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Idea Croron Ka – Democratising Entrepreneurship

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(Published in Startup Insider Magazine November 2023 edition)

A nation is identified by the heroes it celebrates.

Go to any part of the world, the nations that are either economic powers today or are amongst the developed countries, were built by their ‘entrepreneurs’. Talking about the United States of America, for example, entrepreneurs like Henry Ford (Founder, Ford Motor Company), Rockefeller (Founder, Standard Oil Company) and Andrew Carnegie (Founder, Carnegie Steel Company) turned the trajectory of the American economy for all times to come. Take the example of Japan. The country’s ascent to becoming an economic powerhouse rising from the rubble post-World War II started with two entrepreneurs, Kichiiro Toyoda (Founder, Toyota) and Michio Suzuki (Founder, Suzuki), who took the responsibility of creating employment and income opportunities for their nation.

On the other hand, Post WWII, the German economy lay in shambles. Now one the biggest and most powerful economies of the world since 1989, Germany owes its economic rebirth to entrepreneurs. Had it not been for entrepreneurs like Karl Friedrich Rapp (Founder, Bavarian Motor Works (BMW)), Hugo Ferdinand (Founder, Hugo Boss), Carl Heinrich Theodor Knorr (Founder, Knorr), Rudolf Dassler (Founder, Puma) & Adolf Dassler (Founder, Adidas), it would not have been able to rise as an industrial power. Let’s take one more example. Once one of the poorest countries following the Korean War in the 1950s, South Korea rebuilt its economy from the scratch. With barely any natural resources available, the economic growth of the country is completely attributed to radical innovation and entrepreneurship.

You’ll find one common denominator in each of these nations – they all celebrate their entrepreneurs; they all take inspiration from their entrepreneurs; they all see ‘heroes’ in their entrepreneurs.

For Pakistan to experience an economic miracle, our nation needs its Toyodas, Rockefellers, and Rapps. Pakistan needs entrepreneurs; our nation needs “real” heroes to look up to.

Going back 8 years, in 2015, although the journey of creating entrepreneurs had started in 2012 with Plan9, entrepreneurship was still largely unheard of across Pakistan and was, unfortunately, only an affair of the metropolitan cities. This was the time when I realised that for our country to become a breeding ground for entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship has to reach to the masses. That meant bringing it on mainstream mass media.

That is when Idea Croron Ka was conceived. The journey to creating Pakistan’s, rather South Asia’s first, business reality show was not easy. From outright rejections to raised eyebrows, speculations regarding its failure, I saw it all. As they say, “When you really want something to happen, it happens. The One above makes it happen for you.” That is when I found my first believer in Chaudhry Abdul Rehman, Chairman NEO TV, and the rest is history.

Giving a common Pakistani the hope and equal opportunity that they can be a change-maker, a hero too, is the biggest contribution of the show.

From South Waziristan to Gilgit Baltistan, Idea Croron Ka took entrepreneurship to the masses, instilling hope and positivity amongst them in the process. Youngsters who could not imagine having access to the resources, now started seeing their dreams materialising into reality. No matter what part of the country a startup founder belonged to, anyone could come, pitch their ideas and raise the finances, seek business advice and get access to the network required to execute on those ideas. It became a reason for many to find their identity by giving youth the opportunity to come on mainstream mass media and gain exposure on television prime time – an unseen and unheard of concept in Pakistan back in 2017.

Idea Croron Ka was not just a TV show but a movement. It gave birth to a new culture; a culture that made entrepreneurship more acceptable for a common household. It created a wave of individuals who persevere for not just themselves but for others by creating income and resources for those around them; it created entrepreneurs.

Heroes were redefined. Media was redefined. Content was redefined.

The emphatic social and economic impact the show has had speaks for itself. Where 100+ startups pitched on the show, 42 startups successfully raised investments worth PKR 510 Million and 25 investors were featured. While 40 women were showcased as inspiration, alongside, 40 Pakistanis were featured as superheroes giving many ambitious individuals the hope that they can too positively dent our country's economy and make something of themselves. 

There were times when I was overwhelmed to meet people at dispensaries, service stations and petrol pumps who have been inspired by the show to an extent that some of them started businesses of their own. While some were moved by youngsters like themselves running successful startups and raising funding, others found inspiration in local superheroes who struggled through their startups and are now running large companies.

Idea Croron Ka became the first TV show in the region to be endorsed by Meta (then Facebook) and USAID SMEA with viewership spanning across US, UK, Europe, India and Middle East.

What lies ahead?

I am an ardent believer that, unlike starting a business, entrepreneurship is democratisable. Not everyone can be a businessman but anyone can be an entrepreneur. Where Idea Croron Ka became that disseminator of entrepreneurship to the masses, it is now time that our youth fervently takes the initiative to step into the realm of entrepreneurship not just as a means to live their dreams but as a way to fulfil their responsibility of changing the economic trajectory of Pakistan.

However, in this voyage of change, it is the propensity to adapt to technology at a national level that will define how far we will go as an economy and I believe that our IT industry has a massive role to play in making Pakistan an economic powerhouse. 

Supporting and investing in home-grown startups is one of the prime areas where the leaders of our tech industry can contribute to achieve the national purpose of strengthening Pakistan’s economy at root level.

The startup and tech ecosystems are two shades of the same spectrum; merging the two is what will give Pakistan the best mix of innovation and progression. 

A promise of support system to the employment generators - our entrepreneurs, Idea Croron Ka will continue on its extraordinary journey of spreading hope, creating opportunities and contributing to Pakistan’s economic growth. The upcoming Season 5 is a brilliant opportunity for the dynamic startup founders of Pakistan to not just showcase their products globally but brand Pakistan as the next startup hub of South Asia!