If you are a local entrepreneur or someone from the media or tech industry, you are probably aware that #021Disrupt – a two-day conference – took place on November 5 and 6 at Mövenpick Hotel, Karachi.
The conference, organised by The Next I/O, a technology incubator, established by the Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA), aimed to bring established entrepreneurs, venture capitalists (VCs) face to face with industry professionals and students, and give them an opportunity to share ideas, network and possibly collaborate on projects in the future.
021Disrupt attracted nearly 650 participants and 60 speakers, including 14 of whom had flown in from overseas and included Khurram Jamali, Country Lead, Google; PITB; Kulsoom Lakhani, Founder, Invest2Innovate; Sam Mallikarjunan, Executive Strategist, HubSpot; Felipe Milan, Community Development Manager, SendGrid; Shahid Mustafa, CEO, Telenor Microfinance Bank Pakistan; Shayan Tahir, CEO, Homeshopping.pk; Jeffery Paine of Golden Gate Ventures and Dr Umar Saif, Chairman, PITB. Sessions focused on topics such as artificial intelligence, quantum revolution, how to make business personal, email marketing and what VCs look for when they make investments.
It was great to see the level of palpable energy during most of the sessions, and many of the speakers were open to speaking with delegates during the breaks. I had a brief conversation with Mallikarjunan from HubSpot who claimed: “I did not know there were so many users of HubSpot in Pakistan!”
Similarly, Jamali mentioned that Google are thinking about taking some major steps to improve the online marketing ecosystem in Pakistan. He revealed that in 2018, Google will be providing additional resources to train and develop local advertisers about Google AdWords and other related products for brands and advertisers.
The battle for eyeballs
A panel discussion that I particularly liked was on the battle for eyeballs, which had five participants: Ali Gul (Co-Founder, Mangobaaz), Jahanzaib Haque (Chief Digital Strategist, Dawn.com), Humayun Haroon (Co-Founder, Patari); Erum Shaikh (News Editor, Tribune.com.pk) and Faiza Zafar (Managing Partner, Parhlo).
The discussion focused on how to achieve the balance between maintaining editorial quality and attracting massive online traffic. Haque was of the viewpoint that “Pakistanis love quizzes” and further added that “We [Dawn.com] transform regular editorial items into quizzes to attract audiences.”
Start-ups to scaleup
Equally interesting was a panel discussion on e-commerce; according to some estimates, the total value of e-commerce in Pakistan will cross the $10 billion mark by 2020.
Participants Imran Buxamoosa, CEO, BlueEx; Muneeb Maayr, Co-founder, Daraz; Sunil Munj, CEO, PakWheels and Shayan Tahir, CEO, Homeshopping.pk discussed how an efficient supply chain and delivery mechanism along with strong customer relationships are essential to survive in this business. Another key point they addressed was the threat of international names like Alibaba. To this end, Tahir suggested that the way to counter this was to persevere, stay passionate and grow slowly rather than make huge, risky investments in a rush.
Raza Matin (Marketing and Business Consultant, Google Pakistan) spoke on this concept in detail, which was introduced by Google and focuses on innovations that can improve an existing idea substantially.
Matin, while talking about this concept’s implementation at Google revealed that the company has a culture of embracing failure and it is because of this, Google has been able to craft major revolutions in the past years. Failure is a part of doing great things in life, and this was the crux of his entire talk, and this is a lesson that entrepreneurs need to learn so that they can persevere despite failure.
Pakistan: A predictable revolution
Sheheryar Hydri, Secretary General, P@SHA mentioned several facts that impressed the audience. For example, he stated that Pakistan is the fourth biggest freelancing country in the world and people here have even worked for high-power brands as big as Ferrari. This was indeed an eye-opener for many, including me, about the potential in our country.
For me, the two days were packed with insights that were highly relevant, and I learnt several lessons, including:
a) Empathy is extremely powerful and it is essential for business growth
b) If you want your start-up to become a success story you HAVE to be persistent
c) The power of technology and start-ups, and how they can solve the biggest problems of the world together
d) Challenging perceptions and mindsets can form the foundation of a business
e) Building relationships pays off in the short and long-term
f) This is the best time to be an entrepreneur in Pakistan!
Faizan Riaz is the co-founder of Forward Digital Consultancy, an agency focused on helping brands and digital agencies reach their maximum potential. He tweets @faizanrz