No Wringing of Hands – Rethink! – 6th Edition of LEADERS IN ISLAMABAD BUSINESS SUMMIT Concludes in Capital

Islamabad: Nutshell Conferences Group and Martin Dow Group, in strategic partnership with Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI), and Unity Foods Limited, concluded the 6th Edition of the LEADERS IN ISLAMABAD BUSINESS SUMMIT; this year’s theme was “The BIG Rethink,” with a pledge to revisit and rethink the way we work and the way we live.

The second day of the Summit saw 4 sessions, which comprised 11 addresses, 2 conversations and 2 panel discussions; topics varied from the digital future to the landscape of education, and from shaping narratives to climate change.

Senator Sherry Rehman, Federal Minister for Climate Change, spoke about going green for safety and survival. “Pakistan produces plastic trash equivalent to the might of two K2 mountains annually, and having signed the plastic treaty in Paris recently, I would request at least the big hotels to get rid of the plastic bottles that they’re serving water in.”

In a conversation with Mosharraf Zaidi, Founder, Tabadlab, Senator Rehman pushed the local pollution agenda as strongly as the international one, and she stated that Pakistan’s adaptive capacity for compliance with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is in question. Despite being a low emitter, Pakistan is a frontline state for climate change. She defined corporate CSR as too limited for the required effect. She stressed that more needs to be done for inclusivity, and rethink is in order. She urged media organizations to stop politicizing climate change and give sufficient space to discourse around it.

Gen Zubair Mahmood Hayat, N.I. (Rtd), Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (2016- 2019), spoke on the power of narratives and raised pertinent questions about how, as a nation, Pakistanis need to build a narrative for a better future. The way our Holy Prophet PBUH changed it, the way Martin Luther King changed it, and the way Nelson Mandela changed it. “We are required to think deeply around our political, social, and economic aspects. We need to come out of our comfort zones and take up bigger ideas instead of taking baby steps. We must match our policies with execution and take ownership of our political, national, and individual narrative.”

“Imagineering – The Future of Education” proved to be an insightful dialogue. Eminent educationist Shafqat Mahmood, Former Federal Minister for Education; joined online. Dr. Amjad Waheed, Chief Executive Officer, NBP Funds and Puruesh Chaudhary, Founder & President, AGAHI, also shared their insights about the changing landscape of academia and the urgency around flipping the mode to student centered.

Shafqat Mahmood stressed that the Government has to intervene; “Focus on both skill-based education and a unified national curriculum are important to reduce the divide between the haves and the have-nots, secure the future of this country by ensuring social mobility for all.”

Dr. Amjad Waheed shared the worrisome statistics for the out-of-school children; “Out of the 53 million children, 23 million are out of school. Brick-and-mortar schools are not the solution with a shortage of teachers and funds.” Mosharraf Zaidi summed up the conversation by asserting the fact that education cannot be a one-time discussion over a two-day summit; it needs to be the thread that connects all discussions.

“The Digital Future – Emerging Issues” had 6 illustrious speakers delivering individual addresses by Muhammad Salman Anjum, Founder & CEO, InvoiceMate, UAE; Jouni Keranen, Executive Chairman, Kuuhubb & Partner, swissOne Capital; Oscar Ramos, General Partner, SOSV, Managing Director, Orbit Startups; Jimmy Nguyen, CEO, Blockchain for All, and Michael Foley, Regional Director, Airtel Africa. The topics ranged from Metaverse to Blockchain, as well as leadership and collaborative models. Zouhair Khaliq, Founder & General Partner, Teamup Ventures, summed up the learnings of the session in his speech.

Michael Foley spoke at length about the potential of the Metaverse and emphasized that Pakistan has immense untapped potential if it is fully explored. “Metaverse is the environment where users can immerse themselves and achieve greatness. People interact and can exchange ideas which shows the current trends of the emerging markets.”

Muhammad Salman Anjum stressed on the need to build trust between banks, investors, and SMEs so they can conduct transactions with ease. “We use Blockchain and AI, not just because these are buzz words, but because theyensure efficiency of processes and effective fraud detection. With InvoiceMate, we will be playing the role of an aggregator and would be looking after due diligence to ensure a seamless process between banks and businesses.”

Jouni Keranen said; “The BIG Rethink means celebration of failures, because people miss out on successes when they refuse to take risks because they keep limiting themselves.”

Oscar Ramos appreciated transformation and said that it does not happen in a vacuum. “In transformation, all aspects are impacted. The embedded financing influences health, education, sectors which are of sheer importance for all.”

Jimmy Nguyen encouraged people to find new ways to learn and shared various experiences where countries learnt from disruption. “If we look at Vietnam, e-learning came around 2006/2007 but it accelerated greatly during and due to Covid-19, and as of now there are more than 100 start-ups in Ed-tech in the country.”

Zouhair Khaliq shared his optimism. “There is no dearth of hardworking people in Pakistan, and it is encouraging to see start-ups participating in the rethink. The fountain of growth in Pakistan is not the academia and the think tanks; instead, it’s the start-ups that are growing like mushrooms in this country.”

Another sub-theme, “Imagineering the Future,” saw an array of specialists addressing the audience, including Dr. Rehan Al Taji, Founder & CEO, PXDX FZ LLC, UAE and Partner & Head of Projects, Gabriel Jobs, KSA; Kabeer Naqvi, President & CEO, U Microfinance Bank Limited; Ghazanfar Azzam, President & CEO, Mobilink Microfinance Bank Limited; Abdul Haseeb, Managing Director, TMC; and Farhan Hassan, Head of Easypaisa Wallet Business. The Dialogue was moderated by Usman Yousuf, Director, Nutshell Communications; Chairman, ProPakistani; Co-founder, K-Cap Ventures and CEO, Interactive UAE. The panelists agreed on the need for financial inclusion in Pakistan and changing rigid views around conventional modalities.

Kabeer Naqvi said that social inclusion is necessary to achieve financial inclusion. “We have faced situations where women were given less amount as a loan compared to their male counterparts, and I have intervened to address this issue.”

Dr. Rehan Ali Taji felt that governments need to give ease to start-ups to foster a culture of innovation. “We need to educate and advocate for new technology because if we do not adopt, we will be left behind. Saudi Arabia has introduced tax exemption to encourage new businesses in technology to pave ways for investors to bring forward innovation.”

Ghazanfar Azzam listed three factors that determine the level of development in any society as access to education, healthcare, and finance. “The areas we need to focus now revolve around providing credit facilities to our consumers, they should have various options to choose from and they should be able to avail this facility from the ease of their homes and offices.”

Farhan Hassan threw light on the structures of Fintech apps and said that there are many factors that affect success. “Essentially any Fintech app cannot work in isolation. We are bound to collaborate with other institutions to use our services and offer financial inclusion to the end users.”

Abdul Haseeb said that, as Pakistanis, we really need to work towards producing talent. “Corporate organizations need to give opportunities to the youth, and the youth must also benefit from various software that do not necessarily need a state-of-the-art setup to earn for themselves.”

The session titled “Emerging Issues” comprised individual addresses by Dereck Hoogenkamp, CEO, Yalla Limited & Co-Founder, Ascended; Mark Linder, Founder Amöl Projects, Market Development, NEOM Design & Construction; and Ron Thomas, Managing Director, Strategy Focus Group, USA & UAE.

Derek Hoogenkamp insisted on Pakistanis realizing the rich resources that they have inherited and how each has a scope of becoming a good business on the virtual and actual platforms.” Pakistan’s North has immense potential for tourism and people need to take it seriously.’’

Mark Linder spoke on TAKT – an assembly line formula that helped the build of giants like Toyota. “Pakistan is ripe for collaborative models that can bring in expedited progress at half the cost.”

An interesting conversation on “The BIG Rethink” between Tauseef H. Farooqi, Chairman, NEPRA and Sajjeed Aslam, Regional Lead Public Affairs – Asia Pacific, ACCA, had the former talk about his journey at NEPRA and the measures he has taken to uplift the energy sector; “The power sector in Pakistan has gone through major transformation in terms of reducing the electrocution cases, increasing the number of women in the workforce, and expanding the customer base.”

The vote of thanks was delivered by Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman (Rtd.), Pakistan’s Chief of Air Staff (2015-2018). He thanked the speakers, guests, sponsors, and the audience for their energetic engagement both days of the Summit. “Pakistan’s potential is not in question; the willingness of people to make the change is. We all need to understand the threats of climate change and appreciate the efficiency of technology that can help us not only combat the danger but expand our footprint in the economic sphere. Rethink is in order.”

LIIBS 2023 brought together more than 50 speakers from national and international organizations from a variety of sectors. This Summit is the largest and most sought-after corporate event of the country. At the end of the Summit, Muhammad Azfar Ahsan, Founder & CEO, Nutshell Group, announced the dates for the 7th Edition of LEADERS IN ISLAMABAD BUSINESS SUMMIT, as March 6 and 7, 2024.

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