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Get Inspired, Get Slush’D

Slush'D returns to Karachi.
Updated 05 Jul, 2024 02:18pm

The second edition of Slush’D was held this past weekend on Saturday, June 29, at the National Aerospace Science and Technology Park (NASTP) in Karachi. The event, an offshoot of Slush, a groundbreaking tech and startup meet pioneered in Helsinki, Finland, was adapted for Pakistan by Katalyst Labs in an effort to lay the groundwork for a thriving local startup ecosystem.

The theme for this year’s Slush’D was ‘Theory to Reality’, a progression from the previous year’s theme of ‘Homegrown’ – primarily focusing on navigating the shift from conception to implementation.

Jehan Ara, Founder and CEO, Katalyst Labs and former President, P@SHA, inaugurated the event by introducing the Slush’D format and emphasising the importance of platforms that encourage conversations about tech and start-ups. She iterated that mentors and people in senior positions at organisations need to maintain faith in the younger generation as they are likely to uplift Pakistan from complete economic despair.

“Change comes about not when one person tries to do something; it’s when a community gets together and decides to collaborate and make the difference they know they can.”

In brief sessions, ranging from 15-20 minutes each, speakers shed insight into the initial thought process behind their startups and how their ideas came to fruition. Dr Sara Saeed Khurram, co-Founder and CEO, Sehat Kahani, recalled how the desire to be a doctor was instilled in her from a young age. After completing her MBBS and getting married, she began working at a small clinic in the katchi abadi of Sultanabad. Eventually, Dr Khurram had to resign from her position to accompany her husband to Lahore and in doing so, left an entire community of women without their only source of healthcare. As a result, she founded Sehat Kahani to provide healthcare services to low-income communities through a media-enabled telemedicine platform that employs women who often fall prey to the ‘doctor-bride’ phenomenon, allowing them to still practise medicine.

Abbas Shahid, VP Product, Bykea, noted how the young founders he encounters tend to be tied to producing solutions, often through apps, instead of working out underlying issues. “People have forgotten that non-tech-savvy solutions exist.” He highlighted the value of start-ups being thorough in their market research when gathering feedback, while also being prepared to pivot if it better serves the vision of the product or service.

In another seed-to-bloom narrative, Adnan Shaffi, co-Founder and CEO, PriceOye, revealed that the idea for his company sparked when he bought a laptop with an Arabic-only keyboard from a Pakistani tech eStore, leading him to tape English letters over the keys. To counter the prevailing issue of inauthentic products, PriceOye, a popular tech e-store and price comparison website, only houses authorised sellers. An example of innovative problem solving, Shaffi narrated, involved establishing an in-house logistics service since courier companies refused to partner with them due to liability concerns when PriceOye proposed a format that would allow customers to view the product before accepting it at their doorstep. This one feature is what led to “exponential growth,” as they were able to “solve a problem people were unsure of how to tackle,” according to Shaffi.

The panel discussions addressed topics like navigating cofounder relations and whether Pakistan’s first unicorn will be a B2B or B2C. On co-founder relations, Azima Dhanjee, co-Founder, ConnectHear, discussed how, when looking for a partner, she sought people who would complement her vision and fill in the gaps while ideally being tech-savvy. Maheen Adamjee, CEO and Founder, Dot & Line, chimed in, saying that it was also helpful to segment co-founders in accordance with skills, as she handles the financial aspect of the business while her co-Founder, Lina Ahmed, takes the lead on the product side of things.

“Founder conflicts are a good thing as long as they are managed correctly because they ultimately bring in more perspectives.”

A country like Pakistan with a burgeoning interest in start-ups could use more such events, especially those geared towards students, who perhaps with the right guidance, may spark big ideas sooner. What set Slush’D apart were the short sessions with seamless transitions and thoughtfully curated speakers dispensing bite-sized morsels of advice, cutting through the fluff.

All sessions were made accessible through PSL interpreters from ConnectHear, a social startup working towards making spaces more inclusive.