Pakistani coworking startup COLABS raises $3 million for domestic, Middle East expansion — CEO 

People attend a workshop at COLABS in Lahore, Pakistan, on November 12, 2020. (COLABS/Facebook)
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Updated 25 March 2022

Pakistani coworking startup COLABS raises $3 million for domestic, Middle East expansion — CEO 

  • Startup aims to create shared workplaces for 100,000 entrepreneurs and freelancers in Pakistan in next five years
  • Founder says his company plans to launch overseas operations with the funding, mainly targeting the Middle East

KARACHI: COLABS, a Lahore-based startup helping entrepreneurs and freelancers build businesses through its shared spaces and technical support, has raised $3 million in a seed round for its expansion to other Pakistani cities and abroad, primarily the Middle East, company officials said on Friday. 
The round was led by Indus Valley Capital, Zayn Capital and Fatima Gobi Ventures. This is the first time these three leading Pakistan-focused venture capitals (VCs) are investing together in a startup. The round was also joined by Shorooq Partners, Kinnow Capital, Muir Capital, Sai Ventures, and some key angels, including Turner Novak, Ali Yarali, William Hockey and Teddy Himler. 
COLABS was founded in 2019 by Omar Shah, a former private equity investor, and his twin brother Ali Shah, who operates a family-run real estate and construction firm SABCON, which is COLABS’ development partner for its facilities. The COLABS team also includes its chief operating officer (COO) Fatima Mazhar, one of the former executives at Careem who had helped the ride-hailing service make its mark in many international markets. 
“This is the first round of funding raised by the COLABS which would be utilized to expand operations in the country and abroad,” Shah, the co-founder and CEO of COLABS, told Arab News. 
“With the investment raised, we target to create coworking spaces for a community of 100,000 entrepreneurs and freelancers in Pakistan in the next five years, starting with 10,000 members within the next two years. We have created around 1,200 seats and [are] targeting to move to Karachi and Islamabad later this year as part of the expansion plan.” 

The photo posted on August 30, 2020 shows people working at a coworking space built by Colabs in Lahore, Pakistan. (Photo courtesy: Colabs) 

By 2024, Shah informed, COLABS would move to launch its overseas operations, mainly targeting the Middle East market. He, however, said that before going for international expansion, their major focus was on domestic operations for the growth of the startup ecosystem. 
“We have built a solid foundation to make it easy for freelancers, startups and even international companies which are eyeing Pakistan as potential destination,” he said. 
“With the capital we have received from leading Pakistani investors, we’re now looking to turn our offerings into software-based solutions and productized services that could also be extended to people and institutions outside of our network.” 
COLABS has created an impact by hosting more than 250 startup-related events annually since 2019, with an aggregate attendance of over 200,000 visitors, the shared workplace startup said in a statement. It has helped community members grow, hire the right talent, raise investment and thrive with the support provided by COLABS. 

In this undated photo, the logo for Colabs, a Pakistan coworking space operator, is seen on the company's headquarters in Lahore, Pakistan (Photo courtesy: Colabs)

“Coworking spaces are foundational businesses on which ecosystems are built. They build a community of talent which builds companies and from them communities become ecosystems and ecosystems become industries,” said Tamer Azer, a partner at technology investment firm Shorooq Partners, which operates from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. 
“COLABS has quickly managed to center itself at the heart of Pakistan’s startup community and has built a phenomenal story that we are proud to support today and tomorrow as the company grows and creates the right infrastructure for Pakistan’s startup community.” 
COLABS started as a coworking platform with a state-of-the-art facility in Lahore, but has since evolved to offer several additional services and tools to entrepreneurs and freelancers, including SaaS solutions, payroll processing, educational bootcamps, business incorporation, talent sourcing and management, and legal and tax compliance. 
“The first time I visited COLABS, I found the community and energy to be a microcosm of the fast-growing Pakistani tech ecosystem,” Aatif Awan, founder and managing partner of the Indus Valley Capital, said. 
“We’re thrilled to partner with the COLABS team to help them build the leading platform and community that will power the growth of Pakistani tech across startups, freelancers and global companies expanding into Pakistan.” 
Faisal Aftab, co-founder and managing partner at Zayn Capital, said he had closely watched COLABS grow into one of the key players in Pakistan’s startup ecosystem. 
“Omar and his team continue to do excellent work to accelerate the growth of the startup ecosystem here and we are excited to join their journey in serving tens of thousands of founders and freelancers across Pakistan,” Aftab said. 

COLABS has a partner network of 100-plus organizations involved in taking initiatives to boost the Pakistani startup ecosystem growth, the company said. 

2 militants, police constable killed during gunbattle in eastern Pakistan— Punjab CTD

Updated 12 sec ago

2 militants, police constable killed during gunbattle in eastern Pakistan— Punjab CTD

  • Militants attack police patrolling post in Esakhel town in Mianwali district, says Punjab CTD
  • Clash between police, militants takes place days after two suicide blasts killed 65 in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Two militants and a police constable were killed during a gunbattle between Punjab’s Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) and militants on Sunday in the country’s eastern Mianwali district, police said. 

According to a statement by the Punjab CTD, militants attacked a police patrolling post in Esakhel town located in Mianwali, prompting a heavy exchange of fire between the two sides. 

“After four hours of intense fighting, CTD Punjab killed one terrorist while another was severely injured,” Punjab’s Inspector General Dr. Usman Anwar was quoted as saying in a statement by police. 

“A search and sweep operation in the area is underway.”

Anwar said the slain militants were involved in various militant activities across the country, adding that police were further investigating the case. 

“Police are further probing the case while the militants’ accomplices are being pursued,” Anwar was quoted as saying. 

He appreciated CTD Punjab for foiling the attack and killing the militants, heaping praise on the police constable who was killed in the exchange of fire. 

“We salute Constable Haroon Khan who achieved the lofty status of martyrdom during the line of duty,” Anwar was quoted as saying. 

The clash between Punjab CTD and militants takes place days after two bomb blasts in Pakistan’s southwestern and northwestern provinces killed at least 65 and injured scores. 

On Friday, a suicide blast targeted a crowded gathering held to mark the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in Mustang city, killing at least 60 people. Hours later, an explosion in Pakistan’s northwestern Hangu city killed five others. 

No militant outfit has so far taken credit for the attacks. Pakistan has accused India of having a hand in the attacks and has vowed to hunt militants across the country. 

In Pakistan’s Gilgit city, new women’s market is ‘one-stop shop’ for gems and handicrafts

Updated 32 min 5 sec ago

In Pakistan’s Gilgit city, new women’s market is ‘one-stop shop’ for gems and handicrafts

  • Riverside market in Gilgit was inaugurated in August to develop tourism and economically empower local women
  • With 24 shops, market has a wide variety of handmade products that showcase the rich cultural heritage of the region

GILGIT: Every day at the break of dawn, 28-year-old Haseena Farman unlocks her riverside shop of handcrafted shawls, sweaters, gemstones and decorative items and waits for customers.

Business has been going well since she opened the store in a recently inaugurated, eco-friendly women’s market that has become a godsend for women entrepreneurs in the mountainous northern city of Gilgit.

The market, which was inaugurated in August and has 24 shops so far, is a joint project of the Gilgit Development Authority and the Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry and has, in the words of businesswomen like Farman, given them a “special place” of trade in a region where, like many other parts of Pakistan, cultural and religious norms and social expectations act as barriers to prevent women’s entry into the business sector.

According to Gilgit-Baltistan’s Education Department, the female literacy rate in the area has been recorded at 41 percent while the male literacy rate has been recorded at 66 percent. Despite high literacy rates, women form only 15.5 percent of the labor force in Gilgit-Baltistan, according to data by the Agha Khan Rural Support Network, a non-profit company. 

“Earlier, we [women] didn’t have a special space [to sell our products],” Farman told Arab News. “I used to make these items for my cousins, relatives and sisters … After the opening of this market, we have got a proper setup.”

The photo taken on September 30, 2023 shows a shop at the Gems and Handicraft Market in Gilgit, Pakistan. (AN Photo)

“So far, it’s going well and I hope it will also continue to be like this in the future.”

Razia Asif, another female entrepreneur at the market who sells gems, jackets and decorative items, said she used to sell her goods from home until the market launched. 

“We opened this shop a month ago,” she said. “We have been given the opportunity by the government to bring our products to market.”

Speaking to Arab News, GDA director Sajid Wali described the market as a “one-stop shop” to buy local handicrafts, gemstones, dried fruits and traditional cuisines at affordable rates while enjoying a beautiful riverside view.

Wali also hoped, he said, that the market would serve both as a bustling tourist spot in the near future while empowering women of the region at the same time.

“We know the women of Gilgit-Baltistan have the skills,” he said.

The photo taken on September 30, 2023 shows a videw of the Gems and Handicraft Market in Gilgit, Pakistan. (AN Photo)

“However, only a limited number of products prepared by them reach our markets due to lack of opportunities. Their [home-based] businesses don’t run very smoothly all the time. We know these things and have tried to bring these women into a proper retail market.”

Mubareka Gul, an executive member of the Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Gilgit division, said women of the area previously found it difficult to market and sell their goods.

“For the first time in history [in Gilgit], women can run these businesses in a friendly environment under tight security,” she said. “This is a family market and families come and visit this place.”

“The women trained by us, who did not have direct market access, have become successful due to the government of Gilgit-Baltistan and the Women Chamber of Commerce,” Gul added. “We hope that this market will become a business hub.”

Gul urged the public to visit the newly inaugurated trade center with family members and explore the products being sold.

“I have visited this market two, three times,” Sultana Karim, a visitor, told Arab News as she bought cushions for her drawing room. 

“Each time it is a pleasure to come here because a variety of products are available.”

Team Director Mickey Arthur joins Pakistan squad in India to bolster World Cup preparations

Updated 01 October 2023

Team Director Mickey Arthur joins Pakistan squad in India to bolster World Cup preparations

  • As head coach from 2016-2019, Arthur led Pakistan to their Champions Trophy title in 2017
  • Pakistan cricket team will face Australia on Oct. 3 for their second and last warm-up match 

ISLAMABAD: With only a few days left before the World Cup kicks off, Pakistan Team Director Mickey Arthur joined the men’s cricket team in India on Sunday, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said in a statement, as the green shirts aim to bolster their preparations for the showpiece tournament. 

Arthur, who was appointed by the PCB in April this year to the team director’s post, has been available to the squad in a limited capacity owing to his contract with Derbyshire. The South African was not present with the Pakistani team during their series against Sri Lanka in July and was also unavailable during Pakistan’s series against Afghanistan in August. In the Asia Cup held last month, Arthur joined the team for just one fixture.

“Team director Mickey Arthur has joined the national men’s side in Hyderabad, India,” the PCB said in a statement. 

Led by skipper Babar Azam, the Pakistan men’s cricket team arrived in India on Sept. 25 to take part in the 50-over World Cup which is scheduled to begin on Oct. 5. The South Asian country will begin its World Cup campaign against the Netherlands on Oct. 6 before taking on Sri Lanka on Oct. 10 and then India on Oct. 14. 

Arthur was Pakistan’s head coach from 2016 to 2019, during which the green shirts won the Champions Trophy title in 2017 and also climbed to the top of the T20I rankings.

Pakistan, however, were unable to impress in Test cricket with Arthur and a league-stage exit from the 2019 World Cup led to him being replaced as head coach by former Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq.

After losing to New Zealand in the opening warm-up fixture on Friday, Pakistan will take on Australia in their second and last World Cup warm-up match on Tuesday, Oct. 3. 

Pakistan’s army chief says operation against militants to continue ‘unabated’

Updated 01 October 2023

Pakistan’s army chief says operation against militants to continue ‘unabated’

  • General Syed Asim Munir’s statement comes after Friday’s suicide blasts that killed over 65 in Pakistan 
  • Pakistan’s army chief visits Quetta for briefing on recent attacks, inquires after victims at CMH Quetta

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s army chief General Syed Asim Munir said that the security operation against militants would continue “unabated,” state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) reported on Saturday, a day after two suicide blasts killed at least 65 people in the country. 

At least 60 were killed and scores injured on Friday when a suicide blast targeted a gathering held to mark the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in Pakistan’s southwestern city of Mustang. In a separate attack the same day, militants targeted a mosque at a police station in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Hangu district to kill five more people. 

No militant groups have so far taken responsibility for the attacks but Pakistan’s Caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Ahmed Bugti said on Saturday that India’s intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) was behind the blasts. 

“Our operation against terrorists would continue unabated and the Armed Forces, Intelligence and Law Enforcement Agencies shall not rest till the menace of terrorism is rooted out from the country,” the APP report quoted the army chief as saying. 

Munir said these words during his visit to Quetta where he was briefed on the recent bomb blasts in a meeting attended by senior civil and military leaders. 

Without mentioning any entity, the army chief said militants were backed by the “State Sponsors of Terrorism.” 

“These terrorists and their facilitators, having no link with religion and ideology, are proxies of the enemies of Pakistan and its people,” he was quoted as saying. 

Later, the army chief visited the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) Quetta to inquire after the injured and met the victims’ families. During his visit, Munir lauded Balochistan Police and law enforcement personnel for their bravery and resilience, APP said. 

Pakistan has witnessed a surge in militant attacks in the two western provinces located near Afghanistan following the 2021 Taliban return to power in Kabul.

According to statistics compiled by the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, the first half of the ongoing year saw about an 80 percent increase in attacks compared to the corresponding period in 2022.

Pakistan reduces petrol price by Rs8 per liter following record hikes in fuel costs

Updated 01 October 2023

Pakistan reduces petrol price by Rs8 per liter following record hikes in fuel costs

  • Petroleum prices were increased by up to Rs26 last month, taking them beyond Rs330 for the first time in history
  • The government expressed possibility the price reduction recently due to the strengthening of national currency

ISLAMABAD: After progressively increasing fuel prices in the country for about two consecutive months, Pakistan offered respite to consumers by cutting the petrol and diesel rates by eight and 10 rupees, respectively, on Saturday.
The country fixes petroleum prices on a fortnightly basis after evaluating fluctuating international energy market costs and the rupee-dollar parity before transferring the impact on domestic consumers.
Last month, the government announced a record increase of up to Rs26 in the prices of petroleum products, breaching the Rs330 mark for the first time in the country’s history as it faced unprecedented inflation.
“In the wake of variations in international prices of petroleum products and the improvement in the exchange rate, the Government of Pakistan has decided to revise the consumer prices of petroleum products,” announced a statement by the finance division.
“The new prices of petroleum products for the fortnight starting 01.01.2023 will be as follows,” it continued while showing the decline in a tabulated form.
The new rate of petrol has dropped from Rs331.38 to Rs323.38, while high-speed diesel is now available for Rs318.18 after the reduction in its previous price of Rs329.18.
Pakistan’s interim information minister Murtaza Solangi said over a week ago that a decrease in petroleum prices was “highly likely” after the Pakistani rupee had gained value against the US dollar due to the caretaker government’s administrative measures.