Pakistani startup shortlisted for MIT’s global innovation challenge

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A startup from Lahore – Polly & Other Stories – has made it as a regional finalist for the MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge.

Every year, MIT awards $1.6 million to organisations across the world revolutionising the future of work. A prize is given to entrepreneurs using technology to create economic opportunity for workers.

So what does ‘inclusive innovation’ mean?

MIT describes it as the use of technology to generate increased economic opportunity for moderate and low income earners.

As part of the challenge, a collaboration is done with organisations in five regions – Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and US and Canada – to select and celebrate sixty Regional Finalists from across the globe. Of them, twenty regional winners proceed to MIT where four Global Grand Prize Winners each win $250,000 and world-wide recognition.

This year’s award categories are Skills Development and Opportunity Matching, Income Growth and Job Creation, Technology Access and Financial Inclusion.

Polly & Other Stories is Pakistan’s first online marketplace for unique, handmade products sourced directly from homebound, rural women artisans in far flung areas across the country.

It supports the development of products that can be sold to a wider market, increasing economic prosperity for artisans.

In 2016, Pakistan’s doctHERs, a digital health platform that connects female doctors to underserved patients in real-time while leveraging online technology, was a regional winner from Asia for the MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge (judges choice).

Speaking to SAMAA Digital, Polly & Other Stories Co-founder Amneh Shaikh-Farooqui expressed her excitement on being shortlisted for the MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge.

She stressed on the importance of image building and how it was necessary for Pakistani organisations to get global representation for their work. “A lot of Asian organisations [getting recognition] tend to be from East Asia. When it comes to South Asia, countries like India and Iran, are more recognised,” she said.

She said the situation has improved for Pakistan over the last five years with several new startups.

The social entrepreneur shared that her team would be giving a pitch in Taiwan on October 5, along with the other shortlisted organisations, after which the winners would be announced and taken to New York.

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