Faizan Aslam, Founder & CEO of e-ticketing startup BookMe, was your typical college student. His first entrepreneurial endeavor was a simple printing business. Faizan, who shared his college dormitory with 2,500 other students, bought a basic Inkjet printer for approximately US$30 and started charging his peers a few cents for simple printing jobs. Alternative printing facilities were located a fair distance away and this rudimentary solution was cheap and convenient.
Unfortunately in the mid-2000s accessing the internet was a costly proposition in Pakistan. Luckily for him, a new internet service provider was setting up shop in Islamabad and was eager to cater to students. Faizan, at the time a college sophomore, visited their office and negotiated a special deal and helped market the service amongst his peers, earning commissions on each sale. In his first month alone he sold more than 500 modems, making a handsome profit of almost US$3,500.
Eventually sales hit a plateau but by now Faizan was hooked onto the entrepreneurial bug. He knew the internet was a great equalizer and wanted to leverage it further. Faizan, a software engineer by training, roped in a friend and opened an account on freelance site Rent A Coder. He nabbed his first few projects almost immediately: designing websites and logos, and dabbling in data entry and setup a formal company after graduation.
The new company, Makro Pak Solutions, no longer relied on freelancing platforms to source projects. Faizan’s roster of clients had grown to an extent that he was able to tap existing networks for outsourcing/consulting work. As he scaled up, his team grew to more than 30 people. Unfortunately, disaster struck and Makro Pak Solutions had to be wrapped up due to receivables of around US$65,000, Faizan was forced to lay off almost all his staff. The ones who remained did so out of personal loyalty rather than unbridled optimism for the future.
Faizan was now back to square one but determined to forge a new path. By now Faizan was married. After two failed attempts to buy cinema tickets with his wife, he understood this was undoubtedly a pain point experienced by other consumers. His new startup, BookMe, an online ticketing portal for movies, events, and buses was borne out of a desire to help others. Since launch, BookMe has been making steady progress. It’s been a Startup Arena finalist at Tech in Asia Jakarta 2014, expanded operations to Myanmar, and most importantly raised cash valuing the firm at US$4 million.
“I’ve applied all the learnings from my previous failures in BookMe,” explains Faizan. “We try to be as lean as possible, diversify revenue channels, and keep building products that our users want. Nothing can ever be perfect but it’s important to keep learning and growing.”
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