The journey of a small start-up to becoming Pakistan's premier book publishing platform: How social enterprises can help Pakistan meet Sustainable Development Goals

July 9, 2021

Daastan was one of the three winners at the National SDG Bootcamp in 2019, Islamabad (Photo © UNDP)

Syed Ommer Amer, Chief Executive Officer of Daastan (Legend), is the first Pakistani to have received the Media Information Literacy Award by UNESCO for his work. He is also amongst 20 extraordinary young individuals including inventors, activists, and entrepreneurs from 18 countries who were finalists for the Commonwealth Youth Awards earlier this year. The award recognises outstanding youth from the Commonwealth whose projects are transforming lives in their communities and helping to realize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

National SDG Bootcamp at the National Incubation Centre in Islamabad, 2019 (Photo © DEMO Enterprises Pvt. Ltd.)

Daastan is a social enterprise based in Pakistan that started off as a team of three people giving freelance writers the opportunity to publish their work. The team would try to find employment as well as training opportunities through their book publishing platform. They were one of the national winners, selected to be part of the National SDG Bootcamp followed by the SDG Changemakers Summit held in Islamabad in January 2019.

National SDG Bootcamp in Islamabad, 2019 (Photo © UNDP)

The SDG Bootcamp is a first-of-its kind five-day entrepreneurship bootcamp, developed jointly by UNDP and Youth Co:Lab–a regional initiative co-created by UNDP and Citi Foundation in 2017  for young social entrepreneurs whose initiatives contribute to the realization of the 17 SDGs in Pakistan. Since 2018, UNDP has held two SDG Bootcamps through which it has supported 41 social enterprises and engaged over 100 changemakers while working with 25 local partners. A widely successful initiative which has resulted in the establishment of numerous social enterprises, including  Daastan, that have secured funding both nationally and internationally. 

Regional Youth CoLab Summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, 2019 (Photo © Youth Co:Lab)

Over the course of five days of the SDG Bootcamp, Daastan received mentorship and support from leading experts in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. It helped them develop their potential to tackle Pakistan’s complex development challenges. In 2019, the top three performers from the SDG Bootcamp, including Daastan, were awarded grants of USD 2,500 each to help them expand their social enterprises. They were also given the opportunity to pitch their ideas at the Regional Youth Co: Lab Summit in Hanoi, Vietnam and subsequently at the Asia-Pacific Forum on Leadership, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Guangzhou, China.

After the Summit, Daastan received dedicated support from the Youth Co:Lab’s Regional Springboard team and  was recognized as a high-potential social enterprise with prospects to achieve regional success. Through ongoing mentorship, Daastan pursued its objectives and key results framework, developed a digital accounting ledger and brand assets, and scaled its revenues three times over in just one year.

Daastan is now Pakistan’s premier book publishing company and the go-to platform for global authors with a team of 12 people. The company uses a social enterprise model to support authors by monetising their time, content and skills through online training and workshops. It has supported more than 10,000 authors from 17 countries who have published over 300 books in 25 genres and two languages. 

Syed Ommer Amer, Chief Executive Officer of Daastan, at the Regional Youth CoLab Summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, 2019 (Photo © Youth Co:Lab)

“Be it the SDG Bootcamp, Youth Co:Lab or the Movers Programme, UNDP has supported Daastan at every step of the way and has always given us opportunities to prove ourselves. I will forever be grateful to UNDP for providing me with a platform and giving me the opportunity to rebuild the foundations of Pakistan's literary industry through tech,”
said Syed Ommer Amer,
Chief Executive Officer of Daastan.


The team of Daastan is also playing an influential role with different initiatives and movements striving to accelerate the realization of the SDGs. One such community is the Youth Co:Lab Mover’s Programme, comprised of young volunteers that promote SDG awareness, entrepreneurial mindsets and 21st century skills through localized trainings.

Daastan is one of numerous social enterprises that UNDP has supported through its national and regional initiatives. UNDP’s Youth Empowerment Programme (YEP) works closely with Youth Co:Lab to empower and invest in youth so that they can accelerate the  implementation of the SDGs through leadership, social innovation and entrepreneurship. Working with young social entrepreneurs in all sectors at various stages of business growth,  from scouting for good ideas to turning them into viable business solutions, UNDP continuously strives to strengthen the social enterprise ecosystem in Pakistan so that social enterprises like Daastan can flourish.


Zara Qaiser

Zara Qaiser works as the Youth Economic Empowerment Officer at UNDP Pakistan. She works on the economic empowerment of youth to provide in-demand skills to youth for the future of work and improve the start-up ecosystem for micro-entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs.

Zahin Hussain:

Zahin Hussain was a Startup Support Coordinator for Youth Co:Lab, a joint initiative of the UNDP and Citi Foundation, to support early-stage entrepreneurs in emerging Asian markets. Zahin has over five years of experience working in entrepreneurship, employment, and innovative financing.  

Edited by:

Ayesha Babar,

Communications Analyst & Head of Communications Unit, UNDP Pakistan