Challenges and setbacks are for your own growth and learning. If you don’t learn from others, life teaches you the hard way.
Tamjid Aijazi did his primary and secondary schooling at St. Patrick’s High School, he secured 1st position in school throughout and 4th position in Metric board in Karachi. Then went onto Adamjee Government Science College, again securing a position in Karachi Intermediate Board, before joining FAST-NUCES for Computer Science, he had to choose between Indus Valley School of Arts and Architecture and FAST, as he was interested in both media and computer science from his early days. He graduated from FAST in 2005. He got admission in Masters in Media from IoBM in Karachi but never completed that. Ended up studying filmmaking at New York Film Academy in Los Angeles in 2016 and am currently a student of Masters of Arts at Curtin University in Western Australia.
Are you a born entrepreneur? Or do you plan to be an entrepreneur later in your life?
I am not sure if I was a born entrepreneur, but we have a lot of good businessmen in our family. I struggled in my early days to choose between a job and business, but my father actively involved me in his own businesses and also got a sense of business dealings from my mother and my grandfather. I found it difficult to work solely for someone without having a share or stake in the game. So, I ended up switching jobs after every few months. Eventually, I met a few good people who coached me on Strategic Visioning and the benefit of having long-term goals and visions. Since then I’ve been working on my vision with clarity and have progressed very well-keeping a balance between entrepreneurship and personal life. After interacting with so many leaders in the US, Australia, and the Middle East, I understood that entrepreneurship is only one aspect, and it\’s better to be a thought leader. Money follows automatically.
Did you also face challenges and setbacks like other entrepreneurs? Please tell us what they were and how you overcame them?
Challenges and setbacks are for your own growth and learning. If you don’t learn from others, life teaches you the hard way. Of course, there were a lot of challenges, but I realized that those challenges were there because I did not know enough, I did not prepare well and I did not realize that I need to master certain skills and get exposed to the world before I can be successful. Arranging money for cash flows and growth has always been a challenge, focusing on the right things at the right time is something not everyone does very well, and the way you recruit and manage your team is the most important one. I prefer loyalty over skills, and finding loyal people for your team is the most challenging task these days. People have become so self-centered, that they don’t care about anything except themselves. This is a challenge that if not managed, can lead to disasters in teams and organizations.
What is Makeen.io? What is your business model?
Makeen Technologies is a software development company, and we serve other organizations in the United States and Australia by adding value to their business. We are usually brought in by companies who have very complex projects, which other vendors cannot do or have failed in the past. Our customers include Fortune 500 companies such as Warner Bros, Amazon, Microsoft and Schneider Electric. We have two business units, Services, and Products. In the services business, we provide custom software development of web and mobile applications at a very high velocity, while maintaining top quality. Whereas, in our products business unit, we launch and invest in high-growth software products which result in tough competition to established leaders in the market, and annual recurring revenues for our company.
What was your first business startup? How much money did you have when you started it?
My first business startup was an E-commerce company that I launched in 2001, when no one knew about E-commerce nor startups in Pakistan. I was in the first semester in FAST and our team was earning a handsome monthly income as students, which even graduates dreamt of at that time. We were the first one to introduce Cash on Delivery services in Pakistan and had to convince a couple of leading courier and shipping companies to take the initiative. Few years later, Cash on Delivery became a regular service by almost all courier companies. I ran the company for almost 7 years, till I moved onto bigger ventures in Dubai.
Is doing business in Pakistan more challenging or in Australia?
Every place has its own pros and cons. I would say establishing business in Pakistan is much easier because it\’s an easy setup with minimal costs and talented workforce, but as you grow bigger it becomes more challenging. The workforce discipline and government support that is required to grow the business consistently are not there. You need to be really smart to expand a multi-million dollar business in Pakistan. Australia is different. You can start small and eventually grow into a very large business if you keep on doing hard work in an organized fashion. There is more competition in Australia, but if you know how to do your job well, and how to keep customers happy, there is no reason why you can’t beat the competition. It’s a level playing field.
How do you manage multiple initiatives? Do you allocate specific days in a week? or do you allocate specific time for each activity?
leading and managing multiple initiatives is directly linked to a clear vision and how well you can manage time. Thanks to the good people who taught me Strategic Visions, they also taught me Strategic Time Management. You need mentors and teachers in your life in order to be successful, and I’m grateful for having established leaders as my mentors, whom I respect a lot. There are a few techniques I use, and they seem to be working well so far. The first one is trusting people, the second one is understanding the Eisenhower Grid for Time Management, and the third is delegation and organization. I don’t do anything that others can do for me, including checking and responding to my emails. You must appreciate that delegating your emails, or finances requires a huge level of trust. I personally believe that trust is the foundation for growth and success, and everything else follows. Filters is another technique that I use. Phone calls, WhatsApp, text messages, social media, and emails waste more time than adding value. So, applying filters through delegation allows you to plan your own day, your own week, and your own month. You can focus on things that are really important and take you towards your vision. Lastly, I have organized all of my initiatives under one legal structure lately through mergers and acquisitions and am working on establishing a very strong core team for everything. This has helped me tremendously progress- ing with multiple initiatives through a team that you can trust blindly.
How do you plan your day? Do you use any productivity tool or just a to-do list?
People usually don’t get it when I tell them that I have 3 executive assistants who plan my day. There are multiple tools that we use, but the key ones are the To-Do Lists which my assistants maintain to keep me productive and on track. We maintain a Master To-Do List, Yearly To-Do List, Quarterly To-Do List, Monthly To-Do List, Weekly To-Do List, and a Daily one. Anything that needs to be done immediately makes it to the To-Do List and that way we ensure it\’s moved to a Q2 and scheduled in my calendar and gets done. So basically the to-do lists, Google Calendar, and 3 assistants do a good job keeping me organized.
How do you manage and retain your core team? It is just the salary or other perks as well? What are they?
People who work for money and perks are the weakest link in your team. I don’t have anyone in my core team who works only for money. If I realize that someone has made it to the core team and their behavior indicates that monetary benefit is their only concern, they get kicked out immediately. A shared vision and purpose is what keeps our core team united. We do things that are beyond our self and contribute to a greater vision. We respect relationships more than money, and purpose, intellectual growth and bonding more than perks. Businesses may come and go with time, but the core team, if bonded correctly, is here to stay. Having said that, we also take good care of our core team and their families from a monetary perspective and try and go on a team family trip to some country at least once a year. This is the foundation of our strong relationships.
What does it take to launch and grow an IT company?
There is a lot of fierce competition out there especially in the United States for IT companies, but there is plenty of work for everyone. If you and your team have the right skills, and you’ve structured the company for growth, there is nothing that should be stopping you. If you’re honest to your customers and adding value to their businesses, you will grow. But, if you’re out there just to make money and rip people off, it may seem like you’re growing, but you will end up shutting down your business in a few years. Credibility is what allows you and your company to grow, and establishing credibility is the most difficult part.
What is your advice for young entrepreneurs who are going to start their journey?
Attitude is more important than technical skills. Work on your attitude, commitment, dedication, communication and soft skills before working on any technical skills. There is nothing more valuable than loyal people with a good attitude. Investors invest in credible people, not just ideas.
ON ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
I believe Pakistanis already have entrepreneurship in their blood. It’s a matter of broadening their visions and exposure, and that can only be done through education formal or informal doesn’t matter. Pakistan’s economy suffers today not because we don’t have enough talent, but because we don’t have the right attitude and discipline. When people compromise on principles, everything suffers including the economy. There is a huge potential for software exports in Pakistan, but the scale and magnitude of efforts that are required to achieve those numbers can only be worked on by people who have global visions and who stand by principles. Unfortunately, we don’t have too many of those in Pakistan.