Dubai-based Zohare Haider, founder of three startups including a digital agency and restaurant news aggregator, says he wants money pouring into the startup sector in Pakistan via venture capitalists (VC ) happened a decade earlier, adding that the ecosystem will eventually find its place.
“The VC ecosystem in Pakistan woke up far too late in Pakistan,” Haider said company registraradding that right now the country has “more people accessing more capital with fewer ideas of how to use it.”
But he said that’s how an ecosystem will eventually exist – “a large amount of funding will allow an environment for people to pursue ideas with the expectation that many will fail”.
“You need a big injection of capital that will allow more people to pursue entrepreneurship – the ecosystem doesn’t thrive because you have people who have an idea and get money for it, it’s It is the quantum of both that occurs in a volume that allows an ecosystem to form.
But he says that’s okay, because venture capitalists want money flowing into the economy to fuel the growth through which new entrepreneurs multiply.
Using Careem as an example, he said co-founders Mudassir Shaikha and Magnus Olsson “built this ecosystem and Careem became a conduit that enabled second and third generation entrepreneurs to be created.
“It’s amazing the value they’ve generated. At the same time, they are considered a source of inspiration.
He also believes in developing and shaping people’s mindsets and attitudes. According to him, Pakistan has a lot of work to do, but he is optimistic – “the government has done a good job in recent years with the national incubation systems”.
“I want it to work. I just want more people to understand the responsibility we have towards this opportunity.
The jalebi foundation and the role of incubators
Haider admits he has loved food all his life – “as a Pakistani, it’s hard not to. I could eat my weight in biryani and pulao”.
This love for food led to his first business, Foona, which he started when he graduated in the United States and moved back to Pakistan.
Now defunct, it was a platform to help consumers find restaurants and leave reviews – “like Zomato and Yelp – we were really ahead of our time.”
This business was his bustle and passion project for a long time while he worked at the British Council.
The idea for his second startup, Digital Street, came around 2014 when he needed more money for Foona – but it was too early for VC funding and his job wasn’t paying him enough to fund it himself – same.
Described by Haider as a mid- to high-end digital agency that deals with branding, design and social media marketing, Digital Street started in Dubai and grew from 2 people to almost 20 people.
Haider then decides to entrust the company to his team and wishes to develop Foona. However, Covid hit and he realized that the model we thought for Foona wouldn’t work.
They went back to the drawing board to come up with an idea that would work in a post-pandemic world and ended up creating a menu to streamline how restaurants manage their menu content across digital touchpoints like aggregators, websites and call centers.
They got space in a venture capital studio in the United Arab Emirates, which allowed them to talk to restaurants and understand their problems.
They were then accepted into Tech Stars, an incubator that operates in Colarado in the United States.
“They’re mostly in person which makes them more special unlike Y Combinator which is pretty much virtual now. Tech stars are decentralized, so they operate in different markets and regions based on partnerships, which is pretty amazing.
In a 15-week program, startups spend two weeks doing a speed dating exercise with experts to get feedback on their ideas.
“It’s a meteor shower on the face. It’s really brutal, you have to be vulnerable and be ready to emerge victorious one way or another,” warns Haider.
“And it hurts because everyone has ego and pride and everyone likes their idea, but we’ve started to see a pattern of experts in various fields saying what you’re selling doesn’t is not scalable.”
His team changed their business model to the supply side – they decided to look at stocks because they were told no one had been able to get it right when it came to technology.
“It didn’t seem very appealing to us at first, it was confusing. How was no one able to get proper inventory? It’s such a fundamental thing. »
Now Jalebi is positioning itself “as the world’s only inventory-based restaurant operating system, which means we’re not built to help them generate revenue – even though we have an outlet that gives you allows you to sell – we’re designed to help you optimize and reduce costs on every order you serve by helping you see critical data and information.”
Jalebi has onboarded around 30 brands in 4 markets (UAE, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Oman) which are ready to use the platform on 100 sites which will become operational in the coming weeks. It’s just coming out of the product’s stealth mode and will be rolling out to a handful of customers. He hopes to be able to serve home chefs as well as 5-star hotels and restaurants
Why mentoring is important to Haider
Haider says the three things he wished he had had at the start of his journey as an entrepreneur were access to capital, an ecosystem “that allows us to knock mistakes down and learn” and mentorship.
For him, it is important to have a relationship without bias and where “a mentor or a mentee rub shoulders on an equal footing, they both have knowledge to dispense and share”.
Although they don’t always have the time, Haider believes founders have an obligation to pass on what they know.
The most important thing he would like budding businessmen to know is the importance of having a good financial and legal infrastructure “even if it means making a few mistakes or spending a little extra money because those things protect you as you go.”
It’s also important to talk to the right investors and learn how to pitch ideas.
“These things go unnoticed. We could be watching videos on YouTube without the full context of how it plugs into our particular situation.
His advice to entrepreneurs is to ask themselves why they want to become an entrepreneur.
“Are you trying to solve a problem or are you trying to be on the cover of a magazine.
“If it’s the former, you need to find a real problem that people really care about or don’t understand exists, and then find a quick way to prove it exists and fix it.”
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022