Overcoming Peril: Story of My Life as a Tech Entrepreneur
Imagine a plant being shifted from one habitat to another, it never gets a chance to truly feel the ground beneath it and get accustomed to the nature around it but what this plant did was it absorbed all the essence of the nature, be it beauty or adversity inside it’s leaves.
It sipped in every little detail the ground had to offer; the secrets of life, the key to glory and the significance of experience.
That’s how the plant turned the dimensions of all the hardships it had faced and steered them into making itself blossom youthfully.
A man’s journey begins as soon as he descends into this world and continues until he descends into the grave. Every second that passes, every breath that we took brings in new adventures, ones that must be experienced.
These adventures do two things, either they help you in polishing the already inherent skill inside yourself or they identify a new skill inside your character that had been buried so long and was waiting for a trigger to emerge into your life.
Either way, adventures and experiences never prove to be detrimental for your existence, they only make you the best of your present self.
Today, I am going to open the doors of my life and welcome you to experience my story. It’s young lad’s journey who was on his own and had little to spend, went to become a happy self-taught tech entrepreneur.
Chapter 1: The Early Days
At a very young age I was sent to the boarding school and from that place, in small bits, my true journey to prosperity began. But it had never occurred to me even in my wildest dreams that while spending all my resources to in quest to get into a good cadet college, I would end up being at a tech entrepreneurship ladder.
Living inside such a peculiar environment wasn’t a piece of cake. I had been an introvert most of my life and felt at unease and the idea of society always feared me.
I couldn’t speak up in public, I hesitated to step up because I feared that the society would stigmatize me. The tawdry concept of LKKG, that is log kya kahain gay, had curbed from achieving a prodigious feat.
Life at those schools was tough and if that wasn’t enough I had to transfer from one boarding school and never really got a chance to adapt completely to my environment and the system itself.
I felt as if I was on a treadmill where after regular intervals I had to shift between English and Urdu medium of study.
But Hey look at me, I didn’t let all that get over my nerves and make me surrender to adversity, because I realized that adversity is a blessing, it makes you stronger. You don’t evolve if everything gets served to you, there’s eternal joy in attaining something through hard work.
The course of life my fate had taken, helped me to travel. It felt as if I was unfolding the world in front of myself and at one stop, hidden under the vastness of that world, my heart found it’s home a place where it loved being.
Though this wasn’t easy either, at just 10 years of age, where you expect a child to roam from one shop to another to find a good kulfi or papur or spend most of the evening outside in patang bazi or guli danda. I used to travel almost 500km away from my home to my boarding schools situated near “Alipur” all alone. Once when I was 11, I slept through my journey and missed my station thus I ended up 200 km away from my actual stop and was about to enter Sindh. From there onwards I had to get to my destination on my own and that too at 5 in the morning (that’s how you actually get to where you belong) I shifted buses, which to be true wasn’t comfortable for a 11 year old me. But being out of the comfort zone, helped me to be courageous, courageous to be strong and have faith in my resolution.
I wasn’t supposed to sleep at that hour, this was the first time ever I realized that I failed, I failed at not sleeping but once I got back to my destination successfully, I wasn’t afraid of failing ever again.
I guess we should fast forward it a little to the part where I found out that “never settle for something you can’t get your heart into, always look for the thing where your takes you to”.
I got admitted into Abbottabad Public school, one of the country’s finest. But something being fine for others doesn’t mean it’s suitable for you to. The hectic daily PT routines for a bulky little boy from Punjab who had been stuffed with parathas was intolerable, apart from that I couldn’t get hold of the language there. This was an exasperating time for me shifting from urdu to English, turning my riazi into maths was a difficult equation to solve. The fact that I was a lackadaisical obese Lahori kid who couldn’t excel in both studies and sports took over me and made me give up.
But the year and a half I spent in APS was the most memorable time of my life, I can never forget those morning PT drill sessions, I hated them but I used to be the last person coming out of mess and everyone used to say “tum Lahore se ho na is liye itna khatay ho” :p
Finally I had to come back to my hometown Lahore to continue studies, my willpower was still there and from there onwards I resolved to strive harder.
After getting admission in Lahore, I nourished myself even more at home tuitions and academies, so that I could compete and draw out the fighter in me and secured a highly satisfying above 90% marks.
Chapter 2: Start of My Career
From there onwards I learnt that “to know where you are and what you are, you have to stand on your own”. In order to do something of my own I took a job at a call centre, as apparent I had to make several cold calls in order to gain something, though I was clumsy at English but i didn’t loosen my grasp over my task and sold so many things to native English speakers which they didn’t need, but somehow I convinced them to buy.
This was one of things what would later go along with me with my success, as the marketing skills I had developed during my time at the call centre was the prime factor that helped me in selling my product and making it attractive for even the first timers.
This was the first time I realized how good I was at persuading people, I felt like I could convince anyone to buy whatever I’d sell.
Two months and a lot of cold calling later, Now I’m enrolled for pre engineering at Forman Christian College. What a lively place that college was! The building, the nature , the people, it was all amazing. My love for FC will never die.
I was living on Rs 500/- pocket money per week. One day while browsing on the internet I saw an ad which most of you may have been quite familiar with now “hazaar rupay mein apni website banwain”.
Online scams weren’t a common thing back then, so I took a chance, called that person and deposited “udhaar ka hazaar” in his account and then the horrendous thing happened, the man never picked up my call again, as if I was stranger trying to hit on him.
I was in a Rs 1000 debt now and was beating myself over my naiveness, my “bholapan”. But this guilt didn’t stay too long and soon transformed into my curiosity to find out what he was supposed to do for me and how he was going to do that. My love for web and technology was in the making, it was going to be the best love story ever. I started finding out more about it like a true “majnu” reading spider and @internet magazine became a routine.
This is when I came across an ad on a magazine, “web hosting and domains” for Rs 1300/ year. As I was already in debt and couldn’t afford a mere Rs 1300 ( you can imagine the financial crises I was in) I had to ask my friend for a favour and like a true friend one of my fellows lent me Rs 1300 without even inquiring.
Sales guy at that company managed to persuade me into buying a reseller plan costing 20,000/ year. Trust me I didn’t even know properly what web hosting was and I ended up with an unlimited reseller plan.
the only thing I had to do was realize what I was supposed to do with it, and then it suddenly hit me, like dodge ball hitting your head with full force, I opened MS Word, typed “Get your personal website today with .com domain and web hosting at just Rs 2500/year” and got it printed. I placed the ad everywhere at my college.
I could never have imagined in my wildest dream that students would want to buy websites from me, I started getting calls from the very first hour and guess what, I sold websites worth of over Rs 25,000 in my first day.
This is how I made money for the first time as an entrepreneur and I can’t really explain my feelings in words right now but it was the best feeling ever. Oh and BTW I was just 15 by then and I didn’t even know how to make those websites which I claimed. I was only good at persuading people, remember?
But unlike the guy who cheated me I actually started learning HTML from online videos and fulfilled all orders within given turnaround time.
My hidden potential which was encrypted inside me was now decrypted, I knew what I wanted to do and my determination and destination was finally channelized and synced in the same direction.
By 2007 I had over 200 clients and a potential to create a proper web hosting company. I couldn’t let this opportunity go away since I made it for myself, I sold my car which my dad gave me to commute during my stay at college and my ever so beautiful and caring mom contributed by selling some of her jewellery and that’s how HonexTech came into being.
Managing HonexTech was an amazing experience it helped me to acquire a plethora of skills like Search Engine Optimization, business acquisitions, dealing with clients, blogging and teaching. My horizons were expanded now and I had found a leader in me and was managing over 2500 customers.
Chapter 3: How I turned $20 into $200,000 within a year
But as they say good times don’t last forever, life is unpredictable. On one sad day in 2011 I had to sell my company as the lungs of my younger brother had collapsed, he was suffering from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Though the time in hospital lasted for just 3 months but the days felt like years and months like centuries. I used stay in hospital during nights.
Even though I didn’t make much by selling my first company but whatever I had was spent in paying medical bills of hospital (I had no guilt about it because family is the most precious treasure one has), now I had to think about how could I get back into the web world. I had no money, my brother was sick in the ICU and I had to do something for him.
That’s when I entered inside the world of professional blogging, I registered a new domain with the only 2000 rupees I had. I wrote my first blog post with the passion to rise again and to make name for myself, a friend from university contributed with me along the way, I was working from hospital and in just 2 months we were getting more than 50,000 readers a month. We now had the money. Ans, my brother, was discharged from hospital and was living under intensive care with 24/7 nursing at our own home. My hard work never stopped and within a year we crossed the 1 million readers mark and was making $10,000 to $15,000 a month. Then misfortune struck my blog and owing to an immature mistake from one of our writers we got banned from Google Adsense for copyright issues, Adsense was generating most of the revenues.
It felt really bad, I never anticipated that happening but it is what it is and didn’t surrender. A whole new chapter was about to unfold in my life, a new journey was waiting for me. I wrote a sales pitch for my website and posted it on Flippa and that’s how I sold my first blog for a brain popping $125,000 to an American buyer. This is how I turned $20 into more than $200,000 within a year. I also won Flippie award for selling best blog of the year 2012.
I had enough money on my hands now and was ready to live and enjoy my life for myself. I could easily buy a sports car and some property (a typical Pakistani move), I invested most of my money in property and gave the rest to my dad in order to manage the household affairs.
This road wasn’t easy, misfortunes kept on happening, they matured with time. From getting screwed over by an online hoax worth 1000Rs in the beginning to losing almost $72,000 on a google penalty. But in the end I sold over $500,000 worth of website online and did everything which I wanted to do.
Though the time didn’t remain consistent but my resolve did. I didn’t let failure tell me that I can’t do something, I knew that success was waiting for me and I had learnt that success would be my fate when failure fails to demotivate.
I taught myself everything, I learnt the bits and bytes of programming the basics of marketing, like a baby with young eyes and a fresh mind. I didn’t let time and hardships put a stain on my will and motivation. I take pride in whatever I have done for myself, I made my own destiny.
Once you do what you love, the learning will become immortal. If you do something that you enjoy doing you will continue to do it till you die.
There is no end to your imagination, it spans further than the limits of this world. The same guy who was having trouble by repeatedly shifting between Urdu and English became a plant that learnt to adapt and blossomed like flower that shined brighter than the sun.
From having just Rs 500 for my pocket money I had earned over half million dollar revenues from 100 blogs. Realize that things don’t always remain the same once you decide to be the change you want to see, I spent countless sleepless nights to get where I am today and I feel grateful for the fact that I was tested by time and nature since they made me the person I am today, A happy self-made tech entrepreneur.
Chapter 4: Unfolding the Next Chapter
Now coming to the final part, I have something for you though. Can you guess what it is? I left some clues for you above. Okay if you can’t guess then let me walk you through or should I say jog you through!
Do you remember I mentioned earlier that there was a time when I used to be bulky and obese, when I used to take more space than the space itself? Well I’ve been obese all my life which proved to be very detrimental for my health.
I felt uncomfortable in doing any physical labour and those felt unproductive in household chores. It was one of my shortcomings and I hate being a burden on anyone especially myself so I promised that I would lose weight in 2014 and with sheer motivation and determination I fulfilled my promise like a true friend, lost almost 55 KG.
During that time I realised how hard it actually is to lose weight, at certain moments I felt like quitting and the temptation of the savoury foods made matters worse. I felt that I wouldn’t be able to achieve the benchmark I set for myself. As with all the previous cases I didn’t let feeling define me as one becomes what he feels like or think, I stayed optimistic and so here I am 55 kilos lighter and a lot healthier.
That’s how another idea struck me and that was to help people lose weight in a more meaningful way.
Initially I started helping people lose weight for absolutely free and managed to produce great results and last year I started working on options to make it a viable and a sustainable business model, from which I can generate some money while helping people with affordable solutions and increase the reach of my program and that’s how I came up with Nutright.
I’ve been working on this idea for 9 months and we are due for beta launch of Nutright at the end of May InshAllah. Nutright is a web and mobile app that provides exercise and diet based weight loss and maintenance programs by connecting professionals to end users using technology.
As a CEO I’m fully devoted to Nutright and have been bootstrapping it ever since. I don’t know what future holds for me but let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best, May Nutright help Pakistan fight obesity and malnutrition. May we impact people’s lives and make it easier for them to pass their life easily and happily with good health.
Things You Can Take Away From My Experience.
If there is one thing I want you to take away from my experience that is to not be afraid of failing at something. If you don’t face failure in life you will never get a chance to make yourself better. It will not only make you stronger but will also help you unlock your hidden potential. But to achieve all that you would have to fail at something really bad.
Everyone should get punched in the face at least once in their lifetime, getting punched hurts, but not that much and eventually you will get over the pain but next time you’ll think twice before repeating same mistake. A year from now, everything you’re stressing about won’t even matter, they will fade away into obscurity and the only thing that will be left will be you, you are the champion, you are a leader, take that potential out and show the world your worth. Rise and grind my friends.