[This interview was originally published on The Huffington Post.]
This time I had the honour to interview Nabeel Qadeer to discuss entrepreneurship and business opportunities in Pakistan with special focus on Pakistan’s first startup show.
1. As an expert in entrepreneurship, what would you say are the top 3 things that every entrepreneur should focus on when starting to build their business?
Building the ‘Right’ Team: Building a good team with complimenting skill sets, all aligned and motivated towards achieving a common vision set forth by founders of the startup.
Passion & Drive: An entrepreneur needs to remain ‘hungry’ – the need to be in love with what they do. Failure of any magnitude should not undermine their confidence & desire to succeed.
Patience: Nothing great comes easy or early; being patient does not mean being inactive. Failure is inevitable; you never get it right the first time. As long as entrepreneurs stay humble, focused and take strategic & informed decisions, they will continue to learn, evolve & succeed.
2. What gives you the confidence to invest your time & energy in Pakistan & its entrepreneurial ecosystem?
Pakistan is showcased on media for all the wrong reasons - a nation entrenched in terrorism & corruption, with no hope to bounce back. What is not told about Pakistan is that we have the largest deep sea port in the world, the largest irrigation system in the world, the highest paved international road in the world, the highest mountain ranges in the world, the second largest salt mines in the world, the highest polo field in the world & so that you know, over 50% of world’s footballs are manufactured in Pakistan.
Pakistan is the world’s fifth most populous country with over 211 Million people. We’re a young nation with immense potential as over 70% of our population is under the age of 35 years. Startups from Pakistan have attracted over USD 150 Million in venture financing in the past 5 years alone. With over 60 million smartphone users, out of whom around 50 Million have access to internet, corporations & investors from different parts of the world are seeing the immense potential of investing in Pakistani startups.
With over 20 incubators and several families backed angel funds now established & making investments, it is a great time to be an ‘entrepreneur’ in Pakistan.
In the wake of such positive indicators, I see no reason why not to invest my time & energy in helping strengthen Pakistan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem further.
3. You have started a TV show to help young entrepreneurs. What has inspired you to help others & why did you choose to use media as a tool to do it?
We are a nation of entrepreneurs. With limited resources at our disposal, our society trains us to become hustlers, to become natural problem solvers. We have our local unicorn startups that are disrupting mainstream industries, hence inspiring millions to become entrepreneurs. Rozee.pk has defined the way organizations hire people in Pakistan,
Zameen.com has disrupted the way people buy real estate in the country, PakWheels.com has changed the concept of buying & selling vehicles, Inov8 & Finja are setting new standards for Fintech startups in the country & Careem, a marketplace for ride-sharing has transformed the way people travel within the country.
Such change makers, problem solvers & innovators we term as Entrepreneurs needed to be showcased on mainstream television, as it wasn’t happening before. Idea Croron Ka (which is Million Dollar Idea in Urdu) is a TV show that connects budding entrepreneurs with investors to help them scale their startups and appeared as a breath of fresh air on Pakistani media.
I give immense credit to the Chairman of NEO TV (the channel that airs the show), Dr. Chaudry Abdul Rehman whose vision for an entrepreneurial Pakistan enabled me to pull off a show that has made “Entrepreneurship” a household name across Pakistan.
The biggest win for the show was to convince Dr. Umar Saif (Chairman PITB & VC ITU) to be an integral part of the show. He is the man who kick-started the entrepreneurial movement in Pakistan years ago & is better known for being a catalyst for change in government bureaucracy.
I was fortunate enough to have him help me design & execute the show successfully. While he plays the role of a business advisor for startups on screen, he has been the core advisor to me in setting the direction & tone of the show.
Another accomplished friend Naeem Zamindar (Chairman of Board of Investment, ExCEO of Acumen Fund & Wateen Telecom) who played the role of an investor on the show was one of my biggest supporters all the way through. Great entrepreneurs & investors like Monis Rahman, Abdul Rehman Talat, Rabeel Warraich & Salim Ghauri became major supporters & contributors to the show.
5. We know that Dragons Den & Shark Tank changed perspectives of and about entrepreneurs in USA & UK; how is your show impacting people in Pakistan?
Pakistan never had a “startup show” of its own. Idea Croron Ka, now airing its second season has helped glorify entrepreneurs amongst households from all socioeconomic circles. A general trend of graduates wanting to become job creators as opposed to job seekers is starting to happen.
Pakistan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is nascent yet fast growing. Startups are mushrooming from across the country, yet the access to capital is limited. Startups working in incubators & accelerators tend to get access to investors more readily as opposed to those working independently. Idea Croron ka has provided an equal playing field to any startup from any part of Pakistan to get easy access to investors locally and internationally.
International Investors & VCs from all over the world who visit Pakistan, are starting to appear on the show which is extremely encouraging for the youth of this country who now has more reasons to pursue entrepreneurship as a full-time career.
Idea Croron ka has established young aspiring entrepreneurs as ‘heroes’ & ‘drivers’ of economic & social growth; the show is instilling this uncovering belief in the youth of Pakistan that if they continue to learn from their failures, don’t give up & keep building, they may end up creating a billion dollar company one day enabling them to impact the lives of millions around them, hence changing the fate of our country.
6. What is the recent book you have read and has inspired you?
Reading books that share the entrepreneurial journey of entrepreneurs who have done well despite numerous failures inspire me. I usually read several books in parallel; the recent ones that I’m reading & seeking inspiration from include ‘The hard thing about hard things’ by Ben Horowitz & ‘Shoe Dog’ by Phil Knight. It is the second time I’m reading both!