Tariq Fawad Khawaja holds degree in Mechanical Engineering from Imperial College London. He is a prolific cyber entrepreneur who conceived idea of phonebook.com.pk which is a corporate listing site that contains huge database of over 500,000 businesses across Pakistan.
He is currently serving as Project Director at the same site. Recently he shared his views and experiences in an interview with Technology Times
Tell us briefly about yourself and highlights of your career?
Tariq Fawad Khawaja: By profession I am a Mechanical Engineer with a BE from Imperial College London and I am serving as Project Director at Phonebook.com.pk
In 2009, myself and a team of professionals, approached Jang Group of Companies and floated the idea of an Online Yellow Pages / White Pages Directory containing names, addresses, contact details of Pakistani businesses and individuals. People at the newspaper giant were pleasantly disposed towards the idea and thus was born Phonebook!
Phonebook is a wholly owned subsidiary company of the Jang Group. In a brief period of less than five years, a hardworking and enthusiastic set of individulas at Phonebook have successfully gathered strategic, in-depth and authentic information of over 500,000 businesses from across Pakistan.
Today over 20,000 people visit Phonebook every day surfing through 50,000 plus pages looking for products and services. These people do not come on Phonebook to “Read the News” or “Download Music” neither do they come for “Social Networking”. These people are serious buyers and sellers seeking for the right business information.
Phonebook has made it easy for people to find businesses they are looking for, compare products and services and buy when they are READY! This is why compared to any other search engine in the country, Phonebook delivers more online customers that are ready to buy.
Where do you see yourself after 5 years?
In the next five years we plan to increase the traffic on Phonebook to over 100,000 daily visitors. We also plan to expand the scope of our data bringing in exciting new products and services on the mobile as well as introducing new online content and features.
How you recognized the need of creating an online portal like phonebook.com.pk?
The vacuum of authentic information available to consumers, about products and services, is a serious hindrance for them to maximize the Value for their Money. From the beginning we sensed the need for this missing link in the Value Chain and pushed forward with our idea inspite of early difficulties.
At what level you want to take phonebook .com.pk being an entrepreneur? What were the problems that you suffered while data collection and processing?
Data Collection, initially was a very difficult task as most of the companies were scared to share their information with us due to the general law and order situation in the country. Working under the brand name of Jang really helped us as this organization has years of solid credibility behind it and mostly people trust its name.
Today we have defined proper set of rules and procedures through which data is gathered and kept up dated through an efficient Call Centre operation. We have also reached a unique position as businesses from across the country now approach us with enlistment and up dation requests.
How much data phonebook.com.pk is currently playing with? Are there any plans to upgrade the data?
At the moment we have over 500,000 companies listed on Phonebook. Every month we add around 5,000 new companies in our database. Keeping the data updated is an ongoing daily excersize which is being performed by a specialized department in our company.
How phonebook.com.pk is easing the public needs?
We have created a platform for the public where they can find businesses, products and services, compare prices and quality of service and then make up their minds to buy from the best place which suits their requirement.
Such a platform was not available earlier to the general public and usually one follows word of mouth when making a purchase decision.
Can a small online business could also be setup with small investment?
By comparison setting up an online business is always cheaper than most conventional businesses. The success of such a venture is not guaranteed though. The depth of an idea and the trues realization of its potential along with the ability to use technology effectively would be keys to the success of any online business.
What future of cyber entrepreneurship do you see in developing countries like Pakistan?
Pakistan is a virgin territory for online businesses and mobile apps. Digital Media is exploding all around us. With over 30 million internet users and 80 million mobile phone users the digital universe is ready for the taking.
Having said the above we feel that Cyber Entrepreneurs should first observe their surroundings and identify an idea worth staking out for. Once this most critical task is achieved rest of the stuff is doable if one is dedicated and committed.