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Startups bringing Pakistan’s farming into digital age

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Agriculture entrepreneurs are bringing the digital age to Pakistan’s farmers, helping them plan crops better and distribute their produce when the time is right.

Until recently, “the most modern machine we had was the tractor”, Aamer Hayat Bhandara, a farmer and local councillor behind one such project told AFP in “Chak 26”, a village in the agricultural heartland of Punjab province.

Even making mobile phone calls can be difficult in many parts of Pakistan, but since October, farmers in Chak 26 and pilot projects elsewhere have been given free access to the internet — and it is revolutionising the way they work.

Agriculture is the mainstay of Pakistan’s economy, accounting for nearly 20 per cent of gross domestic product and around 40pc of the workforce.

Pakistan is estimated to be the world’s fifth-largest producer of sugarcane, seventh-largest of wheat and tenth-biggest rice grower — but it mostly relies on human labour and lags other big farming nations on mechanisation.

In this picture taken on January 7, 2022, villagers stand next to the Digital Dera office in Chak Twenty-six SP. — AFP
In this picture taken on January 7, 2022, villagers stand next to the Digital Dera office in Chak Twenty-six SP.

Cows and donkeys rest near a muddy road leading to a pavilion in Chak 26, which is connected to a network via a small satellite dish.

This is the “Digital Dera” — or meeting place — and six local farmers have come to see the computers and tablets that provide accurate weather forecasts, as well as the latest market prices and farming tips.

“I’ve never seen a tablet before,” said Munir Ahmed, 45, who grows maize, potatoes and wheat.

“Before, we relied on the experience of our ancestors or our own, but it wasn’t very accurate,” added Amjad Nasir, another farmer, who hopes the project “will bring more prosperity”.

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Apps and apples

Communal internet access is not Bhandara’s only innovation.

A short drive away, on the wall of a shed, a modern electronic switch system is linked to an old water pump.

A tablet is now all he needs to control the irrigation on part of the 100 hectares (250 acres) he cultivates — although it is still subject to the vagaries of Pakistan’s intermittent power supply.

This year, Bhandara hopes, others will install the technology he says will reduce water consumption and labour.

“Digitising agriculture… and the rural population is the only way to prosper,” he told AFP.

In this picture taken on January 7, 2022, Aamer Hayat Bhandara , co-founder of Digital Dera, gives interviews to AFP while showing how to close a water pump through his digital app in Chak Twenty-six SP.
In this picture taken on January 7, 2022, Aamer Hayat Bhandara , co-founder of Digital Dera, gives interviews while showing how to close a water pump through his digital app in Chak Twenty-six SP.

At the other end of the supply chain, around 150 kilometres (90 miles) away in Lahore, dozens of men load fruit and vegetables onto delivery bikes at a warehouse belonging to the start-up Tazah, which acts as an intermediary between farmers and traders.

After just four months in operation, the company delivers about 100 tonnes of produce every day to merchants in Lahore and Karachi who place orders via a mobile app.

“Before the merchant had to get up at 5 am or 5:30 am to buy the products in bulk, at the day’s price, and then hassle with transporting them,” said Inam Ulhaq, regional manager.

“Tazah brings some order to the madness.” In the Tazah office, several employees manage the orders, but for the time being, purchases are still made by phone, as the part of the application intended for farmers is still in development.

The young company is also tackling a “centuries-old” system that stakeholders are reluctant to change, explains co-founder Abrar Bajwa.

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Record investment

Fruit and vegetables often rot during their journey along poorly organised supply chains, says partner Mohsin Zaka, but apps like Tazah make the whole system more efficient.

In this picture taken on January 8, 2022, workers of Taza Transforming Agriculture load vegetable bags on rickshaws at a distributing point in Lahore.  — AFP
In this picture taken on January 8, 2022, workers of Taza Transforming Agriculture load vegetable bags on rickshaws at a distributing point in Lahore. — AFP

In addition to Lahore, Tazah is already operating in the largest city, Karachi, and is preparing to move into the capital, Islamabad.

A $20 million fundraising campaign is underway, the co-founder told AFP, at a time when investments are pouring into Pakistani start-ups.

Foreign investment in Pakistan startups exceeded $310 million last year — five times the 2020 level and more than the previous six years combined, according to several reports.

Further down the chain, Airlift — which provides grocery deliveries — raised $85 million in a record-breaking prospectus for the country in August.

“A lot of the markets that venture investors are looking for, like India or Indonesia, are saturated,” said Bajwa, a former director at Careem, the local ride-hailing app acquired by Uber in 2020.

Now Pakistan, the world’s fifth-most populous country, is attracting attention and agriculture is a sector that is “completely untapped from a technological point of view”, he said.

It is “certainly the one where we can have the biggest impact” here, he noted.

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The Top 10 Freelance Blogs You Need to Follow in 2024

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Introduction
Freelancing has become a popular career choice for many people around the world. With the rise of the gig economy, more and more people are turning to freelance work as a way to earn a living. However, freelancing can be a challenging and sometimes lonely experience. That’s why it’s important to stay connected with other freelancers and learn from their experiences. In this article, we’ll be sharing the top 10 freelance blogs you need to follow in 2024.

Freelancers Union Blog
The Freelancers Union Blog is a great resource for freelancers of all levels. It covers a wide range of topics, including how to find work, how to manage your finances, and how to stay motivated. The blog also features interviews with successful freelancers, which can be a great source of inspiration.

The Creative Penn
The Creative Penn is a blog for writers and creatives. It covers topics such as writing, publishing, and marketing your work. The blog is run by Joanna Penn, a successful author and entrepreneur who has been freelancing for over a decade.

Freelance Writing Jobs
Freelance Writing Jobs is a job board and blog for freelance writers. The blog features articles on how to find work, how to improve your writing skills, and how to negotiate rates. The job board is updated daily with new freelance writing opportunities.

The Freelance Hustle
The Freelance Hustle is a blog run by Matt Olpinski, a successful freelance designer. The blog covers topics such as how to find clients, how to price your services, and how to manage your time. Matt also offers a free email course on how to start freelancing.

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Freelance to Win
Freelance to Win is a blog run by Danny Margulies, a successful freelance copywriter. The blog covers topics such as how to find high-paying clients, how to write effective proposals, and how to negotiate rates. Danny also offers a paid course on how to become a successful freelancer.

The Freelance Mom
The Freelance Mom is a blog for moms who are freelancing or thinking about freelancing. The blog covers topics such as how to balance work and family, how to find clients, and how to manage your time. The blog also features interviews with successful freelance moms.

The Freelance Podcast
The Freelance Podcast is a podcast for freelancers. Each episode features interviews with successful freelancers, who share their tips and advice on how to succeed as a freelancer. The podcast covers a wide range of topics, including how to find clients, how to manage your finances, and how to stay motivated.

The Freelancer’s Year
The Freelancer’s Year is a blog run by Emma Cossey, a successful freelance consultant. The blog covers topics such as how to find clients, how to manage your time, and how to stay motivated. Emma also offers a paid course on how to become a successful freelancer.

The Freelance Collective
The Freelance Collective is a blog and community for freelancers. The blog features articles on how to find work, how to manage your finances, and how to stay motivated. The community allows freelancers to connect and share their experiences.

Freelance Folder
Freelance Folder is a blog for freelancers of all levels. The blog covers topics such as how to find work, how to manage your finances, and how to stay motivated. The blog also features a job board and a community forum.

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Conclusion
Freelancing can be a challenging and sometimes lonely experience, but it doesn’t have to be. By following these top 10 freelance blogs, you can stay connected with other freelancers and learn from their experiences. Whether you’re a writer, designer, or consultant, there’s a blog on this list that can help you succeed as a freelancer. So, what are you waiting for? Start following these blogs today and take your freelance career to the next level!

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The Top 5 Freelance Marketplaces for Freelancers in 2024: A Comprehensive Guide

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Introduction:
The freelance industry has been growing rapidly in recent years, and it shows no signs of slowing down. With the rise of remote work and the gig economy, more and more people are turning to freelance work as a way to earn a living. However, finding work as a freelancer can be challenging, especially for those who are just starting out. That’s where freelance marketplaces come in. These platforms connect freelancers with clients who are looking for their services. In this article, we’ll take a look at the top 5 freelance marketplaces for freelancers in 2024.

  1. Upwork
    Upwork is one of the most popular freelance marketplaces in the world and for good reason. With over 18 million registered freelancers and 5 million registered clients, Upwork offers a wide range of job opportunities for freelancers. The platform allows freelancers to create a profile, showcase their skills, and bid on jobs that match their expertise. Upwork also offers a range of tools and resources to help freelancers succeed, including a time tracker, invoicing system, and dispute resolution process.
  2. Freelancer
    Freelancer is another popular freelance marketplace that has been around for over a decade. The platform has over 50 million registered users and offers a wide range of job opportunities for freelancers. Freelancer allows freelancers to create a profile, bid on jobs, and showcase their skills. The platform also offers a range of tools and resources to help freelancers succeed, including a project management tool, time tracker, and dispute resolution process.
  3. Fiverr
    Fiverr is a freelance marketplace that is known for its low-cost services. The platform allows freelancers to create a profile and offer their services for as little as $5. Fiverr offers a wide range of job opportunities for freelancers, including graphic design, writing, and programming. The platform also offers a range of tools and resources to help freelancers succeed, including a messaging system, order management tool, and dispute resolution process.
  4. Guru
    Guru is a freelance marketplace that has been around since 1998. The platform has over 3 million registered freelancers and offers a wide range of job opportunities for freelancers. Guru allows freelancers to create a profile, bid on jobs, and showcase their skills. The platform also offers a range of tools and resources to help freelancers succeed, including a project management tool, time tracker, and dispute resolution process.
  5. PeoplePerHour
    PeoplePerHour is a freelance marketplace that is based in the UK. The platform allows freelancers to create a profile, bid on jobs, and showcase their skills. PeoplePerHour offers a wide range of job opportunities for freelancers, including web development, graphic design, and writing. The platform also offers a range of tools and resources to help freelancers succeed, including a messaging system, order management tool, and dispute resolution process.
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Conclusion:
In conclusion, freelance marketplaces are a great way for freelancers to find work and build their careers. The top 5 freelance marketplaces for freelancers in 2024 are Upwork, Freelancer, Fiverr, Guru, and PeoplePerHour. Each of these platforms offers a wide range of job opportunities for freelancers, as well as a range of tools and resources to help them succeed. Whether you’re just starting as a freelancer or you’re an experienced professional, these platforms are worth checking out.

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Mastering the Art of Freelance Proposals: How to Craft a Standout Pitch and Win Clients

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In the competitive world of freelancing, a well-crafted proposal can be the key to securing lucrative projects and standing out from the crowd. Whether you’re a seasoned freelancer or just starting, understanding the elements of a winning proposal is essential for success. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the strategies and techniques that can help you create the best freelance proposal to outshine your competitors and land your dream projects.

Introduction

  • Discuss the importance of a strong freelance proposal in winning clients and setting the stage for the rest of the article.

Understanding the Client’s Needs

  • Emphasize the significance of thoroughly understanding the client’s requirements and how they influence the proposal.
  • Provide tips on conducting thorough research about the client and their industry to tailor the proposal accordingly.

Crafting a Compelling Cover Letter

  • Discuss the elements of an attention-grabbing cover letter, including personalization, addressing the client’s pain points, and showcasing your understanding of their business.

Showcasing Your Expertise

  • Highlight the importance of presenting your skills and experience in a way that resonates with the client’s needs.
  • Provide examples of how to effectively showcase past work and achievements to build credibility.

Pricing Strategies

  • Discuss different pricing models and how to choose the right one for each project.
  • Guide justifying your rates and demonstrating value to the client.

Detailed Project Plan

  • Emphasize the need for a detailed project plan that outlines deliverables, timelines, and milestones.
  • Provide tips on creating a clear and comprehensive project scope to set realistic expectations.
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Testimonials and Social Proof

  • Discuss the impact of including client testimonials and social proof in your proposal to build trust and credibility.

Call to Action

  • Highlight the importance of a strong call to action that encourages the client to take the next steps.
  • Provide examples of effective calls to action that prompt a response from the client.

Conclusion

  • Summarize the key points discussed in the article and reiterate the importance of a well-crafted freelance proposal.In conclusion, mastering the art of crafting a standout freelance proposal is a skill that can set you apart in the competitive world of freelancing. By understanding the client’s needs, showcasing your expertise, and presenting a compelling case for why you’re the best fit for the project, you can significantly increase your chances of winning high-value contracts. With the strategies and techniques outlined in this guide, you’ll be well-equipped to create winning proposals that leave your competitors in the dust.
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