Polio / Popularity / Poverty

Have you heard of the WHO sanction on Pakistanis traveling abroad? Because we have been unable to curb the polio virus so whenever we travel abroad we need to show a certificate saying we had been vaccinated. So I went to get my polio certificate. Didn’t take copy of my passport. Had to go out and find a scanner. Got the copy. Went back to the vaccination “cell” (what else do you call a 4X4 room?). Had to wait outside with some 50 other people because they were “fixing something” in the office. Half an hour later, I am ushered in. I asked if I could have a selfie taken while getting the drops. Request denied. They said it would end up on social media and media has been a huge problem these days. So. NO! Alrighty! Get the drops. They taste horrible. Then I am told to come back 3 hours later. Huh? WHY? Because the department head who has to sign the certificate has gone to his children’s school and won’t be back for a few hours. *facepalm*

Polio Vaccination at Airports

Polio Vaccination at Airports

Anyway … so am traveling to Dubai soon for an Ashoka Changemakers Conference. This is for the Women Powering Work competition where I won the Early Entry prize. There is no love lost between Dubai and me. Hate the city. Strangely enough, I quite liked the neighboring Abu Dhabi. But Dubai is racist. You can feel the vibe. The sheikhs looking down on you. Even the shopkeepers and hotel receptionists. Abu Dhabi in comparison was pretty friendly. But a free trip to meet Ashoka reps is always something to be mega excited about. No more whining.

Had a wonderful Orientation session at Pakistan’s oldest women college, Lahore College for Women University. Am conducting digital livelihood workshops next week for the British Council “Active Citizen Program” students and the college management felt it was important to have an intro. Girls seemed to enjoy it and had lots of questions to ask which is always a good sign. I think what they liked and related to most was the case studies I gave them of various women who were working online doing different kinds of work. For that I am ever grateful to Salma Jafri, Haleema Mohammad and Ambreen Tariq. These ladies answered the long list of questions I sent them and even went on to share their monthly earnings with us šŸ˜‰ Now I just feel poor. šŸ˜€

Best part was the girls lining up to have their photographs with me. I felt so important. haha Will post pictures when I have them.

So what’s new with you guys / girls? Everyone is always so quiet. Say something. Add a comment. I love to hear from everyone.

OK Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee



Networking – Don’t be Cold and Calculating

Came across a great quote the other day.

I’m not going to change the way I look or the way I feel to conform to anything. I’ve always been a freak. So I’ve been a freak all my life and I have to live with that, you know. I’m one of those people.
John Lennon

You can be “normal” and like everyone else. Merge and become one with everyone else so no ever loves you or hates your guts or talks about you or … you can do all the crazy things that your heart tells you are right and be FREAKINTASTIC. Let haters hate. Just means you are a strong enough personality to get to them. The lives you touch and the one genuine smile you bring to someone is the war more than half won.

Having said that …

My friends from GIST just completed their 2 week dream trip to the US where they went to Silicon Valley among other places. I was green like anything but at the same time am immensely proud of each and everyone of them. They worked incredibly hard and deserved to be there.

Speaking of Gist, my friends tell me the person who mostĀ benefitedĀ from GIST was me. I won’t say I benefited more than others but I did better than some. People attribute it to my “networking” skills. Not true. Networking is great but it needs to come with honesty and sincerity. A genuine interest in the other human being. While others network, I make friends.

Let me give you example from GIST …

At Abu Dhabi during the semi-finals we were asked to randomly pitch to a bunch of people around the room. While most were drawn to names from Google and Etisalat I went up to whoever was free at the mo. The young 20+ girl standing in a corner was my first choice. Not a big businesswoman … not at all. She was working on her startup. But more than giving her my pitch we just stood there and chatted about the challenges of running startups. I told her if she needed any help I was happy to assist since I had worked with several startups. After the trip, she wrote. She became my first client from the UAE.

I went around the 50+ startups in the hall (GIST + MITEF-PAN ARAB) and just spoke to them about what they were doing. Recorded short videos of everyone on GIST. In Dubai, for the finals, met co-founder of one of the Malaysian startups whom I had recorded. We had GREAT fun chatting, joking, sharing knowledge, exploring Dubai. He became my first client from Malaysia.

The shy young boy from Malaysia with a killer app for social media mapping and that I had great fun chatting with sent me another client from Malaysia. She runs one of the hottest startups in Malaysia and is coveted by Silicon Valley. (Did I say “Malaysia” enough times there?)

Yeah … none of these clients came to me coz I was looking for them. I wasn’t trying to impress and get them to give WDL business. They were just friends or people that I found interesting to chat with. It was these people that put their trust in WDL enough to not only work directly with me but also refer WDL to others.

I was sitting with Scott Gillespie, leader of the Jigsaw Group, which is a startupĀ acceleratorĀ program. He is also a VC but above all he is just a great guy with a wonderful sense of humor. At lunch one day someone asked him, “Oh, you are a VC. You never said so”. And he replied, “Yes, ‘coz I am a human being too”. šŸ™‚ Those 2-3 days I met him, never once did either of us broach the subject of capital. We chatted aboutĀ runningĀ a social enterprise, how he was involved with one called Yacht Aid Global, stories from his life and it was all fascinating.

Bottom line …

cold, hard, calculated networking never works. You can always tell when someone is after something. When you open up and take the other person as a human being with a life and challenges of her own (or his own) that’s when you make “relationships. And relationships are the real takeaway of life itself and not just business mixers.

OK BYeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Solitude’s Desert

I try not to let the ‘other’ side of me take over this blog. No – myĀ doppelgangerĀ shall remain away from here. But I have to share this. Apologies in advance.

Last night,Ā I and hubbie were mocking how a pop-singer had been given the ridiculous task of singing a real song. Then this came on the radio and we both thought it was a version by Iqbal Bano we hadn’t heard before. Meesha has done a terrific job. The way every word has a ‘melody’ to it that needs no accompaniment by instruments gives me shivers. *Gushing. Of course the fact this poem is written by Faiz Ahmed Faiz who is my favorite poet and sung by Tina Sani, my absolutely fav singer, this was a make-or-break test for Meesha and boy did she ace it or what! Love it!

Now this brings me to another reason why this caption is not as corny as I am being ā†‘. Sighhhh … told you about the GIST Competition in Dubai, right? NO DON’T STOP READING JUST YET! I am NOT going to tell you about the whole thing again and be wimpy. Am over it and as annoyingly giggly and optimistic as ever. The reason why I refer to it is because you see Dubai is a desert, right? Yeah despite (horrifying) buildings like this:


and this:

Tallest building … yeah they couldn’t figure it out so stuck a steel pillar on top … yippppeeee … its like a woman wearing stilettos and saying I am 5′ 11″. LOL MOST RIDICULOUS THING EVER

and this:

Kill me someone

GOSH they were ugly! I was saying??

Erm …

…….. yeah ..

So there I was in the desert with goth-meets-Disney-meets-StarTrekĀ structuresĀ all around and sheikhs with beautiful manicures and gorgeous sheikhas that made me want to go get a nose-job. Bored with Malls and grieving for the enchanting perfume-bottle-shaped trophy … OK I AM GONNA SHUT UP ABOUT THAT. So for whatever reason I wanted to go see something other than malls and fancy buildings. Someone suggested seeing Old Dubai so me headed out with Khoo (James) Chan Shiang. Khoo is from Malaysia and is founder of SecQ.me which is an app for smartphones as well as certain wrist watches that uses GPS and in-built security alert in case you are in danger. You can learn about it here. But to cut it short he is super geeky and you know that means he is my new best friend. Met his friend, Shafiu Hussain. Shafiu is from Maldives, married to a Russian lady whom he met in India and he currently lives in Malaysia, and to add fuel to the fire, turns out he is founder of TaxiMonger. TM is again an app and acts as a virtual call center for taxis (cabs, yo Yankees!). And we were in a place with bazaars called Gold Souk andĀ SpiceĀ SoukĀ (souk is “market” in Arabic) with little alleyways that let us into their heart and we discovered the most amazing secrets like a Sikh shrine and a street that looked like it was out of a market somewhere in Delhi.

Hindu Idols

Sikh Shrine in Middle of Nowhere

Looking at Gold Souk from Spice Souk across the river

As we sat down to eat biryani and chicken karahi at a place called Karachi Darbar we talked about what geeks talk about. Happens SecQ.me and TaxiMonger are collaborating and calling the mash-up TaxiMonger Bodyguard. What was Women’s Digital League doing there? Why of course providing social media assistance! But more than that, brainstorming ways the app could be launched in Paki-land. NOT talking more about it. Maybe nothing comes off it. MaybeĀ somethingĀ does. You will be the first ones to hear whatever happens, my lovelies … hope you know that.

But for now, go check out both apps. They are free to download and you can find out how form their websites at www.SecQ.me and www.TaxiMonger.com.

OK Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

P.S. Ummm … so am I the only one who thinks the title is awesome? At the end of the day it is just my opinion that matters here anyway. *hairflip šŸ˜›

In World’s Longest Hotel, In front of World’s Tallest Building, At World’s Largest Race Course – ‘Coz We Are The Best!

Am back beautiful ladies from the GIST I Dare Business PlanĀ CompetitionĀ Finale in Dubai. Am past my initial disappointment – no, WDL didn’t win. No, not even the special Woman Entrepreneur Award. For a while it sucked. I let the disappointment wash over me – I sat in my room alone and grieved – I went to the Mall alone and sat in a corner and wept unobserved. For a while I was even bitter and a complete b**** to everyone. Yeah, everyone thinks I am funny so even when I am mean they areĀ kindĀ and think I am just kidding around but I was a pain for a while. However, finally, I got it out of my system.

Masters in English Literature. Secondary School teacher. From South Waziristan. That’s not who you would expect to be at a competition for tech startups. The surreal bizarre truth of the moment. I was sitting with people running the coolest tech startups being mentored by people from LinkedIn and Google and invited to Silicon Valley, and I wasĀ competingĀ with them. And yeah, the 29-yr old Asian kid sitting next to me was actually a venture capitalist whose firm Neoteny Labs had invested in companies like Insync (love child of Dropbox and Google docs!!) and Game VenturesĀ besidesĀ many others and was most coveted by startups in Asia and Middle East!!! James Chan was a jerk – that was my first impression after the very short menotring session we had. James Chan was an incredibly honest and forthright guy to be depended on to give you a very clear idea of where you stand in the market and also ideas on how you could make it better. Above all, he was human. Something I have always doubted VCs were. He likes playing video games in stealthy corners of the hotel, loves photographing his kid, and enjoys a simple chat.

Realized I have a bias towards female entrepreneurs / mentors despite being a woman myself. Was disappointed when IĀ foundĀ out my one-on-one mentor was going to be a woman and she wasn’t even Asian! But Dr. Christiane Scholderer of Mind Talk turned out to be a blessing after how James Chan fried me (no hard feelings James šŸ˜‰ ). She “got” me and WDL. Understood what I was doing and why I believe it will work.

After the results spoke to some judges and they, along with all my fellow finalists, were of the opinion that I need to talk more about the

eAid Team led by Rumaisa Mohani receiving the Woman Entrepreneur Award

women whose lives WDL will impact or has already affected in some way or the other. Here is my stance on the thing. I work in a country where “honor” is more important than anything else and its always associated with women. A man who allows his women to work is looked down upon as being unable to provide for his family. Its a stigma. Now if I go out and start talking about these women, even if I change their names and all, still, WDl becomes associated with helping “poor women who can’t make ends meet” and that can lead to a LOT of trouble.

Also, the idea is to work through organizations already active on the ground who have a trusting relationship with the communities because otherwise being a woman-owned business leads locals to believe we are NGOs here to radicalize their women and corrupt them. Being from the same kind of background I am more culturally sensitive to the way they think and act then most others. So, whether it gets me the dough or not, I can not risk showing “stories” unless the entire community’s elders permit it.

Wow – I sound so sane! *grin – WDL does that to me.

Almost All of Us (Sans me šŸ˜‰ )

For the fun stuff, if you own an iPhone or an Android, ladies, download SecQme. Its a wonderful app that “secures” you. Here is a simple video that shows you how it works:

Will blog about it in more detail separately but this app is developed by a new friend, Khoo Chen Shiang from Malayisa who was a finalist.

James Khoo giving a demo of SecQMe on his Watch!!

Now Kai Feng Chew has a startup called CloudStat. CloudStat is a God-send for people doing social media. Its a way to manage all your social media in one place, collect retardedly simple to readĀ analytics, and just figure out which social media channel is best for marketing your product or service. I strongly advise you go check it out.

Being a tech-geek these companies make my heart beat like crazy. On the other hand, being a social enterprise buff, am absolutely in love with GreenovationTechs and Pak Energy Solution. They also received first and second prizes respectively. The first makes buildings with a special kind of material that has “airconditioning” properties. Just what we need in Pakistan these days with the horrible power crisis. Pak Energy makes gold out of cow droppings!! As the founder said in his presentation, “If I told you you could make big cash from cow dung you would think, “Bull Shit!” ” LOL! But they convert cow droppings into biogas energy for producing energy.

I read on Women 2.0 that men get funded and women get mentors. I say, go right ahead my pretties. Get the mentoring. Absorb it all. Men do get funding but they also waste a lot of it ‘coz they get cocky. On the other hand, funding will come and when it does we will be ready to make the most of it. Duh!

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

P.S. Was late for my flight. Stranded at the airport. Emirates has the SUCKIEST customer service ever. Being a pushtun obvi I didn’t let them get away with comments like, “next time you are shopping remember this is an airport not a bus stop”. Gave them a telling-off they will never forget along with a complaint to the manager directly. Took a flight to Lahore and came to Islamabad on a Daewoo.

P.P.S Some Facts:

Longest Hotel = Meydan Hotel
Tallest Building = Burj AlKhalifa (That shoudl also be given the World’s Ugliest Building Award)
Largest Race Course = Meydan Race Course
Best Startups = Women’s Digital League etc šŸ˜›

Yammer Gets Hammered

OK that was lame. But considering what Microsoft did to Skype I am worried about Yammer. Yeah, so the CEO is a happy guy coz he got $1.2 billion in cash nonetheless but if he is gonna stay on as the top management guy he may go downhill. And $1.2 billion – HOLY SMOKES! All I need for WDL is $50k. Sighhh …Ā 

ImageYeah, the weather is great in Dubai. Saw a few familiar faces so am breathing easier. Met my online friend from YPO who was also a Network Administrator around the same time I was. Taught her how to wear eye-makeup – it was hilarious. šŸ˜€ I should keep a separate blog maybe for the super duper crazy fun things I do sometimes. OK , a LOT of times. šŸ˜€ And I saw penguins. Verdict? I am in love. They are the cutest things ever especially out of water.Ā 

Yeah, so goodbye Yammer. You will be missed. I really liked your name – there was a zing to it.Ā 

$1.2 billion …. GOSH! Wow!Ā 

OK Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

P.S. In case you are NOT a geek and somehow on my blog, I am talking about the recent acquisition of Yammer by Microsoft.Ā