Zero to Hero
I did my A-levels from Bahawalpur in the year 2000 and then my bachelors from LUMS. Two years into my degree, there was an IEEE competition held and a few friends and I decided to participate in it. We came up with a proposal and sat together to work on it. However, it didn’t fare so well in the competition, but we thought the idea was very good and we pooled our efforts to raise funds for it.
Since all of us were very fond of programming, we started a software services company called “Uraan”, and because it was a software company, our only requirement was a single computer and we had access to computer labs at LUMS. So we didn’t need a lot of funding as anticipated.
At that time, even the freelancing websites weren’t free to register. You could register, but only after you paid $1500. A friend of mine from England gave us the capital we needed to begin.
Then in the year 2005, I opened a different company, Confiz, with another friend of mine, which has since grown and is now employing more than 300 people. We recently acquired another company, called Mantaq. Confiz is primarily based in the US and provides software solutions to Fortune 500 companies. As for the local market, the company that we acquired, Mantaq, caters to the ERP implementation needs of more or less every retailer in Pakistan.
In 2008 a friend told me about PakWheels.com which has been in existence since 2003. He mentioned it was a big auto-community and I proposed the idea to acquire it. We partnered up with the original owner by purchasing the majority stake in the business. At that time it was a small venture which only a small group of people knew about. In the past six years, we’ve developed it to twenty times of what it was when we acquired it in 2008. In November 2014, we got 3.5 million dollars from an international investor for Pak Wheels. This was the beginning.
Money Making Model for PakWheels.com
It’s essential to understand that if you’re going to buy a new car or sell one, you’re going to do the research on PakWheels.com. Now if you want to finance a car, you will go to PakWheels.com and use its finance comparison tool; there are 10 banks and their loan options available on the website, you can compare and decide the best fit for you.
Advertising is a good source of income in the early stages. Apart from that, we have other segments – we have products both for new car dealers as well as used car dealers and we also have partnerships with banks. We do B2B lead generation for them. PakWheels.com is free for consumers but for businesses we have paid products.
PakWheels.com Traffic Scenario
We get around 150,000 users every day. Overall in the past year, there have been 250 million page views, 25 million users who have visited and around half a million listings were posted for cars, bikes and auto parts.
Bringing Traffic to PakWheels.com
We were making use of all digital channels, which included SEO, search marketing, paid search, keyword marketing, and social media. And now we’ve launched a massive marketing campaign for radio, TV, and the outdoors.
Definition of Success
There is no concrete definition of success. I think we would be successful if we were to take Pakistan’s IT industry to global grounds and create good examples from within Pakistan. For instance, if PakWheels.com becomes a worldwide brand having originated in Pakistan then people would identify with huge internet companies in Pakistan. Or if in a scenario when Confiz becomes a large tech company internationally then it would be the next big thing.
Success for me right now would be putting Pakistan’s IT companies on the global front and achieving something noteworthy, something substantial.
The definition of success keeps changing at every step as you go along. First, success is defined by how much funding you raise, and then success is determined by taking your company to the next rung on the ladder. After that success is measured by changing the status of your company to that of a public limited company. So it keeps on varying.
Dreaming and Acting On It
I think that when you’re working in a specific area, you get new ideas every single day. When you are inside an industry and you know everything and how it works, how it’s growing, you see a lot of opportunities forming. Plus, you look at what is happening internationally. After that it’s just a matter of focusing on a single thing and then building a team, encouraging and motivating them so that you can achieve the idea that you have in mind.
Work Life Balance
I think all my waking hours are spent working. Ideas are popping up in my mind all the time. On a daily basis, about 10 to 12 hours are spent in the office. And apart from that, because of mobile phones we always tend to stay connected. Sunday is the only day I don’t work and so it is devoted to family time mostly.
Every department has its own head and I think you need to hire team leads who know how to do their work. I don’t think I can tell a person who is older or more qualified than I am how to do their job. I can only give them ideas that come to my mind. And because of their knowledge and experience, they have ideas of their own. I think because PakWheels.com is a small company, I have to look at a lot of things myself and improvise accordingly. But as the company expands, you need to bring in more people with a certain skill set for each respective job.
I think the integral aspect of a CEO’s job is to meet with the team, align them around an idea and motivate them into action.I usually walk around the office floor and randomly stop to chat with someone about what they are working on and how the process can be further improved.
Planning for the Future
For Confiz, we have a three year plan ahead of us – we want to go public and we want to list it on the stock exchange. In the long term, we have a very clear vision for Confiz that we want it to become a global company from Pakistan. There aren’t a lot of companies from Pakistan that are eminent in the global arena.
For Pak Wheels.com, our vision is “Think wheels, think PakWheels”. If you are thinking about buying, financing, insuring, or maintaining a car, or even a bike – we want to be the go-to place for all these questions.
Car Fanatic or Not
Even if I wasn’t, I think I would have become one after having to work on Pak Wheels for all this time. But I think my work is more centered around fulfilling the car needs of other people.
Fear of Running Out of Cash
“80% of startups fail because they run out of cash.” – Harvard Business Review
Financials keep going up and down, but thanks to God we never ran out of cash.
I think because Confiz was generating cash, we had the money to push PakWheels.com. Subsequently PakWheels.com started making money of its own. So we are just moving towards expansion.
Difficulties Encountered in the Beginning
There were social norms at the time of the inception. It is common if your parents have a job or business then you are expected to take similar paths. But we started our business during our undergrad so that wasn’t an issue for us. But once we graduated, the business was already up and running. And most importantly, the money was rolling in.
There is no such thing as a bed of roses. There are difficulties encountered at every stage of life. Challenges arise in collecting funds or other struggles that bring about new testing grounds and tough calls to make. Nothing is considered easy in life. You have to walk the extra mile. You have to keep pushing.
What Keeps You Going
Once in a week maybe I think about discontinuing the business. But by the end of the day that feeling is gone. Mainly, due to the excitement of building something meaningful. It outweighs the rest. In the case of Confiz, it is the thrill of putting forth a global brand. In case of Pak Wheels, it’s the anticipation accompanied with building a company or website that all car and bike owners are using across Pakistan.
Words of Wisdom for Blooming Entrepreneurs
“97% of business graduates in universities would rather do a job than their own business because they are afraid of failure.”
Failure is just a mind-game. You have to realize that if you work hard enough and are persistent, you will be successful. Failure is only temporary. You can lose an election or a match but remember there will always be another chance. One of your products won’t sell, but you can always make another product that will. If you lose a customer, you can always find another one who will buy your product. If you lose a team member, you can always find a new one to replace with. If you fail, try something new. As long you keep trying something and don’t give up, you will get to a successful point in your life and it will reap goodness.