Ahmed Khan, one of the pioneers of e-commerce in Pakistan and the CEO and founder of Cheetay.pk walks us through his professional journey. From acquiring his Master’s degree from Cambridge University to launching Cheetay.pk; a company that aims to promote faster means of doorstep delivery, Ahmed has gathered extensive experience in the field of e-commerce. He talks about his achievements and struggles and shares useful advice for young entrepreneurs
How did you get started in your career?
After acquiring my Bachelor’s degree from LUMS in 1997 and graduating with a Master’s degree from Cambridge, I commenced my career from Proctor & Gamble as a Workplace Services Manager and later worked as a consultant at McKinsey & Co in Dubai. Upon returning to Pakistan, I became the Managing Director of Rocket Internet GmbH which gave me the opportunity to spearhead, establish and successfully launch some of the well-known ventures such as Kaymu.pk, Daraz.pk, EasyTaxi.pk, Carmudi.pk and Lamudi.pk, which resulted in transforming the nascent landscape of the e-commerce industry. Daraz.pk, the company that I founded was recently acquired by Alibaba for a colossal $150 million which is a meteoric step in establishing and supporting the bourgeoning IT sector in Pakistan. Currently, I’m the CEO of Cheetay.pk which is a Last Mile e-commerce Company and I dedicate my time to grapple and bring about a metamorphosis in the ecosystem of the ever-evolving e-commerce industry in Pakistan.
You have also worked as an assistant professor, what was the most gratifying part about teaching?
There are a lot of gaps in the workforce and in society, this was my chance to transform that problem into something more productive, more honest and something more ethical so that I could make a difference and play my part. People complain about endemic corruption and the problems they see. This was an opportunity for me to mould our people in a way to change those complaints and be productive.
What is it like working with Cheetay.pk?
It’s the best experience of my life. I’ve had the opportunity to work in McKinsey, in P&G. I’ve worked for my father, for textiles and have worked for the government, I’ve taught at LUMS, FC College, but building Cheetay from scratch, has been an exceptionally enlightening experience because I’ve gotten the chance to work with literally the smartest people in the industry.
What do you like the most about your job?
I like the people. We’ve got this mixture of creative, analytical, caring, intelligent, hardworking people and it’s such a beautiful mix of skill, talent, experience and coming together to holistically work and make something special.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
The crusade or the idea is to build a market that can produce multibillion-dollar companies. So far we’re lagging behind in the game because the best talent goes abroad and brain drain is a massive problem for us. When you look at countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, they’ve done very well and have got multiple billion dollar companies that are constantly growing and attracting talent. The inspiration is to make the market vibrant and so evocative that it draws investments and investors.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
There are a couple of challenges that exist. Firstly, the environment in our country as a whole, it’s just not conducive for people who want to work honestly and hard. The environment is very challenging in terms of meagre to non-existent infrastructure. People aren’t willing to work and it’s very frustrating because it isn’t geared for tech companies. Every time you want to start something new there’s just too much ridicule, criticism and not enough support.
What’s your favourite thing to do when you’re not working?
I am very fond of sports. I work out everyday in the morning. I also love squash and am a football fan as well.
What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work?
I am fascinated by what’s happening in the world of technology and the way it’s advancing at such an exponential rate. You see self-driving cars in the market. On the other hand, digital payments are a fascinating prospect.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
My idea in this regard is that people have very different mind-sets. These days’ people think an idea is sufficient to launch and run a business. It is imperative to understand that nowadays there are abundant ideas but the right execution strategy and the right people are what is actually needed. Having a good idea doesn’t mean you’ve hit a home run so you have to commit to the long-term goal.
Is there anything exciting that you are working on at the moment that you can tell us about?
I am very excited about digital payments because we get to see options like Easypaisa, etc. We want to leverage the increased interest in digital payments and looking at Paytm in India, we want to do something which can complement and increase the flow towards digital payments. We want people to stop using cash and credit cards and want them to rely purely on digital payments for all online transactions. It’ll help people with budgeting, splitting bills and making payments and transactions much easier. This right now is a very exciting part of what we’re doing, in trying to figure out how to lead a cashless economy.