The story of encouragement - Farida Kanwal

(Nadeem Israr, Karachi)

Farida Kanwal reached to busiest city Karachi from calm and quite valley of Hunza when she was only two years old. Hunza – a mountainous valley – at the extreme north side of Pakistan, where her family lived in a remote village. Farida’s mother sought good education as the only solution for getting prosperity and decided to leave the family home and shifted to Karachi for giving her daughter a promising future.

“My mother struggled a lot,” admits Farida. “She wanted me to do better than others. She had differences with her own family over the move, but her brother supported her and that made all the difference.”

Aga Khan Gymkhana Karachi enrolled her and she did her Intermediate from DHA College. The sheer encouragement from her mother made her take the graduating degree from Sir Syed University with major of computer science.

Farida and her colleague named Muhammad Zubair strived to develop a school project into an App, but couldn’t be successful. In this situation, Muhammed Zubair suggested to get job which Farida refused as one should create jobs rather than only picking jobs and advised him to take another attempt. While they were busy to find new ideas, one of their friend had a concern to know full about his son’s school activities. As Farida had an experience of teaching in a school and was well-known about the problems arising in day-to-day school management. So, she decided to work on an App made for school systems. Queno came into being whentheiranother colleague named MudassirKhanani joined them.

Queno is an innovative mobile App that controls much of the teacher’s manual work, from attendance and test diaries to the test calendar. Due to having access the information, parents are well aware about their children’s actual activities and positions in their schools. Customization in App according to school needs can also be done. Farida claims “Queno is all you need in one application,” and “We put a school into a mobile App.”

Before any school tries their system, the partners had to approach several schools for this purpose. “It was difficult in the beginning to change mindsets,” admits Farida. “The teachers found it difficult to switch over from a manual system, but we gave them hands-on training for a month, and they caught on. Now, they say the system saves time and is more efficient.”

A good market is available here,” says Farida, “but, we were not aware to align until we were chosen for an incubation programme managed by Karandaaz Women Entrepreneurship Challenge at Invest to Innovate (i2i). The Karandaaz intervention gave us mentors to help with marketing techniques. We met investors and changed our business plan.”

The participants went outside their comfort zone though this programme, as sessions in Lahore and Islamabad, and a network started to form into place. Queno added on schools in Islamabad on client base that had been restricted to Karachi only through this network. As Farida did never travelled outside from Karachi so this experience proved to be a game changer. “The not only pivoted our business plan,” affirms Farida “They changed my personality.” As once she was so shy even for a group presentation now a smiling, calm young lady having details of her business at her finger tips.

She analyzes that Queno’s founders instead of being technical experts had not business acumen. “Investors would ask for our accounts sheets,” she adds, “but we didn’t have anything to show.” All of changing shown when the incubator gave Queno a virtual CFO. Farida and Zubair learnt to make accounts sheets, evaluating the company and setting expenses against incomes. After getting the sufficient informations, they started to concentrate on growing their business. At the moment, there are three fulltime and two part time employees in Queno except from their founders. Farida desires to enhance her marketing network and add members to her team. That way, she declares, “More people will learn new skills, and become familiar with the needs of that she took the right decision,” utters Farida, “She brought me up to be strong enough to manage my own business and my own life.”

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