Jehan Ara, a woman who is not just a successful entrepreneur but also a mentor in a country like Pakistan. Born in Karachi and raised in Hong Kong, Ara is now the president of PASHA. She also runs The Nest IO which is a tech incubator. The Nest IO has global partners such as Google for entrepreneurs, Samsung and a supporting grant from the U.S State Department.
We were just getting used to the internet when she moved back here in the 90s. She met with big companies and tried to convince them to get an online presence. She got traction with time but at first all her ideas were shot down. Later, she decided to join PASHA (Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT & ITES). At PASHA, she started to actively advocate for technical developments in Pakistan. Moreover, Jehan Ara’s dedication to PASHA made her quit her own company. She strongly believes that an association like PASHA has the means to bring Pakistani youth fruitful economical opportunities.
According to her, “With 64 per cent of the total population of Pakistan below the age of 30, it is imperative to provide youth with quality education, gainful employment, and meaningful engagement that can harness their potential and help them compete on the global stage.” She is aware of the unemployment issues in Pakistan and wants the youth to create jobs. Furthermore, she says that it is imperative that the youth start to work for themselves and make opportunities for their career. Ara believes in the strength of entrepreneurship and wants to help as many people as possible.
She has been a part of the tech industry for a long time now. Her experience gives her a deep insight of issues faced by startups in Pakistan. Additionally, Ara says there is no ‘support system’ to help and guide the innovators. She had to go through a lot trouble to get her ideas heard hence she does not want the next generation to face the same issues. In Addition to helping start ups, she has worked on creating an ecosystem that promotes innovation and entrepreneurship.
Jehan Ara launched The Nest IO, a Paksitani tech incubator after she became president in 2001 of PASHA. She was rewarded this honorary position at the time due to her unbiased behavior and interpersonal skills. She turned it all around and made this association a training organization.
The Nest IO offers budding entrepreneurs the space to grow and connect with like-minded individuals. It is a place where Jehan Ara promotes creativity and mentors people in any way possible. The Nest offers internal and external incubation with no equity. Furthermore, they provide market outreach, business & technology curriculum, access to investors and thirty of the Google for Entrepreneurs Hubs worldwide. It already has ten batches of portfolio companies including names like Sheops, Find My Adventure, Tutor Bay, Wonder Tree and Mandi Express.
There is no one single routine that she follows. She is a writer, mentor, speaker and has an advisory position in the boards universities like IBA and Habib. The Nest IO is a place of happiness for her, even the lock down could not stop her from visiting it. In a conversation she said, she drives alone to her empty office twice a week and just comes here to think in her beautiful and colorful office.
Around the office, Jehan Ara is known as the ‘Big Bird.’ She always gives credit to her parents for her humble personality and determination to work hard. Ara does not care for the titles, she comes and sits around with her team and strikes conversations with everyone. Her daily days include a lot of mentoring, listening and advising young people. She arranges a lot of events for the entrepreneurs to connect with people in the industry and keep their motivation afloat.
For Jehan Ara, her passion only grows. She has traveled around the globe representing PASHA and The Nest. Everyday, she strives to make it possible for the youth to openly discuss and critique ideas. She says, we are stuck in our industrial mindsets and refuse to look beyond it. She advises a complete review of all policies in Pakistan dealing with IT. Ara wants the change to come directly from the PM’s office with advice from the stakeholders from business, technology and civil society.
She is not just a woman who does it all; but she is also someone who has always been advocating for women’s rights. She wants to establish a network of professional women where they can connect and mentor each other. Jehan Ara wants to connect the working women with distant employers around the world. She is looking to create more opportunities for women especially in IT.