Starting a “Product” company in Pakistan.

Pakistan has managed to secure limelight in prime time news for many years now and for all the wrong reasons, war-on-terror, corruption, extremism. That’s the part everyone has heard about; amidst this shoddiness, a better side of the country is rather ignored. In the past decade, Tech scene in Pakistan has flourished, boomed. There is still a lot more needed to be done, but If you have to pick the right horse, Tech is the best contender.

To facilitate the scene, Incubators, accelerators and co-working spaces have popped up and startups are really making there mark. We’ve seen successes in terms of groopic, popinjay, hometown etc, Not to mention the service industry which has roughly a market share of $ 2.8 Billion.

I was lucky to be a part of the second cycle of Plan9 (the tech incubator). We were making a social shopping app that connects people’s experiences and curates products based on user engagement which other users can buy further. We couldn’t see it through and left things badly, In retrospect, the problem was simple, we weren’t making any money it didn’t looked like we will in a year or so, things got bad; founders fought and it was over.

There are three lessons i learned from that experience,

  1. Even though the tech scene is evolving, raising funds is still a problem, we don’t hear much about any venture capital firms interested to invest in tech startups (why?), We do have some consolidated efforts on the angel investments; as of now, the only option for a product based startup is to raise money from family, friends or to start making some money before your incubator timeline is exhausted to sustain further.

  2. We still need to figure out online payments, interestingly we are not too interesting a market for Paypal, we don’t like credit cards and have some trust issues paying online. The only thing that has worked so far is cash-on-delivery which (if your target audience is local) kills the in-app purchases, paid app downloads and the online services that doesn’t have tangible products to deliver (why aren’t the telco’s letting us use mobile credit to pay online? but that’s a discussion for another time.)

  3. A business model that works, in my humble opinion is if you can provide services on the side which will sustain you until your products start paying off and will provide you the window where you can have lean experiments and still afford to fail.

When I joined Marketlytics months ago, they wanted to transition from services to products in the longer term. We decided we would go the lean way and made a rule that we would decide the tasks and projects we would like to work on in a team meet for the week, every team member will finish the tasks in the week and we will gather every week to update the progress and the issues raised.

Screenshot 2014-06-01 22.29.43.png

We decided to go through with A Google analytics compatible url shortener (It auto tags urls with utm params; not only that but it updates utm_source to actual traffic source sending visitors.)

We finished the product in two months, synchronisation between people and there tasks was a issue, since we get to meet once a week, If a task wasn’t completed the whole project goes through a bottleneck and usually gets pushed to next week. To solve the issue at hand, we decided to fix saturdays for products, everyone was available to solve issues on the go, which has worked out well for us, as there were no bottlenecks and there was this startup atmosphere, the camaraderie! the ownership of ideas and sense of purpose that surrounds people working towards a common goal.

Give a try, Let us know what do you think?

The second project we just finished is a Mobile Compare app for non tech savvy audience (Android is wildly popular in Pakistan because it serves every socio-economic group of the society in there budget). When this segment does a search on comparison sites. They throw you with all there complex terminologies, we wanted to give a clear, concise and simple comparison, users could easily understand.

Screenshot 2014-06-02 00.15.38.png

Give Mobile Compare a try, Let us know what do you think?


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