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The start-up scene in Pakistan is growing at a rapid pace. However, when it comes to Fintech start-ups, there is still a lot of catching up to do. This was evident from BR Research’s recent visit to the Singapore Fintech Festival 2017, where more than 25000 participants attended from around the globe, but presence from Pakistan was almost non-existent.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) awarded the top ten companies a combined $1 million roughly while the investment from venture capitalists and tech funds was separate.

While this column has already highlighted the need for the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to take the lead in developing the Fintech ecosystem in Pakistan, it is also important for existing players in the financial industry, academia, and aspiring entrepreneurs to attend these kind of events.

Not only does it help keep abreast of the lightning fast changes taking place in the nexus between finance and technology; it also helps make those connections with the key players from across the world be it top-tier banking institutions, innovative start-up firms, venture capital funds and most importantly the respective experts in emerging fields such as digital advisory, investment analytics, blockchain-based biometrics, and e-payments.

For paucity of space it will not be possible to provide an overview of all interesting companies and start-ups at the event. But some of them definitely deserve a mention. Let’s start with Blocko which has come up with a blockchain-based biometric log-in and payment authorization system for one of Korea’s largest credit card companies, Lotte Card.

According to Harvard Business Review’s definition, a blockchain is “an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way.” It is taking the world by storm and disrupting fields ranging from finance to warehousing. Banks and financial institutions in Pakistan would do well to adopt the technology in a prompt manner to minimize costs as well as processing times.

Another innovate solution was CocoHub developed by a university student team called PolyGen, which enables payments through mobile phones with or without internet connection.

The prototype leverages on PayNow, therefore the merchant does not need to incur any credit card surcharge for this cashless solution.

There were plenty of Indian Fintech start-ups as well with some of them even coming up as winners in the Global Fintech Hacklerator which pitches for solutions to real world financial industry problems and invites global start-ups and firms to participate. FinnovAI which was a team from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) has developed and tested theories to predict market behaviour using machine and deep learning models and techniques.

The list could go on and on. However, the main take-away from the event for this column was the collaboration and exchange of ideas from the global community of financial institutions, academia, start-ups and government agencies. Pakistan was missing from the discourse and one hopes that there is at least some participation in Singapore Fintech Festival 2018.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2017