Naseeb Networks was born ten years ago in a small bedroom of a house in Lahore and formally launched ROZEE.PK in 2007, Pakistan’s largest online recruiting platform which today is a household name. Today, ROZEE.PK is used by 54,000 employers and 16 million professionals in Pakistan – over 40,000 job applications are processed through its servers each day. Prestigious organisations including the United Nations, Engro and MCB Bank use its software to power their online recruitment strategy. ROZEE.PK has grown its revenues 8,500% since 2007, receiving the Pakistan Fast Growth 25 award as one of the country’s fastest growing private companies from AllWorld Network, affiliated with eminent Harvard University professor, Michael Porter.
ROZEE.PK made history in 2008 by becoming one of the first Internet startups in Pakistan to raise venture capital from Silicon Valley venture capital funds, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and ePlanet Capital, the same funds who helped created Hotmail, Skype and Baidu.
The company was founded by Monis Rahman when he moved back to Pakistan after a 10 year stint in Silicon Valley where he was busy designing computer chips and collecting patents while at Intel. He has been backed by a strong pedigree of entrepreneurs including Reid Hoffman from LinkedIn, Mark Pincus who founded Zynga, Fadi Ghandour of Aramex, Arif Naqvi from Abraaj Capital and Ali Jehangir Siddiqui. Forbes Magazine recently placed Rahman #6 on its list of “Ten Big Hitting Asian Businessmen under 50″.
After a stellar run in Pakistan where it put online recruiting on the map, Naseeb Networks went global with its ROZEE.PK online recruiting business earlier this year through its acquisition of Mihnati.com, the leading Saudi jobsite. Monis Rahman talks candidly to Blue Chip about the unique success of ROZEE.PK and his vision for the future.
The landmark acquisition of Saudi Arabia’s leading jobsite by ROZEE.PK represents a first for a Pakistani company, how was this milestone achieved?
Monis Rahman: “ROZEE.PK has seen unprecedented growth in Pakistan, changing the recruitment landscape during a period of economic and geopolitcal turbulence within the country. This forced us to work harder than our global competitors – we learned how to be ultra efficient with our resources and used our talent pool to create very strong intellectual property in innovative recruiting software. We have a cost effective back office operation in Pakistan with deep expertise in cloud based recruiting technology, further honed by processing millions of job applications for our 54,000 customers on the ground including the United Nations, Mobilink, MCB and others.
It became clear that we could leverage what we created in Pakistan to service other international markets with higher purchasing power. After a thorough analysis of emerging markets with large Internet penetration, high per capita GDP and low competition, Saudi Arabia was number one on our list. Over 60% of the Middle East’s recruiting budgets reside in Saudi Arabia. Having spent my early childhood in Riyadh, I am also particularly fond of the Kingdom and a fervent believer in its potential.
We discovered Mihnati.com during our market research of Saudi Arabia and were attracted by the fantastic team and a clientbase consisting of the country’s largest business groups. We also saw an opportunity to add considerable value to Mihnati’s customer base through our product portfolio, back office operations and business experience in online recruiting. The Mihnati acquisition short-cut our entry into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by two years while acquiring a team and partners with strong knowledge of Saudi market dynamics.”
Has the unprecedented success of ROZEE.PK surpassed your expectations?
MR: “We are thrilled to have made a difference in Pakistan. It is extremely rewarding to hear from talented professionals on a daily basis on how ROZEE.PK was able to help them find jobs – in fact over a million placements have been made since we started. That has a direct and very positive impact on the economy and the livelihoods of people around us. And it is increasing over time with almost one hundred new job applications being submitted through our website every minute.
We have performed well in Pakistan under difficult market conditions. However, we are confident that our products can add considerable value to international emerging markets as they have done in Pakistan, and perhaps at higher price points. We remain ambitious and are in the process of globalising our growth trajectory.”
With Pakistan’s ongoing economic fragility, how did ROZEE.PK become Pakistan’s largest recruitment platform?
MR: “When we started in Pakistan, there were many more voices that said we would fail than succeed. I think we prevailed because of the fierce belief in success, we visualised it early in our history when it was still very far away. Optimism in Pakistan is a huge strategic advantage.
We saw the rapid rise in connectivity with the massive investment by telcos in infrastructure. There was a huge opportunity to transition the hiring process from newspaper classifieds to online – we believed in it but so did the 30 or so other jobsites that preceded us in the market. The key to our success has been understanding the local market and customizing our sales strategy to penetrate it. A Middle Eastern jobsite had been operating in Pakistan well before we entered, and they shut down their operations in 2007 concluding that Pakistan was not worth pursuing. Pakistan is not a place for those with weak stomachs. It takes great belief, perseverance and hard work to succeed.
GDP growth, which is a key proxy for the hiring activity that fuels our sales, plummeted over the past few years. However, ROZEE.PK has now had 22 successive quarters of growth and we’re very proud of this. Under better economic conditions we would surely have grown even faster. The tough environment has forced us to be extremely efficient, introspective and innovative. This is now paying dividends with our Saudi expansion.”
You have emerged as a leader in the tech industry and have also been awarded US patents for your innovative work in branch prediction and image security, what drew you to a career in Silicon Valley?
MR: “I come from a family that highly values education and hard work. The preferred career options for me when I was growing up were either becoming a doctor or an engineer. I decided on computer engineering since it provided an outlet for creativity, I loved making things. While in college I studied microprocessors, memory chips and electronics – most of which had been invented by scientists at Intel. It became my dream to work at Intel alongside the legends I read about in text books. I managed to land a job in Intel’s microprocessor team and worked with the some of the brightest minds in the world. I was awarded three patents for my work there and that culture of innovation remains a part of me today.
While at Intel, the dotcom boom hit and over a billion dollars were being invested by venture capitalists every month in Silicon Valley startups each month. It became clear to me that something very big was happening and I was missing out, being in the heart of it all. I started by first Internet startup in 1999, raised venture capital and sold it a year later, having been infected forever by the entrepreneurial bug.”
You have been a source of inspiration for so many people but who have been the role models in your career?
MR: : “I have been inspired by different people at different phases of my career. Early on when I was still in college, Safi Qureshey was very inspirational with his creation of AST Computers, one of the largest computer suppliers in its day. Today I am inspired by people like Reid Hoffman, Fadi Ghandour and James Caan – all for very different reasons. But they all have something in common — their humility despite immense success and willingness to give back by nurturing other entrepreneurs. We grow by standing on the shoulders of giants before us.”
As a leading entrepreneur, what are your views on promoting entrepreneurship in Pakistan?
MR: “Entrepreneurship is a necessity for Pakistan. With two thirds of our population under the age of 25, we need to turn disgruntled job seekers into job creators. Pakistanis are highly entrepreneurial and resilient by nature, navigating difficult circumstances and creating solutions on a daily basis out of necessity.
Organizations like TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) where I serve on the Global Board of Trustees, have a history of facilitating the germination of ideas into actual businesses — we need to encourage and promote these efforts. With 60 chapters globally (three of which are in Pakistan), TiE has helped create wealth and boost economies of geographies in which it operates – it is estimated that over $200 billion of wealth creation has resulted from these initiatives.”
What is your vision for the future of Naseeb Networks?
MR: “Naseeb Networks is on its way to being a leading global company in the online recruitment solutions market. We intend to be Number 1 in the markets we enter and continue to innovate to stay ahead of the competition. Our vision is to take a local Pakistani success story global. We are well positioned to enter emerging areas of the world which others may today find difficult. We’ve proven our ability to succeed in difficult environments and as we replicate our success in other markets, we intend to continue leveraging our core strategic advantage: our Pakistan operations.”
What are your views on the future of Pakistan?
MR: “180 million consumers and reservoirs of low cost talent, 30 Million Internet users with 16% penetration, 120 million mobile subscribers with 3G around the corner, $80 Android handsets. You tell me, what do you think?
Our geo-political difficulties and fiscal mismanagement remain our largest challenges. They are very solvable with the right leadership in place. Things can turn around quicker than most people imagine — we have all the ingredients in place for success. It is up to Pakistani citizens to continue to hold leaders accountable. Civil society has finally awoken after the May 11 elections. There are many reasons to be incredibly optimistic.”