P@SHA LaunchPad: the Karachi event
After the successful launch of the Lahore event, we were a little more relaxed that the Karachi one which was scheduled for the next day, would go off without a hitch. However, force of habit meant that I was there several hours before I had to be – just to see that everything was going according to plan. I had also scheduled a meeting at 12 noon with someone who was visiting Karachi from Lahore even though it was a Sunday so I had to be there early.
Everything was under control. My team was already there and so were most of the volunteers. The backdrop was being put up and everything else was being done. Some minor changes needed to be made with the stage setting and the seating but things were under control otherwise.
So when Khurram arrived for our meeting, we went down to the Nadia Coffee shop at the Marriott to have our discussions over a cup of coffee. It was only when people started to arrive that I was summoned upstairs.
The judges in Karachi included:
Amin Hashwani, director of the Hashoo Group
Yusuf Jan, Founder of Mixit Inc & Chairman of P@SHA
Ashraf Kapadia, MD, Systems Ltd
Jawwad A. Farid, CEO, Alchemy Technologies
Nauman Sheikh, Director, Credit Chex
Rahim Lalani, Director, TRG Tech
The ideas presented in Karachi included:
ArziRehaish.pk, a web portal focusing on exclusively on bachelor accommodation. The theme of this portal was to facilitate bachelor community of Pakistan who travel from their home towns for educational and employment purposes.
People Capital, an online human resource management software as a service (SaaS) model, through which organizations (SMEs) would have their own online Human Resource Development, Management and Information system, orientation and knowledge resource without the need for setting it up, maintaining it and worrying about hosting it.
Kitabain.com is Usman and Jawwad’s latest initiative towards making books accessible to a wider audience in Pakistan. About a year ago they started out The Readers Club, Pakistan’s first online book rental service in Karachi (www.thereadersclub.com). Very often they get requests from members for the option to purchase books that they’d like to hold on to and also a way to give away books that might be lying around.
They have tried to put the two requests together along with other ideas to come up kitabain.com. They envision it as a platform to enable individual sellers or independent bookstores to instantly make their inventory available to a much wider audience than they can typically hope to with a geographically constrained brick and mortar establishment. For Buyers; Whether they are looking for the latest releases or something hard-to-find, the hope is that they can find it at drastically reduced prices on kitabain.com.
A simple idea that immediately resonated with the judges.
Foot Mouse: Basicly Ahsan had been thinking of some design Innovation in the Mouse for a long while and one day he thought why shouldn’tt we use this mouse with our feet. Naturally he google searched for existingproducts and found 2 major Foot operating Mice worth around 12000 to 30000 Pakistani rupees, none of them as simple as the one he had in mind. So he brainstormed with teachers, his brother and his friends and voila, the Foot Mouse.
Why a Foot Mouse? Well, Ahsan thinks it can be used by people with physical challenges, it can be used by gamers and by musicians. He gave a live demo of the product and judges actually examined it. Price is estimated at Rs. 700. One of the judges asked Ahsan what he would do if he got an order for 100,000 pieces tomorrow. How long would it take for him to deliver? Where would he get the money to buy materials, etc. Valid questions to get him thinking. Interestingly enough the judge also said that he was part of a large NGO initiative dealing with physically challenged individuals and he asked Ahsan to meet with him so that they could explore the idea of turning this into a commercial product and getting him his first big order. Yay!
Pak Polling – Ali Naqi says this is a better and more efficient way of National Elections Voting through an SMS based service and Finger Print Scanning alongwith Automated camera snapshot and Live camera monitoring of Voter on the day of Polling.
RenSoy is the “the search assistant you need”, says Adnan Muzaffar. The idea behind RenSoy is simple. We all use Google as a search engine. Why? Because we get relevant, reliable and accurate results quickly, with a simple GUI.
However, Google has advanced searching capabilities through different commands. But only the smartest people or the IT/Tech related people know how to use them effectively.
That’s where RenSoy comes into play. It offers web, image, blog, news and books search all in one place – and all of the searches are legally powered by Google. So quality is assured, its fast, ajaxified and has 30 different ways of searching and the GUI is sleek and simple.
Reflex 360 – A research house that would be a setup, foundation or a unit where IT personals, IT-base companies and educational institutes will come together under the umbrella of ‘research work’. This research work for example could be based on discovering new technologies ( write down your technical wordy stuff here). On financial front and to sustain it, Reflex 360 could sell out newly discovered ideas and prototypes to interested companies. It could even invoke foreign investment in aspect of off-shoring research material. It would help give a culture of ‘research’ a base in the country. People with vague ideas and concepts about ‘the next big thing’ could come together with people with IT- genius and research and develop it. The house would publish research papers, materials and develop piloting systems if the idea is worthy.
Wi-track – Taimoor Zubair says that this is a GSM/GPRS based tracking system which uses cellphones to track users. He says that it is a novel concept which provides an alternate to GPS based tracking and is much more flexible and cost-effective. The location of a user is determined by using nearby cellphone towers and applying the principle of triangulation. This location information can be sent in real-time to the server using GPRS or sms.
SEO tool – Sadia Abdullah said that their tool provides optimization services to increase web page ranking on search engines especially Google. It performs Keyword Analysis and will suggest appropriate keywords with respect to pages. It determines Site Popularity and analyzes HTML Code for better optimization
and generates reports. They are planning to offer SEO outsourcing services to customers domestically and internationally.
Dhaaba, says Ali Iqbal Khan, is the first implementation of a ‘data-aggregation’ idea of Enroi. Basically it will enable consumers to order food online or through SMS. Right now it is not possible to order food online, consumers need to remember the phone number and make a call. Few restaurants have their websites and they are seldom well-maintained. Dhaaba is envisioned to fill this gap.
-Portal with data aggregation from restaurants
-Consumer can view/search/compare dishes of various restaurants at one place
-Consumers make order through website or SMS
-Dhaaba will communicate order to particular restaurant and food will be delivered to consumer
-Consumers don’t need to enter address details etc. as Dhaaba will save them.
-Consumers can save their whole week’s lunch plan, Dhaaba will make order appropriately on each day.
-Consumers’ money and time will be saved for making an order.
Interactive Learning for the Muslim world – To provide an online platform for students all over the world, especially Pakistan, where they can learn and play at the same time. Apart from conventional classroom learning, children will now be able to enhance their creative and interpersonal skills on an online forum. It would play a role of discussion board for students, teachers and parents. Online lessons, exercises, modules, chapters and one to one sessions on all subjects will be provided 24/7. Because of this imitative, students will get out of the typical home tuition and academy system.
FYDest – The idea is to guide the people by telling them the shortest path to their destination. It is the same function provided by the GPS in cars. GPS can tell you to turn right or left to reach to your destination. Our idea is a little bit different. In addition to the service similar to GPS we want to provide additional information to the user. We inform the user that from all possible paths, which is the easiest, shortest and fastest. These goals can be achieved by giving the user the current situation of the path that he is going to take. Or at least inform the user the fastest path after analysis of all the possible ones.
Formal Shirts Online – Shahzeb Saeed brings together handpicked fabrics, light but durable, and meticulous tailoring in order to deliver the very best to you. The carefully proportioned collars, made of 18 individual pieces, are reinforced by removable collar bones to ensure durability and edge bones to maintain shape. Plackets help strengthen the cuffs and hide the wrists. The shoulder fit is perfect every single time, because of the use of a two piece split yoke at the back. The details matter here, and extra care is taken in the hand-stitching and finishing so that you never have to worry about your shirts, ever again. He is running this business online and has achieved some level of success already.
PakiPay – Ahsan Saleem sais that PakiPay is a small tool for bridging the Pakistan mobile world to the internet, by allowing users to share mobile balance to purchase small value items via the internet or phone. It currently works only in Pakistan. There was some discussion as to whether PakiPay would require a license from the State Bank of Pakistan as has been the experience of products like Amaana and Innovate.
Telecom Clicking GE – a web based application that binds the tools of Mapinfo into Google Earth, with facility to view 3D plots of sites. Mapinfo is the most widely used software in telecom. It plots the sites of the network in its window and has tools that display the frequencies assigned to the cells of site, and the adjacencies (neighbors for Handovers) created in the database. This allows the engineers to plan and audit the Radio Network of cellular systems. They also use Google Earth for updated geographical info. As Mapinfo tools for displaying frequency/adjacency are not portable in GE, the engineer constantly switches between Mapinfo & GE. Telecom Clicking GE integrates the benefits of desktop application Mapinfo into web application Google Earth, while resolving the problems in usage of Mapinfo. The product displays height of site, hence allowing faster & efficient plan and audit of Cellular Network.
Help Me – According to Farzal Dojki, H.ELP.ME is focused at providing technology support – pre launch but mostly post launch – for technology products, primarily, mobile applications. HELPME staff is trained by product owners, and then the consumer support interactions are migrated to be handled by HELP ME staff. The expected client base is supposed to be small product companies with < 20 people and needing between 0.5 to 5 people in support role – and hence the necessity to outsource instead of building in-house team and managing it. Farzal was looking for ideas on how to scale his business. The judges were impressed with the niche he had selected and saw impressive growth. They felt that he needed to tap into networks of individuals whom he had studied with, worked with in different industry segments and people he had had as mentors. Those would be the ideal channels in addition to the referrals from satisfied customers.
Kidsconvent.com – Kidsconvent.com is Pakistan’s first customizable online/offline animated syllabus with Urdu Script. It supports and wants to promote activity based learning methodology of education. According to Ahmad Raza, animation and graffiti can help a child to capture & understand concepts more quickly than a regular notebook. Their idea is not to make the book obsolete, but to use animated syllabus as a supporting tool.
Tagit – This service attempts to create an easy way to communicate with your consumer in three simple steps:
1. Brand/ Blog/Organization visits the Tagit website and registers itself and receives a unique ID similar to brand name or a simple widget to integrate into their website.
2. Brand/ Blog/Organization asks their consumers to SMS their uniqueID to the given mobile short code for example “SMS Microsoft to 3456”.
3. If the consumer texted Microsoft to 3456, Microsoft and the consumer are now connected, consumer can send any message to Microsoft by simply texting to 3456, and Microsoft can send notifications, updates to connected consumers.
Websites or blogs can integrate a simple widget on their homepage through which a reader can subscribe to their RSS feeds which he/ she will receive through SMS.
Internet users can interact with the brands through Tagit’s Brand Social Network by simply joining/ following the brand pages to get their latest updates. Possibilities are endless and the solution is simple.
The winning entries in Karachi included Kitabain.com for the product category whereas the winner for the idea category was a tie between Foot Mouse and Tagit. What was more satisfying was that in addition to the cheques, the winners had additional offers of assistance and collaboration. Khurram of Evolve offered to connect Usman Siddiqui of Kitabain with some of the main bookstore chains in Lahore and Tagit has signed a termsheet with a local technology company to work jointly on developing the product.
The participants were all pleased with the questions and feedback that they received from the judges but some people in the audience felt that the judges were very tough on the presenters. However, as one judge pointed out, “We wanted to be tough on them now because the opportunity cost of changing direction is low. We want to prevent them from the kind of heartache that we went through at a later stage on our entrepreneurial journey.” So there were questions like:
Have you had any user feedback vis-a-vis the utility of the product and the UI?
Okay so it is cool, but have you done some research on existing competitors and pricing?
How will you market the product or service? How will you grow the business?
How is this different from what already exists in the market? How is it innovative?
Some of the kids made the mistake of using a significant portion of their time “educating” the judges regarding the internet or technology in general or about education. This cut into their presentation time and they were unable to talk about the innovation, the impact and the business viability of the product or service. However, some of the presentations were very good and it was generally a good start to the kind of activity that is needed to generate more and more ideas, and increasingly the setting up of new and successful businesses in the IT space.