IDG’s Métiers Salon: Abbas Akhtar Shares His Learning Experience

IDG’s Métiers Salon: Abbas Akhtar Shares His Learning Experience

Joining us in an IDG’s Métiers Salon Session held recently at IDG Studio as guest speaker was CEO and Founder of Pakistan’s premier online portal, Abbas Akhtar., although initiated in the US, has content catering very specifically to the Pakistani market across the globe. Speaking of his thoughts at the time, Abbas mentioned, “When I was in the US, I noticed that whenever Pakistanis gathered especially in the US, they always remembered and talked about old classic Pakistani dramas, films and songs. I thought there’s a great opportunity here so I started which offers content that is curated for Pakistanis specifically.” To gather the content, he shifted back to Pakistan a few years ago, to focus on the web portal; he shared with the Iqra and FAST universities students attending his mentoring session.

A graduate from the San Jose State University and Masters from Johns Hopkins University, USA, Abbas Akhtar is a Computer Engineer by profession and has lived in the US for nearly 12 years. During this period he worked at global tech organizations, Apple and Google… at the former as a software engineer for two years, and at the latter for four, working on Google Desktop, Toolbar and Gmail.

The mentoring session was a very interesting one more so because Abbas, despite being CEO of and having such an amazing work-background, is very down to earth and tried to guide the students with his experience as much as possible.

Focusing on the Pakistani market

Pakistan has become a massive market for many online businesses or those wishing to begin expanding into the e-commerce and m-commerce arena. This situation has only become more evident since the launch of 3G and 4G in the country because people are getting online very fast over here. Products should be designed as per the needs of the local audience; one should look for the problems around them and then find a localized, and in this case, Pakistan-centric solution for it. In Pakistan, 30 million people are online and the rate is increasing by almost 15% every year. Eventually, when this massive population comes online they will need local things and this is where the opportunity lies to create local products for the Pakistani market.

Educating the customers

Answering a question about how to launch an online shopping portal and attracting customers, Abbas Akhtar said, “As these services are not very common in Pakistan, people hesitate in paying simply for trying out new things. It’s better to let them experience it for free in the beginning to make them get used to the medium. Getting users is difficult; educate your target audience about the service, let the users grow, create a recognition for your product or service and then start charging because that is the time you can start generating revenue from it.”

“Out of 100%, only 5% of the customers of any service are aware of it. The main challenge is to target the remaining 95% who don’t know they can be the potential customers, educating them and making them the potential customers by building a product as per their needs,” he advised his listeners.

Importance of marketing

Marketing is as important as the product. According to Abbas, “If one is able to bring innovation in any service, he should be thinking equally about the marketing of the product. Because if the product is not marketed well and attracts the audience it is not useful for anyone. There are a lot of affordable ways of marketing trending that can be adopted to reach the potential customers of the product.”

As the session was ending Abbas Akhtar shared some tips for initiating a startup.

  • Be innovative and try to stand out in the same product category.
  • When looking for a co-founder of your product, remember that your values should match and build a good team around you.
  • Think as much about marketing as you are thinking about the innovation of your product.
  • Build connections, network, and find good mentors and advisors.
  • When initiating a startup, think about the ideas, the business model, and focus on the right things.