The Shell Tameer Awards celebrated 10 young entrepreneurs in Karachi recently. To understand the significance of the Awards and what it means to be a young entrepreneur, one must have a better understanding of what entrepreneurship is.
By definition, entrepreneurship is the willingness and capacity to undertake the conception, organisation and management of a productive venture, being aware and open to risk, while seeking profit as a reward. This further leads us to why entrepreneurship is relevant to and important in Pakistan. We are a country where half our 180 million people are under 25, with the population number set to double to 360 million by 2050. The only way to ensure that this sea of humanity gets jobs is by ensuring we produce entrepreneurs at a pace which is in line with the numbers. Yet we are reaching a point where there will be too many people entering the workforce and not enough jobs. It is up to entrepreneurs to create more jobs.
According to Muhammad Saifullah Malik, Project Coordinator for Shell Tameer at Shell Pakistan, “Promoting entrepreneurship is an essential ingredient for building a strong economy; and providing sound macroeconomic policies and market access to our young entrepreneurs are both crucial. Shell Tameer is committed to helping young people across all four provinces, irrespective of socio-economic, educational or religious background. Shell Tameer encourages them to start a business as a viable career option by providing free information, counselling, support and training.”
Every year, the Awards are an opportunity for 10 finalists to showcase their work and business achievements among members of the business, industrial, academic and entrepreneurial communities. Here we catch up with the four winners.
Muhammad Gulraiz Khan Samovar Tea and Coffee House, Karachi 1st Prize
An economist from LUMS, Gulraiz Khan never thought that his ambition to open his own teahouse would come true. The idea was originally inspired by a bit of family history. Khan’s maternal grandfather owned a tea stall, which he built into a larger business. Having grown up in the Burnes Road area, Khan was witness to the decline of the era of the Iranian teahouse. With so many coffee bars popping up, he could not bear to watch Pakistan’s beloved drink being pushed onto the backburner, so he established the Samovar Tea and Coffee House at Port Grand in Karachi.
Initially no one took him seriously. At least no one except his friend and business partner, Matthias Gattermeier; and eventually his family who saw their kitchen turn into a test lab and the entire apartment complex smelling of cardamom and cinnamon.
Khan’s main tool for promotion was social media, and the word of mouth generated helped his business grow. He also attributes his success to the location he chose at Port Grand.
Many joked that Khan’s choice of business was apt for a Pathan, and some continue to affectionately call him a chai-wala. He is also a strong advocate for entrepreneurship.
“It’s the only way you get to explore your creative potential at your own pace and in your own direction. I’m my own boss. Plus, you get bragging rights that you ‘own’ a business.”
Syeda Neelma Shah and Rabbiya Riaz Khan Echo - Customised Clothing and Accessories, Peshawar 2nd Prize
What comes to mind when you read about two girls from Peshawar? Definitely not a successful business. Yet, Echo, a joint venture between best friends Syeda Neelma Shah and Rabbiya Riaz Khan, is just that.
A successful business that stemmed from a research project they did in their university (University of Peshawar). It all started when the University decided to organise an entrepreneurship event which required Shah and Khan to look for skilled women in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa area who required market access. As their search continued, the two girls realised that they also possessed a skill (i.e. creating clothes and handmade accessories) that could be used towards establishing their own business.
With an interest in colour combinations, contrasts and a flair for cuts, the girls created a clothing line called Echo. And the fact that they were both business students brought them full circle so that they were literally using all their skills and resources.
They held their first exhibition at the University of Peshawar and the turnout and feedback from their customers was so encouraging that they decided to launch Echo as an online clothes and accessories store. With strategically targeted Facebook amplification, which included giveaway contests, free gifts and good customer service, Shah and Khan garnered a loyal following. They also credit their success to a strong work ethic. They are committed to their work and determined not to let circumstances get in the way of meeting their production deadlines. Apart from the security situation in Peshawar, their ongoing studies and the daily trivialities of life threaten to slow them down but they do their best to deliver on time.
On why they feel so strongly about entrepreneurship, Shah and Khan say:
“You have the opportunity to provide employment to people. As an entrepreneur you are the boss and it gives you the freedom to think out of the box.”
Shahzeb Saeed Shahzeb Saeed Menswear, Karachi 3rd Prize
Shahzeb Saeed, a business graduate from IoBM, always had a passion for clothes. One of his dreams was to create classy, fashionable and affordable shirts for businessmen. He saw a gap in the market through his own experience of never being able to find a shirt that was both well stitched and fashionable. One day his banker brother asked him to design a shirt for him and this proved to be the break he was looking for as it led to new clients wanting him to custom design their shirts. With these shirts and the power of word of mouth, Saeed’s business picked up and he now creates some of the finest quality shirts in Pakistan.
One of Saeed’s biggest challenges was to find the right suppliers and vendors to enable him to deliver the right quality to his customers. Matching people’s expectations was crucial as he had to persuade people to opt for his brand over what they were already buying. His second challenge was space. Without the capital to invest in an outlet, Saeed began displaying his shirts at corporate events and workshops. This resulted in further exposure for his shirts, his website and Facebook page. Saeed credits his success to his attitude; staying positive and persistent helped him overcome setbacks and move forward.
Saeed believes that “entrepreneurship creates not only employment for yourself and others; it provides a sense of empowerment and confidence.”
Salma Rahim Zardozi Bridal Wear, Bahawalpur Award for Social Enterprise
Salma Rahim didn’t enter the business of embroidery by chance. The women in her village of Dera Jutta (Bahawalpur) learn embroidery as a matter of course from an early age and use their skills to make pillow covers, bed sheets and even their bridal trousseau.
When a vocational institute opened in her village, Rahim enrolled and came first. She was ecstatic as she was made to believe that she would be given a job as a trainer. However, when she applied for the job she was told that she would have to make a payment of Rs 40,000. This hurdle stopped her in her tracks.
But luck was on her side. A well-wisher introduced Rahim and her sisters to well-known fashion designer, Shaiyanne Malik, who guided them on how to use their skills and gave them embroidery work to generate an income. Rahim and Malik then started offering village women embroidery work to do at home. After three years, they decided to provide specialised training. As a result Rahim and her sisters now produce zardozi work with a team of embellishers under the name, Zardozi Bridal Wear. Although the men in the village were sceptical and resistant to the idea, the women were eager to learn. Skilled zardozi karigars were brought in from Karachi to train the women. Designer Bunto Kazmi lauded the girls for producing expert quality zardozi, a craft mastered only by men.
Her entrepreneurial spirit has transformed Rahim’s life:
“We have the power to change our lives if we believe in ourselves.
I have been lucky. My workforce has supported me in my endeavours and one day from these same workers will emerge more entrepreneurs.”
Khizra Munir is Creative Director, Sharmeen Obaid Films. firstname.lastname@example.org