This is a story of how a passionate boy, from a small town Wah Cantt, with big dreams in his eyes, was able to build a business which has empowered 4500+ authors from 17 countries to publish 200+ books.
It all started four years back when I was in university where I started writing my novel. Little I knew that how hard is it to get published in Pakistan. I reached out to everyone I knew in my circles and the only thing I was able to conclude was that getting published is not something impossible especially if you are a new author with no money.
However, I didn’t give up. I founded Daastan, gathered a team, went into incubation and acceleration programs. Faced dozen of rejections, heard comments like ‘this won’t work, this market is dead, nobody reads in Pakistan’ like a million times in the past five years of my life. We even got hacked once, lost almost one year’s of data which was never recovered, our team broke thrice, we pivoted five times, we almost ran bankrupt four times. We were promised things which we never got.
My time at the NIC was a roller coaster ride. But I made friends, was able to connect with industry at a much deeper level and tapped into opportunities which previously I couldn’t. “
There had been times when one polar section of society labeled us as infidels and foreign agents. Some factions ran strong social media campaigns to defame us. Threatened our lives to quit what we were doing.
However, we held our ground. We stood for what is right, what’s in the best interest of the industry and the community. Most importantly we had each other’s back. Though we had limited resources and we still do but one thing which nobody could beat us on was the sheer creativity and ability to survive, adapt and get things done with whatever we had.
We won South Asian Triple Helix award for social impact, Preston Startup Cup, multiple micro-grants by United States Institute of Peace and US State Department, wrote scripts for animated TV series for Kids ‘Teetoo and Tania’, organized 50+ campus drives all across Pakistan and even got featured by local and international media platforms.
We are preserving literature in Pakistan through content digitization and process automation. We train people through fellowship programs, organize events to create opportunities and actively run awareness campaigns to sensitize the community on the importance of reading and writing books. We use storytelling as a tool to bridge the gap between businesses and content creators. The journey goes on.
People often ask me what is your future? You cannot survive doing what you are doing right now. I just laugh and say that never underestimate the power of a person who is chasing a dream to put a book in every hand. Be nice to authors, you never know when you will end up as a villain in their next global best seller.
My time at the NIC was a roller coaster ride. But I made friends, was able to connect with industry at a much deeper level and tapped into opportunities which previously I couldn’t.
I would just conclude by saying that with NIC at your back, you are free to dream, build and rise!
What are you waiting for?
Syed Ommer Amer