding required to fuel the tech industry. These included William Bao Bean, Managing Director, Orbit Startups; Aatif Awan, Founder & Managing Partner, Indus Valley Capital; Amir Paracha, Chairman and CEO, Unilever Pakistan ; Noor Lalani, Managing Partner, Lakson Venture Capital; Rohma Labeeb, Country Director, Accelerate Prosperity; Kalsoom Lakhani, Co-Founder & General Partner, i2i Ventures and Hassan Bhatti, Product BD lead for Native Applications, Snowflake; all had excellent points to make.
Bean’s argument was that while many comparisons can be drawn and lessons learned from the past of nascent tech industries of India and China, it is important to build a case for Pakistan with a sharp focus on its own realities. This tailor-made pitch would help put forward the best case for the country to potential global investors.
There was an interesting discussion on Leveraging AI across industries in the country moderated by Anzar Khaliq, Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning, Habib University with Usama Naeem Nini, Co-Founder, Qureos and Salman Akhtar, Co-Founder & CEO, AdalFi.
Khizra Munir, Shehzad Ghias, Kazi Akber and Asad Hashamali – all podcasters – talked about how to start and sustain your own podcast, which was a bit off-theme but I found very interesting.
The highlight of Day One for me personally was the workshop on using the Unreal gaming engine editor for Fortnite to build brand engagement and stories. Let me just start by saying that it never ceases to pleasantly surprise me at how young the tech industry leadership is. The presentation was made by Shaun Ansari and Mahum Hashmi, Co-Founders, Reality Forge. Both of these enterprising young kids are old enough to be my children and looked barely a day out of university! But when they spoke, they had the confidence of seasoned professionals.
On topic, they talked about how Epic Games, creator of the hugely successful Fortnite game, is offering brands to create tailor-made 3D real-time engagement environments with a minimum learning curve and simplicity that anyone can handle.
They presented a case study where Nike used this opportunity to create an entire island for gamers to explore, find and collect Nike shoes to earn discounts on their next purchase at Nike. This technology is now available to all brands in Pakistan thanks to two young entrepreneurs who have the vision to see the potential in such things.
Overall, Day One of +92Disrupt was a fascinating adventure and learning experience and I am looking forward to Day Two tomorrow.
Syed Amir Haleem is CEO, Skale Interactive and Content Fusion. Photo by the writer.