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Campus Connections Goes to UIT

We’ve all felt the fear of rejection. When someone rejects your proposals personally or professionally, it’s unpleasant. That fear more often than not stops us before we share that idea or pursue it further, killing it before it can grow.

Campus Connections hosted its eighth session at the Usman Institute of Technology (UIT). In attendance were Sameer Ahmed Khan, Founder and CEO, Social Champ, Nadia Patel, Founder and CEO Sheops and Saad Niazi, COO Keenu. The panelists began by sharing their experiences of the industry in Pakistan. Sameer emphasized the importance of execution in an idea; a winning strategy that would take that idea to the top, is more valuable than the idea itself. “Social Champ is my fourth idea. My first three ideas failed in the span of 8 months to 3 years. But with each failure my execution improved.”

Saad disagreed a little. He believed that execution was important but it came third on that list. The first two spots were occupied by Timing and the Plan. He pointed to YouTube not being the first video sharing platform, yet it appeared at a time that was conducive to its growth; he also pointed to his own business. “My company’s product is a mobile wallet and it is possible today because of the proliferation of SIMs and 3G/4G, 10 years ago it wouldn’t have been possible because of the lack of infrastructure. So timing is key.” It was the ‘nothing like an idea whose time has come’ approach.’

Nadia described her own experience of getting her phone stolen, asking for help online and facing the bitter truth that, “there were no safe spaces for Pakistani women online, so I decided to create one.” She filled that space with Sheops, an online e-commerce platform for female entrepreneurs which now has 125,000 participants and 75,000 products.

Then the conversation shifted to the central theme of sharing ideas and the fear of rejection. The panelists all talked about being discouraged by different people in their lives. Nadia described her in-laws reservations about her pursuing a business, Sameer revealed how he never shared his ideas with his parents lest they would strike them down and Saad jestingly advised the audience to not share their ideas, become rich and then become philosophers.

However, each panelist advised different forms of validation. Sameer said he had learned that it was very important to know if one’s idea was accepted in its current form before launching it. He recalled a survey he did for a failed product in which 80% of the participants demonstrated enthusiasm for the product. Yet the feedback wasn’t honest so the product failed. He suggested asking the customers to put money on the idea first because that allowed the product to be judged on actual value. “Honest feedback is crucial to a business.”

Saad Niazi, following up on his point of becoming a philosopher after acquiring wealth, brought up Rumi. He paraphrased the saint’s advice about keeping the company of people who encouraged one’s ideas rather than shooting them down. “It is important to share ideas with people who would encourage them and suggest ways to better them, rather than shoot them down.” He did caution sharing fully developed business plans with anyone to protect intellectual property.

Saad also reiterated his mention of Rumi. “It’s very important to take out an hour in the day and read. Technical knowledge has a value of about 2% in your professional life. What makes you a human being is literature.”

The others nodded affirmatively. Nadia commented on the role of the humanities in one’s growth. “The humanities play a definitive role in moulding your personality.” Sameer mentioned that he began his professional career by publishing a poem and a few articles in a magazine called Young Times and being motivated by reading inspirational quotes as well as watching X-Men: Days of Future Past.

To conclude, each panelists gave out some life advice to the students. Saad exclaimed, “Becoming a gold medalist at university isn’t worth it if you destroy your soul during those four years. That gold medal won’t even get you a decent price at the local market.” Nadia suggested tackling things head on to prove one’s worth to the world, “Never get daunted by challenges in your life.” And Sameer capped off the session with these golden words, “You’ve heard of your life flashing before your eyes before you die. Make sure that life is a film that you’d enjoy watching.”

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