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Digital freedom underneath menace once more



LAHORE: On Tuesday, the federal authorities tried to quietly cross an modification that might grant the Federal Investigation Company (FIA) unprecedented energy to censor and constrict digital freedom in Pakistan. The modification, which was made to the FIA Act of 1974, empowers the company to arrest people for posting content material on social media that they discover is ‘anti-state.’ 

The state of media freedom in Pakistan is already precarious. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) already has close to unrestricted powers to dam and management broadcasting content material. Solely yesterday, within the aftermath of the heinous assault on former prime minister Imran Khan, the PTA prohibited information channels from airing PTI chief Asad Umar’s video whereby he named “three suspects” former premier Imran Khan believed had been behind the assault on PTI’s convoy in Wazirabad right now.

Press and tv have each been tightly managed by the state for some time, however social media has introduced a singular drawback. On this platform, people expressing particular person opinions can now be held accountable for his or her statements and put via investigation and arrest. It goes with out saying that if the modification goes via and stands, it is going to be a critical dent on freedom of expression within the digital realm — makes an attempt much like which have been made by earlier governments as nicely. 

In a report, the Pakistan-based Institute for Analysis, Advocacy and Improvement (IRADA) has famous that digital freedom within the nation was already on the decline in 2021 as a result of rising authorities controls and threats in opposition to on-line expression. The current modification to the FIA Act could be a step in the identical path. 

“Free speech or expression isn’t an absolute proper in Pakistan. Pursuant to Article 19 of the Structure,  it’s curtailed by affordable restrictions imposed by legislation,” says Barrister Ummar Ziauddin, an Islamabad-based lawyer. “The restrictions should not solely be affordable, and that the reasonableness is knowledgeable by a socio-political tradition in addition to colonial historical past of any society, but additionally that such restrictions should be aimed to attain particular goals.” 

“For example, in Pakistan affordable restrictions may be imposed ‘within the curiosity of the glory of Islam or the integrity, safety or defence of Pakistan or any half thereof, pleasant relations with overseas States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court docket,  fee of  or incitement to an offence.’ With such a broad and discontinuous breath of restrictions, free speech or expression, right here is barely an phantasm. Small marvel then, a draconian penal legislation reminiscent of part 505 of the PPC continues to search out area in our authorized texts.” 

What does the modification change? “Earlier than the modification, the powers had been with the police regarding Part 505 of PPC which offers with making an attempt to trigger mutiny inside the military,” says Usama Khilji, director at digital rights discussion board Bolo Bhi. “The police must take the permission of the cupboard earlier than going forward and arresting somebody. Now that it has been added to the FIA schedule, which means the FIA doesn’t must take the permission of the cupboard as a result of FIA being a federal company can straight go and arrest anybody that they suppose is creating mutiny among the many armed forces via a sure tweet.” 

The implication, to sum it up in line with Khilji, is that by empowering federal investigation businesses, the system of checks and balances and accountability has been weakened and it has been made straightforward to select up folks which can be deemed anti-military. 

Trying to trigger mutiny is a critical offence that may result in imprisonment of as much as seven years with a nice. Nonetheless, the discretion to categorise what may be construed as mutiny is what’s an ongoing reason behind concern. 

Khilji argues that what we’re seeing on social media is essentially a criticism of the unconstitutional political function of the army, which the residents have the best to criticise, and never an try at inciting mutiny. 

The notorious episode of Shehbaz Gill’s arrest for his on-screen feedback in opposition to the military was construed as an try to incite troopers to trigger mutiny and acquired harsh rebuke even from Gill’s personal political occasion. Shehbaz Gill’s fairly ignorant feedback made it clear that incitement to mutiny was not acceptable even to the harshest of critics of state establishments. 

However an try to stifle honest criticism, a proper assured by the structure of Pakistan, must be discouraged for the higher functioning of state establishments.  In keeping with Ummar, part 505 is now getting used aggressively to stifle free speech within the digital area giving sweepingly broad powers to the company to arrest people – even for over one thing as innocuous as a tweet!. “This may have a chilling impression on residents’ liberties, just about leaving residents weak to state’s authoritarianism,” says Ummar. “It’s price reminding, we will face seven years in jail, for a tweet!”


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Future Fest 2023: ‘Tis the season for a comeback?



After a debacle final 12 months that irritated guests and the startup people alike, Future Fest largely pulled off this 12 months’s tech meetup easily in a bid to revive its repute, with the presence of Saudi startups being one of many principal highlights of the occasion. 

This 12 months’s occasion was inaugurated at Lahore’s Expo Middle on January 6 by President Arif Alvi, who welcomed the individuals and highlighted the funding alternatives that the budding native tech trade has to supply.  

The occasion, which ended on January 8, hosted lots of of audio system which included CEOs, authorities officers, and visiting delegates. Based on the administration of the occasion, that they had 250 audio system and 150 worldwide company from 15 international locations on the occasion.


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Reality test: Google just isn’t suspending Play Retailer in Pakistan however customers will not be capable to pay for apps utilizing cellular stability



Cell phone customers would nonetheless be capable to obtain apps from Google Play Retailer however wouldn’t be capable to pay for them utilizing their cellular stability after the State Financial institution of Pakistan (SBP) reportedly suspended $34 million in funds to worldwide service suppliers comparable to Google beneath the Direct Service Billing (DCB) service by telcos.

Native media shops have been pushing headlines that Google would droop all Play Retailer companies on December 1, 2022 due to the SBP measure, which isn’t solely true. Customers would be capable to obtain the apps however gained’t be capable to pay for them besides via debit and bank cards. 

The opposite different for such funds is Direct Service Billing (DCB), which entails cost utilizing the cellular stability. DCB exists due to lack of worldwide digital cost strategies to pay for varied apps.

“By linking direct provider billing with Google Play retailer, freelancers are additionally capable of pay for some instruments and apps for doing their assignments,” Aslam Hayat, Senior Info and Communication Expertise regulatory professional and former Chief Company Affairs and Technique Officer at Telenor, informed Revenue. 

Since these apps don’t have bodily presence in Pakistan, subsequently, funds via another means like vouchers or money aren’t doable. Customers can both pay utilizing a Mastercard or Visa credit score/debit playing cards or DCB. Since not all prospects of cell phones have credit score or debit playing cards, DCB is a helpful service for such prospects. 

Below direct provider billing, the cellular buyer pays for the app via their stability with a respective telco and the telco then remits the aggregated quantity after a sure interval of days as mutually agreed both on to the apps or via intermediaries.

It’s this aggregated cost from telcos to worldwide service suppliers like Google that the SBP has reportedly now disallowed to remit. 

“Any transfer as regards to the blocking of funds beneath DCB just isn’t solely going to influence the info utilization of the telcos in case of gaming and leisure apps but in addition could have a detrimental influence on the freelancers,” says Aslam.

In accordance with an official at one of many main telcos, an estimated $60 million yearly in funds go from the telco trade beneath DCB and different digital companies. 

Official sources, nonetheless, additionally say that the telcos authorisation for direct provider billing was by no means revoked they usually have been requested to re-categorize such funds. “Funds for broader IT companies comparable to for cloud companies are made beneath sure overseas change guidelines and are finished via a delegated financial institution,” a supply informed Revenue. 

The actions for which cost could possibly be made have been recognized within the overseas change guide. In accordance with the supply, telcos had began making funds for apps beneath DCB in addition to beneath funds for broader IT companies classes. It was then that the SBP wrote to banks to cease making funds for apps beneath DCB and redesignate them in applicable classes. 

“Funds for broader IT companies are made beneath totally different guidelines. Funds for leisure and gaming apps are made beneath totally different guidelines. The funds have been by no means revoked, they have been simply requested to be re-designated,” mentioned the supply. 

It’s pertinent to notice, nonetheless, that the SBP has used regulatory nuances to dam the outflow of {dollars} from the nation. When a ban was imposed on luxurious gadgets, LCs for the import of uncooked supplies for the cell phone manufacturing trade weren’t blocked however the SBP had began delaying approvals for opening of LCs. 

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How 24SEVEN Apni Dukan is utilizing tech to construct communities and rework your neighbourhood shops 



Allow us to start with a small truth. Your neighborhood nook store isn’t just a spot to purchase groceries however a cultural citadel of the mohalla they’re in. That chacha ji ki dukaan across the nook is the place the night meetups of the neighborhood elders reminisce in regards to the ghazals of Madam. It is usually the place the place the unintended meetups of aunties result in actual matchmaking within the neighborhood. And evidently that chacha ji ki dukan is the place that evokes childhood nostalgia.

What can be now a truth is that quite a bit has occurred over time that has modified the idea of neighborhoods. The sprawling housing societies, the commercialisation of real-estate and the concomitant rise of supermarkets has modified what we might keep in mind of neighborhood shops after we have been of a youthful age. Immediately, after we consider grocery purchasing, retailers like Al-Fatah and Carrefour would most certainly come to thoughts. It’s getting completely out of contact now and the neighborhood shops in Pakistan, simply because it occurred within the Western economies, might finally result in dropping their relevance not simply as small companies however as locations which can be part of the tradition and heritage of Pakistani society. 

A part of the rationale why neighbourhood shops could possibly be on the cusp of dropping their relevance is that giant retailers, akin to Metro, Carrefour, or Al-Fatah in Pakistan, have a seismic benefit over the standard neighbourhood kiryana retailer. Due to the sheer quantity of merchandise they purchase and promote at their markets, they’re able to negotiate significantly better margins than your common corner-store might ever dream of. 

But nothing beats the comfort of the kiryana retailer or the familiarity you will have with the dukandaar that runs this retailer. So what do you do? One reply could be to create a group of kiryana shops and dukandaars. Think about the chances if simply 100 kiryana shops banded collectively to position a single order from producers that they purchase from. They may in some method replicate the mannequin of enormous retailers, improve their volumes, and consequently cut price for higher margins. Add to that the irreplaceable comfort of kiryana shops and you’ve got your self a severe competitor. 

Essentially the most important obstacle to this, after all, is the dearth of a typical platform. It’s with this imaginative and prescient of reviving the neighborhood retailer tradition that 24SEVEN has determined to step up. Initially based in 2016, 24SEVEN is among the many startups that started off to ship groceries to shoppers at dwelling. But they realized that the potential of the kiryana retailer went far past this preliminary mannequin. Their modern reply to the issue was precisely this: to offer a typical platform to the numerous kiryana shops within the nation and switch them right into a residing, respiration, community of neighborhood retailers that 24SEVEN calls Apni Dukan shops – a reputation that additionally revives the nostalgia of nook retailers of olden days, and which can be indicative of the significance these shops have within the neighborhood.

Apni Dukan’s plans will not be solely massive, they’re additionally very substantial and the thought on the heart is to revive the kiryana shops and the cultural influence that they had of their glory days on neighborhoods. The startup has up to now bagged $6.2 million in funding in line with Crunchbase knowledge, out of which $6 million pre-Collection A elevate was introduced this 12 months in July. Its roster of traders embrace SOSV with participation from Betatron Enterprise Group, Newlin VC, Verity Capital, Argo’s Quest, and several other notable Pakistani and worldwide household workplaces. 

The grocery retail transformation has been brewing in Pakistan for the previous few years. On this time, it has seen dizzying highs and abysmal lows. However with an enormous $241 million pumped into this house within the final two years, individuals have been ready for an concept that modifications the panorama of the retail trade. 24SEVEN Apni Dukan is the concept goes to create a optimistic influence inside communities by reworking the nook shops.

A query of group 

What usually will get misplaced in hardcore enterprise speak is the affect modern concepts can haven’t simply on sectors and industries however on individuals and their on a regular basis lives. Neighborhood commerce isn’t a brand new concept, however its utility in Pakistan is painfully apparent but has remained woefully ignored. 

Contemplate China for a second. There, tech startup Pinduodo follows a mannequin beneath which a bunch of say 100 clients collectively orders objects from producers, with gross sales quantity sufficiently big to get a reduction on the acquisition. Neighborhood commerce is an association during which an agent collectively orders for a lot of consumers which collectively get sufficiently big to have the ability to get reductions and earn higher margins. 

The idea of group commerce could be very prevalent within the startup house with, one of many greatest eCommerce platforms in China additionally working a group commerce arm. Throughout the border in India, group commerce startup Deal Share raised a complete of $393 million and achieved a valuation of $1.7 billion in February this 12 months. 

This idea was what impressed Jarrar Shah, the CEO of 24SEVEN, to start out observing and calculating the chances of what could possibly be accomplished if an identical mannequin was tailor-made to Pakistan.  

“Our earlier mannequin of delivering groceries to shoppers bought an impetus in the course of the Covid-19 pandemic however quickly after, shops began opening and we realized that in the long term, this mannequin could be unsustainable,” says Shah. “We began finding out different fashions and we studied Pinduodo in China which is an agent-led mannequin that gives a much bigger room for everybody and a much bigger low cost for everybody.”

Neighborhood commerce for a lot of shops is what Apni Dukan is on the highway to reaching. As soon as that occurs, these grocery shops, presently dealing with an existential menace due to the massive hypermarkets, would have one other lease at life. 

“It’s about making a relationship with neighbourhood kiryana shops which can be trusted by the communities they serve, after which take them deep into that relationship whereby if the shop desires to order stock, it does the vast majority of it by 24SEVEN’s group commerce platform,” says Shah.  

“When you go to a kiryana retailer, you need to go along with some worth proposition. Our price proposition is that we now have quite a lot of rigorously curated SKUs. To accumulate these SKUs, you need to go to 60-70 completely different distributors whereas being on the lowest core to barter reductions.”  

Kiryana shops that work with Apni Dukan place orders for merchandise with Apni Dukan, which then procures them from completely different distributors and delivers them to those retailers. As a result of Apni Dukan is collectively ordering for 1000’s of outlets (3,000 is the variety of retailers they work with), it is ready to get a greater fee from distributors that it is ready to then move on to those retailers. As an example, if a store is ready to get a 1.5 litre bottle of Coca Cola at Rs115, Apni Dukan may be capable of get it for Rs110 and ship to Apni Dukan retail companions at Rs113. 

Apni Dukan has therefore turn into that platform from which retailers can order stock that Apni Dukan will then ship for them after procuring it at a reduced fee. In contrast to the opposite B2B fashions which can be accessible out there proper now akin to Bazaar, Dastgyr, and Retailo, Apni Dukan is a B2B2C startup and has extra depth within the B2B leg of the enterprise. Shops order bulk of the stock from Apni Dukan as a substitute of small orders positioned intermittently with different B2B startups. 

This additionally comes with advantages for distributors. If in a neighbourhood there are 20 retailers out of which 5 are Apni Dukan retailers, the distributor is taking orders for these retailers by Apni Dukan however isn’t delivering these orders individually to them. The deliveries are taken care of by Apni Dukan. At a much bigger scale, the place there are millions of Apni Dukan shops, these financial savings will be actually significant for the distributors that, within the present state of affairs, are additionally battling price pressures and lowering income. It is a probably very sustainable mannequin as in comparison with what different B2B startups are pursuing, for the reason that reductions are natural as a substitute of being paid for by enterprise capital cash. 

Apni Dukan is probably the primary startup that has realised the vitality and significance of the standard kiryana retailer and its place in our society and neighbourhoods. The facility that these small retailers have is simple now as central. As a substitute of making an attempt to struggle in opposition to it, Apni Dukan goals to make use of tech to galvanise these shops. 

Their focus is at the beginning on constructing communities and empowering them by a typical tech-based platform. It’s, in a means, the primary actual try to include the spirit of the kiryana retailer, the allure of the native dukandaar, and the benefit of neighbourhood residing into the tech-powered retail house. 

That’s the reason, maybe, as they tackle board extra kiryana shops on daily basis, they carry them beneath the banner of ‘Apni Dukan’ shops. What’s Apni Dukan? It’s the enterprise vertical beneath which 24SEVEN manufacturers the retailers it really works with as Apni Dukan shops and brings them within the fold of its group commerce platform. Behind it’s the philosophy of reviving the cultural legacy of the neighbourhood nook retailer, and on the centre of all this association is the digitisation of those shops to convey them into the fold of the group Apni Dukan is making an attempt to construct. A better take a look at the idea of Apni Dukan will inform you that it will likely be a game-changer. 

Creating the Apni Dukan 

In early 2021, 24SEVEN launched Apni Dukan. The brand new platform was each a part of the brand new life that they had breathed into the startup and an formidable business-to-business-to-consumer (B2B2C) mannequin beneath which they envisioned digitisation and rebranding. The best way Apni Dukan envisioned it was that they go to completely different small-scale retailers, inform them about their providers, convey them on-board the digital practice after which make them part of their community. 

How do you digitise these quaint retailers? It begins with equipping them with innovative tools by which these retailers can place orders with Apni Dukan and higher handle their stock and gross sales. 

i) Enabling PoS 

The foremost step in direction of creating an Apni Dukan is to allow these retailers to have the ability to handle their retailer digitally. The likes of AlFatah, CarreFour and different have a seismic benefit on the one hand due to their volumes and on the opposite due to their skill to handle work digitally.

If a small kiryana retailer’s digital capabilities are enhanced and he strikes away from guide paper-based system for recording gross sales and managing stock, the general operations of the shop could be environment friendly and the store proprietor can earn higher earnings. That’s what Apni Dukan begins with: equipping the the small nook retailer with a point-of-sale machine to digitise their guide capabilities.

The kiryana retailers have up to now remained elusive to such digitisation as a result of if retailer house owners have been to do it on their very own, such PoS machines would require a hefty upfront funding of tens of 1000’s to a whole bunch of 1000’s of rupees, which Apni Dukan equips these shops with for a really minimal subscription payment. These machines, seen by Revenue, are sturdy, straightforward to make use of and have the choices listed in English in addition to Urdu languages since your common kiryana retailer proprietor is presumably not literate sufficient to have the ability to use such machines in the event that they have been all in English.  

On these machines, the Apni Dukan retail companions can document gross sales electronically, keep a ledger for gross sales on credit score, handle in-store stock and for ordering stock from Apni Dukan as a part of the Apni Dukan group. 

For these unfamiliar with how the retail trade works, this can be a seismic shift in perspective however a essential one. Not solely does this association assist kiryana shops enhance their money flows, it helps them procure stock at discounted charges, all of which assist them enhance as a enterprise to remain related as an integral a part of the neighbourhood. 

ii) Apni Dukan rebranding

As soon as the preliminary stage of digitisation is completed, these retailers may also be given a makeover to mirror that the store is a part of the Apni Dukan group. The transformation of the neighbourhood retailer from clunky trying to a visually interesting store helps improve the footfall at these shops, Shah says. On this, Apni Dukan is giving small retailers a best-of-both-worlds state of affairs during which they will retain the allure and comfort of the kiryana retailer whereas additionally arming it with the higher margins and clean-cut look of enormous retail chains. 

Basically, by this methodology, Apni Dukan is creating retail companions which can be going to be part of an ecosystem.  “The title Apni Dukan displays on the store as belonging to a group and a part of the 24SEVEN ecosystem,” Shah says. “It’s about Apni Dukan making a relationship with neighbourhood kiryana shops after which enabling the retailers to create and retain a relationship with clients that belief them due to the neighbourhoods they serve,” says Shah. 

iii) Funds and lending

The digitisation at these retailers brings lots of knowledge on their gross sales that can be utilized to credit score rating them and supply them with working capital financing by partnerships with banks, finally enabling them to develop additional. Many fintech gamers in Pakistan’s startup scene are looking for the best mechanisms to have the ability to precisely credit score rating small companies to increase loans to them. 

Within the Apni Dukan scheme of digitisation, the info is extra granular giving a greater image of the income of shops, which Apni Dukan desires to make use of to have the ability to lend to neighbourhood shops.

“We’ve got an alliance with Habib Financial institution, we now have an alliance with Telenor, we will have an alliance with everybody. That’s solely attainable as a result of we now have created a group commerce platform utilizing the group’s trusted nook retailer to make use of as a distribution level,” says Shah. “We’re the truth is going to get our personal NBFC (non-banking finance firm) license as nicely.” 

On this mission, Apni Dukan is poised to succeed. It’s establishing that infrastructure at retailers by which a spur in digital funds will be achieved. The PoS machine at retailers already has the performance of accepting funds from clients by QR codes and Apni Dukan is poised to construct additional use circumstances for digital funds at retailers. Apni Dukan would take a reduce from the lending in addition to the funds part of the enterprise mannequin. 

Finishing the B2B2C arc

Apni Dukan is formidable. With a really well-timed pivot that has already garnered a optimistic response, one wonders what the larger image is within the minds of the crew working this startup. They do have legacy prices of the unique infrastructure they set-up for grocery supply pre-covid, which got here with important capital expenditure akin to establishing warehouses or darkish shops for storage and fulfilment of deliveries to clients. 

What they’ve of their present mannequin is to synergise their efforts. Since Apni Dukan is changing these retailers into Apni Dukan retail companions, branding them as such and making them retail companions, they can be utilized to behave as darkish shops for B2C operations. This serves an essential function within the Apni Dukan imaginative and prescient of digital retail transformation; that of bringing again clients to the neighbourhood shops within the presence of massive retailers. For this reason Apni Dukan doesn’t intention to limit itself as a B2B solely startup and it sits nicely with their imaginative and prescient of reviving neighbourhood retailer tradition.

Via an app, individuals within the neighbourhood can pre-order groceries from their closest Apni Dukan after which decide them up. Why would a buyer need to pre-order from an app after which go accumulate it if he/she will be able to merely go and purchase groceries? The service for patrons relies on a subscription-based mannequin beneath which in the event that they get the subscription, they are going to be capable of get most well-liked charges on sure merchandise and sure different advantages. The service is rather like Amazon Prime, or the lately launched Panda Professional in Pakistan which permits sure advantages for paying a small month-to-month payment. 

“We’re beginning this pilot in two weeks. The concept is that in opposition to your membership subscription, you’re getting most well-liked charges on vegetable meals, most well-liked charges on staples, after which you’re having access to credit score scoring and buy-now-pay-later providers. Our shopkeeper goes to get an extra new buyer; that is one other layer on high of his buyer base,” says Shah. 

Maybe probably the most important ingredient in all of that is the truth that greater than anything, 24SEVEN’s conception of Apni Dukan has understood the true essence of the kiryana retailer and the significance it holds. Utilizing this benefit and the brand new idea they’ve introduced into the retail market, the one factor you may depend on is that it will shake issues up within the trade, and be a boon for all of the neighbourhoods that discover themselves with an Apni Dukan. 

This text has been produced in partnership with 24SEVEN Apni Dukan

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