We talked to Monis Rehman about his entrepreneurial journey and how did it all start for him and here is what had to say.
Monis, tell us about your entrepreneurial journey and what you are doing. How did it all begin and how did things build up to where you are now?
When I moved back to Pakistan in 2003 from Silicon Valley, I clearly saw the tremendous potential online connectivity was about to bring as a positive disruptor. With the massive investment in telecommunications infrastructure made 15 years ago, it is no surprise that today we have 70 Million people in Pakistan with smartphones and high-speed Internet access. That’s 70% of the country’s adult population. I saw the potential of the Internet in Pakistan when few took it seriously. And I invested my career in it. I am passionate about digitizing key use cases to maximize scalable impact.
My jobs platform, ROZEE.PK, today is used by over 9 million Pakistanis to find jobs. Over 65,000 employers post jobs and receive more than 40,000 job applications a day through this platform. ROZEE.PK has helped over 1 Million people find jobs which has a ripple effect in improving the lives of people around them. Employed Pakistanis educate their children and join a middle class whose purchases fuel our economy. Pakistan has one of the fastest growing middle classes in the world who are now all online. One of the biggest hurdles we saw for these newly minted online citizens was the friction to pay digitally.
After the State Bank of Pakistan formally launched branchless banking regulations, we saw a huge opportunity to financially include millions of people who didn’t have bank accounts into the economy. Qasif and I co-founded Finja along with Umer Munawar which has partnered with Finca Microfinance Bank to launch SimSim, Pakistan’s first two-minute digital bank account. Through SimSim, anyone with an ID card can open a bank account in a little over one minute – a huge contrast from the nearly two week painful process of visiting a bank branch and processing onerous paperwork.
Around about 15% of adults in Pakistan have bank accounts! SimSim was the first mobile payments app in Pakistan to process retail payments by scanning QR codes. Our first vendor was a biryani stall near our office. In a very short span of time, SimSim has over 400,000 customers sending money to each other with zero transaction fees. They are paying bills online, ordering food, buying movie tickets and getting instant cash advances based on their usage patterns all at the click of a button.
As someone who hates carrying cash and standing in lines, I built EasyTickets.pk to digitize ticketing. EasyTickets lets you buy movie, bus and event tickets on your mobile phone. Payments can be made through any mobile wallet, bank account, credit or cash agent. We are now selling 2500 tickets a day through this platform and have sold well over one million digital tickets since we launched. No paper. Simply show up to your Daewoo bus adda or favorite movie theater with your mobile phone, scan your e-ticket at our kiosk and you’re in.
The convenience is addictive and this is all happening in Pakistan. We are leapfrogging the west. We’re now working on online air tickets, hotel bookings and Internet enabled devices to connect payments and digital platforms. Pakistan today is a Disney Land for entrepreneurs.