Zero To Hero- Exclusive Interview With Usman Sheikh

The main secret of my success is that “I love spending time on challenging tasks within any company, giving hope to the demotivated or pessimistic teams and building creative business models for companies to drive the large economy”. 

How do you manage multiple businesses? Do you allocate specific days in a week? Or do you allocate specific time zones for each business in a day? 

I manage through structural planning and reforms in the group. I keep myself free all the time to utilize it for strategic execution in each company through venture leads. My key role is to bootstrap a venture with an innovative idea, build a team, enabling a venture to lead to strategize direction, develop its business model and allocate a budget as a bootstrap fund to reach breakeven or ready to raise the next seed fund. So my execution time is normally spent on infant teams or nonperforming teams or setups. Just a little time on growth companies by just steering them in the right direction of acquisition, retention, and monetization. 

I love spending time on challenging tasks within any company, giving hope to the de-motivated or pessimistic teams, and building creative business models for companies to drive large economies. Starting up might sound easy when a person is not in, so my time is usually spent with the teams who are facing obstacles at the beginning to minimize the market risks & challenges. 

The most difficult time for any startup is the early stage because of the issues in terms of right directions, business models, to generate revenues, profits and to have synchronized team. So, I believe providing them with the right direction at the right time is the most important factor of success. 

How do you plan your day? Do you use any productivity tool or just a to-do list?

I keep myself very simple and handy. I just focus on leveraging and prioritizing tasks with just a to-do list. 

How do you manage and retain your core team? It is just the salary or other perks as well? What are they?

I retain my core team by enabling them better than me and keep adding value to them for future growth opportunities with the business and scalability. Most of the time, I encourage and nudge them to bring new ideas, be challenging, take initiatives, meet targets for long-term sustainability. I envision them to build Pakistan through entrepreneurship by committing to creating One Million jobs, ten thousand startups, and 200+ vendors in the next Ten years through smart electric vehicles. Vision and creating intention with successful execution defaults are the key factors of retention rather than perks and salaries. 

How an aspiring entrepreneur can earn online in today’s market?

In this era, it’s one of the easiest ways to earn money through hooking up with marketplaces and giving services to the people worldwide and earning money through it at any location, at any time. There are ways to earn money online with immediate results while others have the potential to transform lives by revolutionary financial benefits. Like using Up- work, Google play publisher, Daraz, Amazon sellers, and similar platforms to start earning online. Digital and social media marketing can be a boaster for showcasing the business portfolio for engaging clients and online money generation. 

What is your chief aim in life?

To create an ecosystem of IT and electronics in Pakistan like China did since the last two decades. Initially, China focused on rapid productivity growth to boost its economy. And after creating an ecosystem now Chinese tech companies have quickly become the market leaders. Huawei, Lenovo, Xiaomi are all top tech companies from China. 

Who is your role model in business and personal life? And why?

My role model in my personal life is the life of our Holy Prophet Muhammad PBUH because he has given us the art of living and the way of living a contented and happy life. His character is the complete explanation of the Quran and his guidance is sufficient for all till the end of this world. My role model in business is Abdur Rahman bin Auf because of his earning principles of focusing on cash, earning money even with the boxes, and delivering on time. He was one of the companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who achieved victory with his entrepreneurial instincts and was known as a business sensation in the world. 

Who is your mentor in business? Is mentorship a necessary thing for a startup to grow? 

My father and then Mr. Muhammad Azim–Chairman AUJ & OZI Group are my mentors in the business. Yes, it is key to success and to avoid adversity, and learning from others’ mistakes. Building a startup has a lot of challenges to overcome. A mentor can help in overcoming pitfalls and higher failure rates. A mentor has been there before and has experienced that in past. So his experiences have a powerful positive effect on young entrepreneurs. For entrepreneurial success, emotional intelligence plays a critical and key role, so his fruitful advice in this regard can help in greater control over emotions for a successful journey in business. 

What is your advice for young entrepreneurs who are going to start their journey?

Start small think big and do what you are good at and focus on what sells. Try to come up with an idea with execution at a small scale. Narrow your focus to avoid complications. One of the main ingredients in the successful journey of the business is the right time in the right direction. Identify your business niche and along with all these, keep the minimum budget for your monthly personal expenses. 

How would you define entrepreneurship? Can we boost Pakistan’s economy? 

Entrepreneurship is all about the urge to transform an idea into something highly productive with the courage to take risks and overcome challenges. Yes, entrepreneurship is the way to drive Pakistan’s economy and we are on it to make Mini-China in Pakistan with the ecosystem of IT and electric vehicles. 

Please tell us about your basic and higher education?

I have done Matriculation and FSC Pre-Engineering from Crescent College and then done my bachelors in computer science from the University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore. I am a dropout from LUMS-MBA to pursue my career as an entrepreneur. 

Are you a born entrepreneur? Or do you plan to be an entrepreneur later in your life? 

I feel that I was a born entrepreneur because I have always been interested in monetizing things since childhood but I truly believe that it was nurtured and polished by my education and mentors. 

Please tell us about your business portfolios?

We are one of the Leading and Largest Mobile Apps and Games publishing companies in Pakistan under the brand name of OZI Group. Co-founded Pakistan’s First Chat App TelloTalk and Pakistan’s First Ad Network ConsoliAds Under OZI Group. A year ago, I co-founded AUJ Technologies with a vision to revolutionize mobility and transportation through electric vehicles. Under the brand name of Jolta Electric, we are the pioneer and Pakistan’s First Localized Electric Bike Kit Assembler. Not just that we are establishing roots in the fields of E-commerce and product delivery services under AUJ Group of Companies. 

What was your first business startup? How much money did you have when you started it?

My first business startup was a failure when I moved back from China to start an Arab Web search engine. I had little money but investors backed out at that time so I quit it and joined LUMs for MBA. 

Did you also face challenges and setbacks like other entrepreneurs? 

Entrepreneurship is all about challenges and setbacks every day. If you are not capable enough to solve millions of problems every day you are not a successful entrepreneur. 

Please tell us what were they? How did you overcome them? What was your motivation? 

The biggest challenge when I founded OZI Technology was to build an owner mindset team, manage it with a very low budget with no fancy office, and also set up the company directly to a profitable venture. I overcame them with guidance from my mentors, the experience of my father as he was running a textile business, and my own commitment and ability to lead from the front by working 18 hours a day, seven days a week. I welcome every person on the first day to join me on my vision and learn from me how to make an Android App or Game and build careers for years as it was just the right time to start this Apps and Games publishing business back in 2010. 

What is AUJ? What is your business model?

AUJ technologies is a holding company with the vision to electrify and digitize the prospects of a smart future. AUJ technologies have ten companies under its umbrella focusing on developing an electric vehicle ecosystem in Pakistan through its whole value chain. Along with this, we are diversifying the business operations in various related technologies including E-commerce through our company MAUJ Technologies, advanced level Fast & Reliable Delivery Service with GPS tracking through our company called Hawai Logistics, Electric-Automobiles through Jolta Motors along with Marketing and Sales platform through Hi-Tech Systems International. The Business model is that each company is headed by its venture lead backed with vision, direction, strategy, and experience from its group team. 

How do you get clients for IT services? What is your strategy?

Argon Tech is our IT services company with expertise in quality software solutions and consultancy to brands, media companies, digital agencies, and enterprises. We are getting projects through networking, email marketing, referrals, attending conferences and exhibitions worldwide, Google Ads, SEO, and Upwork. Our strategy is to bring export money to Pakistan through IT services with our well-defined processes and dedicated in-house teams. 

What does it take to launch and grow a gaming/software business in Pakistan? Where did the idea for OZI Technology Group come from? How did it get success in a very short span of time? 

It takes 10 Million right now to start a gaming business with having experience in publishing, advertising, and monetizing through quality products. As I worked in China, my passion was to create a content platform through my own android tablet. Initially, I started selling android tabs with web-based news services on it and later see the power of android apps globally so I switched to it and started earning very quickly and then scaled it across Pakistan by sharing the secrets of business to all and everyone that came across with me. Now within the time span of 10 years, we are now leading the Mobile Apps & Games publishing industry in Pakistan and providing operational support and help to scale the entrepreneurs nationwide & internationally. 

What are your revenue streams in OZI Technology? 

In the last ten years, we have created 200+ startups, 10,000+ jobs, and directly and indirectly, contributed 1 billion USD to Pakistan’s economy by creating an ecosystem of Mobile Apps and Games across Pakistan. 

What are the paid marketing channels you are using?

We are using Facebook ads, Ad mediation platform ConsoliAds, ASO, cross-promotion, and Google ads. 

What percentage of the revenue do you allocate for the marketing budget? When and how much funding have you got to scale up your business portfolio? 

We have allocated 40% of our revenue for the marketing budget. I had around 10 Million PKR in 2010 funding that generated profits and we just kept on reinvesting from profits to scale. Also bootstrapped Tello and ConsoliAds from our own money and then raised investment from one market capital Silicon Valley and 47 ventures respectively and built separate teams with venture leads.