Flooding in Pakistan 2014 – How You Can Help

It is a very strange feeling, knowing that there is a group of people out there, waiting for you to take action. If you do not take action, they may sleep hungry tonight. If you do not take action, their 3 year old daughter may not get the medical treatment that can cure her.

Is that group really dependent on me – on li’l ol’ me – to take action? No. God will provide through someone else if not me. But I would have failed at some level if I do not take action.

A very dear, old, trusted friend has been delivering food items every year – to either flood victims or during Ramzaan, to the less fortunate. If you have been a long-time reader of LifeETC, you already know that we have collected and distributed funds before. I distinctly remember a gentleman from Karachi donating 100,000 rupees. I was (and am) humbled that we reached our target of 400,000 rupees last time pretty quickly, Alhumdulillah.

It is Time

It is time, unfortunately, for such fund-raising again. I want to collect a total of 500,000 rupees for the flood victims of Pakistan, and I hope that you will join me in taking action.

If you’re outside Pakistan, you can still donate (our target of 500,000 rupees is roughly equal to 5,000 dollars). With that money, we can deliver basic sustenance to a larger group inshAllah.

It is a matter of responsibility. I want to play my part inshAllah. And I want to make it easier for my friends to play their part too.

Get your friends involved, ask your family members, collect the money and donate! We can do this, we can God willing help the victims.

To donate, please click here to contact me.


Types of donations we are accepting right now:

Collecting funds is the easiest, but of course, these funds are utilized to purchase relief items.

We are right now focused on providing basic tents (for protection against dengue and malaria virus) and food items (for a tentative list of food items, click here). But there is also a need for clothing and bedding. If you are in Lahore, I can pick these donations up from your location.


  • Funds are utilized in totality for purchase of relief items – no “admin expenses” of course, each and every paisa and penny is spent on relief items.
  • Our relief efforts are not affiliated with any political party and we try to stay away from the local politician trying to make a quick impression on his/her constituency. Having said that, our efforts are to provide for the flood victims, and if there is a politician in the way, we can not allow that to stop us. Essentially, we do not care who gets the pat on the back.
  • Lastly, this is not about donating to me; if you have an Army relief camp (or any other trusted organization) near your location, donate there if you want to. I just hope and pray that all of us play our part, God willing.

What happened in Peshawar (did not stay in Peshawar) I went to Peshawar for the Digital Youth Summit 2014. Here's what happened.

travelling from lahore to peshawar to lahoreA bus ride from Lahore to Peshawar, non stop, takes you 6 hours.

Riding the mighty and monotonous Motorway from Lahore to Islamabad, then to Peshawar, I slept most of the time. Well, tried to.

Two guys at the back were talking loudly, in Pashto. I don’t understand the language, but I know the language of a good time, and they were having a good time. They had a small boy who needed to pee. Never thought it would happen, but they actually got the Daewoo bus service to pull over for a quick, 5 minute stop at one of the many restaurants – qiyaam o ta’aam – on the Motorway.

Continue reading What happened in Peshawar (did not stay in Peshawar) I went to Peshawar for the Digital Youth Summit 2014. Here’s what happened.

Let us meet.

Are you a lettuce or an apple?

A lettuce will take three months to grow and you can use it in a salad. That is why it’s commonly called salad leaf. Now once the lettuce has been used, you need to replant a new one. Salad leaves are healthy and quick to grow.

An apple tree, on the other hand, takes about 6 years to produce its first apple. That is, after it has been taken care of, watered at the right times, protected from storms and disease. It takes a lot, a lot of hard, long work to get to that first apple. Still there are no guarantees.

But the apple tree has a capacity of producing fruit for well over 50 years. If taken care of, an apple tree can produce apples for a hundred years. Even more!

So, the question is, is your work, your contribution, your impact like a salad leaf, or an apple tree?

Don’t know about you, but I want to be like an apple tree.

I Can Not Do This. Can I?

Many of us think that it is OK to hate our work. So much so, that if you are enjoying your work, it is not considered work!

But what if it is possible to do something that makes you come alive!? Do things you love to do, or find ways to love what you are already doing!

Is it possible?

Imagine the puny little apple seed, talking to other apple seeds. “I want to grow big and strong, and contribute, and take in all the resources that I have, and produce awesome stuff for others to enjoy. I want to grow!”

But just look at it. It is so small. So insignificant. How can this little thing grow up to contribute and support so many?

You wouldn’t believe it either, but you know that the seed has potential. God made it that way. The seed has this natural ability to grow. You know that the seed can grow to be a tree.

Don’t seeds have potential?

Then why some seeds make it and others don’t?

My Environment Matters More Than I Think

Alone, an apple seed won’t make it. But if that apple tree is looked after, if the surroundings of that seed are supportive of its growth, then the dream will become a reality!

Your dream a reality, if you try hard enough! Will you try hard enough? Can you make it on your own, all alone?

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” African proverb.

What if you connect with people who understand and are trying to do the same thing with their lives, as you are with yours?

People who, like you, are trying to live up to their potential!

You surround yourself with people who understand the craziness, who understand that it takes guts and hard work to do something different. People who want to see you grow, to succeed!

Will you want to meet such people?

Introducing LifeETC Local Meetups

Calling all friends who want to surround themselves with people who are supportive of your ideas, your (sometimes crazy) dreams, your goals in life, your ambitions.

life-etc-local-meetups-logolife-etc-local-meetups-logoLet us use this blog and the amazing community of friends we have to help each other out.

I know that I found success through the help of people who were doing what I wanted to do. I see no reason why that effect can not be replicated.

I have been to Karachi, Islamabad and only recently to Peshawar, all for the work that I do. I was lucky to be invited as a panelist at the Peshawar Digital Youth Summit on blogging. And as I have suspected before, meeting creative, supportive people invigorates, refreshes and empowers!

While in Islamabad, I was able to meetup with yet another group of supportive, creative and adventurous folks. All in the name of friendship, common interests, support and respect for each other.

Last year, I went to Dubai and met up with members of the LifeETC community there too! But what if we could meet each other, minus me?

Thanks to other bloggers like Scott who have done it on a massive scale, I too want to help people connect. This blog is a platform to share the ideas of creative self employment, meaningful work and adventurous living… but meeting in person opens a whole new dimension of learning. And growing.

Even the biggest river starts off as a trickle.

This is the trickle. :)

Join or Host a Meetup in Your Town

Even if you and one other friend sits down to talk about learning and growth, you will be much better off than before. God willing. Community is a powerful thing.

And once you host an event, may it be being responsible for gathering 2 or 10 or 50 or 100 people, it will change your life for the better. Community is a powerful thing.

Meetup in a restaurant, a cafe, in a park, on the mountains (that one is my favorite!), in an office, invite friends over at your house… the idea is to gather people who want to grow! People who understand that encouragement as well as guidance play a large role in our success, those are the people who will show up! God willing.

You can invite a local hero, a local expert to perhaps give a small 10 minute presentation? Imagine the impact that can have on the audience in terms of guidance!? That is part of the reason that we plan to keep LifeETC Local Meetups topical: most meetups will have a theme or a topic around which one can gather and learn.

If you are interested in hosting a LifeETC Local meetup in your town/area, please fill this LifeETC Local Host form (click here). I will immediately get back to you, God willing.

We have some cool stuff cooking up. Let’s make this work. God willing.

“If you want to go far, go together.”


I have made a special section for Hosts.

You can sign up as a host using the form below:

(Can’t see the form above? Use this link)

I am hoping that LifeETC Local meetups will help us connect, learn, grow and help us add venture to our lives :)

We are already organizing a small meetup in Lahore based on the topic of blogging (you will hear about it in the next few days inshAllah, stay tuned!).

I first read the comparison between an apple tree and a head of lettuce in the remarkable book by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. The book is aptly titled “The Impact Equation: are you just making noise or doing work that matters”. Highly recommended.

This was my first business, man.

Do you know how much a SIM costs? You know, SIMS, that small, usually-rectangular piece of plastic that you put in your phone – do you know how much that costs? If you want a mobile connection here in Pakistan, do you know the price you will pay to get that SIM?


My first business selling SIM cards

In fact, the mobile companies pay you to get their SIM. All SIMs nowadays come with some talk time minutes pre-loaded. And they have other free stuff included in the SIM too, stuff like free SMS minutes and Internet/data packages and what not.

But rewind 10 years, and we were paying for SIMs. And we were not only paying for them, we couldn’t simply get a SIM: you had to actually wait for your SIM to arrive. Mobilink was the undisputed market leader and was selling their newly introduced pre-paid Jazz SIMs by the tons!

And there was me, in college, with that gleam in my eye and that spunk in my step. I wanted to do something different, make tons of money and look cool doing it. This was college after all. Another friend of mine, he was interested in the same things. So we talked.

And critically, I knew a friend of a friend of a friend, who had this friend who worked in the Mobilink sales department.

The Business Idea

That dur daraz ka friend in Mobilink would be able to get us some SIMS at dealer rate. Yes, SIMs had dealers back then. The telco will sell their SIMs to their dealers, and you the customer can buy it only from the dealer. We wanted to be the dealer, just because we knew a friend of a friend of a friend. And we knew that we could sell some SIMs, given that we had that gleam in our eyes and that spunk in our steps.

Now this friend, this business partner friend, let’s call him Ahsan (because that’s his, like, real name) was suffering from Newofonitis: he just had to buy a new cell phone every second month (or week, if his budget allowed). This habit of his had allowed him to make some friends with cell phone retailers.

“I will get the SIMs at dealer rates and you’d help me sell them, we’d split the profit fifty fifty”

That’s it. That was the business plan. That was the deal.

Profit calculations were dead simple: dealer rate was 900 rupees per SIM. And the SIM was selling at an open market price of 1,100 rupees. Our friends were eagerly buying these SIMs for 1,100 a piece – yes, a SIM for eleven hundred. This was just the SIM cost by the way; they also charged for incoming calls back in the day, with SMSes costing both ways as well! What days!

Anyway, me and my friend decided to invest a total of eighty thousand rupees. Why eighty thousand? Well, because my business partner had forty.

All I had to do was beg, borrow (never steal) my part of the equity to keep the 50/50 profit ratio.

Raising Capital (aka Beg or Borrow)

For any venture, the proper order of steps is that you try to raise money via family and then friends (even Paul Graham says so )

So to raise “capital”, I had to look towards family (also, my friends were as broke as I was!).

Borrowing 40,000 rupees from Family, plus the 40k from my business partner, we ended up purchasing 88 SIMs. Yes. Just eighty eight.

88 x 200 and we stood a chance to earn a grand 17,000 rupee of pure profit. 8,500 a piece. And the cherry on this small, ugly yet tasty-as-hell cake was that this transaction was supposed to happen with a week.

I remember I was excited about the anticipated profits. 8,500 back then, for a undergrad, must have meant some good money.

8,500 in one week with 40k investment. We can repeat that every week, invest the 40k back, and sell more SIMs. We could become millionaires with our own chain of SIM retail shops all around the country! Aah yes! That gleam in our eyes and that spunk in our steps.

What happened next just blew us away.


I remember finding out (I think I got a call from that friend of a friend of a friend in Mobilink) that our plans to buy more SIMs were to be put on hold. I was told that we were lucky to get the SIMs that we got, because the telco has closed off further SIM distribution – some thing to do with network loads and call quality.

No biggie, I thought. We had the SIMs. Our grand, nationwide plan had to wait. Let’s just sell the SIMs we had.

The plan was to keep 10 SIMs for each of us to sell to our friends. The remaining 68 SIMs were to be given to our contact, the cell phone retailer, who will help us sell the 68 SIMs within one week. We called him Man. Yes. Man.

This guy would end every sentence with “Man”. No matter that all his sentences were obviously in Urdu, but the “man” would not be missed. Asalamu Alaikum Man. How are you man? A cup of tea for you, man? aap kee sunglasses bauhat achee haiN, man. Man, I’m telling you this is how it works. And sometimes he’d throw in the Man Sandwich, something like: “Man, this is a good samosa, man”. So yeah, our man was Man.

A day after we delivered the 68 SIMs, we visited Man. “How many SIMs sold so far?” we asked.

“Sold three man,” he said. Gave us our share, kept his cut and we’d be done. What cut he was keeping I seriously can’t remember, but man, Man kept his cut.

The next day, the news was all over the place: the SIM that used to sell for 1,100 rupees in the open market was now selling at around 2,000 rupees!

Thanks to the indefinite hold on new SIMs by the only pre-paid telco, the existing SIMs were now in high demand. The demand was already high, but now it was through the roof.

The next day, we sold the last of our SIMs at around 2,500 rupees! We couldn’t be more excited. We went over to the cramped shop in Main Market’s basement, to the man himself. “How many sold?”

“2 SIMs sold man!”

“Just 2? Please give us the SIMs, we can sell on our own now.”

“But the SIMS are now distributed among different shops, and they are now selling them, man,” the man smiled.

One last SIM that we had, I think we sold for 4,000 rupees! The market rate was going bonkers.

Had it not been for Man, my first business would have been a roaring success, instead of the decent success that it turned out to be. Alhumdulillah.

We eventually did recover the money from Man. He actually told us that he would pay us the previously agreed-upon 200 rupees per SIM. We reminded Man that we agreed based on the price, not on 200 rupees. But he stalled. Kept stalling. It took us quite some time (months actually) to get our money back. I think we ended up going to his shop, giving him a lecture on honesty and then picking up a new, dabba packed cell phone to eventually cover the remaining balance.

When I have any discussion on ethics and honesty in business, I always suggest that one should start with trust and assume the best in others. A lot of people disagree, saying that the market is full of sleazy folks, waiting to con you out of your money; that’s when I think of Man. Man taught me to be as clear as possible in communicating our terms of business; we did tell him that we’d pay him 200 per SIM, instead it should have been a percentage-based agreement, and subject to changes in the market price. I sincerely hope that he is doing well, has become more fair-minded and that he never stops saying man.


This was my first business where I invested money. And my first business where I had a business partner. Although it was as small as they come, I still cherish this little experiment so many years ago.

I know, some may not call this venture a business. My definition is simple: anything that leaves money in the end, is a good business. How much money? That’s a matter of scale, the principles remain the same.

Question: do you have your “first business story”? Any “Man” that taught you an expensive lesson? Join the conversation on Facebook (click this link to go to the FB post for this article).

The well connected hard worker

Tell me if you know someone like this: doesn’t work that much, just enough. But the “higher ups” are friends with him, they like him. He gets the promotion.

Or you know a hard-worker, who does great work, but he doesn’t know the “right people”, so no one seems to notice his work. You feel that his work is under-appreciated.

The hard worker without connections, or an average worker with more connections: who will have a better chance of reaching their goals?

Continue reading The well connected hard worker