Sumair Farooqui is the founder KarloCompare.Com.Pk, a homegrown personal finance comparison platform that helps Pakistani consumers save time and money when it comes to discovering and applying for personal finance products and services. KarloCompare.com.pk is a product of CompareOn Pakistan Private Limited (formerly known as CompareAsia Pakistan Private Limited)
He is financial product specialist with substantial product development and management experience. He has rich experience of working at senior position in different banks, UBL, JS Bank, Standard Chartered, in relation with asset management, wealth management & retail banking product development, product management and strategy implementation.
KarloCompare.com.pk is a product of CompareOn Pakistan Private Limited (formerly known as CompareAsia Pakistan Private Limited)
Please tell us something about yourself and your work?
I was working for one of the leading banks when I came up with the idea for KarloCompare.com.pk. I left the corporate 9 – 5 job to launch this venture with one of Asia’s largest comparison engine operators who had built the same business across 17 geographies. Unfortunately, shortly before launching here in Pakistan, they had a change of strategy which did not include Pakistan. After them exiting, Ali (Co-founder & COO) and I decided to build the company through home grown support.
Could you please elaborate the very concept of your website?
Consumers operate with asymmetric information, and we bridge this gap, so a consumer like yourself can search, review, compare all their available options before making a selection or decision. We make lives easier by presenting all the information in a standardized format. Once the consumer has made a decision, he can be connected with the product provider in just a couple of clicks as opposed to visiting or calling a branch or sales office.
Was it inevitable for you to initiate such thing, here, in Pakistan?
This concept is very popular in other geographies across the globe. The concept was taking off in our region and here in Pakistan, we were, in-fact, the fourth to launch. I thought to myself that I already had cultivated the learnings to build and scale this business from an international operator, so why not give it a shot.
In your opinion, what are the ways to educate people about online business?
Firstly, by writing about it. Consumers need to feel comfortable, while using ecommerce. Traditional financial institutions also need to facilitate their customers to go online by offering various incentives. One way in doing this would be by developing new products that are specific to online channels. Journalists can do their bit educating the people.
How many insurance providers, banks, and broadband providers have you partnered with so far?
So far we have about 8 general insurance providers, 4 banks and 3 broadband providers. We are still growing our relationship base with insurance, banks and Internet service providers.
What would you suggest for the common Pakistani youth to progress fast in their professional life?
Find what you are passionate about, work hard and set your targets. Put in your 150%, assign more time than your peer group – even if it means that you put in an extra hour a day. I also want to add that education is very important, both inside and outside of the classroom. Always keep learning!
What are the factors that look like hurdles, practically in doing some out of box type business in Pakistan?
Generally speaking, it is getting your first customer and gaining acceptability for your product/service. Furthermore, there is a dearth of government policies that support innovative IT business in Sindh.
Globally, ecommerce businesses are funded, and there are various level of funding available abroad. In Pakistan the scope and access to capital is still limited. We need to win over investor’s confidence to attract the right people to invest the capital required to build online ventures that go on to achieve the same level of success like similar ventures have in other geographies.
We have been really fortunate; we were able to win over the confidence of notable bankers in our early days who invested in us. We are a part of the Planet – N group which is a platform that has a portfolio of companies across Entertainment/Media Tech, Ad-tech and fin-tech. Planet – N works with ventures such as ours by helping them build momentum through mentorship, commercial structuring and introductions.
What exactly could be the key to success in running a business/profession-based website?
The formula is the same as with any other business. You work hard to create an environment where your employees feel connected to the business and your customers derive value from engaging with your services. You must always strive to do better than you did yesterday; the only way to do that is continuously iterate from your learnings cultivated from the journey.
How do you see the trend of Credit Cards use in the country, as lot of people have stopped using it when they find it very difficult to cope up with the banks hidden charges?
Consumer credit is undergoing growth at the moment. Credit cards have registered approximately 15% growth over the last 1 year. Having said this, there is still a lot that banks need to do. I wouldn’t say people have stopped using credit cards due to the hidden charges. Our platform will now enable consumers looking to apply for credit cards to make a more informed decisions than they could previously.
The reasons we see lower levels of credit card transactions are:
1) Credit cards in circulation, this is because banks prefer to lend in the metropolitan cities such as Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Very few banks have revised lending policies to address the demand in other cities.
2) The number of point of sales machines.
There are approximately only 52,000 point of sales machines, installed across the country. This means that the infrastructure required to facilitate credit cards is still very low in penetration. As per the last published statistics from State Bank of Pakistan’s Payment Statistics report, point of sales transactions only make up 3.00% of all electronic transactions in terms of the number of transactions.
There was an upsurge in banks ‘Auto Finance’ sector during former President Pervez Musharraf’s era. Could you see the same trend in the near future?
Auto loans as a product category within consumer finance has registered the most amount of growth (i.e. 36.00% over the previous year). Banks are comfortable in lending in this category because it is asset back (i.e. secured) and there is an ability to recover easily. Banks are still not comfortable in lending in the unsecured category till date, and we can see this in their lending policies and criteria. Auto Loan is going to be the main driving force behind consumer lending in the foreseeable future.
In your website Karlocompare.com.pk, I found the comparison of prices only in between the companies, which I think registered with yourself, but not a comprehensive comparison with all the companies, offering their services in particular field?
At KarloCompare.com.pk, we strive to cover the entire market wherever possible. In the event, a product provider isn’t signed on with us we still show their rates where it is possible. Sometimes it becomes challenging in particular product categories.
How difficult was it to setup your own digital company and what motivated you to become an entrepreneur?
Setting up a company has been one of the hardest things I have done. However, it has also been a lot of fun. It’s the challenges that make it fun, every day is action packed and exciting; whether you are trying close a sales deal with a bank or insurance company, recruit an employee or test/engineer a process.
I wanted to create value and impact. I measured the risk and reward and thought that it would have been riskier not to have attempted to set up KarloCompare.com.pk. The steep learning curve is what excited me and keeps me going.
What advice would you like to give to the upcoming entrepreneurs?
Go with your passion, believe in your idea and yourself. Start in an area where you have some experience, and measure the risk. Once you have made the decision to branch out ensure you continuously execute with discipline.
Do you see the online business booming and why?
You see international tech based companies entering the Pakistani market and being successful. By certain estimates ecommerce is worth $600 million per year. Your current internet penetration is 32% and this number is going to increase. It is inevitable that online business is going to boom in this country.
How are you advertising your website to the general audience?
We use digital marketing extensively, this helps us get a handle on our metrics and unit economics.