In October 2012, Ali Aziz founded Shopistan with the initial value proposition as:
“We are working on differentiating our selves based on technology innovation in eCommerce – making it super easy for brands to work with Shopistan by managing their own inventory etc., providing a top of the line web/mobile shopping experience to our customers and investing in marketing technologies that help optimize conversion rates.
Kindly let me know if you are interested in working with Shopistan to give your brand a risk free, revenue generating sales channel.”
In April 2013, Ali took on Hamaad Ravda (currently the chief digital officer of Gul Ahmed Textile Mills Limited) on as a partner & CPO. With Ravda’s connections in private equity, they successfully raised over one million dollars in funding for the omni-channel side of Shopistan.
In August 2013, they took on Babar Rashid (of Uth Oye fame) on as a partner & CMO in charge of signing up fashion apparel brands in Punjab. Despite his reputation as a pathological liar and untrustworthy business partner, Rashid is known to deliver and that too manifold.
After utilizing both their skill sets to build a fantastic product and acquire all the apparel brands in Pakistan, Ali burned them both and removed them from the company in May of 2014.
Now most people who pander to the start-up bubble would be quick to assert that the booted partners were incompetent. If that’s the case then please explain how is it that Ravda went on to become the CMO of EGO and set new benchmarks in the industry, before being scooped by Bilal Lakhani to lead digital business transformation for Express Group. He was rumored to be building a replica of iPrice, but those were not verified.
And Rashid is now running his own apparel line, though its uncertain if it will have the same social impact positioning as Uth Oye.
I digress but that LCE finds a person such as Ali Aziz inspirational is cause for concern for the values they stand for. Hopefully the participants of last month’s Lahore Startup Weekend (event in LUMS) considered taking a step back and structuring the terms of their participation in a manner that insures them against being burned at the last minute.
To further propagate this bubble, while justifying the deed to attract investors, journalists across Pakistan are positioning this space as one with rainbows and butterflies. And while such dark sides do appear in non startup businesses as well, its likely unwise to consider such people as mentors regardless of how much money they end up making. If the money matters more than the ethics or humanity, maybe LCE should invite the founder of AXACT.