Be it Pakistan beating India in the recent Champions Trophy Cricket final, or startups like Instagram making it big in the industry, everyone loves a good underdog story. There is always something really inspiring and reassuring about seeing a David stand up to a Goliath. In the business world generally, and among entrepreneurs in particular, there are many seemingly unglamorous companies that are giving well-established giants of their industries a run for their money.
In Pakistan’s local startup scene, Zameen.com,EatOye , and Patarihave made waves around the region but our entrepreneurs have much more to offer than just these well-known names. There are many companies that are going about their work without beating their own drum, or spending huge amounts of money on marketing. This doesn’t mean that such startups aren’t successful, as going through this list you are sure to realize that the seemingly small companies are consistently competing against, and even beating, big-name players of the industry.
This list of five startups is comprised of companies that aren’t household names necessarily, but when you look at the user base they have garnered and the potential they have, you can certainly understand why they are killing it in their respective fields.
If there is one Pakistani startup that is doing something with the potential to bring a significant social change in the country, it’s SehatKahani. With a company that has a good cause at its core, it can become easy to get lost in appreciating the moral aspects of the organization and ignore the cold, hard business stats. Fortunately, SehatKahani does very well on both fronts.
SK is a startup with the aim of filling in the gap that our struggling healthcare system leaves in many areas of Pakistan. The company’s biggest strength is the fact that its physicians and other medical professionals don’t have to reside in (or even physically visit) remote locations. Whenever the government or private sectors start looking for good doctors all over the country, making qualified professionals travel to underdeveloped or remote areas is the most common deal-breaker.
In a nutshell, SehatKahani is a platform that connects remote areas of Pakistan to highly qualified doctors. The company trains local resources to complement their E-system and then handles everything through the internet. At present, SehatKahani has a total of 14 E-Health hubs, serving patients, especially women, who often don’t have proper medical facilities even from the government.
With SehatKahani, it would have been impossible for the startup to accumulate its pool of resources without some marketing efforts, but it is refreshing to see that their focus remains on actually serving patients, rather than losing quality in a bid for quick expansion. The fact that SehatKahani has already served over 440,000 patients across Pakistan is demonstrative of the company’s potential.
The price comparison site was founded only in late 2015, but has enjoyed tremendous success during the past year. At first glance, the idea might not seem really novel, but when you take a look at our local market and buying trends, it becomes clear that PriceOye! caters to an audience that has been waiting for something like this for a long time. Gone are the days when people bought phones by roaming around the market for hours. A majority of buyers now browse around online before actually making the purchase, and what better way to do that than by going to a site that is tailored to present the best prices for smartphones in Pakistan for all major and minor brands.
Like most other names on this list, PriceOye’s success comes down to the actual value being offered by the product, rather than cool marketing ploys, participation in conferences, or having deep pockets in general. A clear indicator of the site’s impact on the market is its daily traffic, which is a trait you can pit against some other players in the same market. Backed by Gerry’s Group, MyGerrys is a website offering online shopping, and although its services aren’t an exact match with PriceOye, the two sites are comparable. Of course, MyGerrys is a much bigger earner, with a significant amount spent on marketing. As per the web traffic analysis site SimilarWeb, however, PriceOye receives more unique visitors each day compared to MyGerrys. The same holds true when you compare the young startup to the website of Pakistan’s biggest courier service, TCS. Impressive for a startup that is known in the tech scene for not spending anything on marketing!
Navigating Pakistan’s legal and judicial system is among the most dreaded endeavors an ordinary citizen can face. There is a certain stigma attached with going to a lawyer, even to get a simple house rent agreement prepared. Enter Wukla, an online service that allows anyone to make a high quality legal document from the comfort of their home. Having any legal knowledge is not mandatory for creating a document in Wukla. The site has some very straightforward questions designed for different types of agreements. Simply answer each question, and you will end up with a completed legal document. Wukla then prepares the document for you on a stamp paper, and sends it to you via courier. Brilliantly simple! The service is limited to Punjab and Sindh for now but that is about the only downside to Wukla, and the team is working on expanding their coverage pretty soon.
Of course, there many other international services that let users create legal documents and sign the papers online. Some, like Legal Zoom, even have a Pakistani variant but the fact remains that Wukla is an inherently Pakistani startup and understands the needs for its target audience better that any foreign company. It is good to see the service gaining popularity, despite the fact that it is not the only site of its kind on the internet.
WonderTree is among the most high-tech startups operating in Pakistan, and it has a very noble cause. The company has an augmented reality gaming platform, designed specifically to help differently-abled children make cognitive, motor, and functional advancements in the most fun way possible. Every child is different in his or her own right, and WonderTree seems to fully understand this. Rather than just making “one size fits all” game, WonderTree analyzes each child’s progress in the games and provides comprehensive reports on their development, growth, learning habits, and shortcomings.
It is a testament to the company’s success that despite several government initiatives working in the same genre, WonderTree has managed to win several awards and is currently partnered with some promising names. Though the company doesn’t work as quietly as some of the others on this list, one can’t help but be impressed by what WonderTree has already achieved in in the short time it has been around. Seeing the cause it subscribes to, the startup deserves all the success it gets.
Pakistan’s energy crisis has triggered various mass protests, been a central talking point in election campaigns, and has had a major impact on the economy. In all fairness, the government seems to be taking the issue seriously, and in recent months things have started improving. The fact remains, however, that Pakistan (or any country, for that matter) has limited energy resources and using these resources smartly could prove to be the difference between an economy’s success or failure. This is where EcoEnergy comes in as it focuses on solar power, a form of energy that is here to stay.
Many companies have delved into solar power in Pakistan but the trend has never caught on, mainly because of the cost associated with the equipment. EcoEnergy aims to change all that. The company stands out among its competition because its main partners are small businesses rather than individuals. EcoEnergy has distributed over 12,000 solar units all over Pakistan since 2012 to these businesses that are mostly based in remote areas. Thanks to a good business strategy and futuristic vision, EcoEnergy is expanding at a decent pace.
The best part about EcoEnergy’s work is its focus on empowering overlooked communities in areas that are not incorporated into the national energy grid. This has won EcoEnergy much acclaim from national and international sources in recent years, but the outfit had humble beginnings back in 2009 when it started as a non-profit organization. EcoEnergy did some valuable work during the floods of 2010/11, but soon the co-founder Shazia Khan realized that switching the business model is the only way forward. Since then, EcoEnergy has only gone upwards despite competition from several big names in solar energy, and even the government power sector in some places.
Despite being in a good position financially, EcoEnergy can still be considered an underdog owing to the fact that it is a company operating in areas that don’t have any infrastructure, faces stiff competition, and is trying to popularize a technology that many have failed to make mainstream.