From Startups to Upstarts: what does it take to make the leap

Pakistani Startups

An ordinary guy who’s been working on an innovative product finally has his eureka moment. He tests his product and, with the help of investors, brings it to market. It’s elegant, and the customers love it, they’re hooked. His company grows and eventually becomes a big player in its market.  He’s success.

Then there’s another guy, with an industrious work ethic building his product in a garage. He also tests his product and, backed by a curious investor, starts a company. His product ends up being overpriced with low quality. The company struggles and eventually dies. He has failed. So what’s the difference between these two men? We’ll see at the end of this article.

These days, creating startups is a lot simpler than it used to be. You have an excellent idea, you do some research, approach investors with proof of concept, get incubation and voila! You’re in business. Not easy, but simple.

Startups are supposed to be a breath of fresh air. Harbingers of change. Unfortunately, I don’t see any of that in Pakistani startups right now. I don’t see how any of these players even plan to put Pakistan on the map of real innovation.

And it’s easy to understand why. I talked to a couple would be entrepreneurs and came to a realization. Pakistanis rarely look to be successful on their terms. They always look to be successful by emulating those who are successful.

Entrepreneurs in Pakistan look for the money before creating their startups

It’s never “I love fast food. I want to add something to this industry”, it’s always “There’s so much money to be made in the fast food business. I mean, look at Mcdonald’s. Let’s do something like that”.

Pick any of the available startups in Pakistan and chances are the latter statement being true. We spend too much time looking outside of ourselves, at other people and companies, to understand our true capabilities. That has to change. We won’t make any progress by simply doing exactly what internationally successful companies have done. Our economic and market realities are different from first world countries.      

Now apart from startups, let’s look at the bigger technology companies of Pakistan. The major players in software and consumer electronics. I’d like to ask them a question.

What are they doing for us that other international companies are not already doing? We all know the answer to that. Revenue is always the way to go. Prominent Pakistani technology companies with huge chunks of market share don’t even bother, with that fact, it entails a lot of responsibility.

When you have market share, that means the market looks to you for introducing the latest and the best technologies. If you can’t do that then naturally the consumers will miss out on the novelties and progress will slow and eventually stop. The industry will stagnate.

It’s safe to say that’s where we are headed. Like every Pakistani, I also want Pakistani companies and products to be the best in the business. Entities that make the ‘Made in Pakistan’ badge a sign of pride and trust. Will it happen? Only time will tell.  

I’d like to address the young entrepreneurs of this country. Stop looking for reasons outside of yourselves to do things. Don’t go looking for what the market needs. Look for what you need and find a market for it. Don’t like a product? Don’t complain by talking, complaint by competing. And trust me, there’s a whole lot of goods to protest about in our country.

Always look to rewrite the rules. Look around you, and everything is either inexpensive and ordinary or expensive and extraordinary. The only great companies around are the ones that challenged this paradigm. They made things that are cheap and exceptional.

This is what Apple did to the personal computer (with the Macintosh), and Toyota did to the automobile industry (with the Corolla).

No bars are holding you back. Youth is a time to learn with trial and error. To fail and recover and finally, succeed. All on your terms – from a startup to an upstart.

The difference between the two men I mentioned earlier? The guy who was successful was used to the old ways of business, got complacent, refused a government contract, and his company went defunct in 1919. His name was Aurin Chase, founder of Chase Motor Truck company.

The guy who failed? He found another investor and started again. He built a business that has endured for 112 years and still thrives. His name was Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motors.

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