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Sailing through Tough Times

Umair Zafar is the founder of ZAS that offers ICT systems and renewable energy solutions

How you conceived the idea?

Since I started my practical life, despite of a good career I was never satisfied. I belong to a family where most of the people are job professionals or in public service. It took me 6 years to know about what I should do and what I must not do. As one of my mentors used to say; “Knowing what to do is important but knowing what not to do is more important”. My generation has seen the economic condition getting worse every year and one of the reasons is, most of our educationally, technically and financially enabled people do not play their role in paying back to the society. I decided that I will be an opportunity creator instead of consumer as it is better to lighten a candle than to curse darkness.

How I developed it?

Discussing with a number of right people, studying a number of startups success and failures stories, I decided to start something which is with in my own skill set. I choose services sector as it has a lot of opportunities in Pakistan, and there is always room for the value addition and the most important part is, one requires a small amount of money to startup a services business. Developing startup is a crucial thing. It took a lot of my energy to make my business plan, selecting the right business model, estimating the risks, surrounding myself with right people and appropriate financing.

How much money you had?

I had only my savings, which were obviously very small i.e. less than half a million rupees. I am convinced money matters a lot but least among the key factors in building a startup. What matters the most is idea, believe in own-self, embracing failures and consistency.

What challenges you faced?

Unfortunately, there are still many challenges. As of a startup one need to be very much aware of tax laws applicable to offered services, financial management, finding out right people who understand your vision and right for the job, telling customers the right thing which is sometimes shocking to them as it challenges the norms. My business model was not adaptive, but with time I learned the importance of adaptability so a number of challenges were resolved.

What problem it is solving?

In Pakistan, unfortunately we don’t have consultants for several jobs. Many technical works are being planned and carried out without getting services form subject matter experts, which results in the waste and misuse of the resources. After understanding our client’s requirements, we guide them with the right solutions in order to get optimized results and with projectized approach so that it should not be tough on customer’s pocket. Our people worry the most onetime cost and ignore recurring cost. We help them to understand the difference and benefits of reducing the recurring cost in terms of money and improved work efficiency. There is value addition in our all systems and services, which is backed by information technology. And these days information technology is the backbone of every business or service. Also, we are now offering ELV systems as a service, which has benefits for both i.e. the end user and the service provider.

How is it going?

These days our country’s economy is going through the worst of worst phases. The existing mature businesses are dying. Truly it is the time when only fittest will survive, and we are surviving. But its the vision that keeps you on the track and we don’t loose sight and the hope. Times are tough, but I think it’s very good for me and many other startups like me, as it is the toughest time which strengthens, we are blessed that we are dealing with it. When our startups are not very mature, but the learning we have now are the life time learning. We are planning to conduct sessions in colleges and universities in certain areas of central Punjab which are less developed (later on we will cover whole Pakistan) to encourage students to think out of the box and to introduce them to Risk as opportunity. We will also share our lesson learned and will create a platform where ideas can reach to right person so that we play our role to enable our youth for self-sustainability, which will definitely lead to the prosperity and will become a game changer for our country.

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