Pakstani Technopreneurs: The young and the digital.


 

It is a sign of the times that the world is rapidly advancing when you look at newsstands selling international magazines and you notice at least one major business magazine has a cover story about a wildly successful entrepreneur in his or her 20s or 30s. Is Pakistan that much far behind, we wondered, or is it that we just haven’t taken these so-called ‘inexperienced’ businessmen seriously enough?

All too often, young employees find themselves in unfulfilling jobs with little chance of progress. But with the right advice and motivation, they can strike out on their own and chase their dreams. This has been proven by some of the new worldclass entrepreneurs from our part of the world who are demonstrating impeccably that it is not the so-called lack of opportunities that hinder the youth, it is only determination and willingness to work for what you want. They hail from all fields and are setting the example for the nation on dreaming big and succeeding with your passion.

These are some of the young, accomplished and enterprising entrepreneurs in Pakistan who are making their mark in the cyber world in a big way.

Mindstorm Studios
Back from his studies in the US and after a stint as a teacher at Lums, the dream of 26-year-old Babar Ahmed was to put Pakistan on the map in the $40 billion international gaming industry. With no prior experience in game development, lack of specialised role models (there were no professional game developers in Pakistan when he started), lack of professionals in the field and financing from his own resources, he ploughed ahead anyway and gave birth to Pakistan’s first 3D cricket game titled, ‘Cricket Revolution’. Initially projected to take only a year to develop, the game ended up taking four years in the making and along the way Mindstorm’s team faced a host of problems from financial crunches to crushing technical problems.

They bravely plodded on and this year ‘Cricket Revolution’ has been released amidst standing ovations throughout the world. They’ve won two P@SHA awards in Pakistan and the Merit Award at the Asia Pacific level (Apicta) for the best product in the media and entertainment space. The game has also received great feedback with the likes of Cricinfo giving it the highest gameplay rating in the cricket category to date.

Talking about his experience, Ahmed says, “I would say, take these words—whirlwind, unbelievable, excruciating, exhilarating, overwhelming, life-changing—put them in a blender, shake them up, and that probably gets close to describing the experience. Getting a worldclass finished product out the door, after three-and-a-half years of development, on a shoestring budget (note: an average game in the US costs $8 million to produce and Mindstorm did not even have a fraction of that), in a place where you just don’t have the resources, and sticking to your guns until you’re done will most likely change anyone’s life.”

Talking about the future, he says, “We have streamlined our focus on high end video game development. We have recently started our iPhone division and will be announcing and launching three original titles in the coming months. Our cricket genre is alive and kicking as well and there will be some very interesting updates shortly. We work hard, play fast, and have fun making cool stuff.”

MediConnect
Perhaps the youngest ‘Technopreneur’ in our market, Zayd Enam is only 17-years old with a company that was recently valued at close to US $1 million in Hong Kong, as well as winning the P@SHA award and the Apicta award. He is a social entrepreneur who started MediConnect to make healthcare information accessible to all Pakistanis on the web and their mobile phones.

According to the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), there are 600,000 quacks (including 80,000 in Karachi alone) practicing in Pakistan contributing to a significant rise in HIV/Aids, hepatitis, cancer and malpractice issues in general. Enam started MediConnect to thwart this menace by helping patients make better and more informed decisions regarding their choice of practitioners, care-providers such as hospitals, medical procedures and conditions, thus making healthcare more transparent and accessible to all. MediConnect is also tapping into the power of social media to review and rate the best health providers in the country, bringing a much needed transparency in the field.

Enam is even more of an inspiring reality given that he’s single-handedly managed to sign on the leading hospitals in Pakistan, most of whom originally weren’t willing to sign contracts with the ‘17-year-old’. Elaborating his experience, he says, “It has been by no doubt exhilarating. I’ve had my ups and downs: there were moments when I was very apprehensive and down in the dumps, and other days where I was walking on sunshine because of a new client sign on or technical development milestone.”

yellO.pk
Just out of Beta mode in September 2009 and already with a user base of 40,000 unique users monthly, Yello.pk is the brainchild of Samir Feroze also known as ‘Chief Yeller’. He describes yellO as a place for you to discover everything you want to know about your city in Pakistan.

YellO is a map-based location platform which lets you discover local events, business reviews, classified ads and blogs. Due to this, it is fast becoming a platform for positive social activism, a hub for finding local events and a place to discover local business reviews. The content is all user-generated ensuring that everything is open, honest and transparent about things going on around the city.

The seeds for yellO had been germinating in Feroze’s mind from as far back as 2006. However, it was only in 2008 that he managed to start his research and development on the platform. Starting off with a couple of software engineers, today the team comprises about 40 people and two offices in Karachi and Lahore.

In the limited time, yellO has been active; it has been used to mark collection points around Pakistan for the ‘Swat relief fund’ and highlighted the amazing efforts by ordinary citizens in Pakistan, like the founders of ‘The rozgar scheme’, which gives microcredit to the poorest sections of the population.

Feroze says, “We had always wanted a platform to highlight the amazing things happening around us which often get overlooked. The fact that the information in yellO is user-generated means we get to discover much more through yellO than through traditional media.”

The future is rich and profitable as yellO enters multiple mobile platforms, better web interfaces, a magazine and seamless SMS integration.

ProPakistani.com
ProPakistani.pk is a new media company and counted amongst Pakistan’s top 50 websites. The site covers analysis, interviews, service and product reviews of the IT and telecom sector in Pakistan, reporting on breaking stories, inside gossip and market trends. Its news is quoted widely by leading national and international papers and websites.

Started by a 25-year-old Aamir Attaa in 2008 as a hobby, the site has grown quickly catering to the information needs of the connected generation and catering to their behaviour of accessing real-time information. The site registers over 15,000 unique visitors daily and caters to over 10,000 people who have subscribed to their feeds. The audience numbers are more than the combined total of all professionally produced technology magazines in Pakistan plus the magazines of a few more industries. Not bad for a home project.

On his experience with ProPakistani, Attaa quips, “Adventurous, I would say. I went through hard times, earned money, learned so many new things, met hundreds of new people—it’s amazing.”

SizzledCore.com
An inspiration for all young Pakistanis is Haris Nadeem, who has single-handedly demonstrated that even individuals can create their mark in the international arena working from Pakistan. He is the blogger and the owner of Sizzled Core, a technology blog where he covers the latest internet, media news, updates, gadget reviews and tips and tricks related to any subject in the tech world.

He was 16 when he started blogging in February 2007 using free web hosts, as he says, “At that time no one would risk their credit card for a 16-year-old’s crazy ideas for starting a website which was at that time a rare thing.” Looking at his success however with technology, one of his uncles finally relented to let him buy his own domain and SizzleCore came into being. There’s been no looking back. SizzleCore is currently Pakistan’s top technology blog garnering well over 100,000 visitors a day.

On his success, young Nadeem says, “I’m earning enough online that I can easily pay for my education and buy whatever gadgets I like!” For his future vision he aims to turn SizzledCore.com into a new media company. He remarks, “Once I complete my studies, I don’t think I’ll be working anywhere. I’d prefer full-time professional blogging and being a web-entrepreneur as this has a huge potential which I’d love to explore.”

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These individuals and companies also motivate us by showing that we can compete successfully in this new business world with people twice our age and companies only God-knows-how-many-times-as big. With the world’s industries and markets in constant shift, there is perhaps no better time to take risks especially when it comes to making choices in the new digital world.

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