The real entrepreneurs of Pakistan

Published: October 29, 2010
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Children who hawk items on the street in the hope of making a sale are true entrepreneurs.

Shakeel operates a DVD rental shop in the building across the street from where I live.

It’s nothing too fancy, just a couple of shelves in a six-by-four feet space, in a market dominated by tailors and kapra walas.

He comes in at about 4 pm every day, and takes the 10 pm bus back home.

All day, he rents out pirated copies of the latest Hollywood and Bollywood flicks to clients at his little shop.

Shakeel’s a young guy, maybe 24, with glasses that look remarkably similar to mine. His mother doesn’t let him go to his shop if the situation in the city gets a little uneasy. In a lot of ways, Shakeel is just like me, only with two differences:

  1. Shakeel belongs to what economists would call the lower-middle or lower class.
  2. Shakeel is a micro-entrepreneur.

Ever since I had a little talk with Shakeel, I’ve been noticing these two characteristics pop up in tandem more and more. Wherever I look, I see people that line the bottom of the middle class and those below them, crafting their little businesses and running little shops.

• There is the guy that parks your car on II Chundrigar road

• The man peddling car window shades (and Rubiks cubes) on the road

• The little girl that offers to clean your window

• The hawker who brings you your daily dose of news and magazines

• Te rairy-wala who asks you for your dabbay

•XXThe pint-sized child who sells chewing gum and Chinese tissues outside McDonald’s

All of them have their own little businesses. They probably didn’t get (or won’t ever get) a college degree, but they won’t let it be a handicap.

They bought whatever they could with whatever little money they had, added their mark-up and left their houses one morning on a mission to sell. They did the same thing the next day and the day after and continue to do this every single day.

The really fascinating bit is none of these people meet what we believe to be the conditions for being entrepreneurs. They don’t have access to any significant amount of capital, they certainly are not Masters in Business Administration, and they don’t have their father’s business connections. All they have is a spirit to fight the odds every waking moment.

This spirit is what is called the entrepreneurial spark.

Sadly, four years at the country’s best business school only made this spark weaker for me and many other “Idon’thave the resources to start my own thing right now” types.

For this, I envy the Shakeels of the world.

umair.kazi

Umair Kazi

A strategist who blogs at www.theideaartist.com

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