We are at Day 2 of this exciting conference and the agenda today is a bit communication and marketing-oriented which makes sense because if you want to create disruption you might want to tell people about it.
Jehan Ara, Founder & CEO, Katalyst Labs and the force behind +92Disrupt opened the day with a keynote address. She talked about the vision behind the event and its goal to help young Pakistani entrepreneurs incubate their ideas and find funding for them.
Jehan Ara’s note was followed by three insightful speaker sessions on Sustainability by Wardah Zaman, Programme Manager, Pakistan Environment Trust; Harnessing Technology to Revolutionise Traditional Industries by Zeeshan Baig, General Manager, Syngenta Pakistan and Mental Health for Founders by Rabia Aziz Rizvi, Founder, Special Needs Pakistan.
Rabia Aziz struck a chord with the attendees with her passionate appeal to first focus on their own mental health. Throughout the conference she was applauded by other senior panellists and foreign delegates for her insightful session.
Atiya Zaidi, Chief Executive Officer/Chief Creative Officer, BBDO Pakistan, moderated one of the best sessions on Day 2 titled ‘Beyond the Conventional: Marketing Mavens of the Modern Age’. Not many people truly understand the critical nature of marketing in the success of start-ups… A well-thought-out campaign will obviously sell your product or service but more importantly it is key to getting funding. VCs look at marketing strategists as a key indicator of how well-planned a start-up is and founders who lack solid marketing strategies are considered a bad risk.
On Zaidi’s panel were Roman Ermoshin, Director APAC, inDrive; Ehsan Saya, Managing Director, Daraz; Omer Salimullah, COO, SadaPay and Omair Zeeshan, Head of Marketing, Onic Pakistan. They were all very insightful and had great advice to give the founders present in the hall even though some of it was controversial.
Salimullah from SadaPay shared his own contentious case study of using customer support as the only marketing tool to build SadaPay. His idea was that if you should make a solid product and have good customer support you don’t really need other forms of marketing. Sitting at the the other end of the spectrum was Ermoshin from inDrive who not only felt that marketing was critical but that it should be purpose-driven rather than tactical advertising. Needless to say, there were some fireworks, and Zaidi managed them brilliantly.
Other notable sessions focusing on various aspects of the start-up journey were Journey of a Passionate Founder and Caregiver: From Enterprise SaaS to Consumer Healthcare by Abbas Yousafzai, Founder, Alif Care, and Artful Alchemy: Bootstrapping Growth at the Nexus of Tech and Creativity by Jahanzeb Khawaja, Founder, KCR Studio.
The drowsy post-lunch crowd was stirred by a star-studded panel session from Spotify’s very own Khan FM, who brought with him none other than Faisal Kapadia, singer, musician, and producer; Taha G, Pakistani Pop, Indie, Hip-Hop Artist; Natasha Baig, Singer, Songwriter and Maria Unera, Musician.
All the artists lauded Spotify for bringing real change to the music industry of Pakistan. Even senior musicians like Faisal Kapadia admitted that they rarely made any royalties before Spotify set up shop in the country.
The other panel discussion that got a huge response from the crowd was on The Art of Content Creation moderated by Hassan Rizvi, CEO, Bodybeat PR, who brought with him nothing less than the top content creators of Pakistan – Ali Gul Pir, comedian, rapper and producer; Amtul Baweja, Co-founder and CEO, Patangeer; Bilal Hasan, writer and photojournalist; and Maleeha Jawaid, Consultant Dermatologist.
I am not entirely sure how the last two sessions benefitted the attendees directly but it brought a lot of glamour and star power to the conference. Not to mention both panel discussions got a lot of animated engagement from a crowd of techies who are otherwise usually reserved and introverted.
Misbah Naqvi, Co-Founder & General Partner, i2i Ventures conducted two quick dialogue sessions with Mubariz Siddiqui, Founding Partner, Carbon Law and Rabeel Warraich, Founder & CEO, Sarmayacar. The sessions were titled Startup Governance Toolkit and Attracting Global Investments respectively.
As the day ended we were led to two amazing parallel workshops on Designing the Zero to One: Create your First Prototype by Arsalan Khatri, Independent Design Consultant | Ex-Head of Design, Bazaar Technologies and The Secrets of Fundraising by Ali Samir Oosman, Founding Managing Director, Endeavour Pakistan. Both were excellent sessions but Ali Samir was a rock star with his sincere, no-nonsense guide to raising funding.
Overall it was a great two days of learning and hats off to Jehan Ara and her team at Katalyst Labs for pulling this off in such a bearish market.
Syed Amir Haleem is CEO, Skale Interactive and Content Fusion.
Photo by the writer.