By Thomas Heath Reporter December 21 at 12:56 PM
Pakistan-born Imran Aftab was traveling in 2004 when an AOL Time Warner colleague posed a rude question.
“Imran, you’re from Pakistan, yet you seem normal,” Aftab recalled. “What is the problem with the rest?”
“People see all bad news. I thought, ‘How can I change things even at a small scale through business?’ ”
After that trip, the chemistry major decided to use his knowledge of outsourcing at AOL to start his own business that could make money while also helping his fellow citizens in Pakistan.
The business he created is called 10Pearls, a profitable custom software company based in Herndon, Va., and Pakistan. The company has more than 150 software experts supervised by Aftab’s brother in a 33,000-square-foot office in Karachi. Only about 15 employees work in Herndon.
Aftab creates customized software for all kinds of interfaces, including mobile platforms, kiosks and Web sites. Clients include NVR, Time Warner Cable, Discovery Education, National Geographic and Zubie, a spinoff of Best Buy.
For Zubie, 10Pearls helped develop an Android and Apple application that allows people to see where their cars are located, diagnose auto repair issues and track historic routes.
Although 10Pearls is relatively small, with revenue of less than $10 million, Aftab said it has been profitable since it began 11 years ago, making Web pages for handyman businesses.
The company, which Aftab calls a social experiment, reminds me of the “double bottom line” businesses that Washington sports mogul Ted Leonsis espouses. That refers to businesses that earn profits while accomplishing some social good.
“I see that business causes positive impact,” said Aftab, who makes three visits a year to his native country. “It can change things even at a small scale. Business is a good way for people to learn about each other.”
The enterprise isn’t all about altruism.
Pakistan is a good candidate for outsourcing because of its large English-speaking population — 180 million or so — that is tech-savvy and has mathematical skills. Its labor costs are also far below those of the United States and other developed countries.
The labor-cost difference, which Aftab refers to as “a labor arbitrage,” is helping drive his profit margins. He calls it a “blended shore model.”
Pakistani software developers earn about a third to half of what it costs to hire someone with similar talents in the United States. When the less-expensive labor in Pakistan is “blended” into the entire cost structure of the company, it increases 10Pearls’ competitive position.
To lure creative millennials, Aftab owns a sister company called Game Plan8, which produces car racing, zombie and other games for mobile platforms.
“People in this day and age want to be motivated intrinsically,” Aftab said. “It’s a sense of achievement that they build a game that people are playing around the world.”
Aftab’s first break in life came early. He had dropped out of an elite Jesuit high school in Karachi because his family could not afford the tuition.
The principal of the school called in Aftab and his father.
“I still remember the day when I sat across [the principal’s] desk accompanied by my late father. I had dropped out of school, unable to continue the higher education in this private school, due to the financial hardships that my family was facing. Bishop Lobo slipped a white piece of paper in front of us and in his booming voice said, ‘Please write down the amount you can afford.’ ”
Aftab stayed in school and ended up earning a full scholarship to Bard College in Upstate New York, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. After earning a master’s in chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in 1997, he joined JPMorgan Chase, where he evaluated deals for the investment bankers.
“I knew I had to make money for my family,” said Aftab, who has several brothers and sisters. He had taken corporate finance and stock market courses while pursuing his postgraduate chemistry degree at Chapel Hill, which gave him some comfort about entering business.
The investment bank job taught him to take a hard look at business opportunities, estimating cash flow and finance and distinguishing a good business from a poor one.
After Chase, he worked at Microstrategy and then AOL Time Warner. He oversaw more than $150 million in outsource spending across seven countries at AOL Time Warner.
In June 2004, following the discussion with his colleague about the perceptions of Pakistanis, he approached his brother Zeeshan Aftab, who lived in Karachi. Aftab’s idea was to start a software company that created Web sites, portals and digital logos for small businesses.
“I took $2,000 from my pocket and told my brother to quit his job,” Aftab said. “I said we are going to do something very simple. I am going to find small businesses who need help, and we are going to do it cheaply for them.”
He started calling friends, asking them if they knew anyone who needed small software jobs for as little as $200. He visited digital marketplaces online. He walked through strip malls, visiting small businesses and restaurants, asking if they needed help with their online logos, menus or Web sites.
Most told him to get lost, but a few small jobs started dribbling in. First-year revenue was a paltry $50,000. He kept his job at AOL Time Warner, then took consulting work to make ends meet while he pushed his nascent business forward.
He knew the bigger money was in developing software applications, but he had to build experience first. He quit AOL Time Warner in 2005 and worked as a consultant while he expanded 10Pearls.
Bigger contracts started coming in, including one from a big telecommunications firm that needed help. During the Great Recession that started in 2008, business stagnated and 10Pearls pivoted to mobile applications.
“I could see that mobile was going to grow explosively,” he said.
The company’s big break arrived in 2011, when it won a highly competitive contract to build a mobile application for Social Radar, a Washington company started by Blackboard co-founder Michael Chasen. A key part of Social Radar’s business is that the app allows users to interact with people in the immediate vicinity.
The deal with Chasen helped establish 10Pearls’ credibility. That led to more and larger mobile app contracts.
Aftab, who lives in Herndon with his wife and three children, owns the largest share of the company. His brother owns the rest.
He said the U.S. and Pakistan offices, as well as customers, keep in touch via Skype, telephone and online. Even in a small way, he said, he feels he has broken down barriers and helped at least a few people make a better life.
“My employees in Pakistan have developed a better appreciation of the entrepreneurs and professionals in the U.S.,” he said.
Web Link of this success story is here
Senior Marketing Executive
REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – July 8, 2014 – To address the growing market for prepaid products and mobile financial services in the Asia Pacific region, i2c, Inc., a provider of payment processing and emerging commerce solutions, today announced the opening of its Singapore office. Located at One Raffles Place, the office will house product, client services and business development staff.
i2c's solutions are redefining what's possible in prepaid, debit, credit and emerging commerce by offering a single global processing platform with integrated mobile and loyalty capabilities. Issuers looking to launch travel, virtual, mobile, corporate and government prepaid products in the Asia Pacific region are working with i2c to get to market quickly with differentiated programs. With programs in market in Japan, China, the Philippines and Australia and new clients coming on board across the region, Asia Pacific is a key growth area for i2c.“With our client base in the Asia Pacific region growing amidst a backdrop of rapidly expanding consumer demand for flexible prepaid and mobile financial solutions, it makes sense for us to invest in the region,” says Scott Salmon, general manager, International, at i2c. “With feet on the ground in Singapore, we look forward to working closely with clients and partners in the region to create solutions tailored to local market needs.”
The office also provides i2c with a physical presence from which it will support its strategic alliance with Visa in the region. The companies announced in November 2013 a formal alliance to support prepaid market growth in a number of global markets, including Asia Pacific, Central Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
For more information go to www.i2cinc.com
Director, Marketing & Communications
Telephone: +1 650-480-5247
REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – June 4, 2014 – i2c, Inc. General Manager, International, Scott Salmon, will address delegates of PayExpo, a multi-channel payments conference, taking place next week in London. Salmon's talk, “Bridging the Mobile Payments Divide: The Key to Achieving Widespread Consumer Adoption” will take place on Thursday, 12 June at 12:30 as part of the Future of Payments Summit.
Despite a plethora of mobile payment schemes in the market today, consumers have been slow to adopt this payment method. Salmon's session will explore the forces at work that have dampened wider adoption and put forth a solution for igniting mobile payments. He will discuss why this solution – using a linked plastic card as a bridge payment method – makes sense from both practical and psychological perspectives.
A Gold sponsor of the event, i2c will also be showcasing its cloud-based global commerce and payment processing solution, which is differentiated by its support for any payment form factor, currency, language or country through one platform. Delegates are encouraged to visit the i2c stand, D30, in the exhibit hall to speak with Salmon and other company executives about i2c's approach to launching profitable prepaid, mobile, debit and credit programmes.
Director of Marketing and Communications
Telephone: +1 650-480-5247
REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – May 19, 2014 – i2c, Inc., a provider of payment processing and emerging commerce solutions, today announced that Jifiti, the breakthrough app that lets consumers turn physical goods into digital gifts, is using its platform for open-loop prepaid processing.
Jifiti was created to make gift giving more thoughtful, flexible and convenient. The app allows a user to select an item in the app or in-store by scanning a bar code and send it digitally as a gift to any recipient via e-mail, text or Facebook. The recipient can select their ideal size and color or choose an entirely different item to redeem. Users can also add products to a wish list which others can purchase for them individually or by chipping in as a group.
“Jifiti solves the gifting problem for consumers while driving sales for retailers through the integration of online and offline channels,” said Shaul Weisband, chief marketing officer at Jifiti. “By partnering with i2c for processing, we are positioning ourselves to bring the benefits of Jifiti to even more consumers and retailers. In particular, i2c's global processing capabilities and support for any language and currency will be key as we enter new international markets.”
i2c is also the processing engine behind the newly released IKEA Portland Gift Registry platform, which is powered by Jifiti's technology. Jifiti provides an end-to-end registry solution that retailers can implement quickly without any system integration. It allows guests to purchase or chip in for any gift on a registry and registrants to redeem purchased gifts via the registry app.
i2c Senior Vice President, Business Advisory Group, Stephan Koukis, comments, “Jifiti's gifting solution represents a significant innovation in online to offline commerce. With commerce becoming more mobile-driven and frictionless, other innovators in this space will require next-generation processing capabilities like i2c's that can support entirely new transactions and consumer experiences. We are excited to partner with Jifiti as they work to expand their reach globally and enhance user experience.”
Director of Marketing and Communications
Tel: +1 650.593-5400
EfroTech organized the ET Open House at its Head Office on 6 May 2014 from 10am to 7pm and witnessed the gathering of over 200 IT, HR, Supply Chain and Finance management professionals from numerous industry verticals and technology/management consultancy firms.
The products showcased at the event were TimeTrax HCMs - a HR Information Management System (http://www.TimeTrax.com.pk); BizzTrax ERP - an Enterprise Resource Planning and Supply Chain management Software (http://www.BizzTrax.com.pk); orBItrax - an Online Reporting and Business Intelligence Tool (http://www.orBItrax.com.pk).
Among the noteworthy attendees of the event were Mr. Arif Akhai of PharmaLink Karachi, one of the largest distributors of Pharmaceutical products in the country and Dr. Syed Irfan Hyder, Dean CBM & CES at IoBM Institute of Business Management.
The visitors greatly appreciated the appealing graphical interface and user-friendliness of the systems and were impressed by the depth and maturity of the applications as due to their generic design they are suitable for any and every industry. Developed as On-cloud and On-premise applications, all three solutions are available on the ET-Cloud and thus readily available on the pay-as-you-go model and ideally suited for startups and small-midsized organizations that do not wish to incur a heavy start-up cost.
Multiple project contracts were signed during the event and included Channel Partnership agreement with two Management & Financial Consultancy firms.
EfroTech was the recipients of 2 Winner Awards at the P@SHA ICT Awards 2013 held in Islamabad in September last year, including Best in eLogistics & Supply Chain for BizzTrax ERP. Further details about the event and about EfroTech can be found on the ET website: http://www.EfroTech.com