Fantasy football fans: Do you know where your favorite apps are made?
Last season’s popular Facebook fantasy football app was developed in Karachi, Pakistan, a city known more for its chronic ethnic and sectarian bloodshed than football.
Gridiron sports fans are famous for their love of statistics and trivia surrounding their sport. One bit of trivia they might not know, however, is that last season’s popular Facebook fantasy football app was developed in Karachi, Pakistan – a city known more for its chronic ethnic and sectarian bloodshed than football scraps.Skip to next paragraph
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The app, called Game Day Pick ‘Em, allows NFL devotees to pick teams and compare their results with friends and leading TV analysts. Game Day Pick ‘Em – a major hit in the US and quiet profitable for the startup that created it – is just one example among many of a small but increasingly vibrant software industry here.
Long in the shadow of their more illustrious counterparts in India and East Asia, Pakistan’s software industry is today making strides thanks in part to the rise of mobile and social media led gaming. And it’s a boon for the country’s fragile economy.
Pakistan’s IT industry’s global share is currently estimated at $2.8 billion, according to the Pakistan Software Export Board, and that includes a global sales revenue of $1.6 billion. Over 30 small studios, concentrated in Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi, are now mainly devoted to developing games for Facebook or smart phones.
“With the surge of web-based and Facebook apps, the industry here really took off in 2008-2009 … catering for the Western market,” says Ahmed Hashim, founder and CEO of Cynis media, which created the Game Day Pick ‘Em app. Cynis, which was founded in July 2010, now has 22 employees and counts websites like AskMen and Pizza Hut among its numerous foreign clients.
That’s a good thing for Pakistan says Murad Akhter, CEO of Lahore based-startup Tintash. He points out that because smart phones and tablets are relatively new platforms worldwide, “you’re not going to have a lot of people with a lot of experience working on mobile games or apps anywhere. So it levels the playing field and that allows us to compete."
A typical successful CEO
The profile of a typical successful CEO in Pakistan today is someone who has either studied at or spent time working in the US and therefore has a network of contacts within Silicon Valley, says video game developer and business journalist Jazib Zahir.
Mohsin Ali Afzal, the soft-spoken founder of We R Play in Islamabad, is one example. Mr. Afzal graduated with an MBA from Berkeley in 2008 and interned at LucasArts before returning home to start his company in August 2010.