Saturday, December 16

ABID BELI (Founder of the Encubator) INTERVIEW

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Saadia’s Kitchen, SuperMeal, DeliveryWala, iSmartFilms

1. Where are you from? What all played a part in your entrepreneurial spirit?
I am originally from Karachi. I’d have to say that the biggest catalyst for my entrepreneurial spirit was my affiliation with the Memon community in Karachi – a very business oriented community that made it’s name only recently in the city.

2. Describe your entrepreneurial story.
The year was 1997. I had just opened my first cyber café by the name of Skynet Communications in Clifton. We made a transition from originally having 6 PCs to 25 PCs due to its immense popularity. We then expanded our operations by selling internet usage hours to ISP’s (Internet Service Providers). We managed to get 36 Internet companies on board, and expanded to 9 branches. I had also gotten initial traction through selling Internet Cards and Calling Cards for interested customers. In 2001, I decided to make my big break and enter the virtual space in Pakistan, by creating Beli City – Pakistan’s first e-commerce site.
After failing to receive a single order for the first six months, I finally got a request from a customer in Lahore to ship him a Yepjack Net2Phone, for Rs. 6,500. Keep in mind at this time, there was no concept of Cash on Delivery and Same Day Delivery – the payment was made at a bank and the order was shipping within a few days.
Through referrals from other people, the venture started to get bigger and bigger. I then got more and more orders – I even recall an order that I had to ship outside of Pakistan. The assistant to the Ambassador to Tunisia from Islamabad called me, saying that he required a Dell DS30 Laptop. It was a lengthy process in which payment had to be sent to me beforehand yet again, but I managed to pull it off.
Through the years, we expanded to Office Supplies, Mobile Phones, Electronics, Groceries, and Gift Items.
We signed on with Western Union, Express Money, and Standard Chartered Bank (Internet Banking) as payment options for easy use.
We got courier companies on board and explained them how to adjust their operations for e-commerce clients. Our biggest achievement in this regard was getting OCS on board, which was providing same day delivery in Karachi.
However, when I started getting my business’s full gears in motion, my heart was set on moving to greener pastures – in Dubai. After having secured multiple deals with laptop distributors at a GITEX Event in 2005, I decided to move to Dubai in 2006 with my family, and registered a company by the name of Jumbos that very year – in the e-commerce space. However, the venture didn’t do that well, and in 2008, we packed up and came back home. Beli City also started to struggle and the venture finally came to a close in 2010.

However, I’d like to add that I’m not ashamed of having fallen. For, shortly after, I brought myself back up, and shot for the moon.

3. Describe the food scene in Karachi

I’d say that due to Karachi’s cosmopolitan nature, there are many different cuisines with established restaurants, and many different varieties of Pakistani food. However, due to Karachi’s vast size, it’s difficult for people in say, Korangi Town to access food that’s readily available in Clifton. That’s when I decided there was a need for a delivery service.

4. What was the idea behind Supermeal?
Even though I’m not officially a part of Supermeal, I provided them with consultancy to jumpstart their business in Karachi, from June to December 2014. The founder, Waqar, had studied in the UK, and decided to bring his expertise back to Pakistan

5. How did Supermeal fare?
SuperMeal fared extremely well.In fact, it managed to expand it’s services in the UK.

6. Saadia’s Kitchen is a venture started by your wife. How has that been going?
Saadia’s Kitchen started in 2009 as a home-made food ordering service. It was most popularly utilized as a lunch ordering service for corporate employees. In 2011, it downsized and only offered catering options – however, they have a lot to offer, with 82 different unique home-made dishes.

7. What about Delivery Walay? How has the response been.
Delivery Walay is just one of a few different startups that have used my newly crafted office working space dubbed as The Encubator, situated in Sharah-e-Faisal in Karachi. DeliveryWalay was started by Sheikh Rehan Ellahi this year. The service offers delivery of groceries, electronics, brochures (corporate)

8. What made you conceive the idea of The Encubator?
I have many hobbies and passions – of which video production is a big one. Faisal Qureshi (esteemed TV Anchor) started a venture – Sarhad ka Search – in which we would record our own shows and post them online – circa 2011.

Around the same time, I conceived M Matches, an SMS based buying/selling platform – think of Postmates in Pakistan on an SMS platform. However, due to similar ventures such as DialFones by Warid and Zmart by Zong popping up, I decided to sell M Matches to Telco Dialog, based in Sri Lanka, in 2013

In 2013, I created MadJoined Studios. Various startups joined and competitions were held. We had to handpick 20 startups out of 100, of which we’d take 30% equity in exchange for resources, mentorship, and office space. That’s when the Encubator was launched (March 2015)
Though it is pretty time consuming to deal with the various startups there, I am very happy that iSmart Films (a mobile film production studio) is set up there. I picked up the idea after attending the iPhone Film Festival in the States, where Rubin Cossins showcased the concept.
I am planning to have Pakistan’s first Mobile Phone Film Festival from September 24-25, 2015 in Karachi. 478 films have been submitted so far for review.


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