Fitness Bands For COVID-19

As the COVID-19 cases continue to increase in Pakistan, all medical supplies are increasingly difficult to buy.

In particular, if you’re a COVID-19 patient, one of the most basic instruments needed to self isolate at home is oximeter which you’re very unlikely to find at any medical stores. Moreover, if you’re able to find it, they are being sold at a much higher price (generally over 5000 PKR) than they originally retailed at.

In comparison, there are many fitness trackers/bands that continue to retail in the 5000 PKR range in Pakistan including Huawei Band 4 and Honor Band 5. They are pretty accurate for measuring blood saturation levels and here’s a quick demo of that.

I just received mine yesterday. If you’re unable to find oximeter, you might consider buying these bands.

Affiliate Marketing Vs Dropshipping

A reader of the blog contacted me to get my opinion on these two topics. For this blog, let’s assume we’re only talking about affiliate marketing of physical products. As with the digital products, the comparison is like apples and oranges.

I prefer dropshipping over affiliate marketing for a variety of reasons so let’s compare the two.

During both affiliate marketing and dropshipping, you’re often creating very little value outside the revenue generated right there and then. However, affiliate marketing, in my humble opinion, is an even lower hanging fruit than dropshipping and I consider dropshipping itself to be a pretty low hanging fruit.

The reason why I think that is because in dropshipping you control the offer end to end. You control the sourcing price of the product. You can play with the quality of the product to increase or decrease the sourcing price. You control the sale price of the product. So, if you’re able to sell the products but unable to make a profit, you could always increase the price and make it profitable for you.

With affiliate marketing, your hands are tied. You only get certain commission per sale. The commission is determined by what the goods cost, how much they are sold for, and how much does the offer provider want to pay you after keeping profits. If your advertising costs are higher than your commissions, then your only option is to optimize advertising. You can not play with the sourcing cost of goods and the sale price to make a profit.

In addition, in affiliate marketing your access to data about the customer is very limited and restricted. You can often not reach out the same customers again to generate more sales in the future without adding additional email capture steps in your funnel. You may also not be able to use the customer data to create lookalikes on ad platforms to target similar customers due to lack of access to customer data.

When dropshipping, you have a much better lock-in with your customers, and a better access to data. While lifetime value often stays low in both cases, you still have better control with dropshipping.

You could also copy anyone’s offer as almost all products are available for sourcing in China and recreate a dropshipping store using the same product, similar landing page etc. So it’s not that difficult at all to use someone else’s offer to create your own dropshipping store.

In addition, for dropshippers just like affiliate marketing, there’s very little to no work that needs to be done with regards to shipping and handling of the products as there are plenty of Chinese vendors who can make this process very seamless for you.

In the end I’m not too fond of both the models, but if I had to do one, I’ll definitely go after the dropshipping model.

Streaks In An Offline Business

I ended up damaging my finger today so typing is bit of a struggle.

I came across this tweet by Moiz Ali, founder of Native. Moiz is known for building a $100M D2C brand that he sold to P&G under 3 years. His company only employed 7 people at the time of acquisition. On his twitter, he likes to give away ideas that he thinks can grow into multi million dollar businesses. Here’s one of his ideas using one of my favorite game-mechanics.

I don’t know much about gym economics, so I don’t know how well this could work. But I do know that gym memberships are sold way beyond the capacity because most members have a poor record of showing up.

If these economics don’t work, I’m sure that a different variant of this same model will definitely work e.g $45/month fee and $1/day waiver so the gym makes $15 even if a member shows up daily. The idea is in the offering and not the pricing.

You’re rewarding your members for showing up daily which encourages them to show up. The statement that you’re making is that your gym really cares about their health as you’re willing to charge less as long the customers are healthier. The attendance rate would still only slightly improve as most members will continue to have attendance rates as before.

In addition, you’re taking 1 year commitment so you’re still likely to make money of your most regular customers.

I think it’s a great idea. What do you guys think?

Toxicity, In Hindsight.

I knew a really really toxic person back when I was involved in running KoolMuzone, a Pakistani music blog. He did everything in his power to destroy my business including using illicit means just because he couldn’t see me do better. Everything that he did kept haunting me for years. But, in hindsight, he gave me 2 beautiful things in the process. I only realized that after my good friend and colleague Faizan Shoaib made me realize.

Firstly, he gave me a lot of knowledge. As I learnt more about the tactics that were used, I also learnt about the remedy as well as the defense. I became an over-all more experienced digital marketer. I pushed my limits and became a better version of myself. All companies should grow like that. E.g PayPal or Facebook are safe because hundreds of thousands of hackers & scammers have tried exploiting the loopholes. They only learnt the remedy as well as the defense to make a better version of their product afterwards.

Secondly, he eventually made me realize that the juice in my business is just not worth the squeeze. He made business so terrible for me, that I had to look for more viable business options with over-all better outlook. He helped me set on to do many businesses that I did afterwards which worked out much better for me.

The Lean Startup With Aamir Attaa

A lot of times I like to remember my humble beginnings. I feel that it’s important for me to do that. They help me remember the original lean startup vision. When your resources are limited, you can naturally grow your business the lean way. But as your business grows, you generally forget a lot of lean principles because you can afford to live without optimizations. A reminder of some of the principles could be great to continue to keep the structure lean wherever possible but most importantly for your future businesses.

This blog is about two humble beginnings, the other one involving Aamir Attaa, founder of ProPakistani, whom I learnt a great deal from. He ended up being one of the most successful and celebrated bloggers who curated content for Pakistani audience. But in 2010, we discussed completely different things. One of them involved how we could save $60 each every month. And here’s an excerpt of that conversation.

His thesis was that since my blog SmashingLists which served the US audience gets majority of it’s traffic at a completely different timezone (9-12 hour difference) than ProPakistani which was targeting Pakistani audience, we could actually upgrade our servers, have higher resources each, host both sites together, and still save $60 each per month.

We went ahead and did that (and continued doing it while it worked). This was a great lesson back then, and a great reminder today.

Amazon As A Cashier

Many times I’ve seen sellers drive traffic to their Shopify and WooCommerce product pages with no buy or cart option. The only way to buy the product is a link to their Amazon listing.

Like you, I also wondered why the sellers aren’t driving traffic straight to Amazon but routing through their privately owned store when their only goal is to sell on Amazon. The short answer is that these sellers use Amazon as a cashier.

Since how well you rank on Amazon is determined by how high your conversion rate is, for external traffic it makes most sense to provide the product details and description outside of Amazon, and only take warm traffic to Amazon with high purchase intent.

This has a much better impact on your rankings in comparison to routing external traffic directly to your Amazon listing that may or may not convert.

My “BBC X SmashingLists” Moment

In 2010, I received an email from BBC about a possible collaboration with my blog SmashingLists. My blog was uniquely positioned in the industry as far as the branding was concerned because it frequently made it to the then front-page of the internet; Digg’s frontpage. Because of that, I started to receive brand inquiries that were way above my pay-scale.

BBC had just launched BBC Earth and were looking for partners for distribution of their content to get visibility. They got in touch so I could publish their stories on my blog as they didn’t have a blog at that time and were just looking for ways to build their brand.

They were hoping that I would then push this story on Digg and get their brand eye-balls.

Guess what did I bill them for this?

Nothing. Yeap. I thought that I’m getting free content from BBC and that probably is great in itself.

I also completely failed to capitalize my future relationship with them.

This is what happens when you give influence to a Pakistani boy who has no idea whatsoever about the billing structure of the west and is happy to take home; nothing.

Paying In T-Shirts

In 2010, when I was focusing all my energies on a top 10 lists blog, I met someone on the internet who was very good with viral content creation. He lived in the bay area and ran many high volume sites.

While he didn’t really have any interest in wanting to work with me because he was doing quite well, he agreed to write a few posts for my blog on a rev-share basis because of our friendship. I assured him that I will make my best efforts to market the posts on digg and reddit but failed to get his articles viral. In the end, I ended up owing him some pocket-change with no way to pay the money to him because of unavailability of PayPal.

I was up and coming in the business, still trying to learn my way through it. I didn’t know many people. I had a friend who would receive PayPal payments for me in the UK, but he maintained no balance for me at that time and I didn’t receive any payments in the following weeks either.

While my friend didn’t really need the pocket-change, he did mention once or twice that there’s still nothing in his PayPal.

After I was let down by the likes of Western Union which didn’t allow sending money to anyone with a non-Pakistani name, I concluded that the most cost effective way of sending $15 to US is by shipping him a T-Shirt from the US and paying for it with my debit card.

I went to Threadless.com, and shipped him a cheesy T-Shirt.

Pepsi Is Now a D2C Brand.. But Why Did It Embrace D2C

As online shopping goes through forced-adoption and becomes the new normal, Pepsi has embraced the direct-to-consumer trend and launched PantryShop & Snacks.com (will not open from Pakistan’s IP).

Some say that it’s more cost effective to be D2c by eliminating all middlemen. Which I think could be true in some cases if your brand has strong affinity but not necessarily true if you don’t have enough repeat purchases and always acquiring customers through advertising on Facebook, Google etc (the new middleman).

It makes sense for smaller, newer brands to embrace D2C as that probably is the most cost-effective way for them to launch the brand. But Pepsi has the supply network streamlined better than most companies in the world and probably not going D2C for cost-reduction. So why did Pepsi embrace the D2C?

I think, they are going D2C for other benefits of the model. Such as building relationships and acquiring data.

When you’re winning over your competition at a retail store, you may be winning the sale, but are you winning over your customers? Do you have control over your customers’ experience?

Do you have your customers’ data? Do you have their address, phone number, or other demographic data?

Do you really know your customer, or are you making (educated) assumptions about them?

How do you test or launch new products?

These are the reasons why I think Pepsi is embracing D2C.

We Are The Cockroaches

I’ve spent a significant part of my life running content sites that capitalized on catchy (click-bait) titles like the one above so I’ve old habits of using them time and again. The reason, however, why I chose this title for this blog is because there’s a myth that cockroaches can survive the nuclear apocalypse.

After reading about the studies that were conducted, I found out that while cockroaches can’t survive the apocalypse, just as no other biological creature can, they are 10 times more resilient against the radiations in comparison to humans. They also breed fast, so it’s a lot more likely for their generations to live despite the nukes.

I think thats us. The entrepreneurs of Pakistan. Or people of Pakistan in general. Allow me to explain please.

I’ve ranted enough times here on this blog about the lack of basic digital infra access. We don’t have PayPal for collecting small/medium international payments. We don’t have Stripe or other payment gateways, so we can’t collect payments from the credit & debit cards of the customers. We can’t sell on Amazon as a seller either. We’re not eligible for Facebook monetization programs such as Ad-Breaks / In-stream ads etc.

I can’t think of many businesses that can exist without the ability to accept payments. So, in summary, we’re in a pretty fucked up situation.

In comparison, PayPal is available in 200 countries. Stripe is available in 40 countries. Residents from over 100 countries can sell on Amazon US. Facebook monetization tools are available in over 50 countries. All the services described above are available in India & Bangladesh.

Despite that, one of the top ten largest sellers on Amazon US that is doing over $50 million dollars in monthly revenue is a Pakistan-origin company. There are thousands of sellers from Pakistan who sell on Amazon US by setting foreign companies.

The top 5 Facebook ad-breaks / in-stream publishers are Pakistan-origin companies doing millions of dollars in monthly revenue.

Pakistan also has the 4th highest number of freelancers in the world.

These people were banned from participating in this global trade. They were not given an equal playing field. They were born in poverty. There was a systemic racism in place.

While the west focused on “solving problems for others” that could make them billionaires, these people focused on solving their own problems. Problems originating from hunger. Problems originating from lack of education. Problems as basic as access to electricity. Even the middle class & upper middle class struggled with problems as little as the inability to afford air conditioning in scorching heat.

Because they were so tied up with solving problems so basic, I couldn’t and wouldn’t expect them to come up with the Googles and the Amazons of the world. I wouldn’t have even expected them to be top sellers on the marketplaces where they weren’t even welcome. But they are. Because they are resilient. If they have come this far, they will go farther too.

And so, I don’t have any doubts any longer, that Pakistani entrepreneurs will win, whether they get an equal playing field or not.