As part of my effort to showcase young entrepreneurs in Pakistan, I present to you the first article in the series. An interview with the owner and co-founder of Binex Solutions (Ptv) Ltd, Umer Maqbool.
Umer holds a Bachelor’s of Science (Computer Science Major) from NUCES-FAST, Islamabad. NUCES-FAST is renowned for its Computer Science degree and holds a place among the renowned institutes of Pakistan.
Binex Solutions was founded in 2009. The company specializes in games and mobile apps development, working primarily in technologies like Unity3D, Cocos2D and native obj-C, developing products for a variety of platforms.
Here’s what Umer has to say about his journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur in Pakistan.
Give us a brief overview of your experience and path to current position
Right after my graduation, I joined a software house as a “Software Engineer”. I stayed at that company for 2 years. During my stay there I got promoted 3 times and got a chance to work in 3 different roles, namely, Software Engineer, Technical Team Lead and Project Lead. This transition of roles helped me gain valuable knowledge about SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle) in general, along with working knowledge of project budgeting, resource allocation and risk management. When I started my own company (Binex Solutions) my first primary role was of a Project Manager and my experiences from my job helped a lot.
Where did the business idea of starting a software house come from?
The business idea of starting a software development company primarily came from my personal interest in software development, along with relevant education and job experience. Over time, we found a focused direction (Games/Mobile Development) which I’d say was an early adaptation based on the market trend.
How much money did it require?
As per my initial calculations back in 2009, the money requirement to start a software house was around 2.5 million rupees.
How did you get the money?
For the initial investment, I sought co-founders and found two. All three of us pitched in money from our personal savings.
How did you obtain investors for your venture?
We only have one external investor (not a stake owner) at this point in time and he is a close friend. He is someone who knew what we’ve been up to from the very first day and how we’ve been performing, so getting him on board did not take much effort. We did run some numbers by him, to demonstrate how profitable we were and how his investment can boost our growth based on those numbers.
If other people put money in, how was that structured?
The money from other people is actually a “loan” against a percentage of company’s profits, till the loan principle is returned.
What sort of company did you set up?
My company is a “Private Limited Company”, as per Pakistan’s law.
Who is your customer?
Currently our customers are small scale game production studios (or individuals) who don’t have an in-house game development team and hence they outsource the development part of the game to us.
How did you get (or plan to get) the first few customers?
First few customers came through online marketing, staying updated on relevant forums etc. Basically, letting people know (as globally as possible) that we’re offering these (Game Development) services. After that, our work spoke for itself and on an average day we have more work coming in than what we can handle and that is why we’ve been expanding constantly.
What have been the biggest hurdles to date for Binex?
HR! Due to the niche nature of our domain in Pakistan, human resource has been our biggest challenge. When we started in 2009, there were only a few other companies in Islamabad doing the same work, so experienced game developers were almost non-existent in the local market.
How did you overcome them?
We started our own in-house training program. I and my co-founder were game developers ourselves and having relevant experience, we started hiring fresh graduates and then training them in-house for the job role.
What three pieces of advice would you give to college students who want to become entrepreneurs?
- Start Early. The sooner (and younger) you start working on your idea the better. You’ll have more time to make mistakes, learn from them and then adapt accordingly. Also there is a good chance that you’ll have less responsibilities (both time wise and financially) so you can focus more on your brain child.
- Do your homework. Reading a few success stories every week won’t make you an entrepreneur. Try to identify the strengths behind those success stories and see what decisions were made in order to get there or what circumstances played a vital role for them.
- Talk to students outside your domain. Share ideas, know the problem that they see and find solutions.