At the very start of the year, Daastan’s Founder Syed Ommer Amer received the very important news of having been selected as a fellow for the National SDG Bootcamp, which was happening at the National Incubation Center Islamabad. Daastan was among 22 other social enterprises chosen to be a part of the bootcamp. The workshop was concluded with a National Dialogue event titled the SDG Changemaker’s Summit, in which the winners of the bootcamp were selected, and Daastan had the honor of being one of them.
What is SDG Bootcamp?
The SDG Bootcamp was a 4-day, first-of-its-kind, entrepreneurship bootcamp which happened in collaboration with DEMO and UNDP Pakistan. It selected social enterprise founders who were helping the nation achieve Sustainable Development Goals and took them through a journey of extensive training so as to enhance their pitch for funds, social impact, financial models and outreach.
Daastan had a lifetime opportunity, and was presented in front of more than 1000 delegates from over 20 countries. Ommer communicated how Daastan was empowering the literary community by helping writers monetize their work, and revamping the literary industry at the national level. If you are a writer who wants to get the most out of their work, you can always sign up with us on Qissa.
With this opportunity, Daastan went global and is now actively seeking as well as collaborating with international partners, which will help the team realize their dream of using literature as a means of earning for writers and encourage social community building, in addition to paving the way for a new tomorrow free from stigma, illiteracy, conflict and intolerance.
Since its inception, Daastan has had a very positive history with Telenor’s different initiatives for entrepreneurs and startups. The company was selected as a part of the Telenor Velocity business accelerator program in the year of 2016, and had the opportunity to closely work with them throughout the course of the year that followed. Since then, we have been featured multiple times on the social media channels of Telenor’s various programs for our different achievements.
Telenor Youth Forum:
In August 2018, the sixth edition of Telenor Youth Forum was held in Islamabad. This initiative is held in collaboration with theNobel Peace Center, bringing together smart minds from all over the world to develop digital solutions that curb inequalities, and in turn empower societies. The platform focuses on encouraging ideas that have high social impact and which support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) put forth by the UN for international development. The previous winners of Telenor Youth Forum have included renowned figures such as Saad Hamid, a digital evangelist, Fatima Rizwan, founder of TechJuice.com, Haroon Yasin, founder of Orenda & receiver of Queen’s Young Leaders Award and Sajawal Waseem.
Our Journey Through the Forum:
Over 3500 participants with unique ideas applied for the top spot in the platform, and pitched in front of various highly qualified individuals of the industry. Daastan’s founder, Mr. Syed Ommer Amer’s presentation elaborated how there was a severe dearth of opportunities for the citizens of our country to showcase their work, and all that Daastan had done in building a digital infrastructure for the literary industry of Pakistan. With Daastan’s digital portal Qissa, and its newly launched mobile app Daastan Nama, the company had been successful in reaching hundreds of creatives and helping them bring their work forward to be shared with the world. Daastan was ranked top 10 in the competition, and was featured on many of Telenor’s platforms for its achievement.
Having scaled the platform of Qissa to a considerable level, and upgraded it significantly to amp up its technology, Daastan started turning heads in the big communities. Within 3 months of the launch of Qissa, Daastan surpassed 10,000 likes on Facebook, its message reaching the nooks and crannies of Pakistan. With our team members being invited to high level events as speakers, and media coverage that had us tuning to one or another channel on a frequent basis to catch news related to us, it was high time that Daastan and Qissa Self-Publishing received recognition at esteemed platforms.
Connected Pakistan Conference:
The first such acknowledgement came as a nomination for the Best StartUp Award, being held at the Connected Pakistan Conference. The individuals who nominated us for the award remained unspecified, and even our Founder Mr. Syed Ommer Amer was left surprised when he received their invitation for the occasion which was to be held in Comsats, Abbottabad. This was the second time this conference of tech enthusiasts was being held, where dignitaries from various communities were invited and spoke to the crowd present. The highlight of the event was Daastan winning the Best Startup Award in the conference, which the company shared with very few notable startups present within the crowd. The conference was attended by a delegation from Daastan, consisting of Mr. Syed Ommer Amer, Founder and Mr. Nauman Shahid, MD.
SATHA Innovation Award:
The second award came from an even more prestigious source. An international firm by the name of South Asian Triple Helix Foundationawarded Daastan a SATHA Innovation Award to applaud the effort that the team had made to help Daastan spread its wings, and the positive impact it had created on the lives of all those associated with the company. Along with being a symbol of hope and home to innovation, Daastan was serving as fuel for the dying embers of the literary industry. The award was received by Syed Ommer Ammer, who was accompanied by Ms. Spugmai Alee Khattak, serving as Literary Critic in Daastan.
With recent mega achievements in tow, such as the successful launch of the Qissa website, Daastan went on to apply for the second cohort of Telenor’s digital startup accelerator. The accelerator program had received a whopping number of 105 applications from throughout Pakistan, and 88 out of those were knocked out after careful review of each startup, its practicality and scaling potential. The shortlisted 17 were then invited to present their ideas and fight for a chance to be a part of Telenor’s family. 8 out of those 17 were selected for the cohort, and Daastan was one of them.
About Telenor Velocity:
Telenor Velocity accelerator works by utilizing Telenor’s scale and assets to help amplify the business of promising Pakistani startups. The 6-month program assists startups by admitting them to Telenor’s in-house expertise, and allot them office hours with finest mentors and investors. Along with this, they are provided with a co-working space, access to their distribution channels and 40 million customer base, online payment solutions and a chance to pitch for seed funding. It covers all the requirements of a budding business and helps the startup to go to market and scale.
Daastan Proving its Mettle:
Daastan, a product of small-town boy along with his team, proved its mettle and dominated over teams from Karachi, Lahore and other parts of Pakistan. It was a momentous achievement, which paved the way for Daastan by help the team to improve its abilities, reach over 2000 signups on Qissa, engage tens of thousands of writers who wrote more than a hundred books, and spread the message of literary advancement all over Pakistan.
Daastan’s Journey in the Accelerator:
Daastan was enrolled in the Velocity’s second cohort, and graduated with a renewed and improved business model. It was awarded a grant of 2500 USD from PTX during this acceleration, conducted the second season of Daastan’s signature story writing competition ‘The Stories Untold’ and even took that a step further by incorporating Urdu in it and opening the competition up internationally. On graduating, Qissa was equipped with state-of-the-art technology which was incorporated in collaboration with Telenor. PITB’s chairman Dr. Umer Saif, and CEO Telenor Irfan Wahab, awarded the certificate of appreciation to Team Daastan.
After a gruesome year of rejections and heartache for the founders of Daastan, we finally had our break when the company and its vision was incubated by Plan9 in 2015. Since then Daastan has been rising to the top and jostling the otherwise stagnant and dying literary industry of Pakistan. Earlier in 2016 Daastan published its first novel and has already started working on the publication of its second novel, all the while having already shipped out its very first orders. All this, however, was just the stage being set for a groundbreaking achievement that was yet to come – being selected as one of the Top 25 Startups in the Pakistan Startup Cup Challenge.
What is this Challenge?
The Pakistan Startup Cup challenge is a business model competition, which welcomes all kinds of business ideas from all over the country to compete among each other, meanwhile empowering them from a grass-root level to grow and flourish their business, and provide them with insight of the experts on how to build sustainable ecosystem. The challenge is a brainchild of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) Islamabad, and is held in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan.
Daastan rising to the top:
The Startup Cup Challenge received almost a thousand applications from all over Pakistan. Only 130 of those were called to be a part of the challenge and participate in round one, i.e. Build a Business Workshop, and after a tough competition the top 25 made it to the next round, Daastan being one of them. Daastan eliminated more than a hundred mature startups, which were assumed to be better in theory by those who thought literature is dead end when it comes to business. It was the winning of this cup, that proved everyone who thought that way wrong.
Team Daastan exhibited Qissa Self-Publishing launched by Daastan for Pakistan’s budding authors, which enables them to bring their work into print ready format and get it published, without the hassle of going through the legalities themselves. If you have a manuscript and are looking to get published, reach out to us through our Facebook or sign up on Qissa.