Entrepreneurship and Small business
Ali Mohammad Abro
My name is Azeem. I have started my business in 2009. Wecurrently have four projects in one business. First is of software development, second is international leather store, third is international apparel store which are of different types and the difference is that the leather business is done locally and apparel store is done in U.S only. Andfourth we started a year back called as partsmall.pk which is our local store. The international leather store is email@example.com. Our fashion store is called as spaceapparel.com. And finally is our old, basic business which is software house called as Enomsoft.com.
Q: Where are your offices located?
we have one production house which is in Sadder apart from that we have one office in U.S and one in U.K and one is shahra e faisal, Karachi, Pakistan
Q: what is the strength of your employees?
We have 80 to 90 employees overall.
Q: What is the strength of your orders locally and internationally?
Every business receives different order sizes depending upon the nature of business like our business bartzmall.pk like we get 500 to 600 orders per day and apart from this space apparel which is international gets 30 to 35orders per day and 40 to 50 orders of leather goods. And i.t projects are on contract basis and we take very less new projects.
Start of Formal Questions.
Question 01: Sir Assalamalaikum! We have come from CBM. We are conducting an interview with an entrepreneur and that is you.Thank you very much sir for your time. Just wanted to ask you some questions. Hope you can answer them. My first question is how did you start your business? What was the idea behind it and what events lead to you to start this business?
Actually my background is from software development, I did some short courses of software development from small institutes then I did an internship in web development and the timings there were very tough where I had to spend my night too and we had normal 12 hours routine but I did learned a lot from there, I was very polished there. they offered me job and I started doing some freelance projects too because it’s an advantage in I.T services that you get many freelance projects to do like logo designing and web development so when I started from there and I started getting many projects and people started liking my work so when the projects increased too much so I quit my job and worked for only 7 to 8 months that was my last first and last job up till now. Then I started doing projects from my home and in this I got many e-commerce projects related to e-commerce websites and I loved doing it because I enjoyed doing it as it had many products and websites. Gradually when the projects increased, we started it by a small setup as it was the need to continue from a proper place where we did software development. This business is good for free-lance work but when it’s taken a proper business so we have to face many problems because as long as there are no expenses, this business is good but with the expenses it’s difficult to survive. The projects take long time to finish even many months; it is completed in one month time from our side but the other party don’t give replies or clients take long to respond but here we have to pay salaries to our employees and wrap the project up as soon. We wanted to develop our own e-commerce website however we were not getting that push from where we could start. We were confused between which products to include and start with, when clients explained their projects so we had idea about how it could go along and move. We had gained idea about starting business from what we heard in brief but in almost every product China were standing like a barrier and we could not do it, our projects were international so our main focus was on international clientele only and we had no plan to do in Pakistan and our e-commerce business was international only. One of our clients had leather jackets business; we developed their e-commerce website and received their SEO marketing project too which we did along with we received their BPC project which we also did. We kept eye on leads because we had to give the information to them. About Leather jacket has a low competition in the market because china is not involved in leather jacket anymore so we planned to move in. We wanted to enter in this business but we were confused from where to start which products to bring in. we approached the same client that we want to have partnership with you obviously no one would want to have their competitor in , they at first did not agree but later we convinced them that they will get 100% share from their website and we will develop new website for leather goods which will be totally handled by us free of cost and the property will be of client only and we shall do the marketing of it as well and give customer services of it too. We presented this idea to them and it attracted them because they’re not a single penny is being invested and their other business is moving at same pace so they did not mind it as they thought that another business will be set. They offered us some percentage that this much will be given to us and we can work on it.In the initial four to five months there was no productivity but after that a team was dedicated for this project a team and we got good response where of 8 to 10 members were allocated for this project. Then this project grew slowly and we started receiving 8 to 10 projects of leather jackets and it means a lot in this industry as it is a costly item, more value and profit margin is more. When the client saw that his business is not going well so he merged his business with ours because he saw that here the expertise are good and so it went on.
Question 02: who were your role models/ mentors/ believers/ partners/helpers/ supporters? Who supported you in this journey and who motivated you to take this step?
Answers: I was most supported by my parents, they simply said that you can do whatever businesses you like no restrictions nor don’t be afraid of any loss just keep moving forward and we are standing with you. This was my biggest support because initially till two years we did no drawings so this was a back for us which helped us to reach till this level.
Question 03: What were your goals when you started this business or before starting? What was that one thing which you wanted to achieve because of which you started this business?
Answers: We started growing step by step and with time our targets changed.Like we started with software house which is still going it’s not like it is closed.Then leather jackets then we made our international store in U.S where warehousing and dispatching takes place and local store. These four businesses are going on and are moving step by step. Wekept on making investments on other businesses once we felt that we have enough and main goal was that we set our business in a way that it never go down like if one business goes down then other could act as back up. Our main purpose of setting up projects was to support other business of it goes down. In the beginning our software house went down so multiple projects goal is to work as backup plans to support. Our main concern is that no downsizing and our reputation should not go down. One from vendor’s side and other from employees and employees are company’s biggest assets and whatever we have achieved is from our main power.
Question 04: What was your capital at the initial level or the starting point?
Answers: initial investment was zero, we did not do any kind of investment and by no investment it means we had small space which was our own and no cost was ether we were all partners, no employee we had and in month end we just had internet bill and electricity bill. We had back support so we did no drawing.
Question 05:How much time have you taken to reach this point of success?
Answerwe started from 2009 to 2016 now and took 7 years to grow. We moved smoothly since last two years and faced many problems and challenges because this business was new to us, we had no idea and with time we learned but whatever we started with since 2 years we were mentally prepared for everything and handled all projects efficiently.
Question 06: when you started with your business what were your working hours and hardships that you faced and today after becoming a successful entrepreneur, what are your working hours and hardships?
Answer: working hours have been always been the same from 10 to 12 hours even on job even when iw as on job and still today I give 10 to 12 hours because challenges are coming every day and moving step by step and we were growing every day so timing is also not decreasing we believe that if we don’t bring change then we will go down as in today’s trend everything is rapidly changing so it’s important to move with time and this is what we teach our employees that change is necessary and don’t get afraid of change. Especially in e-commerce industry is a growing industry, change is coming every day and every person is coming with unique ideas so we have to do all this to survive.
Question 7: As you work in e-commerce industry, what are the strengths and weaknesses of Ecommerce industry?
Answer: biggest strength is no market limitations you have entire world to explore like if you have a shop spy u know that you can cover up to a limited area have done international work so we targeted world but we were getting more orders from U.S and U.K but are target was world.as courier is also fast, you have big ground to play and the more efforts you put more results you get.one market is down u can pick other. We wanted to do in Pakistan when we started doing international but the market was not very vast in 2009 so we did not involve here. In 2014 when we started doing local so we saw Pakistan market it very much set Pakistani e-commerce market was well established and we got many customers here. And we covered entire Pakistan and got good results. Weakness is that as compared with normal market customer buys your product on what he sees in picture so when returns because of size or some other issue so there are many high chances of losses. If you go to retail store and buy so chances of return are less but in this return chances are more and cost is also there. This is a big disadvantage that you have to face such losses.
Question 8: the entrance is easy in e-commerce to setup a venture so do you consider new entrants as a threat or do they matter or they don’t matter to you?
Answer: I don’t think there are threats because this market is very huge and have much space to explore even if new competition comes so there is no problem and our orders will not be affected s we have enough space. Many have entered without any study which is wrong like an item is placed and listed in market place and order comes so we will but from market and displace , no doubt this is fine but mostly when you don’t analyse market you don’t know how many order will come. But market analysis is important to cater all orders that you receive. There are more chances of survival if market is studied. Return issues are there on new items which have minimum profit margin and have double delivery charges like four orders profit is spend on one return because of which they can’t survive. We analysed the market too but our analysis did not fit perfectly as our target was internal clientele we expected in same ways but we did analysed the differences but the differences were far more. We listed down our competitors and analysed their complete strategies what orders they get, there profit margins and then worked upon our orders and we targeted our leads. We did marketing and customer behaviour was not as we expected at international it was like as competition is here so there was not like that there. We data replacement refund policy was there because of which we bear the loss but we kept it as it is still there and ratio had decreased. When we started we did not analysed it too much as customer tackling way is different here as compared to there, it is difficult to explain here because people here are difficult to explain and convince, the first year has been tough to set but now we understand things and now we are much set.
Question 9: What is the risk factor associated with starting a new business?
Answer: there is high risk in every business and there are many up and downs. You will get, any jumps and many down time. You have to give three years’ time to every business; if you successfully cover those three years then you can move forward. This is a simple logic if you survive the first three years whether with loss or profit then you can continue because when people start business they get loss and they don’t do calculations beforehand. When you setup a business you keep a budget for your losses and if the losses exceed then your expectations then you have to shut down however the risk can be controlled and loss can be recovered in the next few months. Step by step you have to move and don’t be afraid of loss because it would lead to double loss than.
Question 10: Any advice and recommendations for those individuals who want to become entrepreneurs in future?
Answer: two best plat forms through which I have moved forward too and that is have good space which is I.t services and e-commerce as they don’t need much investment and can be set in one and a half year only like a normal business comparatively takes 3 years.it depends on your goals and targets Losses would be in the few months and u can reach breakeven point. The problem is to come from negative to zero. I would suggest take your expertise to the next level and make a plan and implement on it step and step. Now you are at minus so see zero and one two and move step by step this will cover your risk and development will be on right direction.
Question 11: To summarize, what are the skills which an entrepreneur needs to develop in him to become a successful entrepreneur?
Answer:Firstly have a positive mind-set and normally it is seen that people do partnerships and 90% they are not successful but alhumduliilah we have partnership since 2009 and its going well. Continue with your learning process, keep studying the market. Keep an eye on your competitor and try to analyse what he is doing and why he is doing so and do not follow his footsteps because he would get success with it but you would end up unsuccessfully so rather see what you can do with this there are many hidden factors behind it which are not visible through but are worked at back side. Analyse and see what level can u take it too how much capacity you have and don’t take it too long, do as much capacity you have .There are no shortcuts in this you get your jumps between moving from step by step.
An audio file of the interview can be found at: