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What It's Like Launching An E-Commerce Startup In The Middle Of Pakistan

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Waqas Ali grew up in a small town in Pakistan's Punjab province.

Ali studied physics while attending a university in Lahore, but

eventually dropped out when he was inspired by a group of five craftsmen

making handmade shoes in his home town, Ali writes on Medium.

So he started working on an online shoe store called Hometown because he wanted to help those craftsmen build a sustainable business.

He ended up returning to Punjab to meet with a "shoe master" named M

Hussain, who would become the official shoemaker. He got his friend

Sidra Qasim to come on board as a cofounder, and in November 2012, he

secured $10,000 in seed funding from P@SHA Social Innovation Fund.

The two eventually moved to Lahore so they could get in touch with

designers, find high-quality raw material, and start building the


But it wasn't easy. They were living in a hostel and using a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant as their office.

After about for months, Ali and his team were able to make super comfortable and lightweight shoes.

But selling those shoes proved to be more difficult than they

expected. They spent about 60% of their money on building inventory,

there wasn't much left for marketing and operations.

Since they were strapped for cash, they simply interacted with

potential customers both online and offline. When they sold their first

shoe, Ali wrote a handwritten letter to the customer, and he still does

that to this day.

"Honest communication, delivering on promises, and most importantly

showing human side of our business helped us increase both our traffic

and sales," Ali writes.

In August 2012, Google and Punjab's government proclaimed Hometown as an "Innovation Hero."

Now, Ali and his team are part of Plan9, Pakistan's first tech

incubator, backed by the Punjab government. Ali was also recently

selected to be an Acumen Fund Pakistan Fellow.


I wonder how this compares to setting up internet businesses in East Punjab?

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I've seen a few sellers in haryana selling shaving cream and stuff on ebay (I'm mona atm) but, I've also read that it's hard to get an internet connection in India and that there are special acts to put restrictions on internet users.

It even supposdly required 2 or 3 pieces of ID to use an internet cafe in Delhi.

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