The real entrepreneurs of Pakistan

An expensive degree killed my entrepreneurial spark, but many still have it are capitalising on it. Kudos to them.

Umair Kazi October 29, 2010
Shakeel operates a DVD rental shop in the building across the street from where I live.

It’s nothing too fancy, just a couple of shelves in a six-by-four feet space, in a market dominated by tailors and kapra walas.

He comes in at about 4 pm every day, and takes the 10 pm bus back home.

All day, he rents out pirated copies of the latest Hollywood and Bollywood flicks to clients at his little shop.

Shakeel’s a young guy, maybe 24, with glasses that look remarkably similar to mine. His mother doesn’t let him go to his shop if the situation in the city gets a little uneasy. In a lot of ways, Shakeel is just like me, only with two differences:

  1. Shakeel belongs to what economists would call the lower-middle or lower class.

  2. Shakeel is a micro-entrepreneur.

Ever since I had a little talk with Shakeel, I’ve been noticing these two characteristics pop up in tandem more and more. Wherever I look, I see people that line the bottom of the middle class and those below them, crafting their little businesses and running little shops.
• There is the guy that parks your car on II Chundrigar road

• The man peddling car window shades (and Rubiks cubes) on the road

• The little girl that offers to clean your window

• The hawker who brings you your daily dose of news and magazines

• Te rairy-wala who asks you for your dabbay

•XXThe pint-sized child who sells chewing gum and Chinese tissues outside McDonald’s

All of them have their own little businesses. They probably didn’t get (or won’t ever get) a college degree, but they won’t let it be a handicap.

They bought whatever they could with whatever little money they had, added their mark-up and left their houses one morning on a mission to sell. They did the same thing the next day and the day after and continue to do this every single day.

The really fascinating bit is none of these people meet what we believe to be the conditions for being entrepreneurs. They don’t have access to any significant amount of capital, they certainly are not Masters in Business Administration, and they don’t have their father’s business connections. All they have is a spirit to fight the odds every waking moment.

This spirit is what is called the entrepreneurial spark.

Sadly, four years at the country’s best business school only made this spark weaker for me and many other “Idon’thave the resources to start my own thing right now” types.

For this, I envy the Shakeels of the world.
Umair Kazi A strategist who blogs at
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Sulaiman Dawood | 13 years ago | Reply You have correctly highlighted such praise worthy people who are though around us and we don't even recognize them or don't give them any lift! I suggest that we should start giving them respect from today! If my car stops at signal, someone selling something comes to me and offers a product or service, I buy it even if I don't need it, e.g. tissue paper/pen,etc. Because it might be useful after sometime and the person selling it is not extending his hand for help but he should be recognized as a strong and responsible citizen. Although he might be selling at an expensive price than the market, it would be appreciable if u even buy it at the cost he/she offers... because its the only income source for them. This is what I do. I would love to have more suggestion from others as well.
Syed Raheel Aijaz | 13 years ago | Reply Very nice. You have very smartly expressed the idea of the much-sought street smartness.
Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ