Following the heart

February 5, 2017

Entrepreneurs share stories about their ventures, how they started and succeeded -- busting the myth that venture capital is a must for business

Following the heart

Pakistan is facing massive unemployment issue. Hundreds of thousands of students get a degree every year but do not get a job. Often we seek a white-collar job. A blue-collar job or acquiring technical education is viewed as a sign of low self-esteem.

A solution to this problem lies in starting up one’s own business venture. There are examples which dispel the myth that one needs a lot of capital for a startup. Capital definitely gives an advantage but one can be successful even if one does not have it.

Shakaib started a venture by the name of SK Motors Syndicate, a place that offers inspection, repair and maintenance of all kinds of cars. He had Rs800 only to begin with. He got his business cards and stickers published with this money to spread the word about SK Motors Syndicate. The intention was to earn some extra money to spend on his wants.

a car enthusiast since a tender age, he said, "My only passion was to roam around in cars. I would keep enquiring about their makeup and alteration etc at that time." This way Shakaib came to know a lot about car maintenance. Later, during his university days he came up with this idea.

He went to some mechanics and presented them an offer -- that he would bring clients, in return he asked for quality assurance. "It’s better to increase clientele and retain them with quality work at the right price rather than do one-time work at high rates that drive the client away," he says. This is how he bridged the gap between client and a service provider.

"At times it is not possible for some people to maintain a car on their own due to a busy schedule, non-availability of a male member at home or owing to unfamiliarity with the problems that arise in a car etc. We quickly point out the actual problem and the cost, so it is better to have the job done by us. This saves time. We take care not to overcharge which raises the satisfaction level of clients," explains Shakaib who also provides pick and drop service along with a warrantee of work.

"Successful entrepreneurs are the ones who can rely on their own means, who can calculate the affordable loss prior to inception of a business. They have an optimistic approach -- see a silver lining in the dark clouds. They flourish because they can build partnerships and, above all, can think out of the box."

Initially, it was hard for him to make mechanics understand his point but eventually it worked out. At present he has more than a hundred clients which has generated employment. Shakaib also got selected for "Shell Tameer Awards" back in 2012.

Shakaib has his own workshop now. He is also modifying cars despite working in private sector. Passionate about cars since childhood, he has special interest in restoration and modification of old cars.

Shakaib, 29, left a career in banking at Standard Chartered to join The Citizens Foundation, a non-profit organisation that aims to provide quality education to the less-privileged. He has an MBA from IoBM.

Shakaib’s message for youth is: "There is no shortcut to success. Passion, honesty and dedication pay off."

There is another successful endeavour of earning through cars, named Wrapkar -- an on-vehicle advertisement platform founded by Furqan along with his friends in January 2016 that connects brands to drivers. Brand gets promotion and driver gets money.

First the car owner gets onboard Wrapkar, through a call, email or their website. New cars get preference and are supposed to cover an average of at least 30km per day. Then Wrapkar places removable ad on the vehicle of its partner brand, after it on every kilometre distance a car travels it gets paid.

Brands can easily view the performance of their campaign on an online dashboard using a pay-as-you-go model. Wrapkar charges brands according to a combination of factors including mileage, location, time and impression received on their respective campaign on vehicle. Drivers get paid at the end of the campaign according to their performance.

Earnings depend on the model of a car one has and the amount of area covered by the ad through vehicle. Tentatively, a Toyota Sedan 2010 model or a later model can get up to Rs20,000 a month during a camping. "Currently, we have nearly 200 fleet partners and are in talk with 5 major brands," explains Furqan.

It gives an alternative marketing solution to a brand for their product promotion and an income to the driver; as anyone who drives a car can earn easy extra money just by placing ads on their vehicle. Thus, it is a win-win situation for both.

"When I was in university I followed tech news and saw stories of guys in their mid 20s creating huge companies that have changed the way we live. The internet has made it possible for everyone with a computer to make a huge impact. Especially, in Pakistan where tech entrepreneurship is comparatively new, there is a lot of room for everyone to create new solutions. If it is possible to build a company and create employment, why become an employee? Also, traditional businesses in Pakistan give very less creative freedom to their employees and have rigid environments. Young entrepreneurs are changing the old ways," says Furqan.

"Last year, I was thinking about startups like Uber and Airbnb; how the concept of shared economy is taking over the world. And then I saw the problem of main roads crowded with bill boards. There were only large advertisements in areas where there should be trees. These bill boards have even caused deaths during wind storms in Karachi. Also, the advertisement industry only benefits the rich and a small or medium sized business cannot even think of advertising on bill boards. Seeing all these problems came a solution -- Wrapkar."

Wrapkar connects everyday car owners to brands who pay them for placing removable advertisements on their vehicles’ exterior. "We keep a small percentage of the transaction; the rest of it goes to the car owner. We are combining geo-tracking in our solution so the brand can watch the performance of its campaign on an online dashboard unlike other forms of outdoor advertising.

"Anyone with a car can either download our app or go to our website to create an account and upload a few pictures of their vehicle. On the other hand, a brand comes to our website and signs up, creates a new campaign and selects the desired vehicles from the available list. The car owner receives brand’s request and he or she can now get the car wrapped in the brand’s advertisement and keep driving like they usually do. At the end of the campaign, the brand pays the driver."

Furqan’s message for youth is, "Create companies to have the freedom of steering it your own way and create environments that promote participation and creativity."

Many of us go to Landa Bazaar in search of a used genuine brand, may it be a shoe or anything else. What if one can find it online and receive at his/her doorstep? This is what; an online thrift store of used branded accessories offers. It is the first of its kind in Pakistan, as Usman, a cofounder of this venture claims.

It’s a lean startup and a brainchild of Usman and his partner Farid. Both became friends when they were doing an ACCA. Initially, they both worked for some well-known companies like PSO and Dubai Islamic Bank but due to a desire to create something of their own, they have left their jobs and started in an incubation centre of Center for Entrepreneurship Development CED, IBA, Karachi.

"We buy used branded stuff like pants, shirts, hoodies, jackets, shoes etc from vendors who bring that stuff from abroad, after that we add value to it, like we refurbish, revamp them through proper washing and cleaning of an item and later do their sorting as well in terms of their quality.

"Then we display all the items on where one can see all the stuff as we place a high resolution picture of each item in different dimensions so that one can view it properly. There is provision of a measurement scale for each item so that one gets what one needs. We mark a ranking of each item as per their conditions on the scale of average to very good. Then through courier we dispatch the items all over Pakistan with a trial period of 7 days. If someone finds an item unsatisfactory he/she can return it with money back guarantee.

"An entrepreneur has to be consistent and a risk taker to be successful in any business as business is a full time job which needs concentration and perseverance. In the beginning, I and my partner used to clean all the used stuff ourselves. In ten months we have booked 10,000 orders and 15 people have joined us."

"It’s actually the concept and an idea behind a startup business which ultimately pays off. If you cater to a market need or address a gap, there will be sure success despite lack of resources," says Usman.

Another success story -- Wonder Tree, offers customised games for children with special needs. It all began when Muhammad Usman noticed his elder brother’s keen interest in playing games. His brother has Down’s Syndrome which hampers body movements while Usman noticed that the same became easier while playing a game and inferred he could learn in a better way provided he became interested in an activity.

Usman was a university student at that time. He, along with his friends, thought of making games specifically designed for children who are suffering from ADHD, Down Syndrome, Autism, Dyslexia and Cerebral Palsy and they managed to make a prototype of game based on augmented reality.

After a facilitation at Nest I/O incubator in Karachi, their prototype became more refined and later eventually got selected in different competitions held at national and international level (like Apikta competition recently held in Taiwan).

Wonder Tree has developed a gaming platform that promotes learning and therapy simultaneously through AR (augmented reality) games with the aim to cater to different needs of a child from 5 years of age and above, with easy-to-personalise content for a child’s varying requirements. The platform has learning content and therapeutic exercises in the form of games. Every time a person plays the game the system measures the performance and issues a detailed report for it.

It requires a windows 8/8.1, Kinect V2 sensor with adapter, an LCD screen and a laptop of 3rd generation or higher to play a game. First, the sensor identifies the player’s actions and transmits it to the laptop in which wonder tree game has already been installed, and after going through it the action displays on the TV screen and the end result through reporting system makes possible the improvement of motor skills (movement of body parts), concentration and hand-eye harmonisation, as it not only enables the person to monitor the growth chart of a child but also suggests a room for further improvement. What could be better to have a cure while indulging into something which amuses you?

Games "Wonder Tree" is offering: Bucket ball that works to catch different colours of balls falling all around the player except the red one with the help of a virtual basket (or holding a real one).

Bubble Pop: This game ties together magic in a player’s hands as he/she can burst the bubbles which fall around through his/her body movements like jumping, stretching and squatting.

These games help in physical movement and offer rehabilitation therapy, improvement in cognitive behaviour etc

Usman is a software engineer by profession under 25 years of age. He did his BE in software engineering. "I love working on different innovative ideas and research work. I wanted to do something new and aspired to be an inventor -- that’s how I became entrepreneur. My elder brother was playing games on my console. That’s when the idea came -- why not do something more than just sit in front of the screen."

There are two parts of Wonder Tree. "One is the gaming part in which the child can see himself while playing the games. This concept is called Augmented Reality. The last part is reporting in which you can actually see the results," says Usman,

His message for youth is: "If you want to do something and are planning to start your own venture, you need to be very faithful to yourself -- work really hard, keeping in mind that this journey is never going to be easy but you will be victorious one day."

Despite all the fascinating and successful stories, myths still exist like ‘No one has ever done business in our family’, ‘To do business one is supposed to acquire special skills’ and ‘Without a venture capital (VC) doing business is impossible’.

So how will Pakistani youth come out of the dilemma and end their plight? The answer is simple. If the above mentioned people can do it then others can as well, provided one has the zeal to do it. It would be good if universities included entrepreneurship as a subject in the curriculum. It should be made part of major degrees being offered in different disciplines in order to encourage youth to startup their own business.

There are initiatives like LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship, Plan9, Centre for Entrepreneurship Development CED IBA, Invest2Innovate and the NEST I/O etc; which are working to inculcate and facilitate entrepreneurship in Pakistan. They are providing a launching pad for startups, as most of them are equipped with Incubation Centre where innovative individuals not only may get space to work but also get hold of latest development through mentors. These initiatives also help them acquire an initial capital etc but there is still need for many more as without a conducive environment to starts ups it would be difficult to set up a business.

About the attributes of an entrepreneur, Dr Shahid Qureshi, Chairman CED, IBA says, "Entrepreneurs feel closer to God than the rest of us." He was referring to a Howard Business Review article, "It’s because the ventures they do need faith which can only come from some divine source."

"Successful entrepreneurs are the ones who can rely on their own means, who can calculate the affordable loss prior to inception of a business. They have an optimistic approach -- see a silver lining in the dark clouds. They flourish because they can build partnerships and, above all, can think out of the box," says Dr Qureshi.

Following the heart