• Zainab Waseem

Why it's important to have your own business in the 21st century - Zainab Waseem

It’s no secret our country is exceptionally fond of a handful of professions. Whether it’s Ali from Karachi, Shabana from Lahore, Ayesha from Peshawar, or Hamza from Islamabad, everyone has at least once heard the names of these professions from their peers growing up. And consequently, with peer pressure walking hand-in-hand with our limited educational resources, the majority of the Pakistani population follows the well-made tracks laid before them by their preceding generations.


And honestly- who wouldn’t? Everything is something already seen and done before, all the milestones are already placed in sight, there’s nothing risky, new, or terrifying about it, the tough part has already been done before us. The only thing we have to worry about is choosing a track to commit ourselves to.


But what if you and I are sitting in your living room, chatting over some hot tea and fresh biscuits and I tell you that all the well-settled fields have suddenly vanished into thin air, and anything that you can do now is only something new?


Of course, that’s not the case right now, the mainstream fields are very much alive and present. But they are, however, also right at the peak of complete saturation. Overpopulation, lack of creativity and innovativeness, preference for industrial jobs in an agriculture-based country, lack of industries, and export are only some reasons for this saturation. The immediate unemployment phase right after graduation has become a norm.


STATISTICS OF UNEMPLOYMENT


A survey published by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics called Pakistan Employment Trends in 2018 stated the unemployment rate of individuals with a degree was 16.3%. These numbers aren’t hard to believe when every other day we see another unemployment protest from graduates and undergraduates asking for more jobs. And unfortunately, over the past decade, the saturation has only increased.


In a survey on Statista, Aaron O’Neill published statistics of the youth unemployment rate in Pakistan from 1999 to 2020. According to it, in 2020, the estimated unemployment rate of the age group 15-24 is 8.54%.


This small 8.54% is enough to cast a shadow of worry on all the students working to build their career, but what’s alarming is that over the last few years, the saturation has only increased. Our country is still struggling to strengthen its economy and unfortunately, that often leads to an abundance of applicants fighting for the same single spot. And with all these handful spots getting filled, and less than half of them getting empty, it’s obvious to see how soon in a decade or so, if our economy remains stagnant, we’ll reach complete saturation.


NEED OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN TODAY’S JOB MARKET


There’s this local proverb, “Necessity is the mother of invention”. And true be it in this case.


Unemployment may have closed many doors for some people. But it also opened a lot more for others. Our educational system often tends to lean towards the superiority of cramming and textbooks and sometimes leaves little space for creative inventors. So when they’re asked to make a job choice amidst saturation, some of them divert a little from those ‘well-made tracks’ and choose to build a work environment with their own set of rules.


While interviewing Aleeza Javed, co-founder along with Mahnoor Haroon of their business World of Creatives, she mentioned the reasons why she chose to start her own business;


“An entrepreneur has a vision of its own and can work around achieving its own set goals. I always thought of doing something of my own and hence I never did a job and always worked for what I wanted to build.”


Freedom of work has been a very popular reason for people who became entrepreneurs. And with their freedom, they created their own companies and businesses that successfully flourished in the economic market and set an option for the next generation when they’d sit sulking after not receiving a call-back from that job.


Pakistan has produced some great entrepreneurs over the last two decades. Iqbal Qarshi, Byram D. Avari, Yusuf Haroon, Aftab Tapal, Khalid Awan are only some of the Pakistani successful entrepreneurs to name. They might look like a bunch of names stacked next to each other, but I promise that they might seem a lot more familiar to you once placed beside their businesses. These entrepreneurs are the respective founders of Qarshi Laboratories, Avari Hotels, Dawn Group of Newspapers, Tapal Tea, and TCS Couriers.


Quite the names in the industry, huh?


But before we get ahead of ourselves, according to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, the Total early-stage Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) of Pakistan in 2019 has been 3.7%. In 2012 it was 11.6%. Of course Pandemic has played a very big part in setting back entrepreneurship, but it doesn’t divert attention from the fact that Pakistan is in desperate need of entrepreneurs.


We all know the biggest key of exports for Pakistan is agriculture. It’s the only sector which has such a big employment rate. And it’s also the sector people are moving away from, shifting to industry. So we have a limited employment sector with increasing influx and saturation, illiteracy, a weak economy, a monotonous education system on top of it all, it all boils down to this. Pakistan needs entrepreneurs.


Let me walk you through an example. It’s pretty common to say that Pakistan has an abundance of engineers - so much so that every other person you meet on the street might turn out to be an engineer. Although that might not be quite literally the case, the point comes across. Pakistan has a lot of engineers and the field faces saturation.


Now, imagine any machine in your house broke down- a food-blender, an AC, or maybe your phone. You’re going to the store to buy a new one. What companies will you prefer? Or maybe the better question is, what companies do you see displayed in the store? Panasonic? Samsung? Or maybe Apple?


How many of them are Pakistani?


Of course, there are no jobs for engineers because most of our appliances are imported. What machines do we export? The truth is that we need to build our own companies and businesses. We’re at a stage where we depend on the imports that we once took decades back to give us a head start.


Another example is the recent enthusiasm our nation displayed while talking about the Israeli goods BDS Movement. However, since Pakistan doesn’t trade with Israel, there weren’t many Israelis companies to boycott in our campaign. So, we shifted towards targeting other international brands, many American, that were putting us in the position of ‘indirect suppliers’ of their funding to Israel. Many argued that we should not in any way help Israel even if it’s by our trade with the countries that are supporting Israel.


I agree. But what I do not agree with is our population becoming gullible enough to think that after cutting our most consumed international brands, we’ll be self-sustainable to replace them with our local brands. Those local brands do not even exist yet but the livelihood and our economy do, however, depend on those international companies. If we want to carry out this dream, we need entrepreneurs in our country more than anything else.


Truth is, entrepreneurs are the backbone of the economy. Entrepreneurs are the founders of businesses a country flourishes on. And fortunately today in Pakistan, the trend of entrepreneurship is bigger than ever. And it’s not only our youth, individuals from every age group are initiating new creative businesses rooted in a variety of different professions.


When asked, ‘Is there a market in entrepreneurship for every set of skills’, Aleeza replied,


"Yes, I think so. I think besides the business idea, the thing that matters the most is your dedication, motivation and persistence that can take you a long way."


ROLE PANDEMIC PLAYED IN ENTREPRENEURSHIP


The pandemic might’ve overall affected entrepreneurship negatively, but it also turned many heads towards this field. With the lockdown commenced, people got to have a lot of time in their hands to figure out the interests they had once pushed aside thinking of them as a luxury.


So many small businesses were set up in this time period and so many people discovered their hidden talents that might not be a business for them at the moment, but are certainly an option they are willing to work on. Although pandemic is a very unfortunate thing that has unfolded on us, it did give us time to figure out ourselves.


HOW YOU CAN BUILD ON ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND BUSINESS SKILLS


Every person has a creative bone in them. It’s okay if it hasn’t been used in a while as long as it can still be made of use. One of my teachers used an example that said, ‘Our brain is like a machine, parts of which start to rust when not used. Parts that you can make shiny again if you polish them enough.’


There is entrepreneurship in every field. You can look for ways to be innovative in your main career choice and start early building on skills required to accomplish your ideas. Or if you think your interests lie in multiple fields, you can start by polishing a little bit of all part by part.


As Aleeza said,


Besides the regular studies, extracurricular activities play a very important role in getting to know the hidden skills. I also think the youth should spend more time exploring different fields and gathering knowledge about what fascinates them the most.


This can be done by taking part in different social events, signing up for different campaigns, taking part in small to broad-scale competitions, taking up different short courses, trying a bit of everything as long as you keep getting opportunities.


Because keeping in sight of where our economy and the job market is headed, we must have something in our back pocket to depend upon, especially since it can play such a big part in our country’s prosperity.


Of course, becoming an entrepreneur isn’t an easy way out. It’s as hard if not more than building a career with a 9 to 5 job. And most people avoid it because of the great risk and financial factor that comes along with it.


‘Setting up something new is always challenging. You have no clue whether it's going to work or not but I think you have to take risks to establish your brand,’ Aleeza said, talking about the struggles of entrepreneurship. ‘You have to go through different/new experiences but I think that's the beauty of doing something of your own.’


No one can promise a happy beginning and an ending. But wherever there is a will, there is a way. And please remember this and the fact that this youth is the future of our country. We are the only ones that can fix it up, not the ones we blame before us or anyone that might come after us. And even if the whole idea of it seems scary, we are the entrepreneurs that might help Pakistan stand back on its feet again. Insha’Allah.

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