Romantic Jamshoro, and Opportunities in it
Night breezes, romance, love stories, rocks, River Indus (a river which remains dry half of the year, but fortunately not nowadays), and the universities combine to make a well-known introduction of Jamshoro as Jamshoro Education City (JEC).
The JEC is a gateway to Hyderabad, Upper Sindh to Punjab and northern areas of Pakistan. Despite easy access to the river Indus, peoples’ restlessness for having drinking water is not new. Once upon a time, these people used to taste Palla fish in abundance but nowadays due to dryness of the river and no water discharge into the Arabian Sea (resulting in the land degradation) at district Badin, they just recall the taste of that Palla.
When we were heading towards Al Manzar, a picnic point at the right side of the Ghulam Mohammad Barrage (also known as Kotri barrage) at river Indus in Jamshoro, I was keen to know much about the JEC and (as a public policy researcher I wanted to know) what universities have initiated and undertaken to contribute to the development of this city as one of the key stakeholders? I came across interesting facts linking to the development of JEC and its surrounding areas.
At a place where people face different issues and problems pertaining to water, health, employment, education, energy, and other basic facilities, the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre (IEC) (a startup incubator) at Mehran University of Engineering & Technology (MUET), Jamshoro is determined to help produce entrepreneurial engineers annually from the university.
Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre at Mehran UET, Jamshoro
IEC provides facilitation to MUET students, faculty, and officers with regard to the development of their own business but on some strong conditions. And yes those conditions are not monetary but they require for a prospect entrepreneur to aim at contributing to social development through practicing social entrepreneurship at IEC, MUET.
IEC implemented a program called “Establishment of Research Incubators in Public Sector Universities/Institutes (RINU)” funded by Information, Science & Technology Department, Government of Sindh. Under the RINU, IEC was providing facilities to startups including office space (for 12 months at IEC), mentorship, training, industry linkages development, legal expertise, and seed funding of op to Rs.600,000 each to 15 startups, and Rs.100,000 each to 15 Final Year Projects (FYPs) to help them develop their prototype under the RINU.
It is inspiring that funding was provided to the prospect entrepreneurs on some strong criteria and if one does not meet that criteria (whether student, faculty, or officer of the university) beneficiary would not be able to be part of incubation opportunity under RINU at the Centre.
It is necessarily required that the applicants develop their business idea from any one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations (UN). Criteria reveals that for student startup opportunity, student must be enrolled in the second year or final year of bachelor program. And if enrolled in Master program, he/she must be in 2nd year. Successful applicants are provided a supervisor (faculty member from University) who is responsible to supervise startup activities and help them on ground to shoot any trouble which might be related to product development or any other technical issue a startup faces.
The enthusiastic startups at the IEC are very energetic with their aims and objectives. For example, Food Craft startup is providing hygienic food at doorstep to its customers and clients. It attracted a great attention in the region because along with hygienic food, it is also providing income generation opportunity to women at home to cook food; generating income and meeting life’s daily needs and wants. It also provided employment opportunity to unemployed youth and one of those beneficiaries of this startup is the delivery boys.
Delivery boys take the food out to the hostellers, students, university staff & officers, health conscious people, working women, and patients. Not only this, Food Craft addresses social problems through its operations by putting focus on SDGs. It delivers Youth-Employment, Home-Based Income, Hygienic Food, and Women Empowerment by aligning SDGs 1 (No Poverty), 2 (Zero Hunger), 3 (Good Health), 5 (Gender Equality), 8 (Good Jobs and Economic Growth), 10 (Reduced Inequalities), 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) into its operations. This one of IEC-incubated startup has created social impact due to IEC’s untiring efforts. IEC provides to all its startups with market research and marketing techniques. After a huge impact created in the region through social entrepreneurship, Food Craft is putting more energy to benefit society through hygienic food, employment opportunities, and women empowerment through income opportunities.
Incubators play a key role in economic development of any country. They contribute to local economy which gradually grows up and adding into national economy. According to Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, during 1969 to 1976, firms with fewer than 20 employees created two-thirds of all new jobs. And firms with fewer than 100 employees created 80 percent of the jobs during the same time period. Likewise, startups at the IEC have created more than 100 jobs in their functional areas including marketing, sales, software application development, outreach, accounting, and business development efforts. For example, more than 20 people have been working in Food Craft; earning meal for their families and themselves.
In the devastating COVID-19, the IEC-MUET incubated startup NanoClo has developed a face-mask that is nanofiber laminated, water and oil repellent, washable up to 10 times, bacteria/virus filtration, breathable, face fit, and having five layers. One can simply evaluate the impact of these social entrepreneurship-led startups which grow on incubators like IEC-Mehran UET, Jamshoro.
NanoClo Face Mask
In order to accelerate and strengthen the efforts of incubators and entrepreneurs, most needed part lie on the government that is to providing sustainable policies and programs to incentivize social entrepreneurship in Pakistan. If they would not be facilitated with entrepreneurship encouraging policies, then they may be discouraged and turn into jobs seekers rather than job providers.
UNDP in Pakistan also aims to empower women particularly those who are less-powered living in the poverty-stricken communities down-trodden areas of Sindh. It would be helpful if UNDP (with its other partners) comes forward to help incubators including IEC in bringing sustainability for strengthened outcomes and sustainable programs for the emerging entrepreneurs aimed at resolving social issues particularly education, energy, food, health, and water.
Furqan Hyder Shaikh is a researcher and he writes on social issues, entrepreneurship, and sustainable development. He can be reached at @furqanppolicy