Karandaaz WEC2018 Investee: Webworks
E-commerce entrepreneur and Karandaaz Women Entrepreneurship Challenge 2018 Investee Fatin Gondal remembers the time when she struggled to assert herself as a team manager at her previous job.
Straight out of college, she had joined a website developing agency, which was also a pioneer in the e-commerce space in Pakistan. They had launched the country’s first web marketplaces, Daraz and Kaymu. As a manager dealing directly with a vast team of web developers for Kaymu, Fatin faced the challenge of having an entirely male team of developers not take her seriously. Everyone on the team would ignore her during team meetings. They would instead talk to her senior male colleagues, despite knowing the fact that she was the one in charge. It had nothing to do with her capability as a straightforward and hardworking manager, but it had everything to do with her gender.
It was just something they weren’t used to,” she says. “I had to make my presence felt and work hard, consistently, to prove my commitment. That persistence is what finally earned me the respect of these colleagues. By the time Fatin’s colleagues caught up with the fact that despite being a male-centric industry, their boss was a capable woman, she had already decided to do something more. In pursuit of further excellence and to avoid hitting a professional plateau, Fatin left her job. She was ready to start her own venture.
Fatin explored a number of ideas, but the one idea that compelled her more than any other was launching her own e-commerce business. It was 2014 and e-commerce was still taking root in Pakistan as a preferred method of reaching out to customers by various brands, predominantly in the field of fashion and textile industries. Fatin had the experience of working in the very heart of Pakistan’s first e-commerce marketplace, and her educational background as well as insights as a keen consumer offered her a unique blend of qualifications to, in her own words, “just go for it”.
As a prelude to shaping the idea, Fatin approached her friend and former colleague Adam Ghaznavi, who had also left his job since and joined a newly launched rideshare company in Pakistan. Over lunch they had an in-depth discussion about what they wanted to do, and how they wanted to leverage the wealth of technical talent to set up a unique business model. One that wouldn’t just provide clients a well-designed and developed website for e-commerce, but a full array of services to go along, such that it would compel the clients to outsource their entire e-commerce operations to them. Together, in August 2015, they launched a full service e-commerce business called WebWorks.
While I was looking to start my own business, I realized that everyone in the market came from a software engineering background and I came from an e-commerce operations background,” Fatin says. “Adam, co-founder at WebWorks also had a unique set of experiences. Our collective insights and experiences gave us an edge over our competitors, who initially thought we were just good at designing.
WebWorks is a fully managed e-commerce design development company where Fatin’s team of 50 designs, develops, and manages e-stores for large fashion retailers as well as small businesses. Every little detail from initial design, robust development and website deployment, to managing inventory, and ensuring correct products and prices are updated on the websites is taken care of in-house.. In total, Fatin and Adam head seven teams, and each manages a different aspect of the business. They also help clients streamline their customer experience by making sure the customers get what they have ordered in a timely fashion.
Many of their clients are industry leaders, including Khaadi, Generation, Nishat Textiles and Bareeze. The business grew from 5 employees to 50 in a span of four years, and despite their primary mode of marketing only being word of mouth, more and more brands have reached out to work with them based on their good reputation in the market. They also claim to be Pakistan’s first and only Magento certified partners.
By 2018, Fatin knew that she wanted to take the next big step and scale up her venture, but scaling up requires capital.When she reached out to banks, she realized that she wouldn’t be able to fulfill the pre-requisites these institutions had in place for getting financing.
“We were doing well but we did not have the kind of collateral or fixed assets that would help us secure a loan,” says Fatin.
I saw an advertisement in a newspaper about Karandaaz Women Entrepreneurship Challenge and, after discussing with Adam, we applied for it.
Karandaaz Pakistan, established in August 2014, funded by UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation promotes access to finance for micro, small and medium – sized businesses through a commercially directed investment platform, and financial inclusion for individuals by employing technology-enabled solutions. The Women’s Entrepreneurship Challenge is a flagship initiative of the organization, funded by DFID, through which women-led businesses across Pakistan can apply for business advisory and financial support. WebWorks was selected by Karandaaz to be part of this programme’s 2018 cohort, along with seven others.
We will be using this funding to expand into the international market and work on more developmental projects,” states Fatin. “The funding we have received from Karandaaz adds immense value to our operations. In addition, I met so many other female entrepreneurs through the program to learn from and be inspired by
Apart from funding, Karandaaz WEC18 also offers intensive training sessions with industry leaders. Every couple of weeks there are sessions on various entrepreneurial aspects such as business taxation law, finance, HR and a number of other topics. Fatin has benefitted from many of these. Adam adds, “Being recipients of Karandaaz WEC18 funding gives us credibility. Our focus from this point onwards is on further skill development of current staff and to initiate at least 10-12 new projects, which would mean we hire at least 3, 4 people per project. We will double our hiring from last year.”
Being a woman entrepreneur in a field predominantly led by men, Fatin is acutely aware of breaking the glass ceiling and encouraging more women to apply for the posts that they will ultimately hire for. She is adamant on leading the path in this regard and believes that with Karandaaz WEC18, the leveraging of their own business will create more opportunities for women choosing to enter the field. And while doing so, Fatin states that the ambition remains the same.
“We are aiming to become a leading e-commerce development venture in Pakistan as well as in the international markets, in terms of development,” she adds. “Pakistan has no dearth of talent and when it comes to sheer creativity and work output, we can beat other South Asian countries by offering more competitive rates for better quality products. I believe if you are passionate about something, people will not always be supportive. You need to understand that as long as you are true to what you are doing and doing a good job at it, eventually they will learn to step back and learn to respect you.”
She finishes her chain of thoughts on this insightful note, “it’s okay to accept when you’re wrong. Things don’t always go your way. There can be always highs and lows, just never give up. With our present success and WEC18, we at WebWorks have merely begun to scratch the surface of our true potential.”