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A Pakistani man arranges metal pots at his shop in Lahore on July 20, 2011. (ARIF ALI)
A Pakistani man arranges metal pots at his shop in Lahore on July 20, 2011. (ARIF ALI)

Small Business Briefing

Why now is the time to invest in Pakistan Add to ...

The latest news and information for entrepreneurs from across the web universe, brought to you by the Report on Small Business team. Follow us on Twitter @GlobeSmallBiz

A cost-benefit analysis

Pakistan has a population of 187 million, but only 17 per cent have Internet access and the country suffers from low literacy rates, corruption, frequent blackouts and a weak judicial system.

Despite these obstacles, serial entrepreneur Monis Rahman tells Forbes why it's the right time to invest. "You tend to hear the worst 5 per cent of the Pakistan story 95 per cent of the time," says the 41-year-old owner of Rozee.pk, the country's biggest jobs website . "There's a perception arbitrage, and it's providing a window of opportunity for entrepreneurs."

He's a true success story: 5,000 companies actively post openings on his site and they pay $29 (U.S.) for a single ad and up to $20,000 for a suite of services. That's the upside. There's no doubt there's money to be made. But for every three salespeople he hires and trains, only one stays on for more than a few months, the story points out. And only 10 per cent of his customers pay online using credit cards, while 60 per cent pay with cheques and 20 per cent pay with cash, mailing payments to one of the company's four outposts. Rozee.pk also deploys rickshaws to pick up cheques and cash from around Lahore.

And Mr. Rahman admits to writer Helen Coster, "If I want to get bigger from a market-size perspective, I need to move beyond Pakistan."

So yes, there's lots of opportunity, but it's not an easy road to travel.

To assist in the process, the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ICCI) announced it has established an Entrepreneurship Development Center that would provide services to existing and prospective business owners and help them build their skills, definitely a step in the right direction. And Citi Pakistan recently partnered with a microfinance institution to provide the country's female entrepreneurs with a source of livelihood by enabling them to set up their own small-scale businesses.

LinkedIn streamlines application process

Professional networking site LinkedIn is now offering a plugin for job seekers so they can easily submit their profiles to potential employers. When applicants click the Apply with LinkedIn button, they can edit their profile before submitting or they can automatically send the their public LinkedIn profile data to companies. Thousands of businesses have already made the option available, including Netflix, LivingSocial, Photobucket, and Formative Labs. Companies will have the option to customize the plugin and they will be able to add up to three questions for the applicant to complete, such as a candidate's willingness to relocate, option to add a cover letter, or customized questions.

A post too soon?

On Sunday morning, Huffington Post's business section ran a story titled, Amy Winehouse's Untimely Death Is a Wake Up Call for Small Business Owners, Ragan's PR Daily reports. A section of the piece reads as follows: "But whether you are a pop star, a plumber or a business consultant, the same rules still apply: you are the product. And if that's the case, you are going to need to take really good care for yourself if you want your business to succeed." After a critical backlash, entrepreneur and marketer Tricia Fox aplogized, saying "offence was never my intent."


Learn how to sell to the federal government

Public Works and Government Services Canada's Office of Small and Medium Enterprises is hosting a three-hour seminar in Vancouver designed to help participants understand the fundamentals of selling goods and services to the Government of Canada. Learn how to navigate and find opportunities on MERX, the electronic tendering services website, and get advice and guidance on how to analyze the request for proposal process and requirements, how to respond to an RFP, and how bids are evaluated. Register first, seminar runs from 9 a.m. to noon, on Aug. 16.


A bridge to connect immigrants and business owners

Many small-business owners are in desperate need of skilled workers, but they are either unaware of or they don't consider the qualified pool of new immigrants that have already arrived in Canada. Many newcomers want to work at large companies they've heard of back home but either do not know of or don't think about approaching smaller companies that could use their skills. The Maytree Foundation has set up a new project under its Assisting Local Leaders with Immigrant Employment Strategies that is trying to come up with strategies to connect the two.


A change in aspiration

Immigration Canada calculates that nearly 40,000 immigrants are coming directly from India and additional immigrants of Indian origin are arriving from a number of other countries with similar skill sets. Ten years ago they frequently took jobs at local factories as engineers or as site managers. Now, when Indian immigrants move to Canada, they aspire to be business owners.

Got a tip on news, events or other timely information related to the small-business community? E-mail us at yourbusiness@globeandmail.com

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