Dubai startup fighting ‘digital addiction’ to launch in Pakistan on Sept 15

Women wearing protective masks pose for a "selfie" picture on a cell phone in front of Burj Khalifa, the tallest structure and building in the world since 2009 (total heigh with antenna of 829.8 metres), in the city centre of the Gulf emirate of Dubai on March 8, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 08 September 2020

Dubai startup fighting ‘digital addiction’ to launch in Pakistan on Sept 15

  • Lock&Stock app rewards students for not using their phones while studying, working out and spending time with friends and family
  • So far, 50,000 students have spent the equivalent of a combined 586 years and 12 weeks offline due to the app 

KARACHI: Dubai-based mobile app Lock&Stock, which works to curb “digital addiction” among students, is all set to launch its operations in Pakistan on September 15, 2020, the country head of the company said on Tuesday.
The app, founded in 2017 in the United Arab Emirates, rewards students for not using their phones while studying, working out and spending time with friends and family, among other activities. Students can then use their rewards to redeem exclusive discounts from the app’s partner brands, apply for jobs and internships, and secure scholarships.
So far, 50,000 students have spent the equivalent of a combined 586 years and 12 weeks offline due to the app. In 2019 alone, Lock&Stock students secured over half a million dollars in scholarships and fee waivers at various universities around the world.
“In universities and colleges, students mostly remain on devices during the lectures, that is why the app is developed to incentivize the students ... by giving them rewards so they could stay away from these devices and concentrate on education,” Omar Mirza, country head of Lock&Stock, told Arab News. “The app is ready to be launched on September 15, 2020, available as a free download on Android and iOS.”
In a statement released on Monday, Craig Fernandes, the 23-year-old CEO of Lock&Stock, said “digital addiction” among students was on the rise, especially among 16-18-year-olds who spent hundreds of hours glued to their smartphones. 
“Our brand purpose is to improve the lives of students and we aim to fight digital addiction among students from around the world,” Fernandes added.
The Lock&Stock app works by locking up other apps in your phone while you use it.
“Every time you are locked up you can’t use any other app on the mobile phone,” Mirza explained. “The app then rewards students for the amount of time they lock their phones.”
Minutes away from the phone can earn rewards from food, leisure and retail brands, as well as job opportunities and scholarships at top universities around the world.
“In the UAE, we have 400 vendors including retail outlets, cinemas and over 100 restaurants where this key could be used,” Mirza said.
A major objective of the app, the Pakistan country head explained, was to link students with 100 global universities located in the United States, Europe, Turkey, and the UAE and make the admission process simpler. 
“Earlier it was a very complicated process if you want to apply for ten universities, that required offline visits or online visits to these universities’ websites, which was a time-consuming process,” Mirza said. “But now all 100 universities have been uploaded in the app as a single source.”
The developers also intend to provide a one-window platform through the app for students seeking admission in Pakistani universities: “Through this app we are digitizing this process and they will be able to apply from a single platform to any of the [Pakistani] universities,” Mirza said.
Students who apply for admission through Lock&Stock get up to 10 percent discounts on their tuition fees and also earn weekly prizes by competing with one another.


Pakistan Steel Mills workers say will challenge mass layoffs in court

Updated 29 November 2020

Pakistan Steel Mills workers say will challenge mass layoffs in court

  • PSM management argues the company’s accumulated losses reached Rs212 billion ($1.33 billion) in June
  • The termination of 4,500 contracts is believed to be the biggest layoff from a single entity in Pakistan’s history

KARACHI: Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) employees are going to challenge in court the company’s recent decision to terminate the contracts of thousands of workers, union representatives said on Sunday.

The management of the state-owned company on Friday handed letters of termination to some 4,500 employees, arguing that PSM’s accumulated losses had reached Rs212 billion ($1.33 billion) in June, when the government decided that 9,350 workers would have to be fired for the dysfunctional enterprise to be revived.
“PSM has terminated 4,500 employees in the first phase of government’s plan to lay off 9,350 employees ... The employees have refused to accept this termination they have registered protests and have decided to challenge this decision in court next week,” Mirza Maqsood, President of Voice of Pakistan Steel Officers Association, told Arab News.

Located 40 kilometers from Karachi, Pakistan’s largest industrial complex with a steel production capacity of 1.1 million tons has been dysfunctional for the past few years. Its operations were suspended in 2015.
“Neither the Company has funds to revive the Mills nor are funds available from any other source to revive the Steel Mill. In any case, revival of the mill would require, firstly massive investment and secondly, entail a period of at least two years,” reads a PSM termination letter seen by Arab News.
The layoff was defended by federal Industries and Production Minister Hammad Azhar, who on Saturday said the terminated employees would be given compensation of Rs2.3 million on average.

“Since the closure of the mill, the government has paid around Rs35 billion as salaries and Rs20 billion as arears to the employees,” he said.

The discharge of workers is said to be one of the biggest layoffs of employees from a single government entity in the country’s history. 
 Karamat Ali, executive director at Pakistan Institute of Labor Education & Research (PILER), said the PSM layoff in unprecedented.
“No such number of employees have ever been fired from a single government institution,” he said.
The decision was also opposed by the provincial government of Sindh, which vowed to support the affected employees. 
“This is wrong and injustice. They (the federal government) must adhere to their earlier stance and commitments of turning the state institutions around with the help of their champions. I am with the employees,” Sindh Labor Minister Saeed Ghani told Arab News.
Mumrez Khan, convener of a representative body of employees, pensioners, suppliers, dealers and contractors of PSM, said that no serious efforts have been made by the federal government to revive the mill, claiming that negligence had caused losses even higher than those cited by PSM management.

“The accumulated losses have swelled to $12 billion on the account of closure of plants, revenue to the government and imports of steel products,” he said.