The global phenomena of startup accelerators, incubators, and university labs have started to take hold in Pakistan. With a growing recognition of entrepreneurship as a driver of economic growth and social change, more organizations are investing in sustainable and socially responsible programs.
And at the forefront of it all is Sumbal Bashir, Fulbright Scholar and student in the Master of Science in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship (MS-IME) program at Temple University’s Fox School of Business.
Despite advances in and a growing acceptance of entrepreneurship in Pakistan, Bashir has seen firsthand that there exists a gap in the knowledge base and a need for skilled professionals in the country’s startup landscape. This is where she said she plans to make a difference.
“I will bring home my knowledge and experiences from the MS-IME program to fill in that gap and drive the growth of entrepreneurship in Pakistan,” she said.
To be fair, Bashir already has had quite an influential role in Pakistan’s startup scene. While earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance from Lahore University of Management Science (LUMS) in Lahore, Pakistan, Bashir interned with Ernst & Young, Barclays, Shell, and Akhuwat.
SMSall, a small, Lahore-based tech startup working to improve mobile communications in Pakistan, hired Bashir immediately after she graduated. There, she worked in business development and contributed to some of the company’s most-noteworthy projects, including the launch of SMSall messaging app. The app went on to be featured in the APICTA Awards in Hong Kong and the BlackBox Connect accelerator program in Silicon Valley.
“The most challenging and rewarding project was the launch of SMSall’s messaging app,” she said. “It was the first mobile-based communication application developed in Pakistan.”
Much of Bashir’s interests lie in supporting other young, female entrepreneurs. During her internship with Akhuwat, one of the largest micro-financing organizations in Pakistan, Bashir interacted with female micro-entrepreneurs and came to realize how vital their financial earnings were to their families. At the same time, she participated in a Shell program to promote entrepreneurship in Pakistan. Again, she found herself consulting with female entrepreneurs.
“The one thing I learned from my experiences was that the women from low-income communities are really ambitious and talented, and very much into entrepreneurship,” she said. “The only thing they need is more training and access to capital and markets. I want to be a part of the process that takes out this constraint for them.”
Last year Bashir worked with The Citizens Foundation, a non-governmental organization in Pakistan that offers affordable schooling to students from low economic backgrounds. She spent her time providing educational and personal counseling to female students.
“At the end of the program, a number of students told us how life-changing the experience was for them, and that for me was a very rewarding moment,” she said.
Bashir is in the midst of her own life-changing experience now, as she completes her MS-IME degree program. She was drawn to the Fox School’s program by its holistic approach to teaching entrepreneurship — and the emphasis on real-time projects, internship opportunities, guest speakers, and personal coaching for students who want to start their own businesses.
Last semester, as part of her independent study project with Assistant Professor of Strategic Management Jane Frankel, Bashir interned with Dreamit Health Philadelphia, a 16-week boot camp for health-focused startups. Under Dreamit Health, Bashir worked with VizExcell, a startup that is developing a personalized breast cancer risk assessment platform for radiologists and their patients.
“It was one of the most-interesting experiences for me so far, as it provided me with an exposure to the startup accelerators environment and the healthcare ecosystem of the United States,” she said.
Bashir’s commitment to entrepreneurship and her potential to make a real-world impact have not gone unnoticed.
“She was able to provide extensive research and evaluation for the markets of her sponsoring company,” Frankel said of Bashir’s market research for VizExcell. “Her report was extremely comprehensive, well-organized and timely.”
“She really seemed to embrace the innovation strategies and tools being taught, and I was able to see her apply them to many real-world situations,” said Dr. Michael Rivera, Associate Professor of Strategic Management and Director of the Fox School’s Executive MBA program, who counted Bashir among his students in his Business Model Innovation and Innovation Adoption and Diffusion courses.
“She is on the path to future success.”