2012 Comes with a Bang!

Tomorrow is the end of the world so thought it was a good time to say my goodbyes to the World. Dramatic, right? Gosh, what is all this end of Mayan calendar and people moving to the hills etc bull? Even NASA jumped in to stop the madness. But whatever …

2012 has been a special year just like 2011 was super cool. I know if I tell you one more time about the business plan adventure in UAE thanks to GIST, (you) will look for (me), (you) will find (me), and (you) will kill (me). Then there was the Business Basics workshop at Islamabad Women’s Chamber of Commerce, the Success with Social Media one at Kuch Khaas, incredible honor of attending a workshop by Ken and Laura Morse (of the MIT fame) and so on.

But the two highlights of the year were;

1. Learning I Knew Nothing

I spent 7 months working at a BPO company in Islamabad. To be honest I was a bit snooty. Me? Work in a run-of-the-mill BPO company that has become a trademark with the South Asians and Filipinos? I was too cool for all of that. I read TechCrunch and Mashable. I worked with cool firms based in Silicon Valley. What can a BPO teach me that I don’t already know or something that I would want to know? How wrong I was! Those 7 months taught me more than the gruelling 4 years I had spent pouring over all those fancy Valley publications and, my love, Quora. You see, doing business in Pakistan has completely different dynamics. There are so many hurdles and power shortage is just one of them. That comes after you have successfully built a team and a company large enough that can’t be run from your basement any more on a backup device you can buy easily for $500. Where do you find the people to work with? Pakistanis are incredibly talented. I mean challenge them to hack the hardest website in the world and they will do it blindfolded. We have TED Fellows, we have entrepreneurs covered by Forbes. We have sportspeople (YES THAT’S A WORD). Scientists. Guinness record holder students. But how do I reach them? Where do they hide?

And then of course, it’s learning about pipelines and funnels. Oh God, how I hate those two words. They were my bane and still are. Truth is, the most brilliant, amazing business plan means nothing if you don’t tweak it to your market. So you may impress a judge in a business competition with your beautifully and most articulately written plan with some sprinkling of facts and figures here and there but implementing that plan is a completely different game all together.

Above all, I realized how important it was to work with a positive energy. Sitting on a garbage dump and getting frustrated over why you can’t smell the roses is just foolish. 🙂

2. Be Realistic

Here is a great quote my friend posted on her Facebook wall:

Some people will kill you over time if you let them; and how they’ll kill you is with tiny, harmless phrases like, “be realistic.” When this happens, close your ears and listen to your inner voice instead. Remember that real success in life isn’t what others see, but how you feel. It’s living your truth and doing what makes you feel alive.

Who doesn’t like buying new gadgets and travelling and getting lipo? This is also what people judge your success by. There was a great TED Talk about what is failure and a more humane idea of success. When I walk into a room full of people, no one rushes towards me to greet me and offer me a chair and requests photographs with me. WDL is not huge. But you know what … it makes me HAPPY. Also, being a social enterprise you don’t measure success by numbers but by smiles. Who can put a number on that? Yes, it hurts at time when you know there are people out there sniggering at you coz of the awards you haven’t won or the goodies you don’t own. But all of that disappears when someone looks at the difference, minute but difference nevertheless, that you are making.

Alec Ross, whom I met a couple of months back and blogged about here, gave a shout out to WDL that has left me honored and humbled.

In his TEDxMidAtlantic talk, “What Alec Ross Learned in 1,298 Days Working for Hilary Clinton” he mentions how despite visiting Pakistan at a terrible time when Malala was shot he found hope in the story of WDL.

Not a very long time ago I remember the annoying 25 yr old telling me WDL was about HOPE. It was about telling people there was a way out if they cared enough to look for it.

I am ending 2012 on a very positive note. Don’t let anyone stop you from dreaming and if you are gonna dream, might as well dream big. Forget about what others think you can or can’t do. It’s just them saying THEY can’t do it but using YOU instead. Don’t be the guy who tries to please everyone and ends up looking like a fool.

This wasn't necessary - just been dying to find a way to add it to a blog. :P

This wasn’t necessary – just been dying to find a way to add it to a blog. 😛

OK Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Town Hall with Hilary Clinton

Better late than never …

Was invited by the US Embassy, Islamabad to attend the Town Hall with Secretary Clinton in Serena, Islamabad on Friday, 21 Ocotber 2011. HRC has a presence, I tell you. She kind of fills up a room with her persona. After the **** that happened in her personal life I was slightly overwhelmed with her strength and confidence. When she talks, you have no choice but to sit up and listen. Spotted Huma Abedin. Stunning! Grinned and waved at her … she smiled and waved back.

There were so many moments where I thought, “This is the best part of the afternoon” and one of them was meeting Tara Uzra Dawood. Tara is a graduate of Harvard law School and CEO of Dawood Capital Management. Under the larger umbrella of DCM, she runs a fund called the LadiesFund (minus the space). For details check out the website and/or facebook page. It’s an organization after my heart and is very interesting, but in a nutshell, it’s a business and financial consultancy service for Pakistani women looking for grants, loans, equity or merely a platform to promote their business. A firebrand of a woman, Tara and I chattered away and I realized there was a lot being done for Pakistani businesswomen. It frustrates me how little people know about these initiatives. If only these were advertised well! LF is a very web-savvy organization but despite being an Internet-geek, I had never heard of them before – perhaps if the media highlighted the positive things happening in Pakistan once in a blue moon things would be different???

Another one of those moments …

Met Wahaj us Sirja, CEO of NayaTel. Such a humble man. I of course walked right up to him as he was getting ready to make a phone call … I have no manners, I know, been told that a gazillion times, dunno why people still bother *eyeroll. Anyway, told him about Hunza and he was excited and very helpful. We exchanged cards, I emailed him, and he connected me to his contacts.

On the way out, I bump into Atif Aslam. Eeeee … ! Well, no, not really. I wasn’t star-struck but I do like the guy’s singing. Took a photo with him of course. How can I help liking him when he sings like this:

I am just discovering the joys of networking. Tara introduced me on email to the co-founder of All World Live, Anne Habiby. Girls, don’t expect me to hand it all out to you. Go to their website and read up on what they do. However, this is how they summarize their work:

Our model is simple – find the best growth companies, put them on the global radar screen, and let the market do the rest.  This is the next economy.

We call this Visibility Economics™.

Got invited to a dinner hosted for the Pakistan 25 Fast Growth Companies in Islamabad. Met Anne … needless to say she was ah-mazing. Learned it was extremely important to keep a paper-trail of business transactions even if it’s just a bunch of Western Union receipts sitting in a shoe-box. However, bugged the hell outta my friends and am glad to say one of them got selected for the Arabia 500.

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee …